Monday, October 12, 2009

Who is General McChrystal?

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 10/12/09

Is General McChrystal a believer in the Christian Apocalypse in Jerusalem like Preacher John Hargee and the 700 Clubs’ Pat Robertson? At the beginning of the war on Iraq a few New York rabbis tried to warn us about this but few listened. Today the web site Jews on First is a useful watchdog on this issue. But we know almost nothing about McChrystal and our fate, fortunes and American lives are suddenly in his hands.

Is he from New York? Arkansas? Because that tells you something. Was he raised on army bases? Because that tells you something too as people reared without a sense of place can be more prone to abstraction and ideology. His official bios call him a “warrior scholar,” a phase I think I made up myself a few years ago about Wesley Clark who is one. The Pentagon got hold of it and uses it now for anyone who jogs to work.

Before Obama heads off into Pakistan, Indonesia and Thailand, where by some credible estimates 10 civilians will die for every one enemy fighter, he might ask about his road partner. Because it is oddly hard to find out about McChrystal’s early life, his religious beliefs or anything else pertinent to the formation of the man and adult prior to West Point.

As Obama wanders the halls now waiting for someone to order up the playing of the La Marseillais and all in Monsieur Rick’s global Café Americain to leap up and cheer, the beginnings of this continuing conflict should be recalled. When I first lobbied British House of Commons members including the former actress Glenda Jackson, our European allies had no idea how long millennial fever had been brewing in the hills and hollows of Appalachia where I lived in the 1990s, where every folk and free mountain radio preacher was talking about the Second Coming. Armageddon was coming to the Middle East, there would be war to the end times in Jerusalem and Saddam was the great Satan, the Anti-Christ; the anti-American.

When the Hale-Bopp comet appeared just before the millennium, you could almost hear the Blue Ridge murmur prophecy, vindicating the intuitive, unlettered preachers and prophets in the hills and hollows; some touched by the Lord and some by that witch spirit unique to the Appalachians. In was all just as it was written by John, in Revelations 8:10-11 The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water – the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.

Has General McChrystal read Revelations? What are his feelings?

The Left Behind books, which called up this millennial fever in the 1990s sold in the 100s of millions and contributed a vast, subliminal regional culture to where we have got today. They were penned by Tim LaHaye, who worked for Jack Kemp, who played a significant role in getting the religious right to support George W. Bush in 2000. Mike Huckabee finds these books, which in the heat of Armageddon suggest the destruction of Jews who don’t convert, to be a compelling story. This is important and necessary to know because of the influence of the Christian millennialist’s influence on the army and on actual government and foreign policy at the beginning of this war. Does McChrystal share this persuasion? We need to know.

In the Left Behind books the true Christians – that would be Hargee and Robertson - are beamed up after Armageddon and everything else is destroyed. But in real life you can’t plan a future after a war. You have to just try to make something out of what’s left and who can still stand up. Sometimes it is only burned earth and a few women and children. After the Union soldiers burned, killed and ate everything from Atlanta to Savannah there was not one Tunis sheep left in all of the South. There was nothing left. Worth recalling because at the beginning, northern people were advised by Frederick Law Olmstead, who had sojourned briefly in the Cotton Kingdom, that war on the South would be like a walk in Central Park. Language much like we heard on the way into Iraq and heard again on the way into Afghanistan.