If you haven’t got a prayer, you haven’t got a prayer
Updated 5/27/05 7:30 a.m.
Religious warfare got a major boost yesterday not only in parts of the globe where heathens live but also right here in America.
Activist judge Priscilla Owen (left), whose combination of corporate greed and holy zeal long ago won the hearts of Karl Rove and George W. Bush, finally won Senate confirmation for a lifetime seat on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. She’s the kind of religious zealot you’d find on courts in Iran—theocrats who try to use their beliefs to control others’ behavior.
Case in point has been written about extensively: Owen’s ridiculous opinion in a teen abortion case that came before the Texas Supreme Court. The case involved the Texas Parental Notification Act. Here are a couple of paragraphs from the Alliance for Justice that sum it up:
• Prior to her original nomination, in each of the many cases that came before her involving Texas’ Parental Notification Act, Justice Owen voted against allowing a minor to obtain an abortion without notifying her parents, often ignoring the law’s explicit exceptions. In one case, she advocated requiring a minor to show an awareness of the “philosophic, moral, social and religious arguments that can be brought to bear” before obtaining judicial approval for an abortion without parental consent. The statute contains no such requirement.
• Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, when he was one of Justice Owen’s colleagues on the Texas Supreme Court, criticized Justice Owen in another case for attempting to re-write the parental notification statute, calling her dissent “an unconscionable act of judicial activism.”
Yes, I know that Gonzales later explained it during his own confirmation hearing in January by insisting that he was actually criticizing himself for “judicial activism.” Gonzales lied to the Senate. If you don’t believe me, read his words from that opinion.
See the Alliance for Justice analysis of Owen’s judicial work for more.
Owen is a Sunday School teacher at St. Barnabas the Encourager, a breakaway neo-orthodox Episcopalian congregation in Austin. You can read Pastor Jeff Black‘s Morning by Morning meditations if you want, but here’s a passage from the Daily Texan last summer that should tell you what kind of behavior the church doesn’t encourage:
Disagreements over tradition have led to a break within one Austin church. St. Barnabas the Encourager, a congregation founded in 1998, will leave the Episcopal Church because the church does not condone certain practices or believe in the Bible as the sole instrument of salvation.
And what “practices” are we talking about?
Phil Mallory, senior warden of St. Barnabas, said the break was provoked by the evolution of the Episcopal Church’s doctrine. …
[The] beliefs of the St. Barnabas congregation leave no room for a gray area, Mallory said.
“If they’re practicing homosexuals, then the Bible is clear about that,” Mallory said. “What it says is that God gave human beings a sexual relationship, but that is to be only in a marriage—a marriage defined between a man and a woman. And outside of marriage, you are to remain celibate.”
Other instances of good ol’ American tortured logic caught the eye of Amnesty International, whose annual report castigates the U.S. for setting the tone for Earth’s last 12 months of inhumanity. AI’s secretary-general, Irene Khan, notes:
The USA, as the unrivaled political, military, and economic hyper-power, sets the tone for governmental behaviour worldwide. When the most powerful country in the world thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights, it grants a license to others to commit abuse with impunity and audacity. From Israel to Uzbekistan, Egypt to Nepal, governments have openly defied human rights and international humanitarian law in the name of national security and “counter-terrorism.”
Khan points out that AI published its first report on torture in 1973 and said at the time:
Torture rears its head when the legal barriers against it are barred. Torture feeds on discrimination and fear. Torture gains ground when official condemnation of it is less than absolute.
Then Khan adds:
Despite the near-universal outrage generated by the photographs coming out of Abu Ghraib, and the evidence suggesting that such practices are being applied to other prisoners held by the USA in Afghanistan, Guantánamo and elsewhere, neither the US administration nor the US Congress has called for a full and independent investigation.
Instead, the US government has gone to great lengths to restrict the application of the Geneva Conventions and to “re-define” torture. It has sought to justify the use of coercive interrogation techniques, the practice of holding “ghost detainees” (people in unacknowledged incommunicado detention) and the “rendering” or handing over of prisoners to third countries known to practise torture. The detention facility at Guantánamo Bay has become the gulag of our times, entrenching the practice of arbitrary and indefinite detention in violation of international law. Trials by military commissions have made a mockery of justice and due process.
Yeah, well, the U.S. president was the hangingest governor in his country’s history, so what do you expect?
What’s worse is that we’re likely to have even more opportunities to display our arrogance to the world about torture—and not just because John Bolton is just about to be confirmed as U.N. ambassador.
It’s likely to be at least five more years until Iraqi forces can impose law and order and the U.S. can start pulling out troops, says the International Institute of Strategic Studies, a London think tank that’s closer to the views of Genghis Khan than it is to the views of Irene Kahn. The IISS also notes that Iraq is proving to be a fine breeding ground for terrorists—something that’s been obvious to me and a lot of other people for a long time—so that means full employment for defense contractors. In other words, all is not lost.
As usual, it took the foreign press to put two and two together. In this case, Richard Norton-Taylor and Michael Howard, on the ground in Iraq for the Guardian (U.K.), wove the IISS report into the deadly chaos:
The report said that, on balance, US policy over the past year had been effective in emboldening regional players in the Middle East and the Gulf to rally against rogue states.
But it warned that the inspirational effect of the intervention in Iraq on Islamist terrorism was “the proverbial elephant in the living room. From al-Qaida’s point of view, [President] Bush’s Iraq policies have arguably produced a confluence of propitious circumstances: a strategically bogged down America, hated by much of the Islamic world, and regarded warily even by its allies.”
Iraq “could serve as a valuable proving ground for ‘blooding’ foreign jihadists, and could conceivably form the basis of a second generation of capable al-Qaida leaders … and middle-management players”, the report said.
I’d predict that before Iraq calms down, we’re going to be torturing Muslims in Central Asia—oops, we’re already doing that. In fact, a cluster of 25 million repressed and boiling mad Muslims are yearning for revolution in Uzbekistan, one of the friendly dictatorships to which we’re shipping prisoners for final answers. They could use some democracy, but what they have in mind is not a secular state. The U.S. has already picked its poison in that battle by continuing to prop up tyrant Islam Karimov. He’s a ruthless, brutal, repressive sonofabitch who tortures his own people and he demands that they live in a secular state. That remind you of anyone else? Saddam Hussein, for instance? But for now, Karimov is our boy. Of course, that’s going to ultimately be the losing side.
So let’s see: Amid the bubbling revolts in Central Aphasia, just down the road in southwest Asia, the recruiting of hyper-conservative Muslim terrorists is up. Across the ocean in America, the recruiting of hyper-conservative Christian judges is up. All in all, prospects look great for an increase in religious warfare. The 21st century version of the Great Game looks more and more like the Crusades. It should last a while.