Monday, February 1, 2010

The Conservatives Are Not at War, They are on a Crusade

"War is always at the most unrestrained when religion vests it with holy purpose." Michael Ignatieff, Warrior's Honour

There has always been a double standard when it comes to war in the Middle East. Islamic fundamentalism is blamed for all conflict, while western interventionism is deemed noble and righteous.

We are fighting a ferocious enemy who hates what we have accomplished and wants to destroy it.

To further justify unwarranted attacks and illegal invasions, we resort to fear mongering.

From the pulpit, millennialists like John Hagee, preach of an apocalyptic need to destroy the perceived spread of Islam, to fulfil a biblical prophesy. But in order to do that he must create the illusion of imminent danger.

Ladies and gentlemen, America is at war with radical Islam,” Hagee said. “Jihad has come to America. If we lose the war to Islamic fascism, it will change the world as we know it .... They hate us because we are free. They hate us because it is their religious duty to hate us. They are trained from the breast of their mother to hate us. Radical Islam is a doctrine of death. It is their desire, it is their hope, it is their ambition, it is their highest honor to die in a war against infidels. And you are ‘infidels’ and there is nothing you can do to accommodate them. That’s what makes them so dangerous.”

His message is pretty clear.

And even the military resorts to similar logic, though they attempt to make it sound more rational.

In Linda McQuaig's book, Holding the Bully's Coat, she speaks of attending a lecture in Toronto given by U.S. Lt.-Gen. Thomas Metz, former commander at Fort Hood, where many believe that it was this Islamophobia that drove Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan to go on a shooting rampage.

Rick Hillier took training at Fort Hood and referred to the Taliban as "detestable murderers and scumbags" and further stated "We're not the public service of Canada ... our job is to be able to kill people." (If the Wall Street Journal is correct, Hillier may already be the subject of a war crimes investigation by the International Criminal Court)

The Islamic faith is not evil," says the general [Metz], then quickly adds. "but it's been hijacked by thugs ... Most of the Islamic World believes the suicide bombers of the World Trade Center are now in the land of milk and honey." The general notes that there are almost a billion people in the Islamic world, and that if only one per cent of them are radical, "that's ten million radicals." He then shows a chart depicting the military challenges America faces, measured in terms of level of danger and level of likelihood. At the very apex—the most dangerous and the most likely—sits just one: radical Islamic terrorism. "Radical Islam wants to reestablish the Caliphate," says Metz. "Just as Hitler wrote Mein Kampf, you can read what they want to do." (Holding the Bully's Coat, Canada and the U.S. Empire, Linda McQuaig, Doubleday Canada, ISBN 978-0-385-66012-9, pg. 67-68)

It is said that there are roughly two to three billion Christians in the world. So by the general's mathematical reasoning, could that mean twenty to thirty million Christian radicals? There's no denying that nuts like Jason Kenney, Charles McVety and John Hagee have hijacked the faith.

Their ilk want nothing less than the total destruction of the Muslim world, and they are using Israel to achieve that goal, so they don't have to get their own hands dirty.

But what of the real reasons for this mission?

Pope Urban II may have used the battle cry "God Wills it" to rally his troops for the first Crusade in 1095, but he also dangled a prize: "The possessions of the enemy, too, will be yours, since you will make spoil of their treasures and return victorious to your own ... "

And General Metz did not disappoint his audience of senior Canadian military officers, soldiers, defence analysts and lobbyists; gathered on a Saturday morning in the Toronto neighbourhood of Armour Heights. He too dangled the spoils of war:

In the midst of his talk about the dangers of Islamic terrorism, Lt.-Gen. Metz abruptly shifts gears and starts talking about America's dependence on oil.

In his southern drawl, the general notes how much oil the U.S. consumes—roughly 25 per cent of the world's consumption, even though Americans make up only 5 per cent of the world's population—and how central this is to the country's high standard of living. To dramatize the importance of energy, the general points out that one can put a pint of gasoline into a chainsaw and then go out and cut a huge amount of wood before the gasoline runs out.

The next day, he says, one could feed a big, strong man an enormous breakfast and send him out to cut wood—and he'd be able to cut only a fraction of what the gasoline-fired chainsaw had been able to cut in far less time. The lesson from this little fable is clear: America needs oil to go on being the rich, advanced society that it enjoys being. Without oil, Americans would be like that big strong man with the big breakfast—with only a tiny pile of wood to show for it.

The general's little discourse on the importance of energy to America is certainly interesting. But what is it doing in a speech about military threats to the United States', The connection between America's voracious oil consumption and the dangers of radical Islamic terrorism are never explicitly stated by Lt.-Gen. Metz; he simply notes that the Islamic world has a lot of oil and what happens there has an impact on energy markets. But an important element has clearly been added to the picture: the U.S. needs what lies under the ground and in the Islamic world if Americans are to go on living the bounteous life that lies at the heart of the American dream—a life that has them devouring the lion's share of the world's energy. (McQuaig, Doubleday, Pg. 68-69)

Of course later, this sentiment shifted a bit as the U.S. began sounding the alarm over what would happen if the 'enemy' got hold of all that oil, making this a mission of defense, not aggression fueled by greed.

So what of that threat suggesting that the Islamic world is trying to convert the entire planet to Islam? That notion has been sounded from many pulpits across the west. Is there any truth to that?

I don't believe there is. In fact, I would argue that the opposite is true.

As far back as Desert Storm, Commander Norman Schwarzkopf, had to put a halt to plans to send 30,000 Arabic language Bibles to U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia. The intention here is pretty clear and the general knew that this action would put his soldiers at greater risk.

But George Bush had no such reservations, and he quickly vested the wars with a holy purpose; and once Stephen Harper got involved, we had us a modern day crusade.

Journalist and author Christopher Hitchens, sounded the alarm:

Does the military have a Christian missionary agenda in Afghanistan

"More alarming still is a book called Under Orders: A Spiritual Handbook for Military Personnel, by an air-force lieutenant colonel named William McCoy (another Fort Hood alumni) , publicity for which describes the separation of church and state as a “twisted idea.” Nor is this the book’s only publicity: it comes—with its direct call for a religion-based military—with an endorsement from General David Petraeus.

... I found I had been sent a near-incredible video clip from the Al Jazeera network. It had been shot at Bagram Air Force Base last year, and it showed a borderline-hysterical address by one Lieutenant Colonel Gary Hensley, chief of the United States’ military chaplains in Afghanistan. He was telling his evangelical audience, all of them wearing uniforms supplied by the taxpayer, that as followers of Jesus Christ they had a collective responsibility “to be witnesses for him.” Heating up this theme, Lieutenant Colonel Hensley went on: “The Special Forces guys, they hunt men, basically. We do the same things, as Christians. We hunt people for Jesus. We do, we hunt them down. Get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them in the kingdom. Right? That’s what we do, that’s our business.”

The comparison to the Special Forces would seem to suggest that the objects of this hunting and hounding are Afghans rather than Americans. But it’s difficult to be certain, and indeed I am invited to Colorado Springs partly because chaplains there have been known to employ taxpayer dollars to turn the hounds of heaven loose on their own students and fellow citizens. As the Bagram tape goes on, however, it becomes obvious that Afghans are the targets in this case. Stacks of Bibles are on display, in the Dari and Pashto tongues that are the main languages in Afghanistan. A certain Sergeant James Watt, a candidate for a military chaplaincy, is shown giving thanks for the work of his back-home church, which subscribed the dough. “I also want to praise God because my church collected some money to get Bibles for Afghanistan.

... In another segment, those present show quite clearly that they understand they are in danger of violating General Order Number One of the U.S. Central Command, which explicitly prohibits “proselytizing of any religion, faith, or practice.” A gathering of chaplains, all of them fed from the public trough, is addressed by Captain Emmit Furner, a military cleric who seems half in love with his own light-footed moral dexterity. “Do we know what it means to proselytize?” he asks his audience. A voice from the audience is heard to say, “It is General Order Number One.” To this Sergeant Watt replies: “You can’t proselytize but you can give gifts.… I bought a carpet and then I gave the guy a Bible after I conducted my business.”

But now as Dennis Gruending recently pointed out:
Coded biblical inscriptions have been found on the telescopic sights of rifles used by soldiers from several nations, including Canada, who are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. The company that supplied the inscribed weapons initially defended its actions unapologetically, and the response by the American military spokespersons has been under whelming. The inscriptions, placed where they are, represent a betrayal of the Christian scriptures and their central message of peace and reconciliation, although some obviously see this activity as admirable and patriotic. The incident and responses to it raise deeply troubling questions about elements of the American military.

Surely I'm not the only one who sees the dangers of these practices. How difficult is it for actual Islamic extremists to recruit when they too can suggest that their basic religious freedoms are being threatened. Sometimes the only thing people have left is their soul, and few are willing to give that up without a fight.

I wish we had a real Governor General, who would recognize what's happening here and call a halt to this government's actions. But sadly she abandoned her adopted country the day she allowed Stephen Harper to prorogue Parliament simply to avoid a fall. Sigh.

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