Sunday, July 16, 2006

Tomgram: Bush's Faith and the Middle East Aflame

The Force Is Not with Them

The Middle East Aflame and the Bush Administration Adrift
By Tom Engelhardt

So, as the world spins on a dime, where exactly are we?

As a man who is no fan of fundamentalists of any sort, let me offer a proposition that might make some modest sense of our reeling planet. Consider the possibility that the most fundamental belief, perhaps in all of history, but specifically in these last catastrophic years, seems to be in the efficacy of force -- and the more of it the merrier. That deep belief in force above all else is perhaps the monotheism of monotheisms, a faith remarkably accepting of adherents of any other imaginable faith – or of no other faith at all. Like many fundamentalist faiths, it is also resistant to drawing any reasonable lessons from actual experience on this planet.

The Bush administration came to power as a fundamentalist regime; and here I'm not referring to the Christian fundamentalist faith of our President. After all, Karl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld, and our Vice President seem not to be Christian fundamentalists any more than were Paul Wolfowitz or Douglas Feith. Bush's top officials may not have agreed among themselves on whether End Time would arrive, or even on the domestic social issues of most concern to the Christian religious right in this country, but they were all linked by a singular belief in the efficacy of force.

In fact, they believed themselves uniquely in possession of an ability to project force in ways no other power on the planet or in history ever could. While hardly elevating the actual military leadership of the country (whom they were eager to sideline), they raised the all-volunteer American military itself onto a pedestal and worshipped it as the highest tech, most shock-and-awesome institution around. They were dazzled by the fact that it was armed with the smartest, most planet-spanning, most destructive set of weapons imaginable, and backed by an unparalleled military-industrial complex as well as a "defense" budget that would knock anyone's socks off (and their communications systems down). It was enough to dazzle the administration's top officials with dreams of global domination; to fill them with a vision of a planet-wide Pax Americana; to send them off to the moon (which, by the way, was certainly militarizable).

Force, then, was their idol and they bowed down before it. When it came to the loosing of that force (and the forces at their command), they were nothing short of fervent utopians and blind believers. They were convinced that with such force (and forces), they could reshape the world in just about any way they wanted to fit their visionary desires.

And then, of course, came 9/11, the "Pearl Harbor" of this century. Suddenly, they had a divine wind at their back, a terrified populace before them ready to be led, and everything they believed in seemed just so… well, possible. It was, in faith-based terms, a godsend. Not surprisingly, they promptly began to prepare to act in the stead of an imperially angry god and to bring the world -- particularly its energy heartlands -- to heel.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

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