And American Imperialism
By Yoginder Sikand
28 October, 2006
because the mass media rarely, if ever, refers to it, it does not mean
it does not exist. In fact, Christian fundamentalism is now firmly entrenched
in America's politics and society. It exercises a powerful influence
in shaping the country's domestic and foreign policies. So Esther Kaplan
argues in her recently published book, 'With God on Their Side', a brilliant
expose of the menacing clout that American Christian fundamentalists
wield today, with the country being ruled by a man whom many Christian
bigots see as having been appointed by God Himself.
Kaplan describes her book
as an investigation into 'how Christian fundamentalists trampled science,
policy and democracy in George W. Bush's White House'. And that she
proves with ample facts and detailed statistics, the result of painstaking
research. Her main thesis is that given the fact that the Christian
right wing is Bush's primary electoral base it is but to be expected
that they exercise enormous clout in shaping Bush's decisions. And this
influence, she argues, has been fatal. Christian fundamentalism is fiercely
right-wing, and this has meant that the poor as well as ethnic and other
minorities in America have been badly affected by a range of policies
that Bush has adopted on vital social issues. But much more tragic,
of course, has been the influence of the Christian right-wing in shaping
Bush's foreign policies. Christian fundamentalists have sought to provide
Bush with theological sanction for American imperialism and aggression,
leading America into a head-on clash with the Muslim world, resulting
in the massacres of hundreds of thousands of people, mainly Muslims,
in Iraq, Afghanistan and in new 'trouble spots' that the Americans seem
to be adamant on creating.
Kaplan offers convincing
evidence of what she calls Bush's 'embrace of right-wing Christian fundamentalism'.
Kaplan quotes Paul O'Neill, who served as Bush's Treasury Secretary,
as saying that ideology, rather than real world analysis, now rules
the White House. And by ideology presumably is meant Christian fundamentalism.
Attendance at weekly Bible Study sessions in the White House appears
to be encouraged—more than half the White House staff participates
in these. Daily Bible study sessions are held in the Department of Justice
and are presided over by none other than America's Attorney General.
Bush, for his part, makes no bones about what he bandies about as his
Christian credentials. In fact, he has, Kaplan tells us, gone so far
as to claim what is in effect a special cosmic status for himself—he
has declared that he feels that God wanted him to stand as presidential
candidate and had also commanded him to invade Iraq. The first conversation
that he had with the Russian leader Vladimir Putin is said to have been
about religion and he is said to regularly pray together with Tony Blair,
another Christian fundamentalist.
Kaplan examines the writings
and statements of numerous leading American Christian fundamentalist
ideologues who enjoy close relations with Bush to show how powerfully
Bush echoes their Manichaean view about the world. Bush considers America
as engaged in a global war on behalf of the 'good' against the forces
of 'evil'. This is precisely how large numbers of American Christian
fundamentalists, too, view the issue. They see their version of Christianity
as the sole truth. Many of them consider Islam to be 'Satanic', and
other religions to be false cults. This naturally disposes many Christian
fundamentalists to war against other faiths and their adherents. This
is apparent in the firm backing that many American Christian fundamentalists
have provided to the American invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan and to
America's consistent support to Israel against the Palestinians.
Islam, for many American
Christian fundamentalists, has taken the place as the great demon that
Communism once enjoyed, and this neatly dovetails with American plans
for global hegemony. Kaplan provides ample evidence of this by quoting
statements of leading American Christian fundamentalists, many of who
enjoy close relations with the Bush administration. Thus, she refers
to Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, whom Bush credits with his
Christian awakening, as denouncing Islam as 'a very evil and wicked
religion'. Incidentally, Franklin Graham had led Bush's inaugural prayer
ceremony. Kaplan quotes Jerry Vines, onetime President of the 16 million-member
Southern Baptist Convention, with which Bush has close links, as calling
the Prophet Muhammad a 'demon-obsessed pedophile'. Pat Robertson, another
notorious American Christian fundamentalist declares Muslims to be 'worse
than nazis', and Jerry Falwell, another such Christian leader, denounces
the Prophet Muhammad as a 'terrorist'.
Key advisors and colleagues
in Bush's administration are fundamentalist Christians, Kaplan tells
us. Bush's Pentecostal Attorney General John Ashcroft has made no effort
to conceal his belief that what America calls its war on terror is a
struggle between 'good' and 'evil' and for God, seeming to assume that
God is on America's side and giving the latest American offensive the
shape of a religious struggle of cosmic dimensions. His claim that 'Islam
is a religion in which God requires you to send your son to die for
him. Christianity is a faith in which God sends his son to die for you'
provoked tremendous criticism, but, Kaplan says, Bush did not firmly
admonish him for this. Nor did Bush convincingly condemn the statement
of General William Jerry Boykin, appointed to trace Osama bin Laden
and Saddam Hussain, when he claimed that America was engaged in a battle
against Satan, who, he claimed, wanted to destroy America, which he
announced was a 'Christian country'. He had even declared that God had
put Bush in the White House and had fervently appealed to Christians
to join the American army in Jesus' name.
Bush, Kaplan writes, was
warned to forcefully condemn such inflammatory statements demonising
Islam and Muslims emanating from senior members of his administration.
However, rather than doing this, he soon appeared along with two evangelical
missionaries who had been jailed by the Taliban for violating a ban
on proselytism in Afghanistan and declared that one reason why he invade
Afghanistan was to release them.
and American Empire go hand-in-hand, Kaplan suggests. This is illustrated,
for instance, in the firm support given by American Christian right-wing
groups for America's imperialist offensives in the Muslim world. Thus,
Kaplan writes that America's invasion of Iraq was greeted as 'big news'
by American evangelicals, hoping that American arms would pave the way
for Christian missionaries to flood the Muslim world. 'There is a tremendous
amount of excitement about the opportunity', Mark Kelly of the Southern
Baptist Convention's International Mission Board announced when the
American offensive against Iraq was in its second month. No sooner had
Saddam fallen than American and other Western Christian evangelists
descended on the hapless Iraq Muslims, armed with food aid, Jesus films
and Bibles, in a well-designed campaign to convert them to Christianity.
The events of 9/11 have given this Christian missionary zeal added impetus.
Kaplan writes that since 2001 the number of Christian missionaries working
in Muslim countries has gone up four times.
War-mongering Christian fundamentalists
are implacably opposed to peace in the Middle East, Kaplan says. They
insist that the Jews alone have the right to rule or live in Palestine,
and they have been opposed to any suggestion of a Palestinian state.
They see the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel as initiating
what they call the Second Coming of Jesus, who, they expect, will return
to establish a messianic global kingdom. All non-Christians would, they
believe, then be killed and sent to hell. They also believe that those
Jews who refuse to accept Jesus as the messiah would be slain. Yet,
since they are fervent backers of the state of Israel, and because they
identify Muslims as their principal enemies, they have been able to
establish strong links with Zionist organisations in America and Israel,
as well as with the Israeli state, a fact that Kaplan discusses in detail.
Kaplan shows how the views of these Christian bigots find considerable
support among key officials in the Bush administration and influence
his politics in the troubled Middle East, further stoking the flames
of war and destruction in the region.
Bush, Kaplan notes, is on
record as having claimed that only Christians have a place in heaven.
Many other religious fundamentalists in other faiths, including Osama
bin Laden, whom Bush regularly refers to as his principal adversary,
think likewise about their own co-religionists. There thus appears to
be little scope for reasoned dialogue between fanatics. Competing truth
claims that seek to account for the entire cosmos can probably never
co-exist in harmony. A recipe for despair? Perhaps, although, hopefully,
not necessarily. But all the more reason for taking the battle against
bigots parading in the guise of virtue even more seriously.
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