This essay was first published in the Palestine Chronicles 2004 11 24 and is copyright protected.
Not to be published without consent of the author.
This is the first in a series of articles that explores the rise to power of the fundamentalist Christian right within the government of the United States and its affects on perceptions and actions in the Middle East with, as indicated by the title, the focus on a country yet born, a people colonized by another that is also prophesized to disappear. This first article introduces the broad parameters of the topic with subsequent articles developing the different ideas more thoroughly.
This essay developed from two events, one big and one small, that occurred in my life, in my field of interest, over the past several months. The first event, supposedly mundane, occurred during August while I was perusing The Economist from that same month and read the listing of the world’s best selling books as gleaned by a survey of various Amazon-dot websites around the globe. Number nine on the list was a book titled The American Prophecies Ancient Scriptures Reveal Our Nation’s Future, written by someone named Michael D. Evans. A previous best seller titled Beyond Iraq: The Next Move had also been his. Both sounded interesting within my own frame of reference of my own ‘American Empire’ project involving a review of as much literature as possible from American sources, from the American radical left, to the American radical right. My original perspective was quite narrow, coming from an ecological view that the world cannot sustain the demands of its six billion people now living and that the American consumer oriented economy and its military actions would sooner or later destroy enough aspects of the environment to endanger all species, including humanity. Several years later I arrived at The American Prophecies and the second event, the big event, the elections in November 2004, with ‘eyes wide open’, both intellectually from the mass of material that is available, and emotionally from my broadened view of the volatile mix that is the American Empire.
So what do my ‘eyes wide open’ see?
Essentially, a volatile mix, a nuclear tipped volatile mix. A nuclear tipped volatile mix with the will and rational to use those tips. Even if that is extreme, and the whole world does not suffer, the people in the middle of it all, the people of the Middle East, more specifically the people of Iraq and Palestine, perhaps followed by Iran, will be made to suffer the most. The Bush government is a coalition of several elements, elements that overlap in most sectors, but with five identifiable nuclei for those sectors.
Big business is one of the nuclei and it itself can be split into two parts, two nucleolus if you will, the energy/industrial sector and the financial/consumer sector. The first nucleolus concerns itself with, above all, oil but also all the other resources that are needed to manufacture goods for the consumer. The financial/consumer nucleolus tends more to the human aspect, the trade agreements, the realm of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and their political and financial manipulations that keep wealth flowing to the ‘Western’ states while controlling labour and capital globally but most particularly in ‘underdeveloped’ countries. I apostrasize Western and developing as they all too neatly fit into the concepts of the Orientalist frame of mind, the “us against them”, the “good and evil” of the world, the “with us or against us” narrow-mindedness that is all a part of this mix. Feeding it all is a generally compliant media, owned and operated by corporate giants, a major part of the consumer culture, where the “rightwing influence has moved the media away from reporting news to designing consciousness”.
A related nucleus (as they all are) is the military. It fits in very tidily with the energy/industrial sectors of big business, and as described so well in Michael Klare’s Blood and Oil, oil has gone from being a “domestic policy issue” through being a “foreign policy” issue to being a matter of “national security”. Under the latter two categories, wherever there is oil, there is the American military, and wherever there is the American military, there is destabilization, a polite way of describing the killing of indigenous people, the manipulation of local governments, the outfitting of paramilitaries with both knowledge (how to torture, hot to make a bomb) and the materials required to put that knowledge into action. The Pentagon itself has an enormous budget, larger than the next dozen or so countries combined, and with financial power distributed through many of the industries that they work with. The friendly skies of Boeing, the Kodak moment, Intel Inside, and many other more obvious and less obvious businesses rely to some degree on Pentagon money. Universities also receive many millions of dollars, directly or indirectly to finance research on various topics from physics to foreign affairs.
Next, but not categorized in importance, is the political right, the believers in smaller government, lower taxes, minimal or no social aid, based on the Protestant ethic that is translated into popular culture as the rugged individualists reliant only on themselves for success. And success means money, and if you do not have money, it is your own fault and do not deserve public handouts. It is a convenient rationale for maintaining the status quo as social mobility, while possible, is not as strong as the Calvinist Horatio Alger stories would have one believe. The political right, the neocon, is also much more centred on the use of force to solve foreign political problems, often couched in rhetoric of civilization and development, and most recently having extended that to “full spectrum dominance” in which no other state would be allowed to ever attain equality with the United States, let alone surpass it, militarily or economically.
The protestant work ethic leads to the fourth element of the mix, the Christian right. Admittedly there are many shades of grey from the middle through to the right and many different appellations have been stuck on different facets of the Christian right from the Moral Majority to the Christian Identity folks and the millenarians. However, the concern here, and this is the topic that is the main feature of what I am looking at, are politically motivated members of the Christian right that have, effectively, become the balance of power within the Bush administration. Yet it is not a true balance of power as many of the administrators, as will be looked at below, are involved or have been involved with more than one nucleus. By current estimates depending on the source, there are from two hundred thousand ‘hardcore activist’ Christian fundamentalists upwards to twelve to forty million supporters that have become politically active within the voting process and beyond, not a constituency that can be ignored lightly: “The neocon and radical right, though a numerical minority, have politicians running scared.” This opinion is supported by Thomas Friedman, who, after finally coming around to recognizing that the war in Iraq was somehow wrong even from his right wing perspective, thought that the Christian fundamentalists “have used that religious energy to promote divisions and intolerance at home and abroad” and hoped that the Democrats could “find a way to tap it for different ends.” As we will see later this is a dubious hope coming from the very nature of the Christian fundamentalists themselves.
The final nucleus is the domestic Jewish Zionist group and their supporters, who have created an interesting if somewhat baffling alliance with the Christian Right and the neocons. For the neocons it is a matter of oil and control; for the Christian right it is a matter of prophecy and that prophecy ties in with Palestine and Israel; for the Jewish Zionist it is about eliminating Palestine and receiving their God given mandate to the Holy Land. Neocons see no problem with using nuclear arms; the Christian right sees nuclear arms as part of prophecy, with the “possibility to unleash a plague of nuclear...bombs that would be very much like what is described in Zechariah 14:12 NKJV: This shall be the plague with which the LORD will strike all the people who fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet, Their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets, And their tongues shall dissolve in their mouths.” This description of course could describe any number of after effects of biological plagues or any number of Hollywood zombie movies, but the state of Israel has several hundred nuclear weapons that no one doubts they will use in order to survive should appropriate conditions arise.
It is the latter two identities that make up the focus of what follows, although obviously the other components are intertwined with them. To reiterate, the Bush government is a coalition, of big business, the military, the political right, the Christian right, and the domestic Jewish Zionists, all overlapping, all perhaps one and the same thing at one time, while at other times they are in conflict with each other. With the focus on the Christian right and the Jewish lobby, there is still ample room to include the other elements.
To follow through in some form of order and to provide some background knowledge as to the development of the current mix, I will take a sociological view of the Christian right stemming from the Protestant tradition and how that developed into today’s politically active elements. The current players, those now in the administration, will be looked at to see how they commingle and intertwine between the various nuclei. Following that the “Just War” doctrines of more moderate Christian groups will be looked at as it provides the justification for war that the radical right builds upon, accepting that some on the left somehow convolute this ideal into their beliefs as well. . Finally, the views of the Christian Right and their prophecies about Israel will be considered in support of and in conflict with the intentions of the Israeli state and its own radical right.
I offer no prophecies myself, but the question after all that is – where goes Palestine and Israel? Where goes the United States and the world? The neocons have already said good-bye Iraq; the Israeli state and the Christian right are doing their best to say good-bye Palestine; if the Christian right manages to follow through with its self-fulfilling prophecies, it could also mean good-bye Israel…goodbye humanity.
Roberts, Paul Craig “Where Did These Conservatives Come From?” www.counterpunch.org/roberts10152004.html
Jackson, Bruce “Jews Like Us.” The Politics of Anti-Semitism Ed. Alexander Cockburn, Jeffrey St. Clair, Counterpunch, USA, 2003
Friedman, Thomas L. “Two Nations Under God” New York Times, NY, November 04, 2004.
Evans, Michael The American Prophecies. Warner Faith (Time Warner Book Group). New York, 2004.
Jim Miles is a Canadian educator who has regularly contributed a series of book reviews to the Palestine Chronicle under the general rubric of the American Empire. His interest in this topic stems originally from an environmental perspective, which encompasses the militarization of the global community by the American government.