At semi-regular intervals, she spoke to save her life, or something like it.
Friday, October 25, 2002
Last week I was at an anti war vigil on the suburban shopping street in the wealthy area of Long Beach called Belmont Shore. Numbers at the vigil have been growing steadily each week, and standing there with over a hundred others, being greeted by the waves and honks from passing cars, you'd know that the majority of Americans are ambivalent about Bush's war, if not outright against it.
Last week something puzzling happened at the vigil. A woman on the passenger side of a tall white SUV stopped in front of the vigil-- she was the embodiment of the "soccer mom" stereotype: manicured simplicity, "natural" blonde highlights, beige makeup & clothing. She looked down from her perch in the vehicle and said to us: "Kill them all and let God sort them out." Her delivery was blank, emotionless. It was difficult to tell if irony was intended. Wasn't this the motivation of the terrorists who killed so many on September 11? But I have to assume she was serious-- simply because she was so dazed.
The phrase she used is old, attributed to Arnaud-Armaury, the Abbot of Citeaux, and advisor to the 13th century Albigensian Crusade, intended to purge southern France of the Cathari heretics. When Arnaud-Amaury was asked who should be killed, he said "Kill them all. God will know his own." The Crusade began in 1209 and ended 20 years later. On the first front, the town of Beziers, crusaders slaughtered nearly everyone. They killed the estimated 200 heretics, as well as 20,000 Catholics.
I'm sure she was unaware of this alliance she'd made. And it seemed to me, coming from her pale mouth, more a statement of angry despair, rather than a conviction that God could make order of this chaos, whether here or in the "beyond." Is this where we are now? To say that we've returned to the dark ages does Medieval culture a disservice, it seems. These are truly an apocalyptic times, and the threat of nuclear holocaust is with us, as it was in the 80's during the last gasp of the cold war as well as during the 60's Cuban missile crisis.
Yet what makes this crisis more apocalyptic is that it is fueled with the rhetoric of holy vengeance, and shadow fights shadow in a war without a clear enemy, in a war without end.
While I was tabling against the war at Cal State Long Beach, the Campus Crusade for Christ, the cult-like born again Christian recruiting group common on college campuses, had surrounded the Muslim student's booth. The Crusade's leaflet read "They honor me with there [sic] lips, but their hearts are far from me." How ironic-- they cannot see that their lies resemble the hypocracy of the Pharisees more than any others they may accuse. Beneath the heading of their flyer there is a two column chart which lines up Jesus Vs. Mohammad, much like the "Hot/Not" pieces on fads in fashion magazines. "Sinless-- Sinful", "Miracles...-- No Miracles..." etc-- Not unlike Falwell's claim that Mohammad was a terrorist, which let to a protest in India where several people were killed.
The more the warmongers demonize this Muslim "other," the closer they get to us. We must not forget that the US trained and funded the Mujadeen, and Osama Bin Laden, in their fight against the USSR in the 1980's. And the US supported Hussein while he gassed the Kurds in the '80's. Indeed, the US has sent Iraq some of the very same weapons that inspectors are now being sent to find. Jihad and Hussein's ruthless dictatorship were useful to US business and military interests then, and useful to those interests now-- in manufacturing an enemy that will replace the Cold War leviathan of the USSR and destabilize the region indefinitely.
And, in turn, this planned war will destabilize our country. We have our own "home grown" terrorists, and the most recent suspect, the east coast sniper, has taken the name Muhammad. He is a "penniless" Gulf War Army vet., trained at Fort Lewis, aka "sniper school". In an article from ABC News, Oct. 24, 2002, the snipers' role in current military strategy is explained: "They are part of the Army's first new medium-weight combat brigade, which includes a large complement of snipers trained to operate in urban areas..." It is clear that snipers will play a key role in the invasion of Iraq, which Defense Department leaks have stated will be centered in the cities this time. At a recent visit to Fort Lewis," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called Fort Lewis a 'central part' of the Army's effort to become more nimble and responsive." It is disorienting to find this among so many articles about the East Coast sniper who shot people as they shopped or filled their cars with gas. "In March, Lt. Victor Satterlund told The News Tribune newspaper in Tacoma that snipers' motto is "one shot, one kill,"..." (ABC News) In the context of the article, the snipers here are the Army trainees who will be sent to the next war, "Army officials have said most of the 3,600 soldiers in the base's medium-weight combat brigade are expected to be ready for deployment as early as January 2003." But the sniper trained for the last war, now home and still shooting, obviously also operated by this motto, and was trained well.
So can those dead of the sniper's bullets be considered victims of "friendly fire"? And the women murdered in Fort Bragg by their husbands, recently returned from serving in Afghanistan, are they "collateral damage"? Past wars are already haunting us, and this future war will come home in many ways. In any war the enemy combatant, the shadow, looks a hell of a lot like us.