Revolution #31, January 22, 2006
The Christian Fascists and the U.S. Military
Revolution #031, January 22, 2006, posted at revcom.us
Editors Note: The following are excerpts drawn from a talk given by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, to a group of Party members and supporters in 2005. This has been edited for publication here, and subheads and footnotes have been added.
There are some things that I wanted to bring out that have to do particularly in today's situation with the relation between the Christian Fascists and the military, and the unity between the Christian Fascist fundamentalist outlook and the bourgeois military outlook, and the mutual reinforcement of these things in today's world particularly. In this connection I recently read a book by Andrew J. Bacevich, called The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War. Bacevich, himself a graduate of West Point and a Vietnam war veteran, is now a professor of international relations at Boston University, and at least in reading this book it seems that he speaks from a more or less "liberal imperialist" point of view. But he speaks to a number of very important questions, having to do particularly, although not only, with this interconnection, or mutual "symbiotic" reinforcement, between the bourgeois military view in general and the Christian Fascist fundamentalist viewpoint.
Now, perhaps ironically, Bacevich seems to deny, or at least to underestimate, the extent to which right-wing Christian fundamentalism has taken hold within the officer corps of the U.S. military itself. In fact, this can be seen in all kinds of ways -- not just with the example of General Jerry Boykin,1 but the massive proselytizing that's going on by Christian fundamentalists within the U.S. military right now, including in Iraq. 1 Now, bourgeois commentators, and so on, are all wrong when they constantly repeat: "there are no atheists in foxholes." For one thing, there have been millions of atheists in foxholes already, especially (although not only) communists. But, if you are seeing things and thinking within the bourgeois framework, there is a reason why, when you get into war, not only religion in general but more specifically religious fundamentalism might have a certain appeal. And with the U.S. military in Iraq now, you see these mass baptisms taking place in Baghdad and other places, in the Tigris River or wherever. So Bacevich underestimates, not to say outright denies, the extent to which right-wing Christian fundamentalism has taken hold within the military -- and in particular, in a concentrated way, within the officer corps of the U.S. military -- but he does provide some important insights into the way in which there is a mutually beneficial, and reinforcing, relationship between what we recognize as the general bourgeois-reactionary mentality and "ethos" of the U.S. military, particularly its leadership and officer corps, on the one hand, and Christian fundamentalism, on the other hand, which we very correctly identify as Christian Fascism, in its reactionary political expression.
Among other important observations in The New American Militarism, Bacevich points out that with the Christian fundamentalists there has been developed what he calls a "crusade theory of warfare" [p. 131]; and that, as he puts it, "in their advocacy of preventive war [even before 9/11], Christian conservatives were merely a little ahead of their time." [p. 132] In other words, even before this was explicitly adopted as a doctrine by the Bush regime, Christian Fascists had already articulated preventive war as a theory of war, particularly when waged by the U.S. And further, Bacevich speaks to how, in the eyes of the Christian Fascists, "For some countries -- those designated for special roles in God's programs of salvation, the usual rules [of war, and in particular the rules of ‘just war’] do not apply." [p. 134]. Bacevich notes that "some countries" includes Israel as well as the U.S.,2 and one way to look at what is happening in the world today is that, with the Bush regime, the U.S., in pronouncing and applying its doctrine of preventive war, is applying to itself now overtly, on a global scale, what Israel has always applied to itself on a regional scale -- namely, "the rules don't apply to us."2
Bacevich links this to a longer-term "abiding religious sensibility that has informed America's image of itself and of its providential mission." [p. 122]. As one example of this, we can recall Reagan speaking of America as a "shining city on the hill." This has always been suffused with religious notions (even when it wasn't explicitly expressed that way): the notion that there is something about god's providence and god's will that is particularly expressed in America, and not only America itself but America's mission in the world ("America's image of itself" and "its providential mission," as Bacevich puts it).
Bacevich goes on to situate this more specifically in the great divide that opened in U.S. society through the 1960s --which, as I have spoken to, has yet to be resolved fully, one way or another (and this has to do with the whole question of the coming civil war). Bacevich writes:
"The calamity triggered by Vietnam and the 1960s -- in the eyes of those who viewed that calamity as one that persisted long after the fall of Saigon -- had several dimensions. It was a foreign policy crisis but also a domestic crisis. It was a cultural crisis but also a moral one. It touched on matters that were immediate and personal -- family and the relationship of men to women, for example -- while also raising profound questions about national purpose and collective identity. No group in American society felt more keenly the comprehensive nature of this crisis than did Protestant evangelicals."
And I would add here that these vague and somewhat "inchoate" (or not well and fully formed) feelings were seized on by conscious right-wing imperialist operatives and systematized into a fascist -- and, in particular, Christian Fascist -- outlook and political force. These feelings might have remained more scattered and diffuse had not a section of the ruling class seen it in its interests, and seen the need as well as the potential, to "cohere" and organize this -- raise it to a more conscious level, give it a fuller and more comprehensive and systematic expression, and organize it into a political movement. But continuing with the observations by Bacevich, he goes on: "It was here, among committed Christians dismayed by the direction that the country appeared to be taking, that the reaction to Vietnam as a foreign policy failure and to Vietnam as a manifestation of cultural upheaval converged with greatest effect." [p. 123]
This is, I believe, a very important statement to ponder. And speaking to the mutually supporting relationship between these Christian fundamentalists and the military, Bacevich writes: "at least some evangelicals looked to the armed services to play a pivotal role in saving America from internal collapse." Now here, let me say, he doesn't mean this just in a military sense, but in an ideological sense, as well. He goes on: "In a decadent and morally confused time, they [many Christian fundamentalists] came to celebrate the military itself as a bastion of the values required to stem the nation's slide toward perdition: respect for tradition, an appreciation for order and discipline, and a willingness to sacrifice self for the common good" -- of course, in the framework of bourgeois relations and ideology. And Bacevich goes on: "In short, evangelicals looked to soldiers to model the personal qualities that citizens at large needed to rediscover if America were to reverse the tide of godlessness and social decay to which the 1960s had given impetus." And, at the same time, he notes: "Militant evangelicals imparted religious sanction to the militarization of U.S. policy and helped imbue the resulting military activism with an aura of moral legitimacy." [p. 124] So here we can see how this is a mutually reinforcing relationship, even leaving aside the fact that Bacevich underestimates the degree to which Christian Fascist ideology has taken hold within the U.S. military and particularly its officer corps.
Now again, it is important to emphasize that this process that Bacevich refers to was not as "spontaneous" as he presents it, but was in fact encouraged, systematized, organized and given leadership by very conscious operatives of the imperialist system, and in particular of the more right-wing sections of that ruling class (using those general terms). But what has been cited here from Bacevich does give a real sense of the "hard core" that characterizes not only the imperialist ruling class generally at this time but also the U.S. imperialist military in particular. And this helps give an even clearer sense of, on the one hand, the great importance of recognizing what I was just speaking to and emphasizing -- that is, the dialectical and mutually reinforcing "interplay" between military and political (and ideological) factors --and, at the same time, of creating a political (and ideological) repolarization that reaches into every part of U.S. society, including the bastions of reaction and of reactionary power, "peeling away" people from within these sectors and institutions, particularly those whose objective interests do not really lie with this fascist core of the ruling class, and with the imperialist system itself.
1. Wearing his uniform, Boykin declared during a church service that Bush was “in the White House because God put him there for such a time as this.” He has also made other outrageous statements—like saying, in relation to the U.S. occupation of Somalia and war against Islamic forces there, that “my God was bigger than his.”After these statements caused a major controversy, the Bush administration promoted him to the position of deputy undersecretary of defense.
2. In "The Pyramid of Power" Bob Avakian speaks to the contradiction that, on the one hand, Christian fundamentalism and a literalist interpretation of the Bible have historically led to extreme anti-Semitism, linked to the view of the Jewish people as "the killers of Christ," yet in today's world Israel plays a particularly important role, for U.S. imperialism generally and specifically in the program of those grouped in and around the Bush regime. Chairman Avakian points out that the Christian fascist "reconciliation" of this contradiction lies in the promotion of the belief that the existence of present-day Israel plays a crucial part in the unfolding of the "second coming" of Jesus and the triumph of God's kingdom, and therefore Israel must be defended at all costs. In fact, as also pointed out in "The Pyramid of Power" and elsewhere, the Christian Fascists are among the most fanatical adherents of not only Israel's right to exist but its right to forcefully extend its border and to suppress, as viciously as necessary, any resistance among the Palestinian people. See "Elections, Resistance, and Revolution: The Pyramid of Power and the Struggle To Turn This Whole Thing Upside Down," Revolutionary Worker #1237 (April 25, 2004). This article is a transcription of an answer to a question following Bob Avakian's speechRevolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About (Chicago: Three Q Productions, 2004). It also appears in the pamphletThe Coming Civil War and Repolarization for Revolution in the Present Era by Bob Avakian (Chicago: RCP Publications, 2005).