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Fundamentalism Kills

People embrace and mourn at the massive flower field laid in memory of victims of Friday’s twin attacks in Norway.

By Chris Hedges

Fundamentalism Kills

The gravest threat we face from terrorism, as the killings in Norway by Anders Behring Breivik underscore, comes not from the Islamic world but the radical Christian right and the secular fundamentalists who propagate the bigoted, hateful caricatures of observant Muslims and those defined as our internal enemies. The caricature and fear are spread as diligently by the Christian right as they are by atheists such as Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens. Our religious and secular fundamentalists all peddle the same racist filth and intolerance that infected Breivik. This filth has poisoned and degraded our civil discourse. The looming economic and environmental collapse will provide sparks and tinder to transform this coarse language of fundamentalist hatred into, I fear, the murderous rampages experienced by Norway. I worry more about the Anders Breiviks than the Mohammed Attas.

The battle under way in America is not between religion and science. It is not between those who embrace the rational and those who believe in biblical myth. It is not between Western civilization and Islam. The blustering televangelists and the New Atheists, the television pundits and our vaunted Middle East specialists and experts, are all part of our vast, simplistic culture of mindless entertainment. They are in show business. They cannot afford complexity. Religion and science, facts and lies, truth and fiction, are the least of their concerns. They trade insults and clichés like cartoon characters. They don masks. One wears the mask of religion. One wears the mask of science. One wears the mask of journalism. One wears the mask of the terrorism expert. They jab back and forth in predictable sound bites. It is a sterile and useless debate between bizarre subsets of American culture. Some use the scientific theory of evolution to explain the behavior and rules for complex social and political systems, and others insist that the six-day creation story in Genesis is a factual account. The danger we face is not in the quarrel between religion advocates and evolution advocates, but in the widespread mental habit of fundamentalism itself.

We live in a fundamentalist culture. Our utopian visions of inevitable human progress, obsession with endless consumption, and fetish for power and unlimited growth are fed by illusions that are as dangerous as fantasies about the Second Coming. These beliefs are the newest expression of the infatuation with the apocalypse, one first articulated to Western culture by the early church. This apocalyptic vision was as central to the murderous beliefs of the French Jacobins, the Russian Bolsheviks and the German fascists as it was to the early Christians. The historian Arnold Toynbee argues that racism in Anglo-American culture was given a special virulence after the publication of the King James Bible. The concept of “the chosen people” was quickly adopted, he wrote, by British and American imperialists. It fed the disease of white supremacy. It gave them the moral sanction to dominate and destroy other races, from the Native Americans to those on the subcontinent.

Our secular and religious fundamentalists come out of this twisted yearning for the apocalypse and belief in the “chosen people.” They advocate, in the language of religion and scientific rationalism, the divine right of our domination, the clash of civilizations. They assure us that we are headed into the broad, uplifting world of universal democracy and a global free market once we sign on for the subjugation and extermination of those who oppose us. They insist—as the fascists and the communists did—that this call for a new world is based on reason, factual evidence and science or divine will. But schemes for universal human advancement, no matter what language is used to justify them, are always mythic. They are designed to satisfy a yearning for meaning and purpose. They give the proponents of these myths the status of soothsayers and prophets. And, when acted upon, they fill the Earth with mass graves, bombed cities, widespread misery and penal colonies. The extent of this fundamentalism is evident in the strident utterances of the Christian right as well as those of the so-called New Atheists.

“What will we do if an Islamist regime, which grows dewy-eyed at the mere mention of paradise, ever acquires long-range nuclear weaponry?” Sam Harris, in his book “The End of Faith,” asks in a passage that I suspect Breivik would have enjoyed. “If history is any guide, we will not be sure about where the offending warheads are or what their state of readiness is, and so we will be unable to rely on targeted, conventional weapons to destroy them. In such a situation, the only thing likely to ensure our survival may be a nuclear first strike of our own. Needless to say, this would be an unthinkable crime—as it would kill tens of millions of innocent civilians in a single day—but it may be the only course of action available to us, given what Islamists believe.”

“We are at war with Islam,” Harris goes on. “It may not serve our immediate foreign policy objectives for our political leaders to openly acknowledge this fact, but it is unambiguously so. It is not merely that we are at war with an otherwise peaceful religion that has been ‘hijacked’ by extremists. We are at war with precisely the vision of life that is prescribed to all Muslims in the Koran, and further elaborated in the literature of the hadith, which recounts the sayings and teachings of the Prophet.”

Harris assures us that “the Koran mandates such hatred,” that “the problem is with Islam itself.” He writes that “Islam, more than any other religion human beings have devised, has all the makings of a thoroughgoing cult of death.”

A culture that exalts its own moral certitude and engages in uncritical self-worship at the expense of conscience commits moral and finally physical suicide. Our fundamentalists busy themselves with their pathetic little monuments to Jesus, to reason, to science, to Western civilization and to new imperial glory. They peddle a binary view of the world that divides reality between black and white, good and evil, right and wrong. We are taught in a fundamentalist culture to view other human beings, especially Muslims, not as ends but as means. We abrogate the right to exterminate all who do not conform.

Fundamentalists have no interest in history, culture or social or linguistic differences. They are a remarkably uncurious, self-satisfied group. Anything outside their own narrow bourgeois life, petty concerns and physical comforts bores them. They are provincials. They do not investigate or seek to understand the endemic flaws in human nature. The only thing that matters is the coming salvation of humanity, or at least that segment of humanity they deem worthy of salvation. They peddle a route to assured collective deliverance. And they sanction violence and the physical extermination of other human beings to get there.

All fundamentalists worship the same gods—themselves. They worship the future prospect of their own empowerment. They view this empowerment as a necessity for the advancement and protection of civilization or the Christian state. They sanctify the nation. They hold up the ability the industrial state has handed to them as a group and as individuals to shape the world according to their vision as evidence of their own superiority. Fundamentalists express the frustrations of a myopic and morally stunted middle class. They cling, under their religious or scientific veneer, to the worst values of the petite bourgeois. They are suburban mutations, products of an American landscape that has been perverted by a destruction of community and a long and successful war against complex thought. The self-absorbed worldview of these fundamentalists brings smiles of indulgence from the corporatists who profit, at our expense, from the obliteration of moral and intellectual inquiry.

Stephen Dedalus in James Joyce’s “Ulysses” acidly condemned all schemes to purify the world and serve human progress through violence. He said that “history is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” Dedalus in the same passage responded to the schoolmaster Deasy’s claim that “the ways of the Creator are not our ways,” and that “all history moves towards one great goal, the manifestation of God.” A soccer goal is jubilantly scored by boys in the yard outside the school window as Deasy expounds on divine will. God, Dedalus tells Deasy as the players yell in glee over the goal, is no more than the screams from the schoolyard —“a shout in the street.” Joyce, like Samuel Beckett, excoriated the Western belief in historical teleology—the notion that history has a purpose or is moving toward a goal. The absurdity of this belief, they wrote, always feeds fanatics and undermines the possibility of human community. These writers warned us about all those—religious and secular—who call for salvation through history.

There are tens of millions of Americans who in their desperation and insecurity yearn for the assurance and empowerment offered by a clearly defined war against an external evil. They are taught in our fundamentalist culture that this evil is the root of their misery. They embrace a war against this evil as a solution to the drift in their lives, their economic deprivation and the moral and economic morass of the nation. They see in this conflict with these dark forces a way to overcome their own alienation. They find in it certitude, meaning and structure. They believe that once this evil is vanquished, an evil that extends from Muslims to undocumented workers, liberals, intellectuals, homosexuals and feminists, they can transform America into a land of plenty and virtue. But this fundamentalism, which cloaks itself in the jargon of scientific rationality, Christian piety and nativism, is a recipe for fanaticism. All those who embrace other ways of being and believing are viewed, as Breivik apparently viewed his victims, as contaminates that must be eliminated.

This fundamentalist ideology, because it is contradictory and filled with myth, is immune to critiques based on reason, fact and logic. This is part of its appeal. It obliterates doubt, nuance, intellectual and scientific rigor and moral conscience. All has been predicted or decided. Life is reduced to following a simple black-and-white road map. The contradictions in these belief systems—for example the championing of the “rights of the unborn” while calling for wider use of the death penalty or the damning of Muslim terrorists while promoting pre-emptive war, which delivers more death and misery in the Middle East than any jihadist organization—inoculate followers from rational discourse. Life becomes a crusade.

All fundamentalists, religious and secular, are ignoramuses. They follow the lines of least resistance. They already know what is true and what is untrue. They do not need to challenge their own beliefs or investigate the beliefs of others. They do not need to bother with the hard and laborious work of religious, linguistic, historical and cultural understanding. They do not need to engage in self-criticism or self-reflection. It spoils the game. It ruins the entertainment. They see all people, and especially themselves, as clearly and starkly defined. The world is divided into those who embrace or reject their belief systems. Those who support these belief systems are good and forces for human progress. Those who oppose these belief systems are stupid, at best, and usually evil. Fundamentalists have no interest in real debate, real dialogue, real intellectual thought. Fundamentalism, at its core, is about self-worship. It is about feeling holier, smarter and more powerful than everyone else. And this comes directly out of the sickness of our advertising age and its exaltation of the cult of the self. It is a product of our deep and unreflective cultural narcissism.

Our faith in the inevitability of human progress constitutes an inability to grasp the tragic nature of history. Human history is one of constant conflict between the will to power and the will to nurture and protect life. Our greatest achievements are always intertwined with our greatest failures. Our most exalted accomplishments are always coupled with our most egregious barbarities. Science and industry serve as instruments of progress as well as instruments of destruction. The Industrial Age has provided feats of engineering and technology, yet it has also destroyed community, spread the plague of urbanization, uprooted us all, turned human beings into cogs and made possible the total war and wholesale industrial killing that has marked the last century. These technologies, even as we see them as our salvation, are rapidly destroying the ecosystem on which we depend for life.

There is no linear movement in history. Morality and ethics are static. Human nature does not change. Barbarism is part of the human condition and we can all succumb to its basest dimensions. This is the tragedy of history. Human will is morally ambiguous. The freedom to act as often results in the construction of new prisons and systems of repression as it does the safeguarding of universal human rights. The competing forces of love and of power define us, what Sigmund Freud termed Eros and Thanatos. Societies have, throughout history, ignored calls for altruism and mutuality in times of social upheaval and turmoil. They have wasted their freedom in the self-destructive urges that currently envelope us. These urges are very human and very dangerous. They are fired by utopian visions of inevitable human progress. When this progress stalls or is reversed, when the dreams of advancement and financial stability are thwarted, when a people confronts its own inevitable downward spiral, dark forces of vengeance and retribution are unleashed. Fundamentalists serve an evil that is unseen and unexamined. And the longer this evil is ignored the more dangerous and deadly it becomes. Those who seek through violence the Garden of Eden usher in the apocalypse.

Chris Hedges is a weekly Truthdig columnist and a fellow at The Nation Institute. His newest book is “The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress.”

Copyright © 2011 Truthdig, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

 

How the U.S. Radicalized Conservatism

February 27, 2011: By Professor Lawrence Davidson

How the U.S. Radicalized Conservatism

If you have the stomach to listen to the likes of Glenn Beck or track the antics of people like Sarah Palin you might get the idea that today’s American political conservatives are a bunch of radicals and extremists. And, as we will see, you would be correct. But this is not how it always was. There was a time when conservatism was a more low key affair with a certain sense of pragmatism and even fair play. There is not much of this traditional conservatism left here in the U.S. except in certain intellectual circles. And, even there, one has the sense that it is hanging on by its fingernails.

If you want to learn more about this remnant you might take a look at the writings of Jim Kalb. Kalb is a leading thinker in the traditional conservative movement, a believing Catholic and, in his roll as a wordsmith, an afficionado of palindromes (a word or phrase that reads the same forwards and backwards) to which we will refer at the end of this piece. Here is how Kalb spells out the meaning of his brand of conservatism,

A network of commonly accepted attitudes, beliefs and practices that evolves through strengthening of things that work and rejection of things that lead to conflict and failure. It therefore comprises a collection of habits that have proved useful in a huge variety of practical affairs, and a comprehensive and generally coherent point of view that reflects very extensive experience and thought.

In other words, this sort of vintage conservatism emphasizes what it regards as useful traditions over rapid innovations, and workable stability over precipitous change. There will always be change, of course, but in the world of traditional conservatives it should be slow and incremental, not “radical” or “revolutionary.” Whatever one might think of this traditional conservatism, it is pretty clear that modern American political conservatism has abandoned it for a multitude of extremist positions that play themselves out as publically expressed obsessions. Let us take a look at some examples of this “fall from grace.”

Part II – American Political Conservative Obsessions

1) The alleged right to possess unlimited numbers of deadly weapons. For modern political conservatives obsessed with the issue of gun laws, this “right” to be over armed supercedes the public’s need for a safe environment. Thus, compared to the age old tradition of public safety, the gun mania of today’s conservatives is absolutely revolutionary. It certainly has nothing to do with the Constitution’s “well ordered militia” and does not reflect “habits that have proved useful in a huge variety of practical affairs.” In fact, the only “habits” this obsession references are those displayed in fantasies that romanticize cowboys and military combat.

2) The battle against legal abortion. This modern political/social conservative cause also references fantasy rather than “a comprehensive and generally coherent point of view that reflects very extensive experience and thought.” This is because the outlawing of abortion does not eliminate abortion. It simply drives it into the back alleys creating an ever greater risk to desperate and mostly poor pregnant women. Thus, obsessed as they are with the rights of the unborn, these so-called conservatives care little for the much more traditional right of well-being for those who are “post womb.” In addition, unwanted births put stress on the traditional family structure, increase rates of delinquency and deepen poverty. Many of today’s political/social conservatives who seek to outlaw abortion with such religious zeal also sadly stand out as hypocrites. Anti-abortionists, supporting an allegedly “pro-life” cause, often act or support or turn a blind eye to their own violence that can and has reached the level of murder. Perhaps most frustrating of all, these same “right to lifers” often stand in opposition to a pragmatic answer to the abortion problem– that is the age-old and honored tradition of contraception.

3) An obsessive fixation with taxes. Those modern day political conservatives who have this particular mania seem to be incapable of understanding that it is a radical act to advocate the reduction of taxation to the point of social ruination. In order to spare their wallets and allegedly promote “individual freedom” they advocate, among other things, privatizing the public school systems, denial of services to indigent people, and elimination of state involvement in such issues as public health and environmental safety. Yet these state activities are real “commonly accepted attitudes, beliefs and practices.” To stand against them is not to be truly conservative, but rather to play the role of the stereotypical wild-eyed revolutionary. That is because, refusing to be taxed for these purposes means the recreation of conditions experienced in a place like Manchester England, circa 1830. That was a time when, as a matter of policy, no money was made available for government regulation of the “private sector.” Things got so bad in Manchester (and other industrial towns in England) at this time that there was mass illiteracy, pervasive malnutrition among the poor and, due to workplace pollution, the average laborer was dying at about the age of 16.

4) Paranoid concern with illegal immigration. Immigration, legal or illegal, constitutes a process that is one of the defining pillars of the American national character. Unless you are an American Indian you are an immigrant or the descendent of immigrants, a healthy percentage of whom were not “legal.” Therefore, to overreact to immigration is to undermine a traditional practice as old as the nation itself. In addition today’s political conservative approach to immigration is obviously not a “strengthening of things that work and rejection of things that lead to conflict and failure.” Immigration of whatever nature has always worked to strengthen the nation’s economy. Hysterical reactions to it reflect an attitude that only “leads to conflict and failure.”

Part III – The Problem of Radical Conservative Islamophobia

There is yet one more obsession of today’s political conservatives that stalks the American public landscape in a radically malignant way. It is the phenomenon of Islamophobia. For instance, consider the recent 38th annual meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), attended by a number of Republican presidential hopefuls. Journalists’ reports on the conference show that it was successfully used as a venue by such extremists as David Horowitz (“political Islam is a totalitarian movement that seeks to impose Islamic law on the entire world”), Pam Geller (the CPAC has been”corrupted and compromised by the Muslim Brotherhood”), and Robert Spencer (“Muslims are not able to be moderate–or they would be speaking against what is written in the Koran”). Through their foothold in the conference these radicals were able to influence the already paranoia prone modern American conservative mind. These Islamophobes are joined by some more recognizable, but no less radical, names such as Lt. General William G. Boykin (ret.) who at one time served as Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence. Boykin is a Christian fundamentalist obsessed with the fantasy of Muslim infiltration of the United States, particularly through the spread of Sharia Law. He has co-authored a book with former CIA Director R. James Woolsey Jr. entitled Shariah: The Threat to America. He has also urged withdrawing the protection of the First Amendment for Muslim Americans. Boykin enjoys much influence among the religious elements of today’s American conservative movement.

The growing number of conservative elected officials who preach Islamohobia is a clear indicator that this is a fantasy has entered the minds of Republican voters. A good example of the consequences is the present activities of Republican Representative Peter King. King is not from the deep south or somewhere in west Texas. He is from Long Island, N.Y. And, he is now Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, a position from which he spreads the same problematic message as Horowitz, Geller, Spencer and Boykin. King is planning hearings on the “radicalization of the American Muslim community.” As presently planned, the hearings promise to be low on accurate knowledgeable and objective witnesses and high on those who have a clear record of Islamophobia.

Part IV – Conclusion

This then has been the fate of conservatism in America. What started out as a worldview valuing the wisdom supposedly to be had from tradition, has become a clearly paranoid mentality constantly imagining outside conspiracies and inside saboteurs aiming to destroy national values and the citizen’s personal rights. In addition, the range of remedies that today’s conservatives offer to fight against these “threats” are almost entirely extremist in nature. They range from the financial destruction of the U.S. federal government through severe reduction of taxes, to carte blanche accessibility to deadly force for gun fanatics, to the passing of draconian laws on abortion and immigration, to the McCarthyite persecutions of entire minority groups such as American Muslims. These proposed policies do not reflect any definition of traditional conservatism. They are certainly not examples of a “comprehensive and generally coherent point of view that reflects very extensive experience and thought.” Instead they are destructive of the nation’s traditions and values and can only lead to disaster. Thus, out of respect for Jim Kalb’s comparatively sane definition of conservatism, I end with a palindromic warning to all those American pseudo conservatives out there, “Live Not On Evil.”

ldavidson@wcupa.edu www.tothepointanalyses.com

Watch: As Israel Slides Toward Fascism, Citizens and Supporters Swear Their Loyalty

September 21, 2010 Leave a comment

September 20, 2010: By Max Blumenthal and Joseph Dana

Watch: As Israel Slides Toward Fascism, Citizens and Supporters Swear Their Loyalty

Swearing a loyalty oath to Israel as an ethnic state is gaining legitimacy; a video produced by the authors shows the willingness of Israeli residents to pledge allegiance.

The Israeli Knesset is debating a bill proposed by David Rotem of the extreme right Yisrael Beiteinu party that would require all Israeli citizens to swear loyalty to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state.” This bill is targeted at increasing pressure on the 20 percent of Israelis who are Palestinian citizens, while forcing the ultra-Orthodox Jewish minority who reject the legitimacy of any state not based on Jewish biblical law to accept Zionism. If passed in its proposed form, citizens unwilling to take the loyalty oath would be at risk of losing citizenship.

Israeli leaders committed to a classic secular political Zionist platform have always fought at all costs to guard Israel’s “Jewish character,” even while they reveal their inability to properly define exactly what it is. The loyalty oath and the push for a two-state solution are the most profound examples of the insecurity that has roiled beneath the surface in Jewish Israeli society since the state’s inception. Without a Jewish majority exhibiting clear legal and political dominance over the non-Jewish or non-Zionist minority, the Zionist movement becomes meaningless. So as the Palestinian-Israeli minority actively resists its dispossession and the ultra-Orthodox stubbornly reject the concept of a Jewish state, the Israeli establishment feels increasingly compelled to seek draconian measures to salvage its vision of Zionism.

Watch the video: Feeling the Loyalty to the Jewish State of Israel

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsWDcFiPo2s

The loyalty oath was one of the main platform issues for Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s far-right Yisrael Beitenu party when it campaigned in 2009. “No citizenship without loyalty,” was among Lieberman’s most effective campaign slogans. (His other slogan was “Only Lieberman speaks Arabic.”) It helped guide his party to an astonishing third place, with 15 of the 120 seats in Israeli Parliament. The draft bill currently debated in the Parliament would allow the Interior Ministry to strip even native Israelis of their nationality if they refused to swear allegiance to the Jewish state and “its symbols and values,” and failed to profess their willingness to perform military service. Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, has expressed support for Yisrael Beiteinu’s loyalty crusade.

After the proposed law failed its first reading in the Knesset due to opposition from a handful of liberal members of the ruling Likud party, Yisrael Beiteinu released the following statement: “Yisrael Beitenu will continue to act for Israel’s basis as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state and will fight against disloyalty and the negative exploitation of Israeli democracy.” In July, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet has approved a similar bill requiring all new citizens to take an oath of loyalty to the Jewish state. The measure would make attaining citizenship nearly impossible for Palestinians residing inside Israel.

The following month, we met the loyalty bill’s author, David Rotem, at his home in the illegal West Bank settlement of Efrat. A self-described “very Zionistic” politician with a hulking frame and a pronounced limp resulting from a bout of polio, Rotem described in a gravely voice his vision of Israeli democracy. “Tyranny of the majority is the heart of democracy,” he declared. “Call it what you want but democracy is the rule of the majority. And it’s not a tyranny if the majority decides against the minorities.”

Besides the loyalty oath bill, political factions ranging from far-right settler parties to opposition leader Tzipi Livni’s centrist Kadima Party have proposed no less than 14 pieces of legislation this year that the Association for Civil Rights in Israel defines as anti-democratic. (Rotem is the author of six of the bills.) They include laws that would send citizens to jail for encouraging the rejection of Israel as a Jewish state, strip filmmakers of state funding if their work was deemed anti-Israel, and prosecute any Israeli who publishes material calling for a boycott of Israel. Other lesser-publicized bills have been introduced to block Palestinian residents of Israel from returning to confiscated land or reuniting with family members from the West Bank or Gaza.

While leftist Israelis chant, “Fascism will not pass!” at demonstrations in East Jerusalem, former Knesset member and commentator Yossi Sarid titled a recent column, “Fascism is already here.” Citing the swath of anti-democratic bills being debated in the Knesset, the support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet have offered for most of them, and the near total lack of opposition from the Israeli mainstream, Sarid remarked, “Israeli democracy is mainly for decoration, like a tree grown for its beauty, not to bear fruit. Few people actually use it or the rights it affords.”

Of all the anti-democratic bills recently introduced in the Knesset, Rotem’s loyalty law carries the most disturbing undertones, recalling some of the darkest periods in recent history. Well before the Nazi government initiated its campaign of genocide against Germany’s Jewish minority, its political leadership introduced the “stab-in-the-back” legend, accusing Jews of disloyalty to the German army and of a general lack of patriotism. During the anticommunist furor of America’s McCarthy era, teachers and lawmakers in several states were forced to sign loyalty oaths to prove they were not “subversive,” prompting a crackdown on public servants, including a disproportionate number of Jews, who believed their constitutional rights were being violated.

In Israel, a right-wing student group called Im Tirtzu that has gained endorsements from Netanyahu and his education minister Gideon Saar has demanded a purge of all “post-Zionist and anti-Zionist” professors from the university system. To support Im Tirtzu’s campaign, a popular Israeli singer named Amir Benayoun recorded a song hectoring Israeli leftists and Arabs for “knifing” Israel in the back. It features the lyrics:

After they failed to kill me from the outside you come and kill me from inside
I always charge forward with my back to you but you sharpen the knife

An Experiment In Fascism

With a fascist mood permeating Israeli government and society, we set out into the streets of central Jerusalem to engage young revelers on the issue of loyalty. Because Israel is debating legislation claiming it is the Jewish sovereign state and has the authority to speak in the name of the “Jewish people,” we thought the opinions of supporters of Israel from the Jewish diaspora were an essential element in any discussion about the proposed loyalty bill. Given the already simmering controversy over “dual loyalty” in the United States, the topic needed to be explored thoroughly and unflinchingly. Did the Zionist loyalty oath represent a fulcrum point in the dual loyalty debate for diaspora Jews? Would diaspora Jews have any objection to taking an oath to defend the Jewish state? If so, did that put their allegiance to their country of residence in question?

Ultimately, we sought to determine the extent to which the Jewish public in Israel and abroad was ready to accept fascism in any form. To get a better sense of public opinion — an incomplete snapshot, admittedly — we asked interview subjects if they would swear before our camera an oath of loyalty to the Jewish state. Our oath was deliberately crafted with the most provocative language possible, based almost word-for-word on the Führereid, or the oath that Wehrmacht soldiers had to swear to Adolph Hitler from 1934 to 1945.

The Wehrmacht oath read as follows:

I swear by God this holy oath, that I want to offer unconditional obedience to the Fuhrer of the German Empire and people, Adolf Hitler, the commander-in-chief of the Wehrmacht, and be prepared as a brave soldier to risk my life for this oath at any time.

And here is the oath of loyalty to the Jewish state that our interview subjects read on camera:

I swear by Hashem [the Jewish God] that I want to offer unconditional loyalty to the Jewish state of Israel, to its leaders and the commanders of its Jewish army. I am prepared as a loyal supporter of the Jewish state to risk my life for this oath at any time.

Were we suggesting that the Jewish state of Israel represented a new incarnation of Hitler’s Third Reich? Of course not. We repudiate sweeping comparisons of Israel to Nazi Germany as shallow and ahistorical. Instead, we imagined our video project as a version of the “Third Wave” experiment undertaken by history teacher Ron Jones at Cubberly High School in Southern California in 1967.

Seeking to demonstrate the susceptibility of average citizens to fascism, Jones ordered his students to accept a regimen of strict discipline and community including sig heil salutes, responding to questions while standing and in three words or less, and carrying membership cards at all times. “Strength through discipline,” was the motto of the movement Jones claimed to be promoting. By the fourth day of the experiment, the students’ enthusiasm for the project had spread to other classes throughout the school. Finally, Jones ordered his students to attend a rally where a presidential candidate from their Third Wave movement would announce his candidacy. When the students arrived, Jones revealed to them that they had been subjects in an experiment about the appeal of fascism, and that they had eagerly replicated the structure of Nazi German society.

Our own experiment exposed an equally disturbing trend among the young Israelis and Jewish supporters of Israel we spoke to. In some cases, our interview subjects eagerly requested to read the loyalty oath on camera without any prompting, and added their own personal touch to it — usually they emphasized phrases like “Jewish state” and “Jewish army.” These subjects were generally new immigrants who had left their families behind in order to join the army and start a brand new life in Israel. Jewish internationals (most were studying at Jerusalem-area yeshivas for the year) who took the oath defended it on the basis that Israel was a state for the Jews, and therefore did not have to comply with the regulations of normal Western democracies.

Only two interviewees refused to take the oath. Though they based their refusal on the possibility that Israel might commit grave human rights crimes in the distant future, they were admittedly unable to define the nature of the abuses that would turn them against the state.

If our interviews demonstrated anything, it is that anyone in any country can fall prey to the psychological lures of fascism. Jews are no exception.

Editor’s Note: The author of the loyalty bill was misidentified in the video as Alex Miller. David Rotem is the author.

Max Blumenthal is the author of Republican Gomorrah (Basic/Nation Books, 2009). Contact him at maxblumenthal3000@yahoo.com.

© 2010 Independent Media Institute.

America’s War on Islam

September 16, 2010 Leave a comment

By Steve Lendman

America’s War on Islam

America prides itself on religious freedom, the Constitution’s First Amendment stating:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

In fact, those rights are selectively enforced, and consistently denied at the whim of administrations, Congress and courts, including equal respect for all religions – more than ever post-9/11 under Bush and Obama, agents of privilege, not Constitutionally protected freedoms. A sad testimony to a rhetorical, not real democracy, Muslim Americans especially victimized, vilified, and persecuted for their faith, ethnicity, prominence, activism, and charity – innocent men and women bogusly called terrorists, used for political advantage.

More than any other ethnic/religious group, Western discourse especially wrongs and unfairly portrays Muslim/Arabs stereotypically as culturally inferior, dirty, lecherous, untrustworthy, religiously fanatical, and violent.

In his book, “Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People,” Jack Shaheen explained how they’ve been defamed and used as fair game throughout decades of cinematic history (from silent films to recent ones) to foster prejudicial attitudes, and reinforce notions of Western values, high-mindedness, and moral superiority.

Worse still are slanderous media commentaries about dangerous gun-toting terrorists, vital for authorities to arrest and imprison, never mind the rule of law, right or wrong, or whether those accused are guilty or innocent. It’s no surprise when new suspects are named, media reports automatically convicting them in the court of public opinion, poisoning it by stereotypical characterizations and baseless charges, invariably against Muslims, and by implication their faith.

No wonder politicians and extremist Christian fundamentalist ministers rage over Muslim “terrorists” and a proposed New York Islamic cultural center two blocks from Ground Zero, threatening a public 9/11 Koran burning in protest – cancelled, then suspended, now re-cancelled, so stay tuned, the outrageous media frenzy may encourage it ahead, as well as attacks around the country against mosques, perhaps with Muslims inside praying, authorities turning a blind eye about people they despise, pretending, like Obama, they care.

On 9/11/2010, he disingenuously said America’s not “at war with Islam,” while he wages it against at least six Muslim countries – Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia Yemen, and Palestine by supplying Israel with annual billions in aid and the latest weapons and technology. He also threatens or intimidates other countries, including Iran, Lebanon, Syria, North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba, even though none of them pose a regional or global threat.

In addition, Special Forces death squads (like Task Force 373), extrajudicially murder or capture suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda figures, many hundreds or perhaps thousands on a so-called Jpel (joint prioritized effects) list.

Further, drones and ground forces kill civilian men, women and children daily, falsely called “terrorists” or “insurgents,” and Special Forces and CIA operatives operate lawlessly in 75 or more countries, warring covertly against anyone opposing US interests.

It’s America’s secret war, mostly against Muslims, including US citizens abroad, denied due process or judicial fairness. Just a bullet, bomb or slit throat, Obama’s summary judgment, defiling the rule of law – counter-insurgency madness to cow people into submission, advancing permanent war and endless violence, breeding resentment and hatred throughout the Muslim world.

On 9/11, AP said, for the second straight day, thousands of Afghans in Kabul responded to anti-Muslim hatred, specifically the announced Koran burning. Despite cancelling it, the damage was done, crowds burning tires and shouting “Long live Islam, death to America.” Earlier in the week, they heard fiery speeches from parliament members, provincial council deputies, and Islamic clerics, criticizing Washington and demanding foreign troops withdraw. Some also threw rocks at a passing US military convoy.

Protesters in front of western Kabul’s Milad ul-Nabi mosque raised and flags with slogans calling for Obama’s death, also a cardboard effigy of Dove World Outreach Center’s pastor Terry Jones. All religious holy books are sacred, demanding the respect they deserve. Burning or desecrating them is morally wrong and profoundly offensive.

In 2005, Afghan riots killed 15 and injured dozens following stories about Guantanamo interrogators placing Korans in washrooms and flushing one down a toilet. Imagine the outrage in America if Muslims did it to Bibles or other Judeo-Christian scripture.

Against that backdrop, Obama’s 9/11 address at the Pentagon (symbolic of America’s war agenda) was an exercise in demagoguery and lies saying:

“We will not sacrifice the liberties we cherish or hunker down behind walls of suspicion and mistrust….The highest honor we can pay those we lost, indeed our greatest weapon in this ongoing war, is to do what our adversaries fear the most. To stay true to who we are, as Americans; to renew our sense of common purpose; to say that we define the character of our country, and we will not let the acts of some small band of murderers who slaughter the innocent and cower in caves distort who we are.”

Fact check:

— in 20 months as president, Obama continued what Bush began, stripping civil liberties, defiling human rights, waging imperial wars, increasing homeland repression, and targeting dissent and democratic freedoms;

— at home and abroad, he’s fostered hate, loathing, and mistrust throughout the entire Muslim world;

— “those (9/11 victims) we lost” were by our hands, not “crazed Arabs” from an Afghanistan cave directing their American operatives;

— “true to who we are? our sense of common purpose? the character of our country?” In fact, a cavernous divide separates most Americans from our criminal ruling cabal. Obama is its titular head allied with corporate predators, exploiting human resources and strip mining the world for profits, allied with out-of-control militarists, destroying it for power and privilege;

— “some small band of murderers who slaughter the innocent?” America’s marauding armies wage ruthless wars on planet earth, slaughtering millions on every continent;

— “distort who we are?” The above account explains it, unmasking Obama’s demagoguery.

Saying “We champion the rights of every American (to) worship as one chooses,” Obama omitted the New York cultural center or announced Koran burning, now cancelled, showing his contempt for Islam, his words notwithstanding, disingenuous rhetoric like everything he says, what everyone needs to know, what too few understand, still thinking he’s different. He’s not, and in many respects he’s worse than his predecessor.

Justifying America’s imperial wars and homeland repression requires enemies, Muslims the target of choice, vilified for their faith, “terrorists” or “Islamofascists” because we say so. It’s reminiscent of the false late 1990s accusations against Nation of Islam National Representative Louis Farrakhan, saying he called the Pope “the anti-Christ” and Judaism a “gutter religion.”

He strongly rebutted the assertions, what Washington can’t do about Islam, calling it a “religion of war,” when, in fact, it promotes love, not hate; peace, not violence; good over evil; charity, not exploitation; and a just and fair society for people of all faiths.

America’s Judeo-Christian “war on terror” disdains these beliefs, vilifying people for their faith, slaughtering and torturing them abroad, conducting a modern day Inquisition at home, a lawless holy crusade, based on lies, deceit, and managed news. Regular state propaganda over the airwaves preaches hate for global conquest, masquerading as democracy, the kind Washington won’t tolerate anywhere, including at home.

A Final Comment

Washington’s one-sided Israeli support underscores its disdain for Islam. Obama accentuated it by telling Netanyahu that “The bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable,” assuring him of America’s “deep, abiding interest in Israel’s security,” a message Palestinians and world Muslims know means no interest in theirs.

Worse still, he endorsed Cast Lead and Gaza’s siege, mercilessly and illegally suffocating 1.5 million people posing no threat whatever. Hamas is targeted for its independence, not militancy, what he and Western media won’t explain.

The latest round of peace talks continue, as bogus as others, on and off for the past 35 years, resolving nothing but empowering Israel at the expense of Occupied Palestinians. The only possible outcome this time is like before – total failure or unconditional capitulation, nothing in between, because Washington and Israel won’t tolerate a just, equitable agreement.

Obama also rejects Hamas as Palestine’s legitimate government as well its right to self-defense. Under occupation, it’s essential against a nuclear-armed marauder, a rogue state, a military powerhouse aggressor believing violence is the only language Arabs understand. No wonder growing millions globally see Israel for what it is – a regional and world menace complicit with its Washington paymaster/partner.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.

The Bizarre Background of the ‘911’ New York Mosque

September 15, 2010 Leave a comment

By F William Engdahl

The Bizarre Background of the ‘911’ New York Mosque

For days the headline in US and even world news has been whether or not a fanatic Christian preacher from a tiny Florida church will or will not burn the Moslem Koran in protest to the announced plans to build a mosque 400 meters from the site of the World Trade Twin Towers. Conveniently, the drama was focused on the 9th anniversary of the collapse of three (not two as widely believed) towers on September 11, 2001. Now details about the real estate group that is allegedly ready to invest $100 million in the mosque construction suggest that the entire drama is being deliberately orchestrated. The question is by whom to what ends?

In a move to maintain high drama, on September 10, bombastic New York real estate wheeler-dealer Donald Trump made public his offer to buy out the prime owner of the proposed Islamic Center for “patriotic” reasons. The deal was reportedly rejected categorically by Hisham Elzanaty, an Egyptian-born businessman who says he provided a majority of the financing for the two buildings where the center would be built. Here is where it begins to become interesting.

It turns out according to investigations by various New York newspapers that the property is registered not in the name of Elzanaty, but of an entity called Soho Properties, a real estate company at 552 Broadway, New York, New York. According to their website Soho Properties was founded by Sharif El-Gamal in 2003. The website describes their activities: “We are a company focused on pursuing the real value in real estate investments, especially when pricing dislocations create value-driven opportunities. Soho Properties unlocks the value in an investment by successfully executing various strategies, which include re-tenanting/repositioning assets, renovations, aggregations, developments and participating in unique opportunistic situations.” [1]

Who is Sharif El-Gamal then? It seems, according to various New York police records and the research of a Florida private detective on behalf of clients who claim to have been defrauded by the El-Gamal group, that Sharif El-Gamal has a rather dubious background, for someone who is the mogul of a $100 million real estate deal. Sharif is in a partnership with his brother, Sammy El-Gamal, and Nour Mousa, nephew of Amr Moussa, an Egyptian diplomat and the Secretary General of the Arab League.

In November 2009, it was reported that the firm spent $45.7 million to buy 31 West 27th Street in New York City, a 12-story 10,000 m2 office building. El-Gamal said: “We just bought it for the income. It’s got great long-term leases, and the financing was really attractive.” In a depressed New York real estate market, the El-Gamal brothers seem not to be such shrewd businessmen. They reportedly bought it from the Witkoff Group, which had bought the building in 2006 for $31.5 million, during the book in New York real estate.[2]

Then in July 2009, Soho bought the 47 – 51 Park Place building on the site of the planned Cordoba House, now referred to as the “Ground Zero Mosque” and “Park51”, to allegedly build a $100 million, 13-story, glass and steel Islamic cultural center and mosque that is in the planning stage. Soho Properties paid the owner $4.85 million in cash for the property.

Waiters into real estate tycoons

The question being asked is where did the large sums of money come from for the two El-Gamal brothers? It seems they are anything but your typical New York millionaire real estate tycoons.

According to an article in the New York Post, Hisham Elzanaty, one of the money men behind the developer of the “Ground Zero” mosque was sued for allegedly defrauding an insurance company for nearly $1.8 million, according to court documents. Elzanaty, who reportedly owns medical companies that operate out of a building in the Bronx, allegedly billed State Farm Insurance for unnecessary tests related to automobile accidents that would maximize the insurance payout, the court papers say. Elzanaty, who was reportedly a “significant investor” in mosque developer Sharif el-Gamal’s $4.8 million mosque project, was also ordered to repay $331,000 after an audit showed Medicaid had overpaid him. [3]

According to Florida private investigator Bill Warner and to various New York reports, there is an investigation ongoing into Sammy and Sharif El-Gamal of the SOHO Properties by the New York State Dept of Licensing in Manhattan for non-payment of apartment rental deposits to customers that were supposed to be in escrow.

Court records from Florida to New York State reveal that Sharif and his younger brother, Samir “Sammy” El-Gamal, 35, a partner with him in his company SoHo Properties, both have a history of numerous tax and debt issues, dating from at least 1994 to the present. In one case, a NY Police officer arrested Sharif in 1994 for “promoting prostitution.” He pleaded guilty to a mis-demeanor of disorderly conduct. In another instance, Sharif told a court he didn’t hit a tenant from whom his brother and he were trying to collect back rent. He said to police, the tenant’s “face could have run into my hand.” [4]

The brothers’ background does not suggest billionaire real estate project preparation. Sharif waited tables at the restaurant Serafina, while Sammy waited tables at Tao. Then Sharif worked as a waiter at Michael Jordan’s, named after basketball star. But he, ostensibly a devout muslim, was fired for arriving reeking of alcohol, among other things. This is around when Sharif started acquiring a criminal record, say people familiar with his career.[5]

The geopolitical manipulation

The entire ‘911’ Mosque controversy has been made into world news by CNN and other select media. The US head of the military command in Afghanistan, General Petraeus got into the fray with a plea to the Florida pastor not to burn Korans, a move which naturally led several other wanna-be preacher bigots to say they too planned to burn Korans on the ninth anniversary of the World Trade Center event. The President, Barack Obama, got into the act by praising the building of the mosque as a symbol of Americans’ religious freedom and tolerance.

At the end of the day it all fuelled a “Clash of Civilization” tension across America, and had the convenient effect, whether the mosque is built on the site or not, of reinforcing the US Government version of the collapse of the World Trade towers on September 11, 2001, namely that the destruction was carried out by two commercial hijacked jets being deftly rerouted into the two towers. And that the Boeing jets had been allegedly hijacked by 19 Arab students, armed only with paper box cutters, who had just been trained at a Florida flight school to fly small Cessna-size private planes. By keeping alive the myth of the “Second Pearl Harbor,” as George W. Bush once called 911, perhaps some people such as Barack Obama or General Petraeus hope to keep attention on the need for US military occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan, or even spreading the war beyond Afghanistan.

One interesting question in the entire business is who put up millions of dollars for the sleazy El-Gamal brothers’ Soho Properties to pay $5 million cash for the property and to buy the other property for $46 million? Did the very established Witkoff Group, whose head, Steven Witkoff was selected as “Man of the Year” by The Jeffrey Modell Foundation in 1998, and who do major deals from London to New York not do a due diligence research on their new potential clients? Or is this all play money games using intelligence agency or other fake companies to create the explosive scenario at the anniversary of 911? These are some of the interesting questions to ask.

Notes:

1 Soho Properties

2 Dana Rubenstein, SoHo Properties Buys Chelsea Building for $45.7 M., The New York Observer Real Estate, November 9, 2009.

3 Tom Liddy, Ripoff Mosque Man Sued, New York Post, September 4, 2010.

4 Asra Q. Nomani , Rift Imperils Ground Zero Mosque, August 30, 2010, Yahoo News.

5 Ibid.

F William Engdahl is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

11th September – Hope or Hate?

September 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Hallujah, November 2004 - A rosary hangs off the barrel of a machinegun mounted on a Bradley belonging to the 1st Cavalry Regiment 5th Battalion positioned on the outskirts of Fallujah. (AFP/Patrick Baz)

By Felicity Arbuthnot

11th September – Hope or Hate?

“No creature smarts so little as a fool.” (Alexander Pope, 1688-1744.)

Numerous commentators on the demented, hate filled ramblings of “Pastor” Terry Jones, who may or may not celebrate his 11th September by an evening of Qur’an burnings, have referred to the potential of Muslim retaliation across the globe. General Petraeus is concerned about backlash to US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, more or less reiterated his stance – whilst saying they are powerless to stop his hate filled initiative. One can only speculate as to whether they would be as sanguine were it the Torah or Talmud being burned.

Yet the avalanche of comments also create a further divide. Jones is a man with miniscule “following.” Near no mention is being made of Christians, Jews or those born to both religions, but who have long wandered away, and of other faiths, or none, shamed and repelled to have this action committed in their name – they are American, British, German, Spanish, Polish, Italian and other nations – civilian, but unwillingly “allied” to the “coalition”, who have invaded – and are threatening – Muslim countries. They are part of the millions who marched against war – and the countless more, who first believed the threats spouted by their governments, then acknowledged that they had been mislead and have acted tirelessly, trying to redress their – and governments – mistakes.

One website condemning the action attracted seven thousand protesters near-instantly. A tongue in cheek commentator suggested it is the Pastor who should be burned – in Hell. Another site has attracted more thousands of non-Muslims to a worldwide “Wear a Hijab Day”, on 11th September – and another to convert the anniversary to global: “Buy a Qur’an Day.”

One writer wondered what kind of “crazy” now “represents” God. Well, a few actually. There was George W. Bush, who announced he was embarking on a “Crusade” and was enjoined by then Prime Minister Tony Blair, now converted to Catholicism. There was the “Clash of Civilisations”, nonsense. And US and UK soldiers taking in guns with Biblical quotes on the stocks – and distributing bibles in the relevant languages as they incursed – and worse – in to towns, villages, neighbourhoods in Afghanistan and Iraq. A practice, when discovered, which led – ironically – to a photo-op of ceremonial burnings of remaining bible stocks by US troops.

Guantanamo, Bagram and formerly US and UK-operated prisons in Iraq (and elsewhere) including another infamy, Abu Ghraib, filled with near entirely Muslims. Countless languishing for years, uncharged and with no day in Court. Tortured, unimaginably degraded, their Qur’ans have been thrown in to toilets, stepped on and worse. In Fallujah in the original confrontation when the US troops took over a school, they left having written obscenities about Islam on doors and walls, having repeatedly defecated and again, done the unspeakable to Qur’ans.

Book burning is a special kind of savagery, it both destroys and displays an ignorance of and fear of culture, own and that of others. Julius Caesar burned the great library in Alexandria in 48 BC. Nero burned Rome in 64 AD. The Mongul hordes the Baghdad Library and that of the great Munstanstarya University eight hundred years ago. Hitler, of course was in to book burning, organized under Goebbels, the Orwellianly-named Minster of Enlightenment. The new Monguls, in US uniform, allowed or were instrumental, in the same the same, multi-fold, in 2003 – and have continued to bomb and burn property and people – and Qur’ans – for seven years – ongoing, for all the misleading “pullout” nonsense.

Perhaps Mr Jones – who seemingly packs a .40-caliber pistol on his hip – has unwittingly made one progressive step. After what has been revealed, from top to bottom of barking crazy fundamentalism in Christianity, many may think twice before ever again writing or uttering the words: “fundamentalist” with “Islam.”

11th September falls at the start of the three day Muslim celebration of Eid, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, a time of abstinence. Eid is joyous meals, new clothes for children, gifts and pristine money for the young. In Afghanistan and Iraq, for the majority it is either scaled down to near nothing, or just a memory, due to grief, invasion, inflicted travel terror, poverty, or all four .

For America, it is the commemoration of the fall of the Towers, with no thought of the 11th September inflicted in casualties, daily, weekly, monthly on the countries invaded since – who had no nationals even accused of being on the flights which allegedly hit the buildings and the Pentagon (facts which over twelve hundred professionals and experts now dispute the official version.)

Anniversaries on 11th September abound, from the mists of time onwards. However, some salutary ones, in relatively recent history, show America is not alone in its suffering, indeed, has created that of others. On 11th September 1919, US Marines invaded Honduras; on 11th September 1941, the ground was broken for the construction of the Pentagon, that source of more subsequent world wide marauding and slaughter. On 11th September 1965, the US First Cavalry arrived in Viet Nam – and on 11th September 1973, the Nixon Administration’s collusion in the overthrow of the democratically elected President Salvador Allende in Chile, came to fruition, ushering in the decades of the “disappeared”, under General Augusto Pinochet.

Ally Britain indulged in a bit of decimation on 11th September 1944, bombing and creating a fire storm in Darmstadt, Germany, incinerating eleven thousand five hundred people. 11th September 1997 is remembered for the loss of fourteen Estonian soldiers on the Russian submarine Kurske, in a haunting disaster. The widow of one who died reflected, memorably: ” If you betray your country (the law is invoked) and you pay the price. But what happens if your country betrays you?” Quite.

Betrayed also are the nationalities of the numerous other countries who died in the Twin Towers – over one in ten of the tragedy. They included nationals of Jordan and Lebanon, India lost forty one, South Korea twenty eight, Canada and Japan both lost twenty four, Colombia seventeen, Jamaica, Mexico and the Philippines sixteen each, Australia and Germany eleven each, Italy ten, Israel five and the UK sixty seven, including nationals of its territory, Bermuda. Deaths in lesser numbers are from nations across the planet. (Wikipedia and others.) In spite of a near uniquely international tragedy, and opportunity for coming together, it seems to have been transformed in to exclusively American grief – and revenge.

Even that wretched dove, symbol of global peace, which adorns cards for all seasons, has become embroiled, with “Pastor” Jones, in naming his strange interpretation of vengeful, not conciliatory, Christianity: “Dove World Outreach Centre.” Jones, of course sent children from his church to school, wearing shirts stating: “Islam Is Of The Devil,” also the title of a book he has written. Impossible not to think of a recent depiction on a card, of a desperate dove, not with an olive leaf, or twig in its beak, but the entire branch. It is depicted struggling through the thermals, drops of perspiration bursting though the feathers.

Those of note who have spoken out appear to be more worried about retaliation on US and UK troops, than the implications of a shaming act. With the news from Pentagon documents, that US troops have alleged to have been involved in further atrocities, collecting of fingers, teeth bones, even skulls of victims, retaliation seems anyway, pretty well guaranteed.

Recently a contributer to a Middle East-orientated website wrote: “I am a Muslim : Kill me & call it ‘collateral damage’; imprison me & call it: ‘security measure’; exile my people en masse & call it: ‘A New Middle East’; steal my resources, invade my land, murder my wife & children, alter the leadership of my country & call it: ‘democracy.’” He speaks for millions. Those representing the West, especially the US and UK need humility, genuine outreach, to listen carefully before they talk and bridge building, not bridge burning.

11th September 1893 marked the first World Parliament of Religions, held in Chicago, an outreach of understanding between all faiths, and held ever since. An anniversary which celebrates justice, not vengeance. A good starting point in emulating their efforts, might be to ponder on a verse from the Qur’an. The copy in mind is in superb, lovingly crafted caligraphy, on palest peachy-primrose, dawn’s perhaps most perfect herald. Translated, it reads:

“I seek refuge with the Lord of the Dawn,
From the mischief of created things,
From the mischief of darkness as it overspreads,
From the mischief of those who blow on knots’
And from the mischief of the envious one as he practises envy.”

The Christian Fascists Are Growing Stronger

By Chris Hedges

The Christian Fascists Are Growing Stronger

Tens of millions of Americans, lumped into a diffuse and fractious movement known as the Christian right, have begun to dismantle the intellectual and scientific rigor of the Enlightenment. They are creating a theocratic state based on “biblical law,” and shutting out all those they define as the enemy. This movement, veering closer and closer to traditional fascism, seeks to force a recalcitrant world to submit before an imperial America. It champions the eradication of social deviants, beginning with homosexuals, and moving on to immigrants, secular humanists, feminists, Jews, Muslims and those they dismiss as “nominal Christians”—meaning Christians who do not embrace their perverted and heretical interpretation of the Bible. Those who defy the mass movement are condemned as posing a threat to the health and hygiene of the country and the family. All will be purged.

The followers of deviant faiths, from Judaism to Islam, must be converted or repressed. The deviant media, the deviant public schools, the deviant entertainment industry, the deviant secular humanist government and judiciary and the deviant churches will be reformed or closed. There will be a relentless promotion of Christian “values,” already under way on Christian radio and television and in Christian schools, as information and facts are replaced with overt forms of indoctrination. The march toward this terrifying dystopia has begun. It is taking place on the streets of Arizona, on cable news channels, at tea party rallies, in the Texas public schools, among militia members and within a Republican Party that is being hijacked by this lunatic fringe.

Elizabeth Dilling, who wrote “The Red Network” and was a Nazi sympathizer, is touted as required reading by trash-talk television hosts like Glenn Beck. Thomas Jefferson, who favored separation of church and state, is ignored in Christian schools and soon will be ignored in Texas public school textbooks. The Christian right hails the “significant contributions” of the Confederacy. Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who led the anti-communist witch hunts of the 1950s, has been rehabilitated, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is defined as part of the worldwide battle against Islamic terror. Legislation like the new Jim Crow laws of Arizona is being considered by 17 other states.

The rise of this Christian fascism, a rise we ignore at our peril, is being fueled by an ineffectual and bankrupt liberal class that has proved to be unable to roll back surging unemployment, protect us from speculators on Wall Street, or save our dispossessed working class from foreclosures, bankruptcies and misery. The liberal class has proved useless in combating the largest environmental disaster in our history, ending costly and futile imperial wars or stopping the corporate plundering of the nation. And the gutlessness of the liberal class has left it, and the values it represents, reviled and hated.

The Democrats have refused to repeal the gross violations of international and domestic law codified by the Bush administration. This means that Christian fascists who achieve power will have the “legal” tools to spy on, arrest, deny habeas corpus to, and torture or assassinate American citizens—as does the Obama administration.

Those who remain in a reality-based world often dismiss these malcontents as buffoons and simpletons. They do not take seriously those, like Beck, who pander to the primitive yearnings for vengeance, new glory and moral renewal. Critics of the movement continue to employ the tools of reason, research and fact to challenge the absurdities propagated by creationists who think they will float naked into the heavens when Jesus returns to Earth. The magical thinking, the flagrant distortion in interpreting the Bible, the contradictions that abound within the movement’s belief system and the laughable pseudoscience, however, are impervious to reason. We cannot convince those in the movement to wake up. It is we who are asleep.

Those who embrace this movement see life as an epic battle against forces of evil and Satanism. The world is black and white. They need to feel, even if they are not, that they are victims surrounded by dark and sinister groups bent on their destruction. They need to believe they know the will of God and can fulfill it, especially through violence. They need to sanctify their rage, a rage that lies at the core of the ideology. They seek total cultural and political domination. They are using the space within the open society to destroy it. These movements work within the confining rules of the secular state because they have no choice. The intolerance they promote is muted in the public assurances of their slickest operators. Given enough power, and they are working hard to get it, any such cooperation will vanish. The demand for total control and for a Christian nation and the refusal to permit any dissent are on display within their inner sanctums. These pastors have established within their churches tiny, despotic fiefdoms, and they seek to replicate these little tyrannies on a larger scale.

Many of the tens of millions within the Christian right live on the edge of poverty. The Bible, interpreted for them by pastors whose connection with God means they cannot be questioned, is their handbook for daily life. The rigidity and simplicity of their belief are potent weapons in the fight against their own demons and the struggle to keep their lives on track. The reality-based world, one where Satan, miracles, destiny, angels and magic did not exist, battered them like driftwood. It took their jobs and destroyed their future. It rotted their communities. It flooded their lives with alcohol, drugs, physical violence, deprivation and despair. And then they discovered that God has a plan for them. God will save them. God intervenes in their lives to promote and protect them. The emotional distance they have traveled from the real world to the world of Christian fantasy is immense. And the rational, secular forces, those that speak in the language of fact and evidence, are hated and ultimately feared, for they seek to pull believers back into “the culture of death” that nearly destroyed them.

There are wild contradictions within this belief system. Personal independence is celebrated alongside an abject subservience to leaders who claim to speak for God. The movement says it defends the sanctity of life and advocates the death penalty, militarism, war and righteous genocide. It speaks of love and promotes fear of damnation and hate. There is a terrifying cognitive dissonance in every word they utter.

The movement is, for many, an emotional life raft. It is all that holds them together. But the ideology, while it regiments and orders lives, is merciless. Those who deviate from the ideology, including “backsliders” who leave these church organizations, are branded as heretics and subjected to little inquisitions, which are the natural outgrowth of messianic movements. If the Christian right seizes the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government, these little inquisitions will become big inquisitions.

The cult of masculinity pervades the movement. Feminism and homosexuality, believers are told, have rendered the American male physically and spiritually impotent. Jesus, for the Christian right, is a muscular man of action, casting out demons, battling the Antichrist, attacking hypocrites and castigating the corrupt. This cult of masculinity, with its glorification of violence, is deeply appealing to those who feel disempowered and humiliated. It vents the rage that drove many people into the arms of the movement. It encourages them to lash back at those who, they are told, seek to destroy them. The paranoia about the outside world is stoked through bizarre conspiracy theories, many championed in books such as Pat Robertson’s “The New World Order,” a xenophobic rant that includes attacks on liberals and democratic institutions.

The obsession with violence pervades the popular novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. In their apocalyptic novel, “Glorious Appearing,” based on LaHaye’s interpretation of biblical prophecies about the Second Coming, Christ returns and eviscerates the flesh of millions of nonbelievers with the sound of his voice. There are long descriptions of horror and blood, of how “the very words of the Lord had superheated their blood, causing it to burst through their veins and skin.” Eyes disintegrate. Tongues melt. Flesh dissolves. The Left Behind series, of which this novel is a part, contains the best-selling adult novels in the country.

Violence must be used to cleanse the world. These Christian fascists are called to a perpetual state of war. “Any teaching of peace prior to [Christ’s] return is heresy…” says televangelist James Robinson.

Natural disasters, terrorist attacks, instability in Israel and even the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are seen as glorious signposts. The war in Iraq is predicted, believers insist, in the ninth chapter of the Book of Revelations, where four angels “which are bound in the great river Euphrates will be released to slay the third part of men.” The march is inevitable and irreversible and requires everyone to be ready to fight, kill and perhaps die. Global war, even nuclear war, is not to be feared, but welcomed as the harbinger of the Second Coming. And leading the avenging armies is an angry, violent Messiah who dooms hundreds of millions of apostates to a horrible and gruesome death.

The Christian right, while embracing a form of primitivism, seeks the imprint of law and science to legitimate its absurd mythologies. Its members seek this imprint because, despite their protestations to the contrary, they are a distinctly modern, totalitarian movement. They seek to co-opt the pillars of the Enlightenment in order to abolish the Enlightenment. Creationism, or “intelligent design,” like eugenics for the Nazis or “Soviet” science for Stalin, must be introduced into the mainstream as a valid scientific discipline—hence the rewriting of textbooks. The Christian right defends itself in the legal and scientific jargon of modernity. Facts and opinions, once they are used “scientifically” to support the irrational, become interchangeable. Reality is no longer based on the gathering of facts and evidence. It is based on ideology. Facts are altered. Lies become true. Hannah Arendt called it “nihilistic relativism,” although a better phrase might be collective insanity.

The Christian right has, for this reason, its own creationist “scientists” who use the language of science to promote anti-science. It has fought successfully to have creationist books sold in national park bookstores at the Grand Canyon and taught in public schools in states such as Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas. Creationism shapes the worldview of hundreds of thousands of students in Christian schools and colleges. This pseudoscience claims to have proved that all animal species, or at least their progenitors, fit on Noah’s ark. It challenges research in AIDS and pregnancy prevention. It corrupts and discredits the disciplines of biology, astronomy, geology, paleontology and physics.

Once creationists can argue on the same platform as geologists, asserting that the Grand Canyon was not created 6 billion years ago but 6,000 years ago by the great flood that lifted up Noah’s ark, we have lost. The acceptance of mythology as a legitimate alternative to reality is a body blow to the rational, secular state. The destruction of rational and empirically based belief systems is fundamental to the creation of all totalitarian ideologies. Certitude, for those who could not cope with the uncertainty of life, is one of the most powerful appeals of the movement. Dispassionate intellectual inquiry, with its constant readjustments and demand for evidence, threatens certitude. For this reason incertitude must be abolished.

“What convinces masses are not facts,” Arendt wrote in “Origins of Totalitarianism,” “and not even invented facts, but only the consistency of the system which they are presumably part. Repetition, somewhat overrated in importance because of the common belief in the masses’ inferior capacity to grasp and remember, is important because it convinces them of consistency in time.”

Augustine defined the grace of love as Volo ut sis—I want you to be. There is, he wrote, an affirmation of the mystery of the other in relationships based on love, an affirmation of unexplained and unfathomable differences. Relationships based on love recognize that others have a right to be. These relationships accept the sacredness of difference. This acceptance means that no one individual or belief system captures or espouses an absolute truth. All struggle, in their own way, some outside of religious systems and some within them, to interpret mystery and transcendence.

The sacredness of the other is anathema for the Christian right, which cannot acknowledge the legitimacy of other ways of being and believing. If other belief systems, including atheism, have moral validity, the infallibility of the movement’s doctrine, which constitutes its chief appeal, is shattered. There can be no alternative ways to think or to be. All alternatives must be crushed.

Ideological, theological and political debates are useless with the Christian right. It does not respond to a dialogue. It is impervious to rational thought and discussion. The naive attempts to placate a movement bent on our destruction, to prove to it that we too have “values,” only strengthens its legitimacy and weakness our own. If we do not have a right to be, if our very existence is not legitimate in the eyes of God, there can be no dialogue. At this point it is a fight for survival.

Those gathered into the arms of this Christian fascist movement are desperately struggling to survive in an increasingly hostile environment. We failed them; we owe them more: This is their response. The financial dislocations, the struggles with domestic and sexual abuse, the battle against addictions, the poverty and the despair that many in the movement endure are tragic, painful and real. They have a right to their rage and alienation. But they are also being used and manipulated by forces that seek to dismantle what is left of our democracy and abolish the pluralism that was once the hallmark of our society.

The spark that could set this conflagration ablaze could be lying in the hands of a small Islamic terrorist cell. It could be in the hands of greedy Wall Street speculators who gamble with taxpayer money in the elaborate global system of casino capitalism. The next catastrophic attack, or the next economic meltdown, could be our Reichstag fire. It could be the excuse used by these totalitarian forces, this Christian fascism, to extinguish what remains of our open society.

Let us not stand meekly at the open gates of the city waiting passively for the barbarians. They are coming. They are slouching toward Bethlehem. Let us shake off our complacency and cynicism. Let us openly defy the liberal establishment, which will not save us, to demand and fight for economic reparations for our working class. Let us reincorporate these dispossessed into our economy. Let us give them a reality-based hope for the future. Time is running out. If we do not act, American fascists, clutching Christian crosses, waving American flags and orchestrating mass recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance, will use this rage to snuff us out.

Chris Hedges, who writes a column every Monday for Truthdig and who graduated from Harvard Divinity School, is the author of “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.” He was a reporter for many years with The New York Times. His latest book is “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.”

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