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Inside U.S.A.: America's Fundamentalists Finally Press The Self Destruct Button|
Thursday, September 01 @ 10:02:12 UTC
by Angelique van Engelen, www.contentClix.com |
Amsterdam 25 August 2005 - It's official. America now has its first Christian cleric using the A word. A not being the Atom bomb but Assassination. The top televangelist employed a style much used by his Islamic colleagues when he called for the assassination of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuala, speaking these astounding words: "We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. [....] We do not need another 200 billion dollar war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It is a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with." Is fundamentalism, which steered the US administration only two years ago toward condoning the Israeli killings of top Hamaz leaders finally showing its true colors?
Robertson who heads the Christian Broadcast Network's The 700 Club, which has an audience of around 7 million, shocked many, but nevertheless it appears his opinions aren't all that alien to the mindset in the US, where politics are largely attuned to the taste of fundamentalist christianity or the Christian Right. Rather than dismissing the comments outright, the US secretary of defence, Donald Rumsfeld, said: "Our department doesn't do that kind of thing. It's against the law." Rumsfeld, who works for a government that officially prohibited political assassination in the 1970s, also said he knew of no consideration ever having been given to assassinating Chavez. "Not to my knowledge and I would think I would have knowledge," Rumsfeld was quoted as saying.
It isn't the first time that the Christians that spurr on the Republican Party so vehemently demand a real price for their unflinching support other than repeated assurances that their beliefs are incorporated in public statements. An assassination however is only one step on from what happened two years ago, when pressure from the Christian Right led to a u-turn of the administration's initial strong condemnation of an attempted assassination of the prominent leader of the Hamaz political wing Abdel Aziz Rantisi in June 2003. In a jiff, the Christian Right had its networks mobilized and a email bombardment of the White House had started, condemning the administration's stance. Preformatted texts included implied threats to boycott the next elections. "Within 24 hours, there was a notable change in tone by the president", reported Stephen Zunes of Foreign Policy in Focus. The total change in tone in the US administration's stance was highlighted when the man indeed had fallen victim to Israeli assassins and the US simply pledged support for the Israeli action. Apparently, privately the US gave Israeli officials considerable grief over the issue.
The US administration is kept on a leash by voters who continuously insist on their democratic rights but don't wish for others to exercise those. Zunes says that a decade ago, not many of the Republican politicians that made their case appealing to the Christian electorate were really all that interested in the gospel, but that since true christians became actively involved in politics, the landscape has somewhat altered. Barbara Bush years ago was rumored to be regularly speaking in tongues, to the exhileration of devout christians. Dick Cheney's residence sent out Christmas cards in 2003 that showed a sickening choice of bible verse that some christians would likely say is an insult to their faith. They printed the verse "And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?" on it.
Even though the leadership set out only talking the talk for the votes, they will have been seen by a happy large part of the American population as instruments, if not direct choices of Providence. Much the same of what in recent months has driven the emergence to mainstrem politics of Hamas and other islamic parties. President Bush himself has publicly admitted to having received a 'calling' for the job. The incredibly well oiled Christian Right public relations machine can virtually make top officials dance like puppets on a string. What is so dangerous about this is that once the administration succumbs to the pressure on any given issue, the public thinking on all relating issues gets miraculously changed as if the decision from then on is cast in stones similar to those that Moses carved the ten commandments in, and no longer subject to situation or circumstance.
That's how you get perfectly intelligent people changing their point of view in defiance of all logic even when opportunities for peace arise. The first Israeli assassination attempt of Abd al-Aziz Rantisi came as Hamas leaders were talking about resuming ceasfire talks with the Palestinian leadership and led to one of Hamas' strongest unconstructive remarks, vowing to transform Israel into "rubble". It led to a suicide bombing many remember, which killed 17 in the center of Jerusalem.
It is difficult to marry the Christian Right directly with the condoning of political assassination to extend its reach the world over. However, the issue of Israel might bridge a gap in many minds that haven't exactly been illuminated and that are fighting to simply create secular empires that stretch to convenient biblical proportions, namely all four corners of the earth. If an adoption of the theology that preaches this is necessary to achieve this, the incumbent US administration proves it is not shy to take up the gauntlet. But many argue that they would just as easily have taken another theology if it happened to have an impact on their votes. President Bush has publicly linked the war against terror to the exercise of 'export[ing] death and violence to the four corners of the Earth in defense of this great country and rid the world of evil'. That's rhetoric that stems directly from the belief that Israel is central to the second coming of Christ.
In other words, if Israel isn't supported, you go against the will of God. The convenience of mixing aspirations to dominate the world with the superlatives that religious beliefs introduce has proven to be very luring. But the tradeoff is foul, especially because a cycle of dishonesty and lunacy has been set in motion. It is the background against which much of what has happened the last decade or so can be explained. The belief that reality is divided into absolute good and absolute evil, which the US administration has been maintaining as its central advertising message, leads to just the sort of comments that Robertson has made. In a sense it's a blessing in disguise because it will have woken many up to the fact that perhaps terrorism isn't all inspired by outside faiths, but rather by fundamentalist deformations.
The arguments for branding the US a terrorist state have increased and that's quite healthy because it brings out a dimension that so far has been totally bypassed in official international relations, where the US has so far been able to claim the moral high ground, entitled to point the finger. The Venezuelan government said it was examining its legal options, and more to the point, has issued an indictment of fundamentalist religion with immediate effect. The legal options it is actively examining include a provision under the structure of the Organization of American States, which prohibit incitements to kill. Robertson has since apologized for his remarks, saying he spoke in frustration and that he was commenting on Chavez' repeated statements that US agents were threatening his life. And perhaps he should be getting away with it, if his statement was really in reaction to Chavez' continued claims that the US was out to kill him. This might in all honesty spark a comment like 'let's go ahead, let's do it then'. Robertson's role as a recognized opinion leader however is likely slighty tainted, even though Donald Rumsfeld has protected him, by conveniently pointing out that "He's a private citizen. Private citizens say all kinds of things all the time." Wonder if an Islamic televangelist would have been treated the same. Some due attention has been given to the way the US democracy is really stacking together. I'd say: lunatics, rise up some more! It's about time the world knew.
Angelique van Engelen is a freelance writer based in Amsterdam. She travels frequently.
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