Thursday, December 16, 2004

The Flat-Earth Crusade

When they decided to make war on Iraq, the Bush gang at first called it a Crusade. They hastily renamed it but the notion survives.

On a panel show last week, a guy called in to say he’d read every word in the Koran, and couldn’t find a single bit of mercy in it. That proved to him that we had to fight till we converted all of Islam to our faith. He should have spent part of this time hunting for mercy in the Old Testament.

Islam adopted the Old, and the New Testament as well, as holy writ. It was far more tolerant than Europe to non-believers. In what we now call the dark and middle ages, Christians slaughtered one another, and Jews, en masse, and burned heretics at the stake, while scholars of the Caliphate were translating much of what now survives of the science, medicine and art of the golden age of Greece.

There is plenty of proof in our language: Arabic numbers and words like algebra and alcohol - though liquor is supposedly forbidden in Islam. Great minds have never taken literally the mumbo-jumbo of folk religion. Greeks put the planets in orbit and worked out the circumference of the earth thousands of years ago. And then the church cracked down.

Now, we’re turning backward. Our president applauds those who teach that every word in the Bible is literally true -- that the earth and all in it were made in six days -- and that textbooks have to say that evolution is only a theory. I don’t know how much of that, if any, he actually believes -- but clearly, we’re in for a lot of superstitious blather these next four years.

Footnote: That noble investigative reporter Gary Webb has taken his own life, a victim of savage persecution by the CIA and the major media for his exposure of links between crack cocaine and the CIA and the contras. Please do check out the splended eulogy by Alex Cockburn in the Nation. In passing, I remark that the Nation not long ago disavowed a Cockburn column, whereas it keeps its door open for Christopher Hitchens, a convert to Maggie Thatcher and Yankee imperialism. It is no surprise that the Times Book Review engaged Hitchens, and not Cockburn, to report on Leftwing writings, but how does one explain the Nation? (Its editors say they can’t explain the exclusion of my MY TIMES: A Memoir of Dissent from its roundup of writings about the Times. As Rumsfeld says, stuff happens.) See also my comments in my book and in EXTRA! and Counterpunch and WBAI and blog etc. To be continued ...