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August 8, 2006

"World War IV"

Now it's with Iran. And, of course, we're already losing:

Their war aims have never been secret. They have been shouting them out on the world stage to a billion listening Muslims, ever since they handed us the first of many humiliating defeats in 1979. These Persian mullahs and their followers aim to restore Islamic supremacy in the 21st century by leading all Muslims everywhere to victory in a great global jihad against America, Israel, and what is left of the free world.

Picking outlandish comments off the Web -- this is Barbara Lerner in the National Review Online -- is, of course, too easy. Do it enough and you can end up as paranoid as they are. And Ms. Lerner's solution to the Iran problem can indeed leave you spooked:

We should light up the skies with our own surprise: a massive aerial bombardment that wipes out most of Iran's nuclear facilities, and decimates the ranks of its mullahs as well as those of the Revolutionary Guard and Basij forces that keep them in power, defeating these monsters and decimating their fan base by shattering their image of invincibility.

Sure. But what might concern us here is the extent to which -- after Iraq, not to mention after the Enlightenment -- the blood-thirsty rhetoric of religious warfare -- against "monsters" -- continues to dominate some strains of American political discourse (and lurk behind others).

Posted by Mitchell Stephens at August 8, 2006 9:56 AM


Wars have always required the use of fear, an emotion God requires of his subjects anyway. Ironically God wants us to fear Him, yet leaders of warring nations get away with exploiting fear of strange men instead. Religion has been a useful tool in our case as a predominantly Christian nation. Fear of Radical Islamic Extremists serves as well in Iraq as did fear of Godless Communists in Vietnam. Consider the hysterical words of George Bush in his latest rally for a surge in US forces deployed to Iraq, but guess which words can be swapped out for the same sentiments to fit in the Vietnam era (think "domino theory"):

The consequences of failure are clear: Radical Islamic extremists would grow in strength and gain new recruits. They would be in a better position to topple moderate governments, create chaos in the region, and use oil revenues to fund their ambitions. Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Our enemies would have a safe haven from which to plan and launch attacks on the American people.

As the cold war began, the Catholic Knights of Columbus saved us all by leading a GOP-led Congress and White House to add "In God We Trust" to our money and "under God" to the pledge. Bush continues to paint all Americans throughout history with a broad Christian brush. Here's what he had to say as support for his war was beginning to slip in June 2005:

America has done difficult work before. From our desperate fight for independence, to the darkest days of a Civil War, to the hard-fought battles against tyranny in the 20th Century, there were many chances to lose our heart, our nerve, or our way. But Americans have always held firm, because we have always believed in certain truths. We know that if evil is not confronted, it gains in strength and audacity, and returns to strike us again. We know that when the work is hard, the proper response is not retreat, it is courage. And we know that this great ideal of human freedom is entrusted to us in a special way -- and that the ideal of liberty is worth defending.

...and how he concluded the Surge speech the other night with an interesting twist on "God Bless America":

We go forward with trust that the Author of Liberty will guide us through these trying hours. Thank you and good night.

Although I'm not sure we didn't confront the evil of Al Qaeda between the WTC attacks in 1993 and 2001, or whether confronting them since hasn't increased their strength and audacity, I am pretty sure our founding fathers achieved freedom and liberty by rebelling against their king and ruler by Divine Right.

I am personally relieved that Bush believes our freedom and liberty only exist because God entrusted them to us. It provides motivation not to take them away, or at least to do so only in reaction to the most heinous crimes even an atheist would agree are really really bad, mkay?. There are chilling examples of mass media being used to provide that control instead. In August 2006 a federal judge in Michigan struck down the president's expansion of powers and Orwellian manipulation of words like "torture" and "enemy combatant". In a country that loves freedom this would be major good news. Instead, the major news outlets spent that night's prime time and continuing 24-hour news talk cycles with an exciting break in the Jon Benet Ramsey case.

On another media front, try this new toy from Google Labs. It lets you compare search queries used all over the world. For example, enter "shorts, sweater" to see how people use Google to browse for clothing at various pointing the year, or compare the popularity of two celebrities by putting a comma between their names. Here's what happens when you compare "Islam, Judaism, Atheism, Christianity":


I'm no demographics guru, but the future looks to be heading in a particular direction. My first blog comment, sorry so long.

Posted by: Mark Nelson at January 17, 2007 12:11 AM

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