Political strategies for saving Afghanistan may not mean much if civil debate is shelved for a holy war between Christian crusaders and Muslim infidels. In that scenario, just as Osama bin Laden's jihad must be carried to U.S. shores, so American leaders must respond with a crusade to crush the Muslim hordes in Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, Indonesia, and the Philippines. The enemy for Christers is not terrorism, but each and every Muslim infidelall of them damned to the eternal flames of hell.
Believe it or not, the Middle Ages are back. "Worldwide, religious trends have the potential to reshape political assumptions in a way that has not been seen since the rise of modern nationalism," Philip Jenkins, a well-known professor of history and religion at Penn State, wrote in a recent essay.
We're led in this by our born-again president. After September 11, Bush began talking about how the tragedy would become a test. "God's signs are not always the ones we look for. His purposes are not always our own," Bush said on September 14. "We ask Almighty God to watch over our nation. We pray that he will comfort and console those who walk in sorrow." Two days later he said, "We will rid the world of the evildoers. . . . This crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while."
Some politicians believe Bush is part of a divine plan. "In the evangelical mind, the notion of an omniscient God is central to their theology," Ralph Reed, who once ran the Christian Coalition, told The Washington Post. "He had a knowledge nobody else had: He knew George Bush had the ability to lead in this compelling way."
With or without Bush, the spirit of the Crusades is fast replacing the hunt for terrorists. Operation Save America, the militant anti-abortion group formerly known as Operation Rescue, is down and dirty with the Muslims. "Since Muhammad's vision in the early seventh century, millions have been slaughtered by the lie of Islam," said director Flip Benham, in a December 10 statement.
"Unfortunately, Christianity in America has become so feminized, so weak and limp-wristed that these lies (abortion, homosexuality, and Islam) have come to prevail in a nation that was established and made great on the manly bedrock of biblical Christianity," Benham continued.
Like crusaders of yore, the group stormed down to a mosque in Richardson, Texas, then recorded their adventures online. "We came with a banner saying 'Jesus is the Standard,' with the cross of Christ in front of the American flag. We also brought signs saying 'Jesus is the Way' and 'Jesus is Alive.' " Muslims who greeted them sought to assuage the Christers, arguing that their message contained intolerant words. "One American Muslim lady ripped the sign out of Kristene Odell's hands while screaming at her at the top of her voice. It reminded me of being at the abortion millsame battle, just a different manifestation."
Later, at a dinner with 1000 Muslims, the anti-abortion activists tried to reason with the unbelievers, but concluded, "We were separated eternally by a great chasm of truth. They believe a lie, and they believe it wholeheartedly." So they kept going to the mosque, hoping the Muslims would come to their senses. "We have added a couple more signs'Islam is a Lie' and 'Muhammad is Dead.' If we love them, we must tell them the truth! Join us!"
Professor Jenkins cited the rapid growth of Christianity and Islam in Africa and Latin America, saying these places will soon be the new, uneasy centers of Christendom. Meanwhile, Europe will once again become the center of religious warfare, with guerrilla action in France and Germany. "Imagine the world of the thirteenth century," he wrote, "armed with nuclear warheads and anthrax."
To read the American papers, you'd think we were a godsend to the people of Afghanistan. Under the December 31 headline "Massive Food Delivery Averts Afghan Famine," The Washington Post reported on shipments of wheat to starving refugees. "There will be no famine in Afghanistan this winter," Catherine Bertini, executive director of the United Nations' World Food Program, told the paper. "There will be deaths, because the country was in a pre-famine condition this summer before the war started. But it will be isolated, and not large-scale."
The Guardian of London paints quite a different picture. "Refugees Left in the Cold at 'Slaughterhouse' Camp," read one headline, followed by this subhead: "Afghans perish daily as strained aid network collapses under flood of new arrivals."
In and around the camp 30 miles west of Herat, the British paper reported, 350,000 Afghans huddle in the cold. One hundred die each day due to exposure and starvation. Workers say conditions approach those of the great Ethiopian disaster. "We travelled more than 125 miles to this camp," one woman tells the Guardian. "When I arrived I had four children, now I have two. We've had nothing to eat for a week."
The situation is a catch-22. New arrivals can't get help until they register with the UN's World Food Program, but they can't register until they get help. The skeletal staff can't begin to process the starving people. Arriving families hunker down outside the camp. Here, amid the piles of human shit, they dig foxholes to shelter them a little from the biting wind and cold.
"As I walked through the throng I was continually mistaken for an aid worker," writes the Guardian reporter. "Men thrust papers in my face, asking me to register them for aid, while women pointed to their mouths, miming their hunger.
"Children, too malnourished to move, sat shivering and listless, their eyes black holes. Many wore only rags for clothes, some wrapped in plastic in a vain attempt to generate heat. Most were barefoot. . . . 'You are just taking pictures,' one woman at the camp said to me. 'You are not here to help. We can't eat pictures. We are dying.' "
Though the Taliban beat women or shot them to death for supposed moral offenses, they reserved an especially gruesome, torturous death for male homosexuals. These they would line up against a wall, then ram a bulldozer from the other side, toppling the stones and burying the men alive.
The Taliban, of course, learned all their lessons from our fundamentalist allies in Saudi Arabia, who last week demonstrated their own method of dispatching gays. Press reports say three gay men were beheaded by sword in the public square of the mountain town Abha. "They received the death penalty for sexually abusing young boys," said Tarik Allajany, a spokesperson at the Saudi embassy in Washington. "Rape is punishable by death."
According to the State Department, punishments under Saudi Arabia's Islamic law include flogging, amputation, and execution by beheading, stoning, or firing squad. In 2000, the Saudis executed 120 people, an increase from 100 the year before. Government killings included 62 persons convicted of murder, 21 convicted of narcotics-related offenses, 22 convicted of rape, and 10 convicted of armed robbery. The executions also included two women for murder and three for drug trafficking. The men were executed by beheading and the women by firing squad. There were 27 reports of amputations, including seven reports of multiple amputations (right hand, left leg) for highway robbery.
People convicted of less serious offenses, such as drinking alcohol or being alone in the company of an unrelated person of the opposite sex, sometimes were punished by flogging. In April the AP reported five people had been sentenced to 2600 lashes and six years in prison, and four persons to 2400 lashes and five years, for "deviant sexual behavior."
The death of Bill Clinton's dog Buddy, who was hit by a car in the streets of Chappaqua last week, brought a strangulated wheeze from the Clinton haters. They immediately began deconstructing the deeper meaning of what had happened, with the Lucianne (as in Goldberg) and Free Republic Web sites cranking wildly to figure out Buddy's place on the mysterious Clinton death list. Some of the theories being batted around, as collected by the online faithful at Democratic Underground:
Additional reporting: Michael Ridley
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