Democracy Under Assault
Theopolitics, Incivility and Violence on the Right

Michele Swenson

Religious Undertones of U.S. Iraq Invasion
Bush administration pursuit of Iraq war instead of the Road Map to Peace

Forces of illiberal democracy are steering U.S. domestic and foreign policy at the very moment that neoconservatives profess the intent to export democracy to the Middle East. The legal framework for civil and religious liberties, equality and justice is directly challenged by those agitating against pluralism, church-state separation and the separation of powers. Christian nation advocates read the Bible as history, invoking the wrath of God against mainstream Christians, secularists and adherents of other religions. They envision end times battles preceding the second coming that will restore their rightful place of rule as God’s chosen people. Professor Robert Jay Lifton (City University of New York) describes the ultimate aim of all fundamentalist apocalyptic groups: "world destruction and then renewal."

Militaristic responses by government (a la Waco and Ruby Ridge) abet realization of antagonists’ vision of imminent Armageddon...

...just as U.S. preemptive military action in Iraq magnified apocalyptic visions among Christian and Muslim fundamentalists alike. The perception of Iraq as a surrogate battleground for the Arab-Israeli conflict was reinforced by the Bush administration choice to abandon the "Road Map to Peace" while mounting an invasion into Iraq. Waged within the cradle of civilization, the Iraq war is regarded by some Christian conservatives a prequel to the prerequisite building of Babylon prior to Christ’s return.

Among these, Tim LaHaye (co-author of the Rapture-centered "Left Behind" books) has depicted the concurrent rise of the anti-Christ and one-world government, which he links to a coalition of despised groups whom he accuses of rejecting God—liberals, socialists, environmentalists and atheists. Renouncing a biblical vision of hope and transformation, LaHaye portrays a world in hopeless decline until the return of Jesus, rendering futile any effort for environmental protection or social action. Just as Y2K was widely viewed by the religious right as occasion to stock food, medicine and guns in preparation for wide-scale social upheaval— the precursor to end-times conflict— so too, are conspiratorial fears cultivated around perceived domestic and foreign enemies.

Notions of a U.S. Christian crusade were heightened at the time of the Iraq invasion by statements of Rev. Franklin Graham, naming Islam a "very wicked and evil" religion and declaring "The true God is the God of the Bible, not the Koran." Jerry Falwell branded the prophet Mohammed "a terrorist."Paul Weyrich and others characterized Islam a violent religion, a "Threat to America and the West"—the partial title of a pamphlet co-authored by Weyrich. Said conservative commentator Ann Coulter of Muslims, "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." G.W. Bush justified the invasion of Iraq with the statement "providence is with us," implying a "God-on-our-side" crusade. Even as Bush attempted to align the Iraqi war with divine intention, secular leader Saddam Hussein, too, sought to link his cause with that of fundamentalist Arab Muslims.

Self-described Christian Zionists castigate "unbiblical" Israeli-Palestinian peace accords that propose relinquishment to Palestinians of any West Bank lands, in defiance of end-times prophecy.

"Anyone…who blocks the flow of prophecy in [Israel] is in great danger," warned Pat Robertson, maintaining that surrender of West Bank lands invites capitulation from God. Robertson evangelicals describe the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin as "God’s punishment" for his negotiation of the Oslo Peace Accords, just as Robertson pronounced Ariel Sharron's illness a punishment by God for his surrender of land to Palestinians. Christian Zionists applaud Israelis who expand West Bank settlements for doing "God’s will," and depict themselves allied with Jews against Muslim "terrorists." Joined by Gary Bauer’s American Renewal and other Christian Zionists, Moral Majority co-founder and Religious Roundtable president, Ed McAteer bought billboards in the south in 2003 urging believers to contact the White House to express opposition to any peace effort that treated Palestine and Israel evenhandedly, or sought relinquishment of West Bank land to Palestinians.

 McAteer pronounced all past and present peace proposals "diametrically opposed to the word of God."

Among fundamentalist opponents of the Israeli-Palestine peace process who have occupied key Bush Defense Department positions, number 3 at the Pentagon, Douglas Feith, was charged with oversight of post-war Iraqi reconstruction. Feith and Pentagon advisor Richard Perle wrote another policy document in 1996, titled "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," encouraging the overthrow of Saddam Hussein by Israel. Written for an Israeli think tank, the paper reinforced religious undertones of the U.S.-Iraq conflict, delineating objectives of changing the geopolitics of the region, squeezing Syria, curbing Iran, and bolstering the Christian Zionist goal of ending land-for-peace talks with the Palestinians.

Another Pentagon-embedded evangelical, Undersecretary for Defense Intelligence, Lt. Gen. William Boykin, also equated "radical Islamists" with Satan at war against the U.S. "Christian nation." Echoing fundamentalists’ assertion that God put George W. Bush in power, Boykin has declared before church congregations and prayer breakfasts, "I knew that my God was a real God and [Islamist’s] was an idol." Assertions of Christian right alignment with divine intention reinforce trans-global suspicions that U.S. foreign policy consists of a crusade to weaken Muslim states.

The God-On-Our-Side tone augurs continued cycling of sectarian conflict at home and abroad.