March 23, 2011 - 1:14 pm

As we watch the populist revolutions unfold in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East, the complicity of the United States in maintaining dictatorships in the region has been commented upon by both opponents and supporters of the various regimes. Our government has operated from the position that we have every right to meddle in regional affairs and has maintained the pose of an “honest broker,” most particularly in the charade we know as the "peace process."

By any rational measure our peace process has simply provided cover for Israel to do as it pleases for decades, and Egypt's willingness to be bought off to go along with the game has been a key factor in preserving that status quo. What we've institutionalized is low-level warfare and genocide, and our "honest" brokerage seems only intended for our own benefit.

Our strategic interest in the petroleum wealth of the region is obvious, but full cooperation with those who sit atop the oil fields has been in dynamic tension with our support of Israel. And our support of Israel is unquestionably driven by religion. American politicians play to the Jewish and Christian fundamentalist voters and their leaders whose views concerning Jerusalem, the Holy Land, and the Jewish state derive principally from their faith.

After World War II the historic wall between church and state was undermined and eroded, most successfully by evangelist Billy Graham, who used political connections to arrange the first-ever crusade event on the Capitol steps and to organize prayer breakfasts. He proceeded to offer military and foreign policy advice to every president from Truman to the second Bush, advocating invasion of Korea, Indochina (later Vietnam) and Iraq, fanning the flames of anti-communism and offering dire threats of a pending nuclear Armageddon.

Along the way, he urged Pres. Richard M. Nixon to commit genocide by bombing dikes in what he called "The Confidential Missionary Plan" to end the Vietnam War. And in All The Best: My life in letters and other writings, Pres. George H.W. Bush includes a description of a phone call from Graham in the week before the first Gulf War. Bush said Graham told him that Saddam Hussein was "the Antichrist itself" and suggested it was the President's historic mission to destroy him.

Then, after standing beside Pres. George W. Bush when a new crusade was launched from the National Cathedral, Graham offered ominous warnings about history ending in the Mideast—a clear reference to Biblical prophecies of doom. This was a message Bush was all too ready to embrace. According to French Pres. Jacques Chirac, Bush told him: “Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East … The biblical prophecies are being fulfilled … This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a New Age begins.”  (Chirac was understandably stunned.)

Graham recently recanted his political meddling, telling Christianity Today,  "[L]ooking back I know I sometimes crossed the line, and I wouldn't do that now." Given the extent of his involvement with U.S. and world leaders, his reporting to CIA chiefs and palavering with J. Edgar Hoover, his assignments from Henry Kissinger, conveyance of threats for Pres. Bill Clinton, lobbying of Congress for arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and much else—one wonders exactly when it was that he felt he crossed some line and when he was simply doing the Lord's work.

It appears to me that religious guidance in affairs of state has done the world more harm than good. I am certain that the many thousands who were tortured by Mubarak's secret police must entertain deep resentment of the U.S. for propping him up all these years in the name of "peace," together with the millions oppressed and tortured by other U.S. puppets. It will be telling whether our government decides to fully support the people of nations now in upheaval, or instead sides with ruling elites that merely shuffle the front men while pretending that democracy has been served. When we permit belief to supersede ethics, and religious allegiance to trump human rights, we slide effortlessly into tacit or open support of totalitarian evil.