Jesus, Jihadis, and the Red-State Blues
By Steve Weissman
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Thursday 29 July 2004
In this week of John Kerry’s nomination, we should all give President Bush his due. Iraq boils up in his face. Over half his fellow Americans now think his war wrong-footed, if not pig-headed. Spies and other professional observers openly confirm what a few of us amateurs warned from the start, that American troops in Iraq give bin Laden an unbeatable banner to recruit his suicidal Fools of God. And from within Washington’s most secret places, loose lips let slip how Team Bush consistently misled the American people about everything from Saddam’s weapons to how the United States tortures captives around the world while observing “the spirit of the Geneva Conventions.” Yet the stalwart Mr. Bush soldiers on, bravely telling the same tall tales, now about Iran as well as Iraq.
Critics accuse him of lying: I fear worse. Either Mr. Bush still believes the intoxicating fables that Iraqi exiles fed to Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the neo-conservative crapologists, or else he feels no need to get facts straight as long as he does the Lord’s Work. Having followed his “higher Father” into a faith-based war in Iraq, the poor Prophet Bush now casts his eye across the Euphrates, waiting for Revelation and listening to Iranian expatriates, some of whom work with the shadowy spies of Gen. Sharon.
Ah, Babylon. We are, it would seem, approaching the End Time, for which millions of American Christians fervently pray. The Israelites have rebuilt their kingdom, as prophesied, and Jesus will soon return to earth, where He will raise his believers bodily into the heavens in what they call the Rapture.
That is the good news. The bad, at least to me, is that two-thirds of the Hebrews – having rejected Christ again – must perish in their Great Tribulation. Satan the Anti-Christ, Armageddon, and eternal damnation to follow.
Scoff at your peril. Apparently, our president doth not. Nor do his fundamentalist mentors, from the Rev. Billy Graham and son Franklin to Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and a host of others, all Christian Zionists and staunch supporters of the Jewish State. Now we see the hot times they have in mind for Jews.
How far does Mr. Bush go with this “dispensational theology,” as believers call it? No one seems to know. But he swims in their Apocalyptic current, which might explain why he so blithely gives the Islamic jihadis the endless war they crave.
Believers in a radically politicized jihad, or holy war, fervently seek a righteous, rejuvenated Islam, one that recaptures all lands that Moslems once ruled, especially those now dominated by Jews and Christian “crusaders.” Organizing themselves for over a hundred years in clandestine groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, the jihadis directly shaped both Hamas and al-Qaeda. But now thanks to Mr. Bush, his overly militarized War on Terror, his use of torture and sexual humiliation, and his sending troops to occupy Iraq, the once small minority has gained greater support among the world’s Moslems than anyone could have reasonably expected.
Believers in the End Time desperately need Israel to keep hold of the Holy Land, or else – as they read Biblical prophecy – Jesus will not return to whisk them away. A quintessentially American messianic movement reaching back to the 1830s, the End-Timers historically shied away from politics. But now they regularly mobilize the Republican faithful and boast of a fellow-traveler in the White House. With bin Laden filling in for the Anti-Christ, no wonder they look to the most powerful nation on earth to give them other-worldly hope.
The two groups of holy warriors – Islamic and Christian – reinforce each other at every turn, holding the rest of the world hostage. Except in their often brilliant use of political tactics, neither lives by reason. Both threaten those of us who try.
Make no mistake: Their competing holy wars are not – or at least not yet – a clash of civilizations between Islam and the West. Without the politically polarizing impact that Mr. Bush has created among Moslems the world over, the jihadis would have little hope of successfully hijacking Islam. Without his radically breaching the wall that has, however inconsistently, separated church and state in America, the End-Timers would still have freedom to believe what they want, but no easy way to impose it on how Washington walks in the world.
Mr. Bush makes the difference. Believing he hears the Voice of God, he encourages two groups of diametrically opposed religious zealots to drag us all into their Apocalypse. Stop the World, said the playwright. I want to get off.
To be fair, the End-Timers hardly stand alone in pushing Mr. Bush’s buttons. He also listens to the secular neo-conservatives, who – more than anyone – sold him on the glories of a new, beneficent, and wonderfully profitable American empire, beginning in Iraq. He also does the bidding of the Pentagon’s favorite base-builders and weapons-makers, the media cartels, his and Mr. Cheney’s friends in Big Oil, and a fundraisers list of other corporate greedsters. Fit ENRON in where you will.
But, all this is American politics as usual, and the Democrats have their own fat cats and sacred cows. What’s new – and terrifyingly different – is the irrationality the End-Timers bring, and how Mr. Bush answers their prayers in the Middle East.
Truly believing in a real-time Jesus and his Rapture, the End-Timers will never willingly walk away, no matter how much they endanger the rest of us. Nor will the Islamic jihadis. We, their hostages, have to stop them both, demanding nothing less than a return to reason, both in the White House and the Middle East.
The first step, but only the first, will come in working night and day to elect the eminently reasonable John Kerry, who has the good grace to keep his religious beliefs to himself, at least most of the time. As deeply as I oppose his dangerously open-ended commitment to keep American troops in Iraq until it becomes secure, we would have to be as grossly irrational as Mr. Bush, or as high as his “higher father,” to leave the present bunch anywhere near the levers of power. The risks are much too great.
Voting in Florida in the last election, I cast my ballot for Ralph Nader. Voting absentee this year, but still in Florida, I hope to undo at least some of the chaos I helped to create.
The second step begins November 3, the morning after the election. Should Bush win, those of us who oppose his self-righteous ways must build the kind of grassroots movement that can limit the damage he does, whether in Iraq, Iran, or our American homeland. Should Kerry win, we must create the same political groundswell, forcing him to accept the reality of Iraq. No matter how reasonable he tries to be, the nationalistic Iraqis will not accept foreign domination, whether the occupying forces come from America, Europe, or their Arab neighbors. And the longer Washington tries to make Iraq secure, the stronger the jihadis will grow.
The third step is by far the most difficult. We must work with those Israelis and Palestinians who seek to compromise, and find a solution that a majority on each side can accept. The Geneva Accord is a good place to start, and we should press Washington to support it as part of a more even-handed approach.
If we are ever to isolate the Islamic Fools of God, we can have no higher priority than finding a mutually acceptable end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which – whether we like it or not – will mean dividing the Holy Land between the two peoples. Without a viable Palestinian state living in peace with Israel, the jihadis will have a festering sore to exploit, gaining the ear of millions of Muslims who would otherwise reject them.
Hamas and other Palestinian terrorists, right-wing Israeli settlers, and Christian Zionists will all object to getting only part of what they think their due. The Palestinians and Israelis will each have to forcefully curb their own die-hards, and we Americans will have to gently quarantine ours. If rationally fighting terror and making a just peace delays the return of Jesus and his Rapture, the End-Timers had best pray for their sins.
A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he writes for t r u t h o u t. [an error occurred while processing this directive]