Backtalk, March 2, 2006

The Brutal Christ of the Armageddonites

The article makes out all Christian churches that believe the Bible to be vengeful, hateful people, with pastors preaching about a God-inspired war. This is FAR from the reality, as I attend several churches and have several pastors’ kids as friends, whose churches I do not attend. Every Christian I know, including the ones from the Christian school I graduated from, are nonviolent, peace-loving people.

The statistic of 87 percent supporting the war leads people to believe that Christians support the war out of vengeance, when, really, the majority of us don’t see it that way at all. We see Saddam as a cruel dictator, and, although there are plenty of those out there we could have gone after instead, we like the fact we did something about one of them for the sake of those under him. I have met a man who has been in Iraq for the past four or five years bringing food, supplies, and medicine to hospitals, ravaged by the oil for food scandal, and other places that need it. He has reported that none of his work there of revealing God’s total and freeing love would be possible had Saddam been kept in power. I feel this article is very misleading.

As for the Left Behind series, it has been stated by the author that it is fiction based on the biblical prophecies not only of the book of Revelation, which the author of this article focuses on, but also from other books, such as Daniel, and the four Gospels. … Might I add, if these ancient prophecies from thousands of years ago come true with no discrepancy, there is something to be said about the accuracy and authority of the Bible.

(If a man blew up your friend’s home, should he be punished or let go? Now apply that to world politics and see what you get. Should we embrace peace to the degree that we allow evil and oppression to go unpunished?)

With the Peace that passes all understanding,

~ Mark Taylor

Jon Utley replies:

Mr. Taylor,

Thank you for your comments.

I think the article was very specific about it not being “all” Christian churches.

– The 87 percent referred to evangelicals.

– Washington never said it was overthrowing Saddam to help the Iraq people until after they did not find WMD.

– Hospitals were not ravaged by the oil-for-food scandal; they were ravaged by the American blockade of almost everything needed to rebuild the nation after we had “bombed it back into the stone age,” as our leaders bragged in 1990 and 1991 – just search on Google for sanctions+Iraq+children (half a million died during the blockade).

– Christians were safe under Saddam, now hundreds of thousands have fled for their lives to Syria, Jordan, and anywhere they can be accepted.

– Christ certainly embraced peace. And he surely taught us not to kill people who did us no harm, unless you mean those who tried to shoot down planes that were bombing them for years on end. Do you know that in the 1990 war we intentionally bombed their irrigation and sanitation systems, bridges, most of their electricity production, and so on?

I understand your sentiments, but it is just hard for Americans to know everything that was happening out there. Do a look on Google for lies+about+Iraq for some of this history.

I well understand that you and most evangelicals have good intentions, but these are distorted by our leaders. is one of the best sources of news available today. However, the Jon Utley story regarding the influence of Christian fundamentalism does contain a statement that is not only silly but injurious to my home state of Oklahoma. I should admit that, like southern California and a good many other areas, Oklahoma does harbor many Christian rightists. My objection is to his reference to Oklahoma, as well as Texas, being deserts. He did not swear that they were entirely deserts, but the implication was sweeping. In his defense, perhaps he saw a tribal governments textbook written by an incompetent professor at Notre Dame. She made the same ludicrous claim in reference to the land the Five Civilized Tribes received upon removal from the southeastern states. I invite both of these authors, who have put themselves in the goofy category of a recent television sports character, to visit Oklahoma. Some of the most lush, fertile, beautiful, and productive land in the world is in Oklahoma, despite one of its U.S. senators. I shall not also quarrel with this author’s rendition of history, but I must regret that the author’s ignorance detracts from his attempt to write about right-wing tendencies.

~ The Lovett Cattle Company

Jon Utley replies:

Thank you for your information and I apologize for a little literary license. Yes, I do know that Oklahoma has some wonderful parts, and when I was a teen I saw Oklahoma on Broadway four times; I loved it. It’s also that I meet at a luncheon group with one of your senators, who is a main spokesman for the Armageddonites, so I did want to mention his state. America is such a great country and experiment of brotherhood as to be an example for the whole world.

Utley’s final paragraph is remarkable. He writes:

“The Armageddonites, despite their self-proclaimed goodness, are a brutal, ignorant, and vengeful people. They have also become a major force dragging America to the abyss of endless war, a domestic police state (they care little for constitutional freedoms), financial ruin, and the enmity of the world.”

Now change “Armageddonites” to “Israelis” and “constitutional freedoms” to “international law,” and you have a perfect match.

~ Bruce J. Malina

Jon Utley replies:

Mr. Malina:

Thanks for your comments. I think there is a difference. One, the Israel lobby is often mentioned, even in “polite society” and certainly in Washington, as just another lobby. The Armageddonite lobby is not well understood and clothes itself in such morality and purity, far beyond the Israeli, which frankly recognizes and uses power. The Israel lobby also is certainly not stupid; at least it has a rational purpose.

Also, today the Israel lobby is very split and has mainly morphed into a Likud lobby. Furthermore, it is important to distinguish Likud from all Israelis, and Israel from all Jews, especially considering how many Jews are in the forefront of the antiwar and anti-empire movement. One of the problems in writing about this is a vocabulary that is often not exact.

Tremendous article. It’s imperative Christians should read and understand what other Christians are doing to create a hateful and condemning religious belief. They use the name of Jesus, but not his teachings. They profess to support Jesus, but they follow the Old Testament with their beliefs. Which makes no sense, since Jesus is the New Testament. They profess to believe in God; they don’t understand why their God went to such lengths to create His Son for Christian believers. Hence the New Testament: to lead Christians away from the judgmental hatred they developed in the Old Testament.

~ Roxane White

Jon Utley replies:

Thanks much for your comment and support.

Mr. Utley:

Regarding your article, “The Brutal Christ of the Armageddonites,” it’s too bad that you have to lump true believers along with the Christian Right and their prez…

Also, because you can’t read the Bible with understanding doesn’t mean that things won’t happen as the BIBLE predicts (not as the deceptive Christian Righters say the Bible says); nor because you can’t understand the symbolism which is used in the Bible, especially in Revelation. Try reading the Bible with the use of the Hebrew/Greek dictionary, in which language the original texts were written, or at least an Amplified Bible. Read about all the prophecies the Bible predicted which happened EXACTLY as the Bible said, and compare today’s headlines with prophecy yet unfulfilled, but in the making. The Left Behind book is NOT the Bible, and does not accurately portray what the Bible says by a long shot. It is as deceptive as the rest of the Christian Right.

You can be assured of one thing, Mr. Utley: that if you continue to accuse the true believers, by not distinguishing them from the deceptive Christian Right, of being a part of such deception, you will surely be held accountable for the blood of many innocent people in the not too far future.

Should that happen, I feel sorry for you.

~ Georgia

Jon Utley replies:

Georgia –

Regarding your comments, I think if you reread the article you will find that I try very much to distinguish true Christianity from the usurpation of most of the leadership of the Christian Right. I reach out also to identify evangelical leaders of the Christian Right who do not subscribe to the dominant theories. A difficult problem is that of simple vocabulary, in that these words are new and have different meanings to different people, and by no means are all evangelicals or religious activists also trying to hurry up the second coming. Hence the spreading use (see Google) of the word “Armageddonite,” which is becoming recognized as identifying them.

Secondly, I do not deny biblical prophecy in the article. The whole point is referring to those who have moved beyond prophecy to trying to bring it about, to “hurry up God.” Surely the Bible does not encourage such actions.

However, Christian “true believers,” as you identify yourself, who disagree with the Armageddonites also, I believe, have a duty to try to expose them and the damage they are doing to our foreign policy, to the image of America in the outside world, and to Christianity itself. They may not be written about much in the U.S., but in the Arab and Muslim world, their writings and political power are very much identified. And Christians in the Muslim world are also suffering from the identification of America with Armageddonites’ power.

Placating the Greenies

Global warming – on a cold day like today, it sounds like a blessing. But let’s face facts. Anthropologists, paleontologists, and scientists who observe extreme long-term climate variations will tell you that the earth today is in a cool cycle, and that warming is natural and good – not to mention inevitable. In fact, humankind has made more progress during warm cycles than cold.

Between roughly 1350 and the late 1800s, the earth underwent a “mini ice age,” in which the climate became brutally cold. Even then, of course, there were cycles within cycles – with a few years or decades a bit warmer and others going back to the larger trend of cooling.

And what was the consequence of that era of “global cooling”? Well, for one thing, the ground was more moist and marshy, due to less evaporation of water, and as a consequence there was slightly less arable land for the growth of crops. Even a few degrees of cooling, especially combined with the dampness of the soil, had a domino-like impact on human lives. Colder weather and failed crops were often the outcome. And this, in turn, led to poor health and undoubtedly played a role in the plagues that ravished Europe in those centuries.

On the other hand, during the warm period that preceded the five-century “mini ice age,” population grew at an unprecedented rate because growing seasons were longer, marshlands dried up (and took with them malaria-causing mosquitos), and food production was increased. In short, people thrived when the climate warmed.

And how is it people can claim we face global warming? Well, for one reason, accurate temperature readings were not recorded until the 19th century, a time when weather was in a cool cycle. So anything compared to the 1860s is generally going to be regarded as comparatively warm. It’s like stepping into a walk-in refrigerator at a restaurant. It’s bound to be warmer when you come out.

The earth probably – hopefully – is entering a warmer climate trend. But it’s far from what existed in the prehistoric times, as proved by fossilized palm trees in places like Wyoming.

And will the coastline change, putting Washington and Manhattan under water? Someone wrote in the Washington Post that this is exactly what will happen 50 years into the future. Wrong. The effect of warm trends in the past as been to see an increase in evaporation of water from low-lying lands, not the opposite. I wish I had another 50 years to live so I could die laughing – in their faces.

~ Liz

Gordon Prather replies:

Mark Twain famously said “everyone talks about the weather, but no one ever does anything about it.” Now, that was funny a century ago, and ought to be no less funny today. But somehow it isn’t. There are far too many people extant who have somehow got it into their heads that “we” – which certainly doesn’t include any physicist I know – can do something about the weather. No, worse yet, can do something about the climate! Better to concentrate on trying to do something that might be possible – keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists.

Lovelock and other New Age loonies do not represent the view of most people who consider themselves to be environmentalists. Most Greens and environmental activists, of whom I consider myself one, are quite rightly against the war in Iraq and the warmongering against Iran seeing them as a huge threat to our planet’s ecosystems.

My opposition to BOTH war parties is one reason I read everyday, and I normally enjoy Dr. Prather’s articles. This one misses the mark though by lumping all “greenies” in with the minority position of Dr. Lovelock. To Dr. Prather I would ask: why are you alienating yourself from your natural allies against the war party’s schemes in the millions of people who are genuinely concerned with the fate of the planet’s ecosystems?

~ Matt Rogers, Ypsilanti, Mich.

Gordon Prather replies:

I gather that Bush has failed with his Kyoto Protocol gambit to placate you and others who are opposed to nuclear power – to say nothing of all-out war with nukes – because of the adverse effect it will likely have on existing ecosystems.

March Madness

Dear Gordon Prather,

Having read your article I have had the following e-mail exchange with the BBC [regarding the phrase, “The United Nations nuclear watchdog has voted to report Iran to the Security Council over its nuclear activities,” from “Iran Reported to Security Council“]. Just wondered whether you have any comments? …

~ David Sketchley, Seville, Spain

Gordon Prather replies:

The difference is significant between what the mainstream media misreported; namely that the IAEA had “reported” (some even said “referred”) Iran to the Security Council – as opposed to what the IAEA Board actually did, namely; “requesting” that ElBaradei “report” to the Security Council what the Board had required – in violation of the letter and spirit of the IAEA Statute and the NPT – Iran to do. Because, weeks after the resolution passed, ElBaradei had not only NOT made such a report, but was engaged in serious “discussions” with the sponsors of the resolution with respect to the adverse consequences to the IAEA, its safeguards system, and the NPT, itself, of his making such a report.

That’s worth repeating.

The IAEA Board requested ElBaradei report to the Security Council that they had “required” Iran to give up its “inalienable rights,” guaranteed by the NPT, the IAEA Statute, and the Iran-IAEA Safeguards Agreement. That the Board had “required” the Iranian Parliament to ratify an Additional Protocol to their existing Safeguards Agreement. And worst of all, that the Board deemed it necessary for the sovereign nation-state of Iran to resume negotiations with the Brits-French-Germans, negotiations to which the IAEA was not a party, said negotiations having been broken off by the Iranians for cause.

Dear Dr. Prather:

I have been reading your postings on for some time now. You have me, a layman, convinced that Iran is not a threat, as I well knew Iraq couldn’t possibly be a threat. The commonsense analysis I used with Iraq is not as readily apparent with Iran. In other words, I have to trust in your statements of fact regarding the various international agreements, etc., since I have neither the time nor inclination to check them out thoroughly.

With Iraq it should have been readily apparent to anyone with a modicum of common sense that if: Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Israel were not concerned or threatened by “Iraqi WMD,” then how could the U.S., with the world’s most powerful military, the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, the most powerful economy, and located halfway around the world, possibly have anything to fear from a country with a fifth-rate military, which we had bombed at will and with impunity for the 12 years prior? It is totally incomprehensible and can only be explained by the use of fear to create an extraordinary illusion and a maddened crowd psychology. …

What I would like to pose as a question for you is how do we get your analysis in front of every single congressperson? Or are all the Democrats (spineless as they are) in cahoots with the fascists who call themselves neocons and conservatives in the Republican Party? How do we get the brain-dead major media to look at this and analyze it for themselves? Or are they simply too incompetent or already paid off? What can be done to head off yet another calamity of epic proportions? When Iraq War II started, I said it would be a boondoggle of 200 to 600 billion dollars wasted. I apparently was wrong to the tune of what today is being estimated as close to $2 trillion…. Not a great job of estimating on my part, but at least I’m light years ahead of those bozos in this administration.

~ Richard Rosenwald

Gordon Prather replies:

I‘ve never been a conspiracy theorist, having viewed firsthand how difficult it is to accomplish anything in our nation’s capital. But how else to explain the wall-to-wall agreement across the political spectrum – supported by the domestic and international media – that Iraq was (and Iran now is) a threat to our national security because of nuclear weapons programs that the IAEA inspectors on the ground can find no “indication” of?

Handicapping Hamas

I must say that Ms. Napoleoni really surprised me. I understand how something like that could have come from an utterly ignorant person (like, say, Bush), but not from someone who has had at least rudimentary education.

Getting to the point, this is not the first time when a movement like Hamas has won a democratic election: that’s exactly how Hitler’s National Socialists came to power. I suggest that Ms. Napoleoni ask herself whether she would have written this type of an article about the results of German elections in 1933, remembering that at the time Germany had been wronged and robbed by the winners in WW I, and Germans had a lot of legitimate grievances. If the answer is “yes,” she is wrong, but at least consistent. If the answer is “no,” I would like to know why is she using double standards.

I would also like to remind Ms. Napoleoni that as of today Hamas does not recognize the right of Israel to exist and still expects someone else to pay the bills of the Palestinian government. Moreover, Hamas trains, finances, and glorifies murderers of innocent people that blow themselves up in cafés, libraries, at bus stops, etc. I believe that in this situation the donors have not only a perfect right, but an obligation to refuse to subsidize the regime with leaders of a terrorist organization who are openly proud of their crimes….

~ Vsevolod Gurevich

Loretta Napoleoni replies:

Democracy is not the perfect form of government; however, it is the closest one to perfection we have. In 1933, the National Socialist Party was democratically elected by the German people, whatever the reason. Therefore, it was allowed to rule. It was only when Hitler destroyed democracy and replace it with a ruthless dictatorship that his legitimacy ended. Had Europe, in 1933, applied the Bush doctrine of “preventive strike” and attacked Germany for having elected Hitler, they would have waged an unjust war because it would have violated the sovereignty of Germany. You need a reason to go to war, a good one, one that can justify the loss of innocent lives; it seems that many people today forget about that. Of course, Europe should have stopped Hitler when he annexed Austria; that would have been a good motive to wage war, but it did not happen.

Hamas was democratically elected, so far it has honored the cease-fire, plus it was allowed to run for election under the supervision of the EU. The fact that it refuses to recognize the state of Israel is not a sufficient justification to violate the will of the Palestinian people. Perhaps the majority of the voters agree with Hamas and do not recognize the state of Israel not so much because Israel has not recognized the state of Palestine, but because the latter state does not exist. Therefore, we cannot technically speak of Palestinian sovereignty.

I know that the Israeli far Right is using the parallel with Hitler, which is completely out of context. Hitler would have taken power in other ways, as Mussolini did with a coup. The National Socialist Party did not agree to a cease-fire, after a decade of violence, to participate in a democratic election; it bullied its way to power manipulating the democratic system.

Donors will make their decisions based upon the will of the people, because donors are democracies. As donors, including the U.S., let Hamas run for elections they will have a lot to explain to their voters if now, after Hamas has been democratically elected, they ostracize Hamas financially.

Let me say that it is thanks to democracy that I can write my articles on and that people like you can challenge and question my academic background for what I write. It is thanks to democracy that people can read our interchange and make up their minds. If we lose democracy, we lose the right to say what we think. Better to live in an imperfect form of democracy than to live without freedom of expression.

Finally, who has the authority to decide if Hamas should rule or not? If we take it away from the Palestinian people, then who should decide? Israel, the U.S.? Why them and not Saudi Arabia and Iran? What about the UN? Or the IMF, the World Bank, the EU, who send most of the financial aid to Palestine? If we select any of these players, then my question is: why have elections in the first place? Why spend money when the decision will be taken somewhere else?

America and Iran: At the Brink of the Abyss

Ordinary people like me reading articles like this at the brink of an abyss like this can only cry, again.

Within weeks, possibly, life on this planet will have become even more painful, horrible, and unpredictable than it is today. And today is already awful, even from the privileged seat in which I sit. …

This is what you did to the joy of my life, GB. You haven’t yet physically sent my child to the hell you made of the Middle East, but you have ruined a young life nonetheless.

Give us a petition to sign, a letter to write, a march to make, I can’t just sit here, reading, grieving over the lost future of my darling, my grandchildren, my neighbors, my fellow citizens, my fellow humans, my fellow mammals, my fellow beings. My eyes are dry; I am out of tears.

Give me something to do. Even if it’s hopeless. Even if foolhardy. Anything is better than just sitting here, unable to move, waiting for the Ides of March.

~ E. van Loon

Jorge Hirsch replies:

Thank you for your heartfelt comments. Here is one suggestion: collects signatures and donations to put ads in newspapers, and provides help to write letters to Congress and to spread the word. I am not affiliated with the organizers in any way, but I think it’s an excellent effort that we should all support.

Taking Pakistan’s Temperature

Dear Mr. Lind,

I appreciate your efforts in the antiwar movement; however, your latest article seems to support Bush’s fatwa – “If you are not with us, you are with the terrorists.” It is true that many in Pakistan are against Musharraf because of his overzealous (sycophantic?) support of the Bush administration, but hardly anyone wants a confrontation with the U.S. It is true that some mullahs are the most vocal opponents of Musharraf, but it is also true that they cannot overthrow the government. Only the elite class – seasoned politicians, military, and top civil bureaucracy – can overthrow the government. None of those would want a confrontation with the USA. Yes, they would perhaps try to regain a modicum of sovereignty and deal with the U.S. administration on a more equal basis. But that should not mean a confrontation. A less docile Pakistan will help the moderates within the U.S. administration.

It may come as a surprise to most readers because of the amount of “war on terror” propaganda, but the fact is that practically no one in Pakistan (including what you might call Islamists) likes Osama’s tactics. He is one person who has caused enormous harm to Muslims around the world in general and those living in Pakistan and Afghanistan in particular. To say that Osama will become a de facto president is a baseless claim. By making such a claim, you are in fact supporting the current ruler of Pakistan as well as the war party who want to keep him in power and take physical control of Pakistan in the event that Musharraf is overthrown. Isn’t there such a contingency plan? The ostensible reason would be to take control of the nuclear assets, but that would require taking control of the entire military establishment and by default the entire country.

There are many things a more nationalistic government in Pakistan would do that the Bush administration may not like, but that should not lead to an armed confrontation. I am sure there are enough moderates in the U.S. government who would not want to initiate an unnecessary and costly war. Regardless of all the the talk about nuclear bombs and missiles, Pakistan’s military is no match to that of USA, and everyone in Pakistan, including the militants, knows that.

~ Manzer Masud

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