“This is a first,” a colleague moaned, claiming that the country has fallen into the hands of a religious cult. “Look,” he directed me, “at the crusade-like rhetoric emanating from high circles about the Iraq effort, while we get dosed with supposedly Christian doctrines of enforcement from Attorney General John Ashcroft.” He meant the 2001 order from the AG to cover a bare breast on a statue in the Department of Justice as well as his Puritanical diktats that decry abortion and exalt the death penalty.
“Look at history,” I reminded my colleague. “Until the late 17th Century, a theocracy ruled Massachusetts Bay Colony. Those Puritans believed in witches and the Devil. They also fostered aggressive conversion of the heathen, so that all might hear the `revealed word.’ God had instructed them to build a `Zion in the Wilderness,’ so He could issue in the Kingdom of the Apocalypse, or what the current holy rollers call The Rapture. The Puritan mission to create a virtuous society worthy of God’s redemption placed an urgent burden on their pious shoulders. Since God had chosen these Puritans to do His mission, the stoic New Englanders could not afford to indulge in sentimentality or other forms of weakness. They tried to eliminate the Devil’s presence by killing his witches after fair trials of course.
“Today,” I argued, “the religious or ideological descendents of the Puritan elite, the modern crusaders, repeat similar messages from the pulpit and even from the Pentagon.” I offered as an illustration Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence General William G. Boykin, who called a dark spot on a photograph in Mogadishu, Somalia `a manifestation of evil.’
In speeches Boykin refers to the “Christian army,” waging holy war against the “idol” of Islam’s false God, and the “spiritual battle” against “a guy named Satan” who “wants to destroy us as a nation, and he wants to destroy us as a Christian army.” This does not sound like the emissions coming from the mouth of rational Jewish neo conservatives like Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. With completely secular logic, Wolfy explained to Vanity Fair (May 2003) that “For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on.”
Now, imagine an intellectual marriage between these two men! Does it seem bizarre that ultra zany Christian theologians wearing military uniforms marry Jewish neo-con ideologues? In the 21st Century, this union has not replaced the family, but it has invaded the space traditionally occupied by foreign policy strategists.
One could see the invasion of Iraq as the nuptial ceremony for this bizarre matrimony. The war itself, over in weeks, symbolized the honeymoon period when both sides of this crusading union talked about “liberating Iraq” and bringing democracy to the Middle East.” This act of “liberation” destroyed with missiles and bombs Iraq’s infrastructure. The neo-con/Christian fundamentalist merger received the blessings of President George W. Bush when he declared victory who could forget his jet landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln? In his May 1 self-congratulatory speech he also indirectly applauded those who had brought him to lead the country into a pre-emptive attack against Iraq.
Then, even as US troops began to rebuild Iraq, the consequences of an unjust war began to intrude. The very neo-cons and Christians who had predicted that Iraqis would welcome our soldiers as liberators, had to face the harsh truth that many Iraqis deeply resented the invasion and the occupation of their country. By the end of October more than 200 US soldiers have died, more than a thousand wounded, more than a dozen suicides; thousands more have fallen seriously ill and been evacuated. Bush’s declaration of victory might even have echoed harshly in the ears of Wolfowitz himself as mortars struck the hotel that lodged him in Baghdad where he had been busy issuing optimistic statements. As Ramadan commenced at the very end of October, suicide bombers struck four targets in Baghdad and hit other Iraqi targets as well. Wolfowitz looked shaken. The fanatics on the enemy side seemed even more committed than Wolfy and his new theological partner.
The peace and order promised by the president as his newly married advisers assured him did not materialize. Instead, the numbers of attacks on US occupation forces, including those by suicide bombers, has grown. The army’s morale has declined. A Member of Congress told me that National Guardsmen from his district call him regularly to complain about as many as twenty attacks a day on US patrols. Guardsmen’s wives also complain, he said, that their husbands did not join the National Guard to become an occupation force in a country whose people didn’t want them.
The Member went on to describe the condition of some of the wounded he had visited in a Washington DC military hospital. “They have lost legs, arms and eyes,” he said. “Some of these poor young men told me that their humvees didn’t have proper protection against explosives or rocket propelled grenades, but had only canvas flaps. The Administration spends our money freely on contracts to Halliburton and Bechtel, but they don’t seem to be able to give our guys proper protection.” The Congressman said that only recently had the occupying troops received Kevlar vests.
Bush has sworn to use them to bring order to Iraq, despite the Administration’s stinginess on providing soldiers protective material. So, ironically, the very agency and methods that destroyed Iraq, will now rebuild it: killing and intimidating to install order and democracy very different from Saddam Hussein’s methods!
But the Administration continues to boast of its progress in Iraq and label critics as party poopers. For upbeat news, watch Fox or CNN. The bad news, the human and material price of occupying a country whose people resent the occupiers, seeps out in daily reports of casualties: dead, wounded, sick (physically and mentally) and suicides.
The Bushies count on their New Crusaders as a counterweight. One example of the new imperialists, Reverend Bobby Welch, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Florida, invites his colleagues on an April 22-23 visit to The John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg “to share an experience with the Green Berets.”
If your mind flashes back to the original crusades, you’ve had an insight. “It is believed by you, me and others,” Welch extols, “that we must find a group of men who are warriors of FAITH, pastors who have the guts to lead this nation to Christ and revival.”
The Special Forces will demonstrate for the visiting clergy “today’s war fighting weapons,” (“live fire/real bullets”). They’ll watch, hand-to-hand combat and discover how “Special Forces attack the enemy inside buildings. The trip includes a visit with Major General William Boykin, who had collaborated previously with Reverend Welch. At the time Boykin commanded the special warfare center (<www.thenation.com> 4-9-03).
Try and picture New Crusaders like Reverend Welch at the wedding when the brainy Wolfowitz mated with the muscular Boykin. The neo cons who fed ideologically at the trough of the Heritage Foundation and founded The Project for a New American Century (PNAC) wanted “to promote American global leadership.” Among those who founded this 1997 Project one finds VP Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz.
While Boykin rants about Muslim devils Wolfowitz seeks to convert the United States into the world’s permanent and only superpower. No nation, backward and hostile or advanced and friendly could challenge US supremacy. To achieve this, Wolfowitz advocated preemptive military actions “when collective action cannot be orchestrated.” Since 1998, Wolfowitz has called for the removal of Saddam Hussein from power by force as a major goal of policy.
Wolfowitz foresaw that such a transformation of policy from alliances to uni-literalism would encounter resistance from Congress, save for “a catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.” The events of 9/11 served the purpose. But he and his fellow neo cons needed a man to realize their crusade on the one hand and a wider pulpit from which the new word would issue forth.
And Boykin offered the Christian soldiers the reason to support Emperor Bush. “Why is this man in the White House?” Boykin asked rhetorically. “The majority of Americans did not vote for him,” he accurately stated. “He’s in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this.”
Fellow fundamentalist Jerry Falwell backed Boykin. He told an October 22, 2003 CNN “Crossfire” audience that “God rules in the affairs of men. And history would support that.” Not only did God choose Bush (43) but “we needed Bill Clinton, because we turned our backs on the lord and we needed a bad president to get our attention again.”
Falwell evokes images of Cotton Mather’s Church in the 17th Century. The Puritan salvation mission might have contained more sophisticated theology than that provided by the Boykins and Falwells, but it’s the same hunt for witches and Devils. As the sage once said, “the first time around tragedy, then again, farce.” Unfortunately, we’re living in the second go around. So, get off your butts unless you want the Boykin-Wolfowitz marriage to generate real offspring.
SAUL LANDAU is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. He teaches at Cal Poly Pomona University. For Landau’s writing in Spanish visit: www.rprogreso.com. His new book, PRE-EMPTIVE EMPIRE: A GUIDE TO BUSH S KINGDOM, has just been published by Pluto Press. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org