April 22, 2014 Editor

Captain America; The Armageddon Factor (Two Reviews Together)

Captain AmericaArmageddon Factor

Captain America and the Crusade Against Evil: The Dilemma of Zealous Nationalism, Robert Jewett and John Shelton Lawrence, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003, 392 pp.;
The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada, Marci McDonald, Random House Canada, 2010, 419 pp.

Most of us would rather not know the truth about “things”; especially the power arrangements under which we go about our daily lives. That is how people lived under Nazism, under apartheid. That is how we live in any Western nation. Not only is the first casualty of war “truth”, it is that of all self-perpetuating political power: in democracies as much as under any other kind of totalitarian regime. Only degrees of deceit, violence, murder and mayhem vary to protect such power arrangements. And we average citizens prefer to be lied to, to look the other way most of the time.

That is why whistleblowers such as Ed Snowdon are so hated: not just by the power elites, but by average citizens. “Innocent Bystander Syndrome” is ubiquitous in all democracies, fully displayed at every election. If we are told the truth, something ethical kicks in that urges us to act contrary to routine human condition inertia. We are invariably however too caught up with “life” to act on others’ unjust treatment; to love our neighbour, let alone the enemy. We live routinely in fundamental contradiction of the African lifestyle of Ubuntu, as Archbishop Desmod Tutu urges it. (It is also the anthropological principle of the formal doctrine of the Christian Trinity, as biblical ethical teaching urges it.)

A.J. Coates writes:

The moral prohibition of lying, for example, makes good sense in the context of personal relations, but no sense at all in affairs of state. Telling the truth is a moral luxury that politicians and diplomats can rarely afford. More than that, the fulfillment of their public duty will require them not only to conceal the truth but to suppress it and twist it constantly (The Ethics of War, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997, p. 36).

More than our multiple addictions in the West to wealth, power, sex, violence, drugs, etc., etc., so well captured in films as varied as The Godfather and The Wolf of Wall Street, we are profoundly addicted to lies: lies we tell ourselves, are told and accept.

Along come two books in the Judeo-Christian tradition that look at that tradition at its worst, and at its best. In the end, Leon Bloy captures it: “There is only one sadness in life, only one – not to be a saint.” All human activity, especially at its most addictive, aspires for “pleasure” like Alfred Doolittle on the eve of his marriage in My Fair Lady: “There are drinks and girls all over London,
and I’ve gotta track ’em down in just a few more hours!”
For, as he sings elsewhere in the musical:
“The Lord above made liquor [and women] for temptation,
To see if man could turn away from sin.
The Lord above made liquor for temptation-but
With a little bit of luck, With a little bit of luck,
When temptation comes you’ll give right in!”

Cute. But the point of life massively missed: to max out on freedom and joy, which no addiction ever delivers: liquor, women, you name it. “Freedom” and “addiction” are oxymorons.

So two more books whistle-blow for us in the tradition of the Ultimate Whistleblower world literary document: the Bible, arguably one of the strongest anti-religious documents in human history; source in part of the Western atheistic tradition when in revolt against the West’s dominant view of a bullshit “God”. Such revolt, theologian Walter Wink suggests, could in fact be construed as “true religion” as in James chapter 1 of the Bible.

Will we have ears to hear and hands/feet to act? For those with such, invariably reluctantly and “stumblingly” activated, finely tuned “bullshitometers”, not least for oneself, are disturbingly induced outcome. Biblical ethical epistemology ultimately turns one towards being a profound cultural cynic and curmudgeon (Romans 12, and passim).

An excerpt:

These are disturbing books. One could feel having read them like a serious crime victim: the universe once seemed well ordered, predictably unfolding. Until violent crime strikes. And the equilibrium of the universe tilts. One thought perhaps Canada was a safe democracy. One thought the United States stood in reality for making the world safe for democracy. Both books urgently cry out, Think again!

The Armageddon Factor is a second go at publishing on this theme, the first an essay in Walrus magazine in 2006. Captain America is reprised publication from initial discussion thirty years prior, and variously since. McDonald repeatedly alludes to, sometimes describes, antecedents from the States to the rise of Christian Nationalism. Jewett and Lawrence give a full-blown account of what they call “zealous nationalism” from colonial times onwards. I’ll begin with their account.

Captain America, a comic-book character, “combines explosive strength with perfect moral intuitions… he takes on a masked identity and rids the world of evil. [Like] America’s sense of mission – and its affinity for violent crusading. This book explains the religious roots and historical development of this crusading tendency (p. xiii).” Unpretentiously stated. The authors deliver masterfully.

One could expect that no other nation, against the tragic reality of over three centuries of American rapacious expansionism, could even think to imitate the blatant religious imperialism in such a culture. Yet that is precisely what Marci McDonald charts for us in The Armageddon Factor with reference to current 21st- century Canadian politics. At the outset one registers simple incredulity that in fact such a phenomenon could arise in another democracy when its tragic excesses are obvious to any non-ideological observer… Which of course is the very point. No one is without ideology. How, we must constantly ask, do we take off ideological lenses we all wear to actually “see” aright? This is, in the language of the two authors above the “prophetic realism” issue central to our humanity. In Jesus’ words: “In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.’ (Matt 13:14)”

McDonald in her Preface describes a similar incredulity expressed to her in her bid to “write a book on the rise of the Christian right in Canadian politics (p. 1).” She constantly heard, as expressed by a close friend, “Surely, you don’t think that it can happen here. This is a profoundly different country than the United States (p. 1).” This is precisely the theme of the book: thirty years behind the political rise of the Religious Right in the States, Canada is indeed undergoing a similar phenomenon, with direct links to its American precursors. “In this book, I have chosen to focus on those political activists whose goal is to attain the same political power that their counterparts have enjoyed in the United States (p. 10).”, she explains. She believes that an extremist vision of Christianity shaped by “the Armageddon factor” is slowly, covertly co-opting Canadian politics. To this she turns in the rest of the book.

Please click on: Book Review of Captain America and The Armageddon

Genre: American Nationalism, Canadian Nationalism, Church History, Human RIghts, New Testament Theology, Sociology, Theology
Subjects: Politics, Theology
  1. [1]Please look at several articles as well on American/Western will to world domination by clicking on "Selected Articles: Western Aggression Backed by Western Media”. The series of articles is introduced thus:
    The Western allies never run dry of resources to support their global war of terror and aggression, ostensibly an integral part of their foreign policy. They dynamically legislate laws lest the people awaken. They have the unbending support of the corporate media, which skilfully distorts reality. When will they ever back down from their destructive quest for colonies? Read our selection below.
  2. [2]It continued:
    ‘For seven months, Tiger Force soldiers moved across the Central Highlands, killing scores of unarmed civilians – in some cases torturing and mutilating them - in a spate of violence never revealed to the American public,’ the newspaper said, at other points describing the killing of hundreds of unarmed civilians. ‘Women and children were intentionally blown up in underground bunkers,’ The Blade said. ‘Elderly farmers were shot as they toiled in the fields. Prisoners were tortured and executed - their ears and scalps severed for souvenirs. One soldier kicked out the teeth of executed civilians for their gold fillings.”   The New York Times confirmed the claimed accuracy of the stories by contacting several of those interviewed.  It reported: “But they wanted to make another point: that Tiger Force had not been a ‘rogue’ unit. Its members had done only what they were told, and their superiors knew what they were doing. “Burning huts and villages, shooting civilians and throwing grenades into protective shelters were common tactics for American ground forces throughout Vietnam, they said. That contention is backed up by accounts of journalists, historians and disillusioned troops… ‘Vietnam was an atrocity from the get-go,’ [one veteran] said in a recent telephone interview. ‘It was that kind of war, a frontless war of great frustration. There were hundreds of My Lais. You got your card punched by the numbers of bodies you counted.’ Current likely Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry was also quoted giving evidence before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971.  He reported that American soldiers in Vietnam had “raped, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country. Nicholas Turse [later author of: Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam], a doctoral candidate at Columbia University, has been studying government archives and said they were filled with accounts of similar atrocities. ''I stumbled across the incidents The Blade reported,'' Mr. Turse said by telephone. ''I read through that case a year, year and a half ago, and it really didn't stand out. There was nothing that made it stand out from anything else. That's the scary thing. It was just one of hundreds.'' Yet there were few prosecutions.
  3. [3]Historian John Coatsworth in The Cambridge History of the Cold War noted:
    Between 1960, by which time the Soviets had dismantled Stalin's gulags, and the Soviet collapse in 1990, the numbers of political prisoners, torture victims, and executions of nonviolent political dissenters in Latin America vastly exceeded those of the Soviet Union and its East European satellites. In other words, from 1960 to 1990, the Soviet bloc as a whole was less repressive, measured in terms of human victims, than many individual Latin American countries [under direct sway of US Empire] ("The Cold War in Central America", pp. 216 - 221).
    What was true for Latin America was true for around the world: massive human rights abuses, assassinations, regime changes of democratically elected governments, etc., etc., etc. orchestrated by US Empire. Yet Americans invariably have wanted it both ways: to be seen as the exemplary "City on A Hill" that upholds universal human rights and democracy, while operating a brutal Empire directly contrary to all such elevated values, and a concomitant rapacious Empire market economy that takes no prisoners. This began of course even before the founding of the United States of America and continued apace, in its mass slaughter and dispossession of indigenous peoples, in its brutal system of slavery on which its obscene wealth in the textile industry in the first place was built. "The Land of the Free" conceit was a sustained con job on the part of America's leaders. It was also apotheosis of hypocrisy. American exceptionalism was/is true in one respect only: it was brutal like no other Empire in its eventual global reach.
  4. [5]
  5. [4] The highlighted article about renowned whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg points to again what is utterly chilling, horror-filled, exponentially beyond immoral, American (hence the world's) reality: "Daniel Ellsberg: U.S. Military Planned First Strike On Every City In Russia and China … and Gave Many Low-Level Field Commanders the Power to Push the Button". [5]He has since written The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. Of it we read:
    Shortlisted for the 2018 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction Finalist for the California Book Award in Nonfiction The San Francisco Chronicle's Best of 2017 List In These Times “Best Books of 2017” Huffington Post's Ten Excellent December Books List LitHub's “Five Books Making News This Week” From the legendary whistle-blower who revealed the Pentagon Papers, an eyewitness exposé of the dangers of America's Top Secret, seventy-year-long nuclear policy that continues to this day. Here, for the first time, former high-level defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg reveals his shocking firsthand account of America's nuclear program in the 1960s. From the remotest air bases in the Pacific Command, where he discovered that the authority to initiate use of nuclear weapons was widely delegated, to the secret plans for general nuclear war under Eisenhower, which, if executed, would cause the near-extinction of humanity, Ellsberg shows that the legacy of this most dangerous arms buildup in the history of civilization--and its proposed renewal under the Trump administration--threatens our very survival. No other insider with high-level access has written so candidly of the nuclear strategy of the late Eisenhower and early Kennedy years, and nothing has fundamentally changed since that era.
  6. [6]A classic instance of this aligning with "just war" is the United States' "war on drugs" as subset of "war on crime", while at the same time the CIA was a major worldwide drug dealer in league with other drug cartels -- all done to enhance American Empire during the Cold War -- and continues to the present. The four-part series mentioned below connects American Empire drug dealing to the current War on Terror, in particular in Afghanistan. This of course is colossal hypocrisy as well. Worse: the series posits American federal government administrations over many decades as the Ultimate Drug Cartel, with Blacks, Latinos, and generally the poor directly being knowingly poisoned en masse. Then they have been primary targets of the Drug Enforcement Agency, and thereby become victims of America's too often savage prison system that oppresses and brutalizes them all over again... See: "The War on Drugs Is a Failure, So [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions Is All for It". A citation from the article reads:
    In June [2017], the History Channel aired a four-part documentary series called America’s War on Drugs.” The series asserts that the war on drugs was actually a war of drugs—and that the CIA was essentially a partner in spreading drugs and drug use. The series follows how the U.S. intelligence agency, in an obsession with fighting communism, allied itself with U.S. organized crime and foreign drug traffickers and includes firsthand accounts from many involved. In an interview with Truthdig columnist Sonali Kolhatkar on her radio program “Rising Up With Sonali,” the series’ executive producer, Anthony Lappé, explains why the CIA got involved:
    It’s actually a pretty mind-blowing story when you look at the extent to which the CIA was involved with drug traffickers and drug trafficking throughout the Cold War. … If you look at Cold War policy against the Soviet Union, we were locked in a global battle for supremacy, where we have lots of proxy wars going on. … We needed to team up with local allies, and often the local allies we were teaming up with were people who had access to guns, who had access to underground networks, to help us fight the perceived threat of communism. There are actually a lot of similarities between what drug traffickers do and what the CIA does.
    Lappé elaborates by saying the hypocrisy of the war on drugs has been evident from the start: Secret CIA experiments with LSD helped fuel the counterculture movement, leading to President Richard Nixon’s crackdown and declaration of the war on drugs. The series also explores the CIA’s role in the rise of crack cocaine in poor black communities and a secret island “cocaine base.” In addition the documentary makes the connection between the war on drugs, the war on terror and the transformation of Afghanistan into a narco state and contends that American intervention in Mexico helped give clout to Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán and the super cartels, making it easier to send drugs across American borders. Watch Kolhatkar’s full interview with Lappé by clicking here. Please also see the now classic: The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, by noted American historian Alfred McCoy. Of it we read:
    The first book to prove CIA and U.S. government complicity in global drug trafficking, The Politics of Heroin includes meticulous documentation of dishonesty and dirty dealings at the highest levels from the Cold War until today. Maintaining a global perspective, this groundbreaking study details the mechanics of drug trafficking in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and South and Central America. New chapters detail U.S. involvement in the narcotics trade in Afghanistan and Pakistan before and after the fall of the Taliban, and how U.S. drug policy in Central America and Colombia has increased the global supply of illicit drugs.
    To be noted as well is Johann Hari's Chasing The Scream, which tells the tragic tale of America's long-standing offensive against drugs, and the way to end such a war worldwide -- that several nations are successfully embracing.


Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.
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