Sunday, January 14, 2007

Bush to Bring Armageddon

I recently became intrigued with George Bush's religious beliefs because the course he has charted as President for dealing with terrorism and subsequently the Iraq war is so irrational that I imagine he must be motivated by some religious vision that justifies all economic costs and human suffering inflicted, so long as he is sure that in the end "God wins," good vanquishes evil, and he takes his place at the right hand of God.

Of course, I recognize the primary motivation for the invasion and occupation of Iraq is to control the region's oil resources. Religious motivation supplements economic motivation and has a life and a force of its own. This realization helps explain why he keeps pushing forward. The cost of the war has reached astronomical figures, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died, and escalating the conflict creates the possibility for a wider regional conflict with the potential to reach the levels of World War III and nuclear conflagration. In the face of these conditions, the economic incentive should lose some of its value.

Apparently not enough for the neocons. They are pursuing a wild plan to sustain an unsustainable empire and perpetuate their wealth and power. George Bush is waging "the decisive ideological struggle of our time." I do not believe he has the intelligence to calculate the value of the economic incentive.

He underestimates the scientific evidence for global warming, which if he took seriously would dissuade him from basing the future economy of the country on the gratuitous consumption of Middle Eastern oil. The U.S. could make considerable strides towards significant conservation by funding mass transit, increasing mileage standards, and developing alternative fuels.

He seems not to take into account the possible consequence of opposing parties infusing thousands of their own fighters into the conflict, and winning recruits. A wider regional conflict, particularly one which involves Iran would most certainly cause the price of oil to skyrocket. The U.S. which consumes 25% of the world's oil, would be undermining its own cause to sustain itself through control of oil resources. It would also hasten the decline of the dollar versus other currencies. It is also worthwhile to mention that our government is financed by debt.

Granted, he is a very stupid man, but his religious beliefs must be considered to help explain how he has led the country to the precipice of disaster, as well as what they can teach us regarding our society. Among his most ardent supporters are evangelicals who believe that Jesus is coming back and that current events are part of the fulfillment of biblical prophecy that will bring back Bush's favorite political philosopher.

According to an article by Rick Perlstein in the Village Voice, when George Bush proposed his Road Map peace plan, evangelicals flooded the White House with 50,000 postcards stating: "I'm in total disagreement with any form of Palestinian state." They also placed billboards in 23 cities with the quotation, "Unto they offspring will I give this land." As well as, "Pray that President Bush Honors God's Covenant with Israel." They've had meetings with White House staffers as well. George Monbiot also discusses the beliefs of these religious groups in the Gaurdian. John Aschcroft and Tom Delay are supposedly true believers.

Regarding what George Bush's personal religious beliefs may be, in another article by Perlstein, Bruce Lincoln of Chicago University describes the Act of the Apostles, which is the book Bush first studied when he became religious, as "focused on missionizing, evangelizing, spreading the faith. It's not end-of-the-world stuff. It's expansionist—it's religious imperialism, if you will. And I think that remains his primary orientation."

He also said regarding his primary orientation, "the U.S. is the new Israel as God's most favored nation, and those responsible for the state of America in the world also enjoy special favor."

George Bush is identified as a Methodist in numerous articles. The Methodist sources I found on the internet don't invest much in the prophecy of Armageddon. A methodist reverend stated this in a press release condemning the Israeli bombing of Lebanese civilians in the village of Qana: “I realize, that some Christians approach this region of the globe with theological preconceptions, but there are times when humanitarian concern must override contemporary ideology based on selective biblical interpretation. Peace is more important than visions of Armageddon."

The Methodist perspective is essentially non-fundamentalist, leaving room for interpretation, as illustrated by this source. "Many see this battle as being symbolic of God’s ultimate destruction of all that is evil on the earth, or even of the fall of Rome...If the beast is defeated here, and the beast represents Rome in Revelation, then Armageddon represents the fall of Rome. If the beast also represents every evil empire, then Armageddon represents God’s ultimate judgment against all evil empires and their inevitable destruction."

Very interestingly, numerous Methodist sources express a perspective which is opposite of George Bush's.

In a news article shortly after 9/11 a Methodist spokesperson when referring to terrorists said, "These folks are criminals. We American people know how to deal with criminals(mentioning courts and trials). That's not the same as saying we are
going to make war on Afghan peasants."

Ohio State Senator George V. Voinovich, a Roman Catholic, told the visiting Methodists, "I believe terrorism is a prelude to Armageddon."

These two statements reveal remarkable contrast in the manner in which we view terrorism and the logical results which the distinct views may produce. Terrorism is crime. The U.S. and all other countries in the world have police, courts, and trials. Yet we have not been viewing terrorism as crime, but as war.

Terrorism is not war. Viewing terrorism as the equivalent of war or as justification for war has resulted in the disastrous invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, undermining the rule of law. All this supposedly over the crimes of private individuals who flew airplanes into buildings, which based on the footage I have observed, appear to have been subsequently detonated.

I seriously doubt that Senator Voinovich believes that the state of Israel needs to occupy the lands attributed to the biblical Israel in order for Jesus to return, as some Evangelicals who fiercely support Bush do. I imagine that like most people he has a vague and distant notion of it.

Yet it is obvious from his statement that even vague and distant belief in the prophecy of a God who ends the world as we know it, saves some people, and wages a final, climactic battle in which He vanquishes evil(including the rest of the population), can influence perception. It provokes fear, and fear subsequently shapes the policy. Fear can lead one to make irrational decisions and to become paranoid. Apart from fear, belief imbues self-righteousnous, which we all know can be taken too far. Voinovich told the group of visiting Methodists that he thought military action was necessary. It is not necessarily Bush's personal beliefs or the degree to which he believes them that is driving us towards Armageddon, but the collective religious beliefs of our society.

Undoubtedly, the Armageddon camp has influenced the outcome of elections in the U.S. George Bush receives their unwavering support and is a willing actor in the drama to which they are a rapturous audience because he has internalized the mythic structure, premise, and metaphors of the prophecy, as have many of the rest of us, without necessarily, literally believing it. For instance, the concept that good will vanquish evil. Is it not true, that God lives in all of us, and so does the devil?

Given Israel's history of aggression and expansionist policies which complement and fulfill the Bush supporter's vision, I wonder how much religious beliefs influence Israel's policies. Are they not awaiting a messiah as well? In Iraq, the largest threat to American forces has been identified as Moqtada Al-Sadr and his Mahdi army. The word Mahdi is a messianic character expected to return, very similar to Jesus, although the word doesn't translate literally to messiah according to this wikipedia entry.

Once again citing Bush's denominational brethren, "The Book of Revelation...was written as a 'document of great hope' for the early church under Roman occupation, not as a glib prediction sheet to be decoded by 21st-century readers."

Interpreting Armageddon as a parable of the fall of an empire perhaps provides us with the greatest insight. Not necessarily the end of the world, but the end of an order, with potentially catastrophic consequences. We face serious economic challenges, what people refer to as "gas pain" is illustrative of these. We also face ecological catastrophe not too far off in the future.

The immediate question which results from a withdrawal or the ultimate failure of American policy in the Middle East is, how do we manage to sustain consuming 25% of the world's oil without subjugating other countries through violence? It's not possible. We must transform the society.

The empire is crumbling. May the empire crumble and out of the rubble arise a new idol, a new dream, and a new people.

Revelations 18:2: "And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird."

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Quote of 2006 with Implications for 2007

"For the United States, for U.S. planners, a sovereign Iraq would be a complete nightmare. Simply consider its likely policies. A sovereign, moderately democratic Iraq has a Shiite majority. The first thing they would do in fact are doing it already, is to improve relations with Shiite Iran next door, the majority of the clerics come from there, one of the major militias in the south was trained there, they may not love Iran, but they'd much prefer friendly relations than hostility with their major neighbor...I'm sure Washington planners are having nightmares about it. What might develop is a loose Shiite alliance, Southern Iraq, Iran, neighboring areas of Saudi Arabia, and that happens to be where most of Saudi oil is, so that alliance would control most of the world's energy, independent of Washington. An unspeakable nightmare which could get a lot worse. Europe is intimidated when the U.S. shakes its fist, and backs off. That's why China is considered a great threat. It's not a military threat, but it won't be intimidated. It's been around for 3,000 years, they've no particular interest in what the barbarians are saying, so they continue to invest, including in Saudi Arabia, the prize, send military aid, every reason why they would like to attract this alliance into their orbit, there are already major organizations, Shanghai Cooperation Council includes Southcentral Asian states, an Asian energy security grid based primarily in China, including Russia and neighboring states, it'll probably include India before too long. If the Middle East oil resources move into it, the United States becomes a second class power. Controlling the world's energy resources has been a prime policy objective for 60 years just as it was for Britain before us, and for obvious reasons. Well that's not trivial. Any withdrawal proposal that doesn't take this into consideration is just not serious."

Noam Chomsky, "Crises in the Middle East," September 21st, 2006.

The full speech was broadcast as recently as December 26th, 2006 on KPFK. The podcast can be downloaded from the audio archives.