The greatest threat to Christmas is not local governments’ preventing Nativity scenes from being displayed in public places but America’s overthrow of Iraq’s government and occupation of it public places. The greatest threat to the “Prince of Peace” is the Bush administration’s violent “gift” of “freedom” to the Iraqi people in the name of “God”: “Freedom,” President Bush told applauding Republicans, “is not America’s gift to the world, it is Almighty God’s gift [italics added] to every man and woman in the world.” (“Acceptance Speech to Republican Convention Delegates,” The New York Times, Sept. 8, 2004) And what continues to threaten Christmas is not the absence of the word “Christ” from generic “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings” decorations in stores but the presence of 2008 presidential candidates. The greatest threat to “on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14) are White House hopefuls bearing gifts of ill will toward, militarism against, and protection from so-called “Islamic terrorists.”
The angelic declaration, “Fear not: for behold, I bring you good news of great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10), is being drowned out by fear-mongering presidential candidates’ denunciations of “Islamic extremists,” “radical Islamic fundamentalists,”
“Islamic Jihadists,” “Islamofascists.” These candidates are not peacemakers but protection-promising guardians of America’s oppressive, ill will-producing, imperialistic foreign policy. Their aim is not to have Americans learn from the horrific attack of 9/11, but to exploit it to gain presidential power and continue the diminishment and oppression of others in our name. The greatest threat to our security comes not from so-called “Islamic radicals” without but from those within who promise the most protection in continuing a bogus “war on terrorism.” “Keeping Christ in Christmas” involves keeping them out of office.
The three leading Republican presidential candidates pose as “wise men” from the West bearing “gifts” of protection from the greatest threat to America and the “free world.” Rudy Giuliani casts our most dire national danger in historic proportions: “It was this nation that saved the world from the two greatest tyrannies of the 20th century, Nazism and Communism. . . . It’s this country that’s going to save civilization from “Islamic terrorism.” (“Giuliani assures group on conservatism,” by Jim Kuhnhenn, Associated Press writer, The Boston Globe, AP, Nov. 17, 2007)
Predictably, Rudy Giuliani is quick to say “Islamic terrorists” are a small group perverting a great religion of mostly good people. But his linking of Islam with “terrorists” actually invites Americans to stereotype and fear all Muslims, which dependency-creating, fear-monger and presidential power-seeker Giuliani intends. Mr. 9/11 is about fixating the fears of voters on the spoiling and tainting effect of the “rotten apples at the bottom of the barrel.” He is not about helping voters understand how America’s foreign policy has terrorized and created ill will among the vast majority of Muslim persons in the world.
Rudy Giuliani repeatedly reminds voters that the Democratic presidential candidates are soft on terrorism. Following their July 22, 2007 debate, he said, “I am becoming increasingly concerned that the Democrats don’t mention the term ‘Islamic terrorism’ during their debates. . . . I almost get the sense that they are debating as if there isn’t an Islamic terrorist threat to this country.” (“Giuliani on Democratic debate: Why no terror talk?,” CNN.com, July 24, 2007) Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
A second such “wise man” from the West is presidential aspirant Mitt Romney. In Foreign Affairs journal, he warns that “many still fail to comprehend the extent of the threat posed by radical Islam, specifically by those extremists who promote violent jihad against the United States and the universal values Americans espouse.” This “wise man” sees the “jihad . . . [as] broader than the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, or that between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Radical Islam,” Romney asserts, “has one goal: to replace all modern Islamic states with a worldwide caliphate while destroying the United States and converting all nonbelievers, forcibly if necessary, to Islam. . . . The jihadist threat is the defining challenge of our generation.” (“Rising to a New Generation of Global Challenges,” July/August 2007)
Mitt Romney gave an address on his faith in an attempt to dispel the anti-Mormon prejudices of many of Iowa’s evangelical Christian voters. Instead of hating him, he invited them, in the spirit of America’s religious liberty, to join him in hating “radical Islamists.” He warned, “Infinitely worse [than many of Europe’s empty magnificent cathedrals] is the other extreme, the creed of conversion by conquest: violent jihad, murder as martyrdom. . . killing Christians, Jews, and Muslims with equal indifference. These radical Islamists,” he cautioned Iowa voters, “do their preaching not by reason or example, but in the coercion of minds and the shedding of blood. We face no greater danger today than theocratic tyranny, and the boundless suffering these states and groups could inflict if given the chance” [italics added]. He also believes that “Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Saviour of mankind,”-and would keep him in Christmas: “We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders-in ceremony and word. He should remain on our ceremony, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places.” (“Romney’s ‘Faith in America’ Address,” The New York Times, Dec. 6, 2007) “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
A third commander-in-chief aspiring “wise man” from the West is Senator John McCain, who also prophesies, “Fear now, for behold I bring you bad news of a great sorrow that could come to all Americans.” At an October, 2007 Republican Jewish Coalition presidential forum he declared, “The transforming struggle of the 21st century is our struggle against radical Islam extremism.” (“2008 Presidential Candidates’ Views on the Middle East,” John McCain, Jewish Virtual Library). On his website, he warns, “What’s at stake? America faces a dangerous, relentless enemy in the War against Islamic Extremists. We face an enemy that has repeatedly attacked us and remains committed to killing Americans and the destruction of our values. This election,” he states, “is about making sure we have the experienced leadership to guide us to victory in this war, protect the nation against future terrorist attacks, and support our troops and first responders who are on the frontlines of the war.” He tells voters that “Democrats will fold our tents, embolden our enemies, throw the region [Middle East] into instability, and increase the risks faced on our home soil.” (“Why John McCain,” John McCain 2008-John McCain for President, McCAIN)
In a September 27, 2007 “Speech on Foreign Policy,” Senator McCain suggests the guidance of history and possibly of “a star in the East”: “We must use our strengths, our resources, our inventiveness and our fortitude-qualities that have distinguished us through history and which have never failed us-to defeat our unpardonable foe” [italics added]. He divined, “We must act boldly and with confidence that history has not yet assigned us a challenge that we cannot meet successfully.” He then took a right turn from reality: “Though we regret the mistakes we have made in this war, they must not cause us self-doubt [italics added]. We must learn from them,” he said, “as Americans have always learned from our mistakes, and fight smarter and harder,” (“John McCain’s Speech on Foreign Policy,” Council on Foreign Relations) “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
Instead of “fight[ing] smarter and harder,” American foreign policy desperately needs the very quality Senator McCain cannot provide: “self-doubt” which invites self-examination and the possibility of seeing the “mistakes” made by the Bush Administration in Iraq as the crimes they are.
Beware of “wise men” from the West who say their presidential campaigns are following “a star in the East.” (Matthew 2:1-2). Like Senator McCain, Rudy Giuliani is beyond hope for lack of doubt. Tragically doubt disappears when one needs to believe, and to convince voters-and worshippers-that America’s mission and destiny are ordained from above. “There are some people I think nowadays that doubt [italics added] that America has a special even a divinely inspired role in the world,” Giuliani stated. “Now I don’t understand how you can look at history and not see the wisdom of that and the reality of it.” Thus Giuliani wants to frighten voters into believing his presidential campaign is a “divinely inspired” crusade against “Islamic terrorists” (“Giuliani assures group on conservatism,” by Jim Kuhnhenn, Associated Press writer The Boston Globe, Nov. 17, 2007).
On the heels of these three “wise men” is a “wise woman” from the West, bent on keeping up with them as a national security confidence-builder. Senator Hillary Clinton voted for the Bush administration’s illegal pre-emptive war against and occupation of Iraq, supported a Senate resolution calling on the Bush administration to classify Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization, and in a policy statement wrote, “Iran . . . must not be permitted to build or acquire nuclear weapons. If Iran does not comply with its own commitments and the will of the international community, all options must remain on the table [italics added]. And in the face of the horrible death and destruction caused by America’s own falsely-based criminal invasion and occupation of Iraq, she even wrote, “Iran . . . is the country that most practices state-sponsored terrorism.” (“Obama launches attack on Clinton over Iran,” by Marcella Bombardieri, The Boston Globe, Oct. 12, 2007; “Security and Opportunity for the Twenty-first Century, Foreign Affairs, Nov./Dec 2007) “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
The unquestioning patriotism of many Americans allows political leaders-and their evangelical Christian blessers-to get away with classic projection, in possessing the very murderous impulses and motives and committing the very crimes they attribute to so-called “terrorists.” The Bush administration unleashes a horrific “blood for oil and empire” war of choice against Iraq. “Shock and awe” bombs and the US-led occupation of Iraq kill over one million women and children and men. A massive deadly civil war is triggered. More than four million Iraqis are uprooted. Their life-sustaining infrastructure is decimated. And President Bush blames the victims:
The terrorists and insurgents in Iraq are without conscience. Killers. Murderers. Outrageous acts of murder against innocent Iraqis. A vicious cycle of sectarian violence that continues today. Radical Islamic extremists. Building a radical Islamic empire, and launching new attacks on the United States at home and abroad. Extremists who kill the innocent and have declared their intention to destroy our way of life. The decisive ideological struggle of our time. (‘President’s Address to the Nation: The New Way Forward in Iraq,” THE WHITE HOUSE, Jan. 10, 2007)
President Bush’s foreign policy embodies the very evil he attributes to America’s perceived enemies. “Not only do terrorists try to stop the advance of democracy through killing innocent people within these countries, they also try to shape the will of the Western world by killing innocent westerners,” he charged. “Thy try to spread their jihadist message-a message I call, it’s totalitarian in nature-Islamic radicalism, Islamic fascism, they try to spread it as well by taking the attack to those of who love freedom.” He sees “Islamic fascism” as “the great challenge of this century.” (“President Bush and Secretary of State Rice Discuss the Middle East Crisis,” Prairie Chapel Ranch, Crawford, Texas, The White House, Aug. 7, 2006)
“Islamic fascism, they try to spread it as well by taking the attack to those of us who love freedom.” More projection. It was President Bush who used “love of freedom” to justify attacking and decimating and occupying Iraq: “Freedom . . . is Almighty God’s gift to the world.” The divinely led pretext for violating Iraq’s national sovereignty was emphasized after the exposure of his lies regarding Saddam Hussein having mushroom-cloud threatening weapons of mass destruction and ties to the horrific attack against America on 9/11.
And now President Bush is engaged in similarly dangerous projections toward Iran. Last October he warned, “If Iran had a nuclear weapon, it’d be a dangerous threat to world peace. . . . So I told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.” (“Bush Says Iran Nuclear Project Raises War Risk,” by Brian Knowlton, The New York Times, Oct. 17, 2007) Such constant charges against Iran were undermined by the latest US National Intelligence Estimate, which found that “Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that the program remains frozen.” (“U.S. Says Iran Ended Atomic Arms Work,” by Mark Mazzetti, The New York Times, Dec. 3, 2007) The NIE finding effectively casts suspicion on the Bush administration’s war-mongering rhetoric toward Iran. Not about to admit doubt, Bush resorted to the same fear-mongering spin he used to justify invading Iraq:
If Iran shows up with a nuclear weapon at some point in time, the world is going to say, What happened to them in 2007? How come they couldn’t see the impending danger? What convinced them not to understand that a country that once had a weapons program could reconstitute the weapons program? How come they didn’t know that with that capacity, that knowledge could be passed on to a covert program? What blinded them to the realities of the world? And it’s not going to happen on my watch.” (“Press Conference by the President, The White House, Dec. 4, 2007)
Tragically, as with Iraq, international war crimes against Iraq happened on President Bush’s watch. “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
Patriotism blinded by fear-and often fueled by evangelizing Christian fervor-permitted Vice President Cheney to engage in a glaring projection. A news story reported that he “used the deck of an American aircraft carrier just 150 miles off Iran’s coast as the backdrop yesterday to warn that the United States was prepared to use its naval power to keep Tehran from disrupting oil routes or ‘gaining nuclear weapons and dominating the region.'” He said, “With two carrier strike groups in the gulf, we’re sending clear messages to friends and adversaries alike. . . . We’ll stand with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating this region.” He then attributed to “terrorists” what he himself was doing far from home off the coast of Iran: “Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants believe they can wear us down, break our will, force us out and make Iraq a safe haven for terror. . . . They see Iraq as the center of a new caliphate, from which they can stir extremism and violence throughout the region and eventually carry out devastating attacks against the United States and others.” (“Cheney on Carrier, Sends Warning to Iran,” by David E. Sanger, The New York Times. May 12, 2007). Imagine what would happen if the leader of another country stood on the deck of an aircraft carrier 150 miles off the American coast, threatening to use military power to disrupt and control unacceptable US policies. “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
Many evangelical Christians are believed to “see Iraq as the center of a new caliphate.” The vast majority of them enthusiastically supported the Bush administration’s pre-emptive war against Iraq-and the majority still do in spite of the administration’s hyped justifications for the war-Saddam Hussein’s threatening weapons of mass destruction and ties to the 9/11 attack against America-proven to be falsehoods. Such evangelical Christians saw and see Iraq as fertile “caliphate”-like ground for converting Muslims to Christ. Never mind the “shock and awe” wake of death and destruction paving the way. Those Muslims sacrificed for “Almighty God’s gift of freedom” would be condemned to hell anyway. There is only one way to be saved: believing that “Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Saviour of mankind.”
For many evangelizing Christians, “Keeping Christ in Christmas” is about the “Saviour of mankind” not about “Blessed are the peacemakers.” It is about gaining power over people, not empowering them.
Here is Christianity’s version of fascism: Christocentric fascism! And it is seen in the projections of evangelizing Christian leaders, in attributing to Muslims their own motivation to convert every one to “Christ” and rule the world. Thus televangelist Pat Robertson endorsed the presidential candidacy of “Islamic terrorists”-hating Rudy Giuliani with, ‘The overriding issue before the American people is the defense of our population from the bloodlust of Islamic terrorists.” (“Evangelicals’ Issue”: Radical Islam,” by Eric Gorski, Associated Press, Nov. 10, 2007) Thus the Associated Press reports, “Perhaps the nation’s most influential evangelical leader, James Dobson, has spotlighted the issue a dozen times in the past year on his Focus on the Family radio show. . . warn[ing] that both Republicans and Democrats need to ‘wake up’ to the dangers of militant Islam.” (Ibid.) Thus “at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in June, evangelical thinker Charles Colson spoke of a ‘long war’ against Islamofascists.” (Ibid.) And after being “singled out by Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council,” for “failing to grasp the threat of radical Islam,” Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, “a favorite of many Christian conservatives, . . . has since tried to make amends. In a Republican debate in Orlando, the former Southern Baptist minister labeled Islamofascism ‘the greatest threat this country’s ever faced.'” (Ibid.) “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
The greatest threat to America are political and evangelical Christian leaders who project on to so-called “Islamic terrorists” their own motivation to control and convert the world. Ironically, the apparently least electable Republican and Democratic presidential candidates offer the most insight on how to achieve “on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Ron Paul engaged in peacemaking at the November 28 Republican candidates’ debate, before a highly partisan audience in St. Petersburg, Florida. When John McCain stressed the importance of “victory” in Iraq, Paul replied, “The best commitment we can make to the Iraqi people is to give them their country back. That’s the most important thing we can do.” McCain reacted by warning that “bin Laden” and “Zarqawi . . want to follow us home,” that “their ultimate destination is not Iraq [but] New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Phoenix, Arizona. This,” he added, “is the transcendent challenge of our time.” Paul responded with words that most of the presidential candidates have not had the courage to say: “They come here because we’re occupying their country, just as we would object if they occupied our country.” His clarity about the Golden Rule evidently was too threatening: It exposed the projections of many in the audience about America’s rightness and goodness. They “booed” him (“Part II: CNN/YouTube Republican presidential debate transcript,” CNNPolitics.com, Nov. 29, 2007)
After the debate, CNN’s “Late Edition” with Wolf Blitzer gave Ron Paul the opportunity to respond further to John McCain, which Paul used to identify the real caliphate. Paul dared to say the “Emperor-in-Chief” has no clothes on:
“I don’t believe we went to war for the right reason. . . There were no weapons of mass destruction. It had nothing to do with 9/11. So we were there for the wrong reason and he (McCain) doesn’t understand the motivation for why they want to come here.”
Paul then spoke truth to American power:
They come here because we are in their country . . . not because . . . we are wealthy and prosperous and free. . . . And . . . we plan to keep 14 bases over there, a huge Naval base, and we have this huge embassy, we have a permanent plan to stay there and take over these $30 trillion worth of oil in that region. And the people in those countries know that and that is why they are very angry[italics added]. And to deny that is folly. It just means that we have expanded the opportunity for the terrorists to come here because there is greater motivation. . . There was no al Qaeda in Iraq before, now they are all over the place, and their members are growing.
Ron Paul ended on a prophetic note:
“So if we want to protect ourselves against terrorism, we have to understand what motivates them. . . . We are in 130 countries. We have 700 bases around the world.” (“Ron Paul: ‘Isolationism isn’t what I advocate,'” by Mark Silva, THE SWAMP, Tribune’s Washington bureau, chicagotribune.com) “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
The reality of US imperialism presented by Ron Paul, which has created widespread ill will around the world, is personified by Vice President Cheney: standing on the deck of a US aircraft carrier off the coast of Iran, crying “caliphate!” and shaking the fist of America’s power. It is here that Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich brings “good news of a great joy that could come to all the people.”: His House Resolution 333 calling for the impeachment of Vice President Cheney-for his “persistent lies” in “claim[ing] that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, that necessitated” the pre-emptive invasion and occupation of Iraq, in claiming “that Iraq was somehow connected to al-Qaeda’s role in 9/11,” and in his “beating the drums for war against Iran.” (“Rep. Dennis Kucinich: Effort to Impeach Vice President Cheney Still Alive,” Democracy Now, Nov. 9, 2007) Most of “the people” in the Middle East-and far beyond-would actually believe that Christmas really means “on earth peace, good will toward men,” if that “star in the East . . . came to rest over” the impeachment of Vice President Cheney. “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
William Blum, a former State Department employee and author of Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, tells our would-be presidents how to bring “on earth peace, good will toward men.” His book on Killing Hope is advertised this way:
“If you flip over the rock of America’s foreign policy of the past century, this is what crawls out . . .
invasions . . .bombings . . . overthrowing governments . . suppressing movements for social change . . . assassinating political leaders . . .perverting elections . . . manipulating labor unions. . . manufacturing news . . . death squads . . . torture . . . biological warfare . . . depleted uranium . . . drug trafficking . . . mercenaries. . . .
“It’s not a pretty picture. It is enough to give imperialism a bad name.” (“Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II,”)
William Blum claims that he “could stop terrorist attacks against the United States in a few days. Permanently” [italics added]. He offers excellent advice to national security-stressing presidential candidates:
I would first apologize to all the widows and orphans, the tortured and impoverished, and all the many millions of other victims of American imperialism. Then I would announce, in all sincerity, to every corner of the world, that America’s global interventions have come to an end, and inform Israel that it is no longer the 51st state of the USA but now-oddly enough-a foreign country. I would then reduce the military budget by at least 90% and use the savings to pay reparations to the victims.
There would be more than enough money. One year’s military budget of 330 billion dollars is equal to more than $18,000 an hour for every hour since Jesus Christ was born.
That’s what I’d do on my first three days in the White House. On the fourth day, I’d be assassinated.” (“Why Terrorists Hate America,” by William Blum, Internet)
“Blessed are the peacemakers.”
The so-called “war on terrorism” is a wastebasket into which the Bush administration dumps the victims of America’s imperialistic, caliphate-driven foreign policy. They are conveniently branded as “villains” not victims. “Terrorists” not terrorized. “Radicals” not ravaged. “Extremists” not outraged. “Islamofascists” not Americoimperialist resisters. “Insurgents” and “militants” and “fanatics” not women and children and men.
The purpose of labeling people is not to understand their reality but to distort it-to defend against it. Labeling permits the imposition of a self-serving ideological or religious bias unfettered by any responsibility to understand the perceived “terrorists” oppression, rights, position, truth, tears or laughter.
Labels stifle rather than stimulate our capacity to think about other people as they really are, and rationally about the issues that divide or unite us. If we can label others, we don’t have to listen to them or try to understand them. If they can be pigeonholed, they can be caged. If they can be lumped they are easier to isolate and drive out of “decent” and “democratic” groups and countries. If they can be classified, they can be crucified-even in the name of “Christ” or “freedom.”
Labels are destructive not descriptive. Labels kill: they dehumanize people, render them faceless, loveless, heartless, tearless-fair game for a “war of terrorism.”
“On earth peace, good will toward men” and women means experiencing other people’s reality not interpreting it. It means finding one’s own place, and making room for others. “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
Rev. WILLIAM E. ALBERTS, Ph.D. is a hospital chaplain, and a diplomate in the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy. Both a Unitarian Universalist and a United Methodist minister, he has written research reports, essays and articles on racism, war, politics and religion. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.