The news that Texas Gov. Rick Perry is seeking the Republican presidential nomination may well send a tremor through the Muslim world.
That's because Perry, an evangelical Christian who would make a formidable candidate, appears to actually believe the U.S. military is divinely directed and is liable to continue U.S. interventions in the region.
At a prayer rally only this past August 6th in Houston's Reliant Stadium that attracted 30,000, he "called on Jesus to bless and guide the nation's military and political leaders," the New York Times reported. And his announcement on August 11 that he plans to run for president, the Associated Press said, will delight "conservatives looking for a candidate to embrace." Indeed, if Perry is elected with the the fervid support of the Religious Right, they're surely apt to get one!
His election, though, could spell doom for any chance of the restoration of peace in the Middle East in our time.
In a campaign against President Obama, Perry could rally the tens of millions of charismatic Christian voters who have done so much to support the transformation of USA into a full-blown warfare state, supporting the military at every juncture, endorsing the illegal Middle East wars of the Pentagon, blindly backing Israeli interventions, and supplying the military with chaplains who spread an ultra-conservative philosophy among the troops.
According to the website, "On The Issues," Perry told a veteran's group in a Memorial Day speech in 2008: "Today our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are on patrol, securing freedom for oppressed people, guarding the tender shoots of a blooming democracy, working to eradicate an infestation of terrorism, so that it does not revisit our nation." This, when the invasions had to do with oil and where the occupiers have shown little, if any, concern for "blooming democracy," only how to make a buck.
Perry continued, "Time and again, I speak to soldiers who have seen the positive impact of US efforts and tell of Iraqi communities responding to the rule of law." This is sadly hilarious given the thousands of Middle East peoples who have been jailed by USA for years without attorneys and trials and some of whom have been mercilessly tortured and murdered in secret prisons hidden from the Red Cross.
Perry believes, "We have come too far and sacrificed too much to simply walk away and allow the dark forces of oppression to regain control of these places that have been consecrated by the blood of our nation's best." This, as if U.S. occupiers are not widely seen as "oppressors"!
So Rick Perry paints a self-portrait in his own words of a politician who strongly supports military intervention in the Middle East. You won't hear from him that President Bush lied America into a war. And like President Bush when he was governor of Texas, Perry is one Christian who believes in the death penalty.
Writing in "The New American Militarism" (Oxford University Press), Andrew Bacevich, Director of the Center for International Relations of Boston University, notes that evangelicals account for about one-third of the U.S. population and "tend to be conservative and vote Republican."
He notes that after the 1960s they abandoned "their own previously well-established skepticism about the morality of force and inspired in no small measure by their devotion to Israel, they articulated a highly permissive interpretation of the just war tradition, the cornerstone of Christian thinking about warfare." What's more, he writes, "they developed a considerable appetite for wielding armed might on behalf of righteousness, more often that not indistinguishable from America's own interests" and "came to celebrate the military itself..."
As evangelical Jack Graham, president of the Southern Baptist Convention put it, U.S. intervention in the Middle East is nothing less than "a war between Christians and the forces of evil, by whatever name they choose to use."
In sum, Bacevich writes, conservative Christians "have fostered among the legions of believing Americans a predisposition to see U.S. military power as inherently good, perhaps even a necessary adjunct to the accomplishment of Christ's saving mission. In doing so, they have nurtured the preconditions that have enabled the American infatuation with military power to flourish."
Outside the Houston rally where Perry spoke, stood dozens of protestors who objected to his official presence there as governor on grounds that it violated the First Amendment's requirement of separation of church and state. (A judge disagreed.) Other protestors, the New York Times reported, included gay activists who criticized Perry for supporting the American Family Assn., which organized and financed the rally. "The association is a conservative evangelical group based in Mississippi that is listed as an anti-gay hate group by the nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center," the Times noted.
If the election comes down to a choice between incumbent Obama and Gov. Perry next year Americans who stand for peace and oppose the military-industrial complex will have no candidate to represent them.