The Fear of Fear Itself
The prophet of the Christians, Jesus Christ, got it right: "Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves."
When televangelist Pat Robertson a few days ago called for the murder of Venezuela's President Chavez there was a huge outburst of outrage, a kind of emotional fireworks display in response to the ever more predictable lunacies of the so-called Christian Right.
My father, who was a Baptist parson, would never, I think, have described Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and the rest of the millionaire god-bothering sheep-stealers as Christians.
Those of us who do regard them as Christians forget that Falwell and Robertson, two days after September 11, 2001 said that the atrocity was God's punishment of the United States - probably deserved because of the anti-American activities of a variety of miscreants - gays, lesbians, advocates of civil liberties and other people bent on secularising America.
Jerry Falwell: "What we saw on Tuesday, as terrible as it is, could be minuscule if, in fact, God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve."Both men more or less apologised in response to the public outrage provoked by their remarks, but their apologies seemed mere tactical withdrawals rather than sincere repentance for folly. And it took them a week to formulate their excuses.
Pat Robertson: "Jerry, that's my feeling. I think we've just seen the antechamber to terror. We haven't even begun to see what they can do to the major population."
And later in the programme:
Jerry Falwell: "The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularise America, I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.'"
Pat Robertson: "Well, I totally concur, and the problem is we have adopted that agenda at the highest levels of our government."
Robertson's attempt to weasel his way out of the latest brouhaha is typical. As they said then, Robertson said last week: the remarks had been taken out of context; the press had misquoted. etc., etc.
The devil, and the evangelists, can cite scripture for their own purposes and Christians in America have justified all sorts of atrocities in the name of God since the time of the Conquistadors in Latin America and the North American Riders of the Purple Sage.
For nearly six centuries, Christians have regarded the world as a tabula rasa, awaiting the divine intervention of civilised men - a rifle in one hand and the Bible in the other.
One of President Bush's military advisers, one General Boykin, is celebrated for his assertion that in any struggle with the infidel, he, Boykin and fellow believers were bound to come out on top because "my God was bigger than his!"
Pat Robertson's adjuration to the CIA to blow away Hugo Chavez is exactly analogous to the contentions of Condoleezza Rice and her train bearers, Roger Noriega and Otto Reich, who believe that the Western hemisphere has been set aside by God for American jurisdiction and control and that anyone who disputes that thesis deserves to die.
Long ago, when Dr Rice was in infant school, the CIA launched the first of more than 200 attempts to murder Fidel Castro. Pat Robertson's grave sin is that he made it clear that nothing has changed since 1959.
TIME magazine, in its first cover story on Hugo Chavez did to Chavez what it did to O J Simpson 10 years ago: its artists made him several shades darker, emphasising their jaundiced view of his mixed ethnicity.
He was clearly illegitimate, a leftist with capital and the will to spend that capital on uplifting poor people in contrast to his predecessors who squandered Venezuela's oil wealth to create millionaires in Venezuela and the US.
While Castro created a revolution in one country, Chavez' control of oil makes him even more dangerous to US visions of Manifest Destiny.
That is why a few months ago, Dr Rice tried to strong-arm the Organisation of American States (OAS) into adopting a US resolution which would give legitimacy to forceful intervention by the OAS/US into the government of any country whose democracy was judged not up to scratch. They had already backed two failed attempts to overthrow him.
In Venezuela Chavez has repeatedly demonstrated that he is the overwhelming choice of his people but this means nothing to the US. Dr Rrice says he is a democratically elected dictator. It would be idle to point out that George Bush was not even elected the first time.
The intervention in Haiti was justified by the same kind of reasoning. An overwhelmingly popular and democratically elected leader was overthrown by the US marines because, like Oliver Twist, he asked for more for his starving people, exploited and brutalised by 200 years of foreign military and financial interventions.
The American challenge to a pluralistic world - to political diversity - is nowhere better demonstrated than in Iraq where "the necessity for regime change" was hypocritically converted into a crusade "against terror" with results that are becoming ever more apparent. Instead of being welcomed with flowers by an 'oppressed people', the US is fighting a war against an Iraqi resistance inspired by a nationalism which claims 8 thousand years of legitimacy.
The secular state of Iraq is in the process of being replaced by a government of Islamic fundamentalists which is unable to guarantee the safety of its citizens or the democratic rights of its women.
To the fundamentalists that is no big thing. Some of them say that women's rights are not essential to democracy; after all, women could not vote in the US for nearly two hundred years after the Declaration of Independence.
They don't say that blacks are disfranchised - to the political advantage of the religious fanatics - even now. It is, of course, anti-American to point out these things but not anti-American to steal elections in order to frustrate the will of the majority.
Religious fundamentalism in the US is not a purely Christian phenomenon. The Project for the New American Century, PNAC - the neo-conservative blueprint for world domination, was largely written by Jewish fundamentalists lovingly embraced by such as Robertson and Falwell who believe as Pat Robertson does, that: "Indeed, there will finally be such a fullness of Israel when their hardness and blindness to the gospel is overcome as to vastly enrich the whole world. For the almost unbelievable truth is that all Israel will be saved."
Elliott Abrams, a Jew and prominent neo-con and now a leading White House adviser has written: "Religion is now one of the organising principles behind American policy."
(Introduction to the book The Influence of Faith: Religious Groups and Foreign Policy, Rowman and Littlefield, 2001) Abrams is a former leader of the Iran-Contra conspiracy who escaped prison when he was pardoned by George Bush Sr.
The pragmatism of the Christian fundamentalists might be thought to contrast with the message oif the new Testament - "that ye love one another" only if one forgets that since the fundamentalists have created God in their own image, it is also possible to hold that "He that is not with me is against me" and justify hate and murder by further selective quotation to their own purpose.
The fundamentalists can find enemies and friends anywhere, as it suits them. The Spanish-American war was fought partly to Protestantise the evil Catholicism of the Spanish empire. The Palestinians - Philistines - have no place in Palestine because God gave the land to "His Chosen People". God is in his Heaven.
John Ashcroft, the former attorney general said it most succintly: "We are a nation called to defend freedom - a freedom that is not the grant of any government or document, but is our endowment from God." The Washington Post, Feb. 20, 2002.
And presiding serenely above all of this is the president of the United States, George Bush, who has been recognised by the fundamentalists as their leader.
Shortly after his September 2001 faux pas, Pat Robertson resigned as leader of the Christian Coalition, a move greeted by Gary Bauer, one of the most toxic of the far-right spokesmen: "I think Robertson stepped down because the position has already been filled... [Bush] is that leader right now." The Washington Post, December 23, 2001
Bush sees "America's mission" as the spreading of freedom worldwide, whether the various subject peoples wish to be blessed with "American" ideas of freedom or not.
Faced with such certitude the pagans don't have a chance. And since the pagans mostly are poor, non-white and alien, they have been at the sharp end of capitalism for a very long time, a fact that seems to justiofy their remaining in their places - places appointed by the bigger God.
Mr Allan Greenspan, one of TIME's Committee to Save the World is reputed to sleep with a copy of Ayn Rand's book Atlas Shrugged by his bedside, reading passages from it, as from a holy text, every morning. Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism teaches that selfishness is the supreme virtue.
The ideal Life is, literally, every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost. This definition might almost be used to define globalised capitalism in which American multinationals mainly, are expected to have the right to determine the future of entire nations and civilisations, whose God is smaller than theirs.
As Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard, and another member of the Committee to Save the World says: third world countries are vastly under-polluted and it would be cost-effective to export metropolitan toxic wastes to them because the lives of their citizens are so much less valuable than the lives of Americans.
The divine right to intervene militarily is tied to the divine rights to intervene politically and culturally. It is an offence against the sacred doctrine of free speech to try to prevent the dissemination of such evil works as 'Grand Theft Auto' - a series of video games in which the player can satisfy the most obscene fantasies of murder and bloody mayhem limited only by his own imagination.
These textbooks of wickedness are only now provoking any real controversy in their place of origin, the United States, not because of the barbaric violence but because of overtly sexual content. Murder is legitimate, love, or any simulacrum of it, is anti-Christian.
To make the slightest criticism of the US administration is to be 'anti American', outside the pale and subject to cataclysmic retribution. As Wayne Brown has related in his recent columns in this paper, rational criticism may be an excuse for informal torture.
To travel to the US is to lay oneself open to suspicion, misrepresentation and degrading treatment. Which is why I do not intend to ever darken their doors again.
I and many others feel threatened and not reassured by the policies of the United States.
People who never spoke to me 30 years ago because of my supposed ideological extremism, now walk up to me in supermarkets and on the street to commend me for my columns. And I thank all of those in the United States who have written to thank me for my writing.
I would ask them to be patient, however, as I am having serious computer problems and cannot reply as I would like.
In the meanwhile, consider the Jamaican aphorism: 'Time longer than rope'.