Back To The Future

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that former Massachusetts governor and current Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney would have as his Middle East advisor a former prominent member – Walid Phares – of the fascist Phalange-dominated Lebanese Forces, a Christian supremacist militia that was responsible for numerous massacres during the Lebanese civil war.

The current crop of Republican candidates – and the Republican party in general – has embraced an extremist conspiracy-laden anti-Muslim worldview, in part reflecting a constituency that’s in part influenced by Republican party operatives and affiliated far right ideologues. Below is a sampling in no particular order:

Mitt Romney – Besides employing Lebanese fascists, Romney went on the record during the last election stating, according to Mansoor Ijaz: “based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a Cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration.” Percentage of population shouldn’t be a determining factor in who gets to serve in what capacity, but the irony of the statement is the fact that Romney attacked Muslims for their small size, yet is a Mormon, the population of which roughly corresponds to the Muslim community’s population in the United States. Given the history of persecution of Mormons in this country, I’m certain Romney wouldn’t appreciate it if a candidate were to say such a thing about his congregation.

Herman Cain – The pizza mogul and sexual harasser announced that, if elected, he won’t appoint any Muslims to his cabinet; essentially ripping off Romney’s talking point and taking it beyond the issue of population numbers into McCarthyist loyalty:

“No, I will not. And here’s why. There is this creeping attempt, there is this attempt to gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government. It does not belong in our government. This is what happened in Europe. And little by little, to try and be politically correct, they made this little change, they made this little change. And now they’ve got a social problem that they don’t know what to do with hardly.”

Cain’s irrational argument becomes clearer when contrasted with scientific surveys – like the Pew survey done in 2007 for example.
But that’s not the point; Cain is trying to get elected. His Islamophobia also appears to be ideological as well, according to an anti-Muslim op-ed he wrote in 2006 in which he cited an anti-Muslim eliminationist televangelist by the name of Rod Parsley, declared the United States to be a “Judeo-Christian nation” and resented Muslim efforts at “conversion” – of which he failed to cite any examples. When he “apologized” for his anti-Muslim remarks – mainly because it was making him look dumb – he still insisted that he opposed the phantom Shari’a menace.

Michelle Bachmann – The Minnesota Representative and committed Christian Dominionist appeared at the release of a report last year detailing the “totalitarian threat” of Shari’a. She was there because she’s advised by Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy, a think tank where the former Reagan administration-era Pentagon employee makes ridiculous claims like this:

“Team Obama’s anti-anti-missile initiatives are not simply acts of unilateral disarmament of the sort to be expected from an Alinsky acolyte.  They seem to fit an increasingly obvious and worrying pattern of official U.S. submission to Islam and the theo-political-legal program the latter’s authorities call Shariah.”

Bachmann also signed a pledge that opposed “Shari’a Islam” – of which there’s no such thing – as well as pornography and portrayed slavery as positive compared to the condition of black people under Obama.

Newt Gingrich – The architect of the Contract With America called for a contract on Shari’a last year. His group Renewing American Leadership Action, was formed in 2009 in order to connect with Evangelical Christians and is “dedicated to defending and advancing American civilization by restoring our Judeo-Christian heritage.” He’s used the organization to raise funds on the premise of stopping the so-called “Ground Zero mosque” and he’s made extremely ridiculous claims about the Shari’a threat – among other things –  like this gem:

“‘I have two grandchildren — Maggie is 11, Robert is 9,’ Gingrich said at a church in Texas, according to Politico.’I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they’re my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.”

Rick Santorum – the former lawyer – and the namesake of anal sex aftermath – made numerous anti-Muslim comments, including in defense of notorious Christian supremacist Franklin Graham:

“Santorum responded to the Pentagon’s decision rescind its invitation to evangelist Franklin Graham to speak at the upcoming National Day over his statement that Islam is ‘evil’ by saying that Graham’s comment was ‘a reasonable statement at the time.'”

Demonstrating his, uh, “vast” historical knowledge, Santorum told the Pennsylvania Press Club explained the motives of Islamists:

Well, for over 1,000 years, Shias just believed that over time that they would dominate the world; and you see, by the way, 1,000 years of wars in Europe, where Islam was at the border, a bloody border, with Europe. …”

“Remember, as I mentioned before, for 1,000 years, the East and West fought, up until 1683, which was the high-water mark of Islam into Europe. It wasn’t in Greece or Turkey; it wasn’t in Italy or Spain; it was in the heart of Europe – it was in Vienna.”

“In 1683, not that long ago, the Islamists had surrounded the gates of Vienna and were on the verge of toppling it after a siege; … but the West united, and led by the Poles, [King] John Sobieski and the Polish Hussars defeated [the Arab forces] in a one-day battle on the plains outside Vienna.”

What was the high-water mark of this 1,000-year war? It was the day before. What was the date the day before? Sept. 11, 1683.”

There were no such thing as Islamists back then, and the “Shias” he referred to are not only a minority in Islam – at times persecuted by majority Sunnis – but they had nothing to do with 9/11, a date that has no special significance to either Shi’ites or Sunnis. Not only that, but the circumstances and motivations of the Ottoman invasion and Al-Qaeda are almost completely different.

Ron Paul – The libertarian MD stands apart from the other candidates with his anti-imperialist line and in particular with his stand against the movement opposed to the so-called “Ground Zero mosque.” However, he did defend his son’s participation in that movement:

“‘I don’t put everybody who’s a candidate in that same category — you’ll have to ask him for his reasons,’ Ron Paul said on Anderson Cooper 360 last night. ‘But, no, everybody who’s opposing [the Cordoba House] doesn’t even understand foreign policy or why we’re in Afghanistan and Iraq. They don’t have the understanding and they don’t make the connection. My goal is to make the connection for people to understand why Al Qaeda has become so militant and hateful towards us and why painting Islam with a broad brush makes our problems worse because we’re not zeroing down on the real cause and those who perpetuated 9/11.'”

If he compromises with his own son, where else will he compromise? Since being elected to office – especially to the presidency – requires great acts of compromise on one’s ideals, which is what happened in part with Obama. And the compromise won’t stop once Paul or any other politician gets to the White House; it’s just how things work in the world of electoral politics.

Rick Perry – Perry, like Paul, also stood out from the rat pack by not only openly working with a Muslim group – the Aga Khan, leader of the Ismaili Shia sect – but also by retooling the Texas curriculum to include material educating young Texans about Islamic culture and history. Naturally, that roused the ire of Islamophobes and Perry hasn’t been too willing to discuss this part of his past. What he has been doing is employing rabid anti-Muslim ideologues similar to Romney’s choice of advisors and he – like Bachmann – is a Christian supremacist. And don’t forget what happened to Muslims when another Texas governor was elected president back in 2000 – in part on Muslim votes.

None of these candidates – if elected – would ever institute a complete theocratic makeover, no more than Bush did. But even if these candidates don’t really believe what they say, many of their followers will, thereby setting the stage for the emergence of an independent, far right movement in the future based on Christian supremacist and anti-Muslim ideas and away from the usual Jewish bogeyman; a shift which is occurring  in Europe.

What Walid Phares working for Mitt Romney has done is not only just another example of the ideological depths the Republican party is willing to sink, but also as a symbol of what the Lebanese civil war is – a warning from history. The Phalange and its massacres of Palestinian and Lebanese Muslims serve as a reminder of what happens when the virulent ideological Islamophobia of the far right goes unchecked and unchallenged; a lesson learned the hard way in Norway and bound to be lost amongst the liberal followers of the loyal opposition.

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