Pat Robertson Doesn’t Just Speak for Himself
Pat Robertson Doesn’t Just Speak for Himself
By Ramzy Baroud
The comments made by Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson calling for the assassination of the popular and democratically elected Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez are repellent, nonetheless customary of a confused man who has purposely swapped the compassionate teachings of Jesus with his spiteful doctrine of murder and mayhem.
The Associated Press transcribed Robertson’s comments made during his “700 Club” on August 22. “You know, I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he [Chavez] thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go a head and do it. It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war, and I don’t think any oil shipments will stop.”
“We have the ability to take him out, and I think that the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don’t need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It’s a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.”
Knowing that some would rightly point at the linkage between Robertson and the Republican Party, even President George W. Bush himself, various republican figures – including former Sen. Bob Dole and Sen. Norm Coleman among others - went into crisis management mode, reproaching the man who once ran for the Republican nomination for presidency. Indeed, in 1988, Robertson defeated the eventual nominee, George H. W. Bush in the Iowa caucuses.
His comments are “ludicrous, ridiculous (and) irresponsible,” said Dole. The White House dismissed Robertson’s incitement as “inappropriate,” while Rumsfeld – with a soft spot for religious extremism, unless on course it’s Muslim extremism – opted to resort to his twisted interpretation of civil society and the private citizen’s right to express himself. Robertson is a “private citizen”, Rumsfeld said, and “private citizens say all kinds of things all the time. Next question.”
Yet what I find most interesting are comments made by Sen. Coleman, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. “It was an incredibly stupid statement and has no reflection on reality,” he said, as quoted in an article published by CBCNews.com.
Coleman’s comment is interesting because it’s simply not true. In fact, Robertson’s assassination bid is a dreadful expression of a reality that continues to incarnate itself in US foreign policy around the world. While this reality is anything but a novel invention by President Bush and his “endless war” crowd, never before has such a frightening pack of religious extremists, Zionist ideologues and pro-war military enthusiasts consolidated their control over the White House, almost completely marginalizing any calls for sense and reason.
Only a brainwashed and fear-stricken individual would find any source of salvation in Robertson’s speech, whose obsession with the end of the world and the return of Jesus has turned him and millions of Americans into Israel’s most loyal advocates. Israeli leaders have for long realized that and have shrewdly invested in that twisted camaraderie. Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu coined it best when he addressed a crowd of 3,000 evangelicals at the Voices United For Israel Conference in Washington, D.C., in April 1998: “We have no greater friends and allies than the people sitting in this room.” Both Robertson and fellow televangelist Jerry Falwell – another great friend of the While House – supported the conference and have worked unstintingly to advocate the Israeli agenda - and have done so quite successfully.
Thanks to the assiduous work of Robertson and company, their endless campaigns, generous donations and advocacy (needless to say prayers) few can challenge the pro- Israel narrative in the US Congress or the US Administration. Robertson’s labeling Islam as a “Satanic cult”, and Prophet Mohamed as a “terrorist and a brigand,” have all been part of the narrative of the Christian Coalition and their supporters whether covertly or overtly. While the fundamentalist discourse and its influence on American politics has also been present, it has never been as prevalent as these days, as it has revealed itself in many forms, arguably playing a large role in shaping the narrative of war.
While some can irresponsibly claim that Robertson is a “private citizen” who like other private citizens “say all kind of things,” what explanation can be offered to explain equally detestable statements by top US officials, including Rumsfeld himself. And who can forget those of Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, Lt. General Jerry Boykin: "We're a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christian, and the enemy is a guy named Satan,” referring to Muslim nations.
While the Rumsfeldian “my God is better than your God” dogmas have in fact captured the imagination of many faithful anywhere, its most alarming when one realizes that those zealots and their followers have the constitutional power to unleash wars and maintain them.
It would be dishonest to play down the force and influence of this increasingly influential segment of American society on the policies of the US government, with Palestine and Iraq being cases in point. However, confining their influence to such a scope is equally unrepresentative. Shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, Robertson nodded in approval as Falwell delineated the reasons behind America’s calamity. Americans were apparently paying for the sins of “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way – all of them who have tried to secularize America.”
Considering the special relationship between the Bush administration and this powerful and extremist clique, one must not easily dismiss Robertson’s comments as he has explained later: a result of his “frustration”. Nor can one afford to ignore the fact the Robertson’s “700 Club” – aired five times a week – has an average viewership of 863,000, that’s over 150,000 more viewers than any CNN primetime program and over three times as much as that of MSNBC. If it was not for this large reservoir of support, wealth and political influence, one could choose to settle for the White House mild rebuke of Robertson’s call for assassination, or Chavez’s own, more imaginative depiction of Robertson and other critics as “mad dogs with rabies.”
But this is not exactly about Robertson and his “frustration” with a Latin American president who has helped the poor of his country as much as Bush has deprived the poor of his. This is more about the reality of the foreign policy agenda of the US government that saw, in 2000, Chavez as a “threat” for providing Cuba with cheap oil in exchange for the deployment of 22,000 Cuban doctors to rural areas in Venezuela, followed by the tacit support of the organized coup to overthrow the charismatic leader in April 2002. The fact is that successive US governments have attempted, orchestrated or supported the assassination of many leaders around the world (turning a blind eye to the killing of hundreds of Palestinian activists by Israeli army assassins in the last five years.)
It was this inviting atmosphere of bloodshed that made the giddy Robertson with his ‘can-do’ attitude decide to “take out” Chavez. It was against the backdrop of this reality, which Sen. Coleman falsely disowned - that Robertson spoke, and thus it is against the same backdrop that his comments should be examined. Indeed, Robertson’s statements were “stupid”, for they should be discussed and considered in private meetings not on national television, freeing more air time so that Robertson and nearly one million viewers of his can carry on praying for Israel, condemning the Muslims, the Palestinians, the seculars, the feminists and all forces of evil that dare question the motives behind wars and mass murder.
- Ramzy Baroud, a veteran Arab American journalist, teaches mass communication at Australia’s Curtin University of Technology (Malaysia) He is the author of the forthcoming book, Writings on the Second Palestinian Uprising (Pluto Press, London.)