Wednesday, January 10, 2007

NEWSWEEK: Gates Cleans House at the Pentagon

Gates Cleans House at the Pentagon

New Pentagon chief is expected to oust the U.S. general involved in the Somalia strikes.


By Michael Hirsh and Mark Hosenball

Jan. 9, 2007 - Airstrikes this week on alleged Al Qaeda figures in Somalia may prove to be one of the last counterterrorism operations associated with a controversial Pentagon general who has overseen the deployment of secret U.S. Special Ops teams against suspected terror plotters, defense experts close to the Pentagon and intelligence community tell NEWSWEEK.

Lt. Gen. William Boykin and his boss, soon-to-depart Defense Undersecretary for Intelligence Steve Cambone, have guided or taken part in the planning of such covert operations against Al Qaeda-linked groups in several countries since 9/11. There is no indication that new Defense Secretary Robert Gates disagrees with the Somalia operation this week. But Boykin has long been a divisive figure. A devout evangelical Christian, he achieved notoriety in October 2003 when he was videotaped telling a church audience that the god of a Muslim warlord was "an idol" and that "my God was a real God." Boykin and Cambone have also generated controversy by allegedly seeking to wrest control of intelligence-gathering from the CIA. Gates has said he is especially determined to improve cooperation between the Department of Defense and the CIA. In written testimony during his confirmation process last fall, Gates said he was "unhappy about the dominance of the Defense Department in the intelligence arena"—a key element of Cambone's and Boykin's approach.

While Cambone's departure has been announced, Boykin's has not. A Defense Department spokesman would not confirm Wednesday that Boykin was planning to retire, but he declined to deny it either. "There have been no announcements about his retirement," said the spokesman, Maj. David Smith. A U.S. intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity owing to the sensitivity of the subject, said that Boykin currently was still on the job. But word around the Pentagon was that Gates would ask Boykin to go, this official said. Consultants who work with the intelligence and Special Operations community said it was all but certain that Boykin was following Cambone out the door. "If you're getting rid of Cambone, you almost certainly have to get rid of Boykin," says Philip Giraldi, a former CIA counterterrorism official who stays in touch with the community. "They're hand in glove. Gates feels it all went out of control, that they're doing too many things in too many places."

Boykin still has supporters inside the defense and intelligence community who say they will be sorry to see him go. Considered a near-legendary figure in the Special Operations community, Boykin was badly wounded in the "Black Hawk Down" attack in 1993 in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, where he commanded Delta Force. And his strategy of quietly destroying jihadist cells outside Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11 has had its successes. Among them: the capture of Algerian terrorist Abderrazak al-Para in 2004, the assassination of a jihadist leader in Yemen by a Hellfire missile strike in 2004 and the routing of the Abu Sayyaf terror group from Basilan Island in the Philippines. "It was Gen. Boykin who had the best chance of becoming the Patton of the war on terror," says John Arquilla of the Naval Postgraduate School at Monterey, Calif. "He really wanted to put the W back in GWOT"—referring to the White House acronym for the global war on terror.

But the killing of innocents in some of these attacks has been costly to America's reputation as well. The attacks in Somalia by U.S. Air Force AC-130 gunships temporarily based in neighboring Kenya began Sunday. They were launched by the Joint Task Force based in Djibouti, with help from the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, the CIA and the National Security Agency, as well as Ethiopian forces. The targets: a handful of Al Qaeda operatives suspected in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, as well as other alleged Al Qaeda associates in Somalia, U.S. officials said. The jihadis were believed to be on the run since U.S.-backed Ethiopian forces overran Mogadishu a week ago. According to an official U.S. State Department cable described to NEWSWEEK, the Al Qaeda suspects were "co-located" with forces of the fleeing Islamic Courts Union in remote southern Somalia.

Pentagon spokesman Joe Carpenter said the targets were "principal Al Qaeda leadership in the region. We're not discussing their identities or the individuals that were targeted." However, intelligence officials said U.S. forces were hoping that at least one of the three of the figures involved in the planning of the 1998 embassy attacks was among the dozens reported killed by the strikes. Two senior intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because the details of the operation were classified, said it was not confirmed whether any of the Al Qaeda figures was dead.

Critics of the covert program say that Gates and Cambone's replacement, Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper, are concerned that too much collateral damage may work against U.S. interests. Giraldi says the U.S. Special Ops teams operate too often without accountability, not even notifying the local U.S. Embassy of their presence. In one case in East Africa a clandestine team was arrested by the host government and had to be bailed out by the ambassador, Giraldi says. Adds Arquilla, an advocate of dropping small teams into countries rather than launching airstrikes:

"There's a growing realization in the Pentagon that the more collateral damage is done, the worse is our position in the 'battle of the story'—in other words, every time we kill innocents our story is much less compelling and the clash of civilizations story is much more compelling."

Boykin has largely operated in the shadows—his only official title is deputy undersecretary of intelligence—and Pentagon spokesmen say neither he nor Cambone is officially involved in operations, only policy. But last spring, Sen. John Warner, then the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee, came out publicly against a bid to name Boykin head of Special Operations Command.


Monday, January 08, 2007

Washington Post: Questionable Mission

Questionable Mission - A Christian Embassy campaign at the Pentagon tests constitutional boundaries.

Saturday, January 6, 2007; A16

"THERE ARE over 25,000 Department of Defense leaders working in the rings and corridors of the Pentagon. Through Bible study, discipleship, prayer breakfasts, and outreach events, Christian Embassy is mustering these men and women into an intentional relationship with Jesus Christ," a narrator explains toward the start of a promotional video for Christian Embassy, an offshoot of Campus Crusade for Christ that focuses on diplomats, government leaders and military officers. As a uniformed Air Force Maj. Gen. Jack J. Catton Jr. explains, "I found a wonderful opportunity as a director on the joint staff, as I meet the people that come into my directorate, and I tell them right up front who Jack Catton is . . . and my first priority is my faith in God, then my family and then country. I share my faith because it describes who I am."

Free exercise of religion doesn't stop at the entrance to the Pentagon or other government buildings; it's a right of those who occupy the upper rungs of government service as well as those in lower ranks. But when those in senior positions are moved to share their religious views with colleagues and subordinates, the tension between the twin constitutional guarantees -- the mandate of free exercise of and the prohibition against government establishment of religion -- comes into play. That tension is heightened in the military, with its emphasis on rank and command. It's important that both uniformed and civilian military leaders, whatever their religious views, take care that others who don't share their beliefs don't feel coerced or excluded as a result.

The Christian Embassy video suggests that such sensitivity has not always been present. With its extensive, inside-the-Pentagon footage and interviews with senior officials and high-ranking officers in uniform, the video conveys a sense that the group's mission has been endorsed by the Pentagon; it carries no disclaimer. Robert Varney, the group's executive director, says the Pentagon chaplain's office gave permission for the filming and that it's no surprise that military officers, interviewed at work in the Pentagon, were in uniform. But following a complaint by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, the video has been removed from Christian Embassy's Web site and the Pentagon is reviewing the matter. As it does so, it would be wise to consider not only whether the video and the Christian Embassy's other activities comply with the letter of Pentagon rules but also with the spirit of the Constitution its personnel are sworn to protect.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Jeff Sharlet - Ten Things I Learned from the Pentagon's Prayer Team

Ten Things I Learned from the Pentagon's Prayer Team

By Jeff Sharlet, The Revealer. Posted January 4, 2007.

The "Christian Embassy" quietly proselytizes inside the Pentagon, but their mission surpasses this simple ministry.

Little while ago I received a phone call from Mikey Weinstein, the prime mover behind the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, created in the wake of 2005's revelations of widespread evangelical proselytizing at the Air Force Academy. Weinstein told me that he'd spent Thanksgiving morning reading my December, 2006 Harper's feature, "Through a Glass Darkly" (online in January), which included a brief discussion of the now infamous Christian Embassy video [watch here] featuring high-ranking military officers testifying testifying in uniform on behalf of the behind-the-scenes fundamentalist organization, an apparent violation of military regulations. Weinstein has since launched a secular crusade of his own in response to the video, with the backing of a group of generals determined to maintain separation of church and state in the military.

The first public notice of the video came at the end of a longer discussion on the surprising importance of confederate General Stonewall Jackson to American fundamentalist historiography:

To put it in political terms, the contradictory legend of Stonewall Jackson - rebellion and reverence, rage and order - results in the synthesis of self-destructive patriotism embraced by contemporary fundamentalism. The most striking example is a short video on faith and diplomacy made in the aftermath of September 11,2001, by Christian Embassy, a behind-the-scenes ministry for government and military elites. It almost seems to endorse deliberate negligence of duty, Dan Cooper, an undersecretary of veterans' affairs, announces that his weekly prayer sessions are "more important than doing the job." Major General Jack Catton says that he sees his position as an adviser to the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a "wonderful opportunity" to evangelize men and women setting defense policy. "My first priority is my faith," he says. "I think it's a huge impact…. You have many men and women who are seeking God's counsel and wisdom as they advise the Chairman [of the Joint Chiefs] and the Secretary of Defense." Brigadier General Bob Caslen puts it in sensual terms: "We're the aroma of Jesus Christ." There's a joyous disregard for democracy in these sentiments, for its demands and its compromises, that in its darkest manifestation becomes the overlooked piety at the heart of the old logic of Vietnam, lately applied to Iraq: In order to save the village, we must destroy it.
Weinstein, a former Air Force lawyer and Reagan White House counsel, saw not just some disturbing theology, but a potential violation of military regulations regarding separation of church and state. Moreover, with his son -- a recent graduate of the Air Force Academy -- headed for Iraq, Weinstein saw the video as almost made-to-order Al Qaeda propaganda. After all, how hard would it be to persuade a potential Al Qaeda recruit that the U.S. is fighting a Christian crusade when U.S. generals and Department of Defense officials say so in so many words? Weinstein's organization is pushing the Pentagon for a full investigation.

In the meantime, I promised Weinstein I'd review my notes from an interview I conducted with Christian Embassy's chief of staff, Sam McCullough, on November 2, 2005, in the process of researching a profile of Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, the Christian Right's favorite candidate for '08, for Rolling Stone. McCullough and I met in his corner office at 2000 14th Street in Arlington, Virginia, a sterile cul de sac of computer-cut brick and glass down a hill from the Arlington courthouse. Christian Embassy occupies a low suite of offices on the 3rd floor, decorated so generically that it looks like it must be a front -- there are two ferns and some colonial lamps and a tacky painting of the Grand Tetons. McCullough is an ordained minister, but he prefers not to use the title of "reverend" because he believes he can more effectively spread the Gospel if he can "blend in as a layman." He's a tall man with broad shoulders that are slightly sloped. There's a golf hat that says "The Hill" on top of his lamp, his sole concession to frivolity.

By McCullough's own description, he is not an optimistic man. Dour, even, though not mean-spirited. Skeptical by nature, his business is belief; he reconciles his temperament to his work through a style of half-smiles and long silences. A graduate of Columbia Bible College, he is a bit of an exception on staff; many of the counselors (of which there were 22 at the time) are graduates of Campus Crusade's theological training program. He has been working with Christian Embassy for 27 years, since shortly after Christian Embassy, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ, moved to Arlington in 1978, a location chosen for its proximity to the ministry's targets. "Pentagon's two minutes in that direction," says McCullough, "the diplomatic community is over here, you can be on the Hill in ten minutes."

Christian Embassy originated in a 1974 collaboration between Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade, and then-Arizona Congressman John Conlan. They wanted to persuade evangelicals that it was not only permissible to participate in politics, it was necessary to save the nation from "moral decay" and imminent collapse. Bright is best known for Campus Crusade's pollyanna-ish appeals to Christian college students, but his politics were anything but sunny: Typical of his rhetoric throughout his career were his declarations at a 1962 Arizona Governor's Prayer Breakfast that the United States had between two and ten years before a complete communist take-over, and that the only hope was a complete rejection of secularism, according to the wisdom of II Chronicles, chapter six. That's the part where King Solomon decrees that all government business will be conducted in the temple.

If Bright dreamed of a governmental embrace of the Hebrew Bible's theocracy, Conlan wasn't quite as broadminded. When, in 1976, he ran in a primary for a Senate seat against equally conservative Congressman Sam Steiger, his campaign recruited clergymen to instruct their congregations to choose Conlan over Steiger -- who was Jewish -- because the state needed "a man with a clear testimony for Jesus Christ representing Arizona and America." (Conlan lost.)
Bright and Conlan, however, thought that tactic good enough to take nationwide, sending mailings to 120,000 clergymen to promote a political action manual by Bright. In 1978, Bright pulled his ideas together into the new organization of Christian Embassy. Even Billy Graham, long an ally of Bright's, thought it was too conservative and refused to endorse it. But Sam McCullough, who now directs Christian Embassy's ministry to congressmen, diplomats, and military officers, guessed correctly that Christian Embassy was the start of a new era of political evangelicalism in Washington. He signed on then, and he's been with Christian Embassy ever since.

Following are ten key points from McCullough's description of Christian Embassy, which McCullough said functions "very much" like the Fellowship, or the Family, the self-described "invisible" network of prayer cells for elites in government, military, and business described in my 2003 Harper's article, "Jesus Plus Nothing." The Fellowship produces the annual National Prayer Breakfast (although it tries to keep its involvement quiet); Christian Embassy has no analogous public face.

Christian Embassy is political.

Unlike the conservative Family Research Council, which McCullough describes as an explicitly political lobby with which Christian Embassy sometimes coordinates, Christian Embassy focuses on "networking, individual counseling, that kind of thing." McCullough told me that Christian Embassy is apolitical; on the other hand, he also said its ministry has a political impact: "It's more to help the individual grow as a person in their relationship with God, and then their politics is going to be an outcome."

Christian Embassy believes religion should guide politics.

Christian Embassy believes that politicians, diplomats, and officers should not consider their personal faith separate from their politics and their official duties. McCullough offers as a role model President Bush: "…in terms of the way [Bush] talks, the way he believes, he doesn't really say 'Oh I'm going to do religious things now and do other things later.'"

Christian Embassy sees the top brass as its mission field

McCullough on Christian Embassy's Pentagon presence: "At the Pentagon, we have a flag officers groups. Your stars, basically, 1-4 stars. We also have a disciple group at the pentagon. And there's a general Bible study that meets Wednesday morning where 70-120 come. Most of our groups that we organize and work with are at the officer level. Flags, a good percentage. We have about 40 that come or are involved with that."

Christian Embassy is closely involved with political and military officials.

Those who work with Christian Embassy will typically meet in small groups, under the supervision of a counselor like McCullough, for an hour every week. Counselors typically select a scripture verse for discussion and attempt to draw out its "practical" implications, often through application to current events. Participants can and do call on Christian Embassy counselors for additional advice outside of their cell meetings. These counseling sessions typically take place in the officer's or politician's office. The most committed participants may travel overseas on behalf of Christian Embassy or arrange their official government travel to leave time for evangelizing work. This work may sometimes be "covert," such as a evangelizing in countries where it's against the law.

Christian Embassy takes political positions.

Participants may call on Christian Embassy for advice on specific issues. "'What does the Bible say about this?'" is a common question, according to McCullough. He says Christian Embassy will not give explicit policy advice, but as a counselor, he would tell a member of Congress or a military official that a particular position -- pro-choice politics, or pacifism, for instance -- is "contrary to scripture."

Christian Embassy believes the Iraq War may be biblically sanctioned.

On the question of the war in Iraq, McCullough counsels: "We have war all throughout the Bible. Man's history is war. So what's the right thing? Not necessarily [the] war in the Bible. But what are you looking for? Is peace possible?" McCullough answered his own question by laughing.
Christian Embassy is a lobby in all but name.
McCullough says Christian Embassy is not a lobbying organization, but describes his work thusly: "I often will go visit a member of Congress and say, 'Hey, there's this going on, could you be involved in that?' … Or I will recommend to some of these groups that are issue oriented as to who might be interested in helping them. I am aware of where people are. So we do try to connect the dots. Network people." He agrees that Christian Embassy participants use the Christian Embassy network to political advantage, but considers this a positive outcome since it gives ambitious political, diplomatic, and military figures an incentive to get more involved with Christian Embassy's evangelical theology.

Christian Embassy is conservative and mostly Republican.

McCullough says Christian Embassy is bi-partisan, but in addition to President Bush and the Republicans featured in the video, he offered as examples of public figures very involved with Christian Embassy's work three very conservative Republican senators, Sam Brownback of Kansas, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, and John Thune of South Dakota; and four Republican representatives, conservatives Robert Alderholt of Alabama and John R. Carter of Texas and moderates Vern Ehlers of Wisconsin and Tim Johnson of Illinois. McCullough could think of only one Democrat, Representative Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, a blue dog Christian conservative with high ratings from the Christian Coalition and Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum. He said that McIntyre was living at the time in the Fellowship's special Capitol Hill dorm for congressmen. The video features appearances by former Congressman Tom DeLay of Texas and Representative J.D. Hayworth of Arizona, two more religious conservatives.

Christian Embassy is influential.

McCullough says there are "about 80 members of Congress that are in our rotation." More than half are "mature," by which he means fully in sync with Christian Embassy's theology. Immature Christians are matched with mature Christians to mentor them in Christian Embassy's beliefs. Christian Embassy is stronger in the House than in the Senate; their goal is to develop a relationship with politicians and officers at the beginning of their Washington careers--as they did with Brownback--that will allow them access as some of those politicians and officers grow in influence.

Christian Embassy thinks separation of church and state has gone too far.

Christian Embassy's theology, like that of Campus Crusade, might best be characterized as "ecumenical fundamentalism." They're not interested in denominational divides. Rather, they're invested in a critique of culture that sees the United States as in a state of "decay" as a result of inadequate Bible study. They believe the Bible was once part of public life and that it must be restored to its central role in order to achieve "revival." According to McCullough, separation of church and state has gone too far.

Christian Embassy's ambition is international.

An elegant booklet that accompanied the DVD McCullough gave me is filled not just with the testimonies of generals and congressmen, but also with those of foreign diplomats declaring Washington a sort of holy city. "The most important thing since coming to Washington from my communist-dominated society is that I that I have discovered God," writes a "European ambassador," thanking Christian Embassy. Fijian Ambassador Pita Nacuva, reports the booklet, following his "years of spiritual training in Washington, D.C." with Christian Embassy, reconfigured his country's public schools' "on the model of Jesus Christ" using an American Christian curriculum designed for developing nations, currently exported to around 40 countries.

Tagged as: pentagon, church and state, christian right, christian embassy, military
Jeff Sharlet is a contributing editor to Harper's and the author of History of Elite Christian Fundamentalism forthcoming from HarperCollins.

We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it 'bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East'. --- Harold Pinter 2005 Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Chris Hedges: America’s Holy Warriors

Chris Hedges: America’s Holy Warriors

Posted on Dec 31, 2006

By Chris Hedges

Editor’s note: The former New York Times Mideast Bureau chief warns that the radical Christian right is coming dangerously close to its goal of co-opting the country’s military and law enforcement.

The drive by the Christian right to take control of military chaplaincies, which now sees radical Christians holding roughly 50 percent of chaplaincy appointments in the armed services and service academies, is part of a much larger effort to politicize the military and law enforcement. This effort signals the final and perhaps most deadly stage in the long campaign by the radical Christian right to dismantle America’s open society and build a theocratic state. A successful politicization of the military would signal the end of our democracy.

During the past two years I traveled across the country to research and write the book “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.” I repeatedly listened to radical preachers attack as corrupt and godless most American institutions, from federal agencies that provide housing and social welfare to public schools and the media. But there were two institutions that never came under attack—the military and law enforcement. While these preachers had no interest in communicating with local leaders of other faiths, or those in the community who did not subscribe to their call for a radical Christian state, they assiduously courted and flattered the military and police.

They held special services and appreciation days for all four branches of the armed services and for various law enforcement agencies. They encouraged their young men and women to enlist or to join the police or state troopers. They sought out sympathetic military and police officials to attend church events where these officials were lauded and feted for their Christian probity and patriotism. They painted the war in Iraq not as an occupation but as an apocalyptic battle by Christians against Islam, a religion they regularly branded as “satanic.” All this befits a movement whose final aesthetic is violence.

It also befits a movement that, in the end, would need the military and police forces to seize power in American society. One of the arguments used to assuage our fears that the mass movement being built by the Christian right is fascist at its core is that it has not yet created a Praetorian Guard, referring to the paramilitary force that defied legal constraints, made violence part of the political discourse and eventually plunged ancient Rome into tyranny and despotism. A paramilitary force that operates outside the law, one that sows fear among potential opponents and is capable of physically silencing those branded by their leaders as traitors, is a vital instrument in the hands of despotic movements. Communist and fascist movements during the last century each built paramilitary forces that operated beyond the reach of the law.

And yet we may be further down this road than we care to admit. Erik Prince, the secretive, mega-millionaire, right-wing Christian founder of Blackwater, the private security firm that has built a formidable mercenary force in Iraq, champions his company as a patriotic extension of the U.S. military. His employees, in an act as cynical as it is deceitful, take an oath of loyalty to the Constitution. These mercenary units in Iraq, including Blackwater, contain some 20,000 fighters. They unleash indiscriminate and wanton violence against unarmed Iraqis, have no accountability and are beyond the reach of legitimate authority. The appearance of these paramilitary fighters, heavily armed and wearing their trademark black uniforms, patrolling the streets of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, gave us a grim taste of the future. It was a stark reminder that the tyranny we impose on others we will one day impose on ourselves.
“Contracting out security to groups like Blackwater undermines our constitutional democracy,” said Michael Ratner, the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. “Their actions may not be subject to constitutional limitations that apply to both federal and state officials and employees—including First Amendment and Fourth Amendment rights to be free from illegal searches and seizures. Unlike police officers they are not trained in protecting constitutional rights and unlike police officers or the military they have no system of accountability whether within their organization or outside it. These kind of paramilitary groups bring to mind Nazi Party brownshirts, functioning as an extrajudicial enforcement mechanism that can and does operate outside the law. The use of these paramilitary groups is an extremely dangerous threat to our rights."

The politicization of the military, the fostering of the belief that violence must be used to further a peculiar ideology rather than defend a democracy, was on display recently when Air Force and Army generals and colonels, filmed in uniform at the Pentagon, appeared in a promotional video distributed by the Christian Embassy, a radical Washington-based organization dedicated to building a “Christian America.” The video, first written about by Jeff Sharlet in the December issue of Harper’s Magazine and filmed shortly after 9/11, has led the Military Religious Freedom Foundation to raise a legal protest against the Christian Embassy’s proselytizing within the Department of Defense. The video was hastily pulled from the Christian Embassy website and was removed from YouTube a few days ago under threats of copyright enforcement.

Dan Cooper, an undersecretary of veterans affairs, says in the video that his weekly prayer sessions are “more important than doing the job.” Maj. Gen. Jack Catton says that his being an adviser to the Joint Chiefs of Staff is a “wonderful opportunity” to evangelize men and women setting defense policy. “My first priority is my faith,” he says. “I think it’s a huge impact.... You have many men and women who are seeking God’s counsel and wisdom as they advise the chairman [of the Joint Chiefs] and the secretary of defense.”

Col. Ralph Benson, a Pentagon chaplain, says in the video: “Christian Embassy is a blessing to the Washington area, a blessing to our capital; it’s a blessing to our country. They are interceding on behalf of people all over the United States, talking to ambassadors, talking to people in the Congress, in the Senate, talking to people in the Pentagon, and being able to share the message of Jesus Christ in a very, very important time in our world is winning a worldwide war on terrorism. What more do we need than Christian people leading us and guiding us, so, they’re needed in this hour.”

The group has burrowed deep inside the Pentagon. It hosts weekly Bible sessions with senior officers, by its own count some 40 generals, and weekly prayer breakfasts each Wednesday from 7 to 7:50 a.m. in the executive dining room as well as numerous outreach events to, in the words of the organization, “share and sharpen one another in their quest to bridge the gap between faith and work.”

If the United States falls into a period of instability caused by another catastrophic terrorist attack, an economic meltdown or a series of environmental disasters, these paramilitary forces, protected and assisted by fellow ideologues in the police and military, could swiftly abolish what is left of our eroding democracy. War, with the huge profits it hands to businesses and right-wing interests that often help bankroll the Christian right, could become a permanent condition. And the thugs with automatic weapons, black uniforms and wraparound sunglasses who appeared on street corners in Baghdad and New Orleans could appear on streets across the U.S. Such a presence could paralyze us with fear, leaving us unable to question or protest the closed system and secrecy of an emergent totalitarian state and unable to voice dissent.

“The Bush administration has already come close to painting our current wars as wars against Islam—many in the Christian right apparently have this belief,” Ratner said. “If these wars, bad enough as imperial wars, are fought as religious wars, we are facing a very dark age that could go on for a hundred years and that will be very bloody.”