Are evangelical politicians crafting U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East to fulfill biblical prophecy? You decide.
By Philip Giraldi
There are an estimated 30 million fundamentalist Christians in the United States, constituting something like one-half of all regular churchgoers. Most Christian fundamentalists are also dispensationalists, which means they think that Christianity is going through phases, or dispensations, that will lead to the rapture of true believers into heaven followed by the wrath of God descending on those who refuse to see the light. Many dispensationalists fervently hope that the End of Days—when all will be resolved through the Second Coming of Christ—will take place soon. For many, the expectation is that it is imminent.
Because the gathering of Jews back into the Middle East is believed to be an essential precondition for the Second Coming, dispensationalists are also frequently self-described as Christian Zionists (CZ), which means in practice that they literally believe that Jews are the Chosen People of God with all that might imply. As a result, CZ are, politically speaking, strong and totally uncritical supporters of the state of Israel, though their support is conditional as they also believe that the Jews, like everyone else who does not welcome the return of the Messiah and convert, will go straight to hell after the final battle of Armageddon is fought against Satan. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders have consequently described Christian Zionists as “. . . scum. But don’t tell them that. We need all the useful idiots we can get right now.” CZ are powerful friends of Israel who will be used and eventually discarded when no longer needed.
Religious fundamentalists have a powerful presence in the Donald J. Trump White House. At the top level of policy making, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are prominent evangelical Christians who are outspoken in how their religious beliefs shape their perceptions of what the United States should and must do in its interaction with other less enlightened nations, particularly in the Middle East.
A speech made by Pompeo at the American University in Cairo on Jan. 10 suggests how Christian Zionist beliefs impact policy making in Washington. In it, Pompeo reveals his own peculiar vision of what is taking place in the Middle East, to include the impact of his own personal religiosity, and his belief that Washington’s proper role in the region is to act as “a force for good.” Pompeo asserted, “This trip is especially meaningful for me as an evangelical Christian. . . . In my office, I keep a Bible open on my desk to remind me of God and His Word, and the Truth. And it’s the truth, lower-case ‘t,’ that I’m here to talk about today. It is a truth that isn’t often spoken in this part of the world, but because I’m a military man by training, I’ll be very blunt and direct today: America is a force for good in the Middle East.”
During a January 2018 trip by Pence to Israel, his eighth trip to that country but the first as vice president, a speech before the Knesset reportedly first required the removal of all Arab members, who had expressed their disapproval of what they knew was coming. Pence told the all-Jewish remaining legislators, “We stand with Israel because your cause is our cause, your values are our values, and your fight is our fight. We stand with Israel because we believe in right over wrong, in good over evil, and in liberty over tyranny.” And Pence even had a crumb to throw to the audience back at home regarding the impending move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, saying, “Our president made his decision, in his words, ‘In the best interests of the American people.’ ” Pence concluded with, “The miracle of Israel is an inspiration to the world. And the United States of America is proud to stand with Israel and her people, as allies and cherished friends.”
The scary thing is that Pompeo and Pence likely believe their own rhetoric. It would be hard to compress so much nonsense into a few sentences without looking completely ridiculous, but both men in their zealotry seek to convey a measure of rectitude relating to a whole basket of untruths without even breathing hard. First of all, describing the U.S. as a force for good in the Middle East is to ignore the deaths of hundreds of thousands—possibly even millions—of Muslims in a vain attempt to democratize the region. And the American people have never endorsed the relationship with Israel in any way and do not “stand with Israel” out of any conviction. Recent opinion polls suggest that most Americans are quite ambivalent about Israel and what it represents in spite of having been on the receiving end of more than 50 years of incessant propaganda extolling falsely “the only democracy in the Middle East.”
In truth, the Israeli special relationship is something that has been created and fostered by a corrupted-by-cash political class and a media supported by a powerful and unscrupulous domestic lobby backed up by an oligarchy of pro-Israel billionaires.
As for values and causes, Americans would be appalled if they were to witness the misery inflicted on the Palestinians by the Israelis. Right over wrong? Good over evil? Where is the justice for the Palestinians? Israel’s government is itself evil—an apartheid state that denies benefits to its own citizens if they adhere to the wrong religion. Tyranny? That’s what occurs in the West Bank and in the strangling of Gaza every single day.
In response to the Pence visit, Jane Eisner of the Jewish newspaper The Forward warned that, “Trump has handed Israel policy to evangelicals. That’s terrifying.” As a liberal Jew, her concern was that U.S. policy would be driven by some potentially dangerous evangelical beliefs that certain conditions, to include complete Jewish control over the West Bank—described as Judea and Samaria—should be satisfied solely to fulfill biblical prophecies.
Matt Brooks, who heads the Republican Jewish Coalition, disagreed with Eisner, saying, “They always highlight the fact that [they are] evangelicals, as if that’s a pejorative when in fact [Pence, Pompeo and other evangelicals] are motivated first and foremost by shared values with Israel. And not just by the shared values, but the important efforts of collectively standing up to threats of Iran, pushing back on ISIS, and on radical Islam, or whether it’s being a critical democratic foundation in a very dangerous place. There are so many places where U.S. and Israel’s interests intersect.”
Brooks is, of course, making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Israel and the United States have virtually no real common interests and the arguments being made to the contrary are essentially fraudulent. And the question of whether Pompeo and Pence actually believe that the Second Coming is imminent is essentially moot. They share the conviction that the state of Israel must be protected at all costs, a view that certainly shapes their policy recommendations regarding the Middle East. That view also has an impact on policy toward Israel’s neighbors, with Iran in particular being vilified as the purely evil foe, a “cancerous influence,” according to Pompeo, that is increasingly seen as allied with Satan and which will be destroyed in Armageddon. Pence also doubled down on Iran in his Knesset speech, inaccurately calling it “the leading state sponsor of terror . . . a brutal dictatorship . . . seeking to dominate the Arab world . . . devoted more than $4 billion to malign activities in Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere . . . supported terrorist groups that even now sit on Israel’s doorstep . . . and, worst of all, the Iranian regime has pursued a clandestine nuclear program.”
An openly racist Israel is hardly inspirational with its persistent playing of the victim card while it cynically exploits Christians like Pompeo and Pence to provide it with money, arms, and political cover at the expense of all Americans, most of whom do not share their religious beliefs.
Israel is no actual ally of the U.S., has never sent its soldiers to fight alongside Americans, and is hardly even a friend as evidenced by its record of interfering in U.S. domestic politics to receive billions of dollars annually from the American taxpayer. Nor would its recurrent theft of U.S.-developed high tech and defense secrets stand much scrutiny. But the two Mikes were most likely not briefed on all that stuff, besides which, they have probably received instructions on cherishing Israel directly from God.
Philip Giraldi is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer and a columnist and television commentator. He is also the executive director of the Council for the National Interest. Other articles by Giraldi can be found on the website of the Unz Review.