Over the past months, the White House has convened a series of off-the-record meetings about its policies in the Middle East with leaders of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), a newly formed political organization that tells its members that supporting Israel's expansionist policies is "a biblical imperative." CUFI's Washington lobbyist, David Brog, told me that during the meetings, CUFI representatives pressed White House officials to adopt a more confrontational posture toward Iran, refuse aid to the Palestinians and give Israel a free hand as it ramped up its military conflict with Hezbollah....
CUFI's advice to the Bush Administration reflects the Armageddon-based foreign-policy views of its founder, John Hagee.....The only way to defeat the Iranian evildoers, he [ Hagee ] says, is a full-scale military assault.
"The coming nuclear showdown with Iran is a certainty," Hagee wrote this year in the Pentecostal magazine Charisma. "Israel and America must confront Iran's nuclear ability and willingness to destroy Israel with nuclear weapons. For Israel to wait is to risk committing national suicide." [ From Birth Pangs of a New Christian Zionism, by Max Blumenthal ]
So, what is the purpose of CUFI ? According to the group's website statement of purpose, CUFI seeks to "provide a national association through which every pro-Israel church, Para-church organization, ministry or individual in America can speak and act with one voice in support of Israel in matters related to Biblical issues."
Given Hagee's Premillennial dispensationalist theological beliefs however, CUFI's agenda [ link : Media trasparency article by Bill Berkowitz ] likely goes well beyond simple support for Israel, and in February with the launching of CUFI Hagee referred to a "crisis Israel will be facing in the near future".
What might that "crisis" be that Hagee referred to ? As Sara Posner, in the June 2006 issue of the American Prospect, wrote :
[ Hagee is ] author of an incendiary new book purporting to show that the Bible predicts a military confrontation with Iran..... Hagee's book, Jerusalem Countdown, had sold nearly 500,000 copies. It had occupied the No. 1 position on the Wal-Mart inspirational best-seller list, showed up on Wal-Mart's list of top 10 best sellers for seven weeks, and made the USA Today top 50 best-seller list for six weeks.
Hagee, who serves as head pastor of the 18,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, hosts his own television program that is seen twice a day on TBN. He argues that the United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God's plan for both Israel and the West. Shortly after the release of his book last January, he launched Christians United for Israel (CUFI), a lobbying organization intended, he says, to be a Christian version of the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee. With CUFI, which Hagee has said will cause a "political earthquake," the televangelist aims to put the political organizing muscle of the conservative evangelical movement behind his grand plan for a biblically prophesied end-time confrontation with Iran, which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation, and Second Coming of Christ. [ Sara Posner, Lobbying for Armageddon, June 2006, The American Prospect ]
In light of John Hagee's "End Times" vision, the recent revelation, by Max Blumenthal, that CUFI leaders have met repeatedly in off-the-record meeting with White House officials raises troubling questions. As a July 24 Texas based Austinist.com website editorial asks :
Whether or not the religious beliefs involved in CUFI's support of Israel are in fact true seems like an irrelevant question. Regardless of their truth, the approach taken here is a self-fulfilling prophecy in which conflict in the Middle East is being systematically funded and encouraged on an increasingly unprecedented scale. It's important to ask the big questions here about American involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: How much sway do organizations like CUFI have in the Middle East? Are they behind the policy wheel, or playing the role of backseat driver? How much credit do they have with the White House?
The answer to that question - per Max Blumenthal's research and Dick Armey's recent statement - is apparently : a good deal of credit.
Has the White House also held off-the-record counsel with leaders from the National Council of Churches concerning Mideast tensions ? The answer to that question - no - underscores the extent to which the Administration of George W. Bush is in thrall to narrow contituencies that hold extreme views not representative of the majority of Americans.
It is unlikely that the American public will ever know George W. Bush's real beliefs concerning the "End Times" and related Premillennial dispensationalist theological ideas, but before the 2000 election Bush received a passing grade from Tim Lahaye, who was then serving as a kingmaker to confer seal of acceptability to then presidential candidate George W. Bush.
[ Rolling Stone article by Richard Dreyfus, "Reverend Doomsday", January 28, 2004 ]
LaHaye's books, and his quirky interpretation of biblical prophecy that stands behind them, revolve intensely around Iraq, because LaHaye believes that Armageddon will be unleashed from the Antichrist's headquarters in Babylon. Since the 1970s -- when Iraq began a reconstruction project on the ruins of the ancient city, near Baghdad -- LaHaye has said that Saddam Hussein is carrying out Satan's mission. In 1999, LaHaye wrote that Saddam is "a servant of Satan," possessed by a demon, and that he could be "the forerunner of the Antichrist." Ultimately, says LaHaye, before Christ can return to Earth, Iraq, led by the Antichrist, must engage in a world-shaking showdown with Israel.
Of course, there have always been preachers on the margins of the religious right thundering on about the end of the world. But it's doubtful that such a fanatic believer has ever had such a direct pipeline to the White House. Five years ago, as Bush was gearing up his presidential campaign, he made a little-noticed pilgrimage to a gathering of right-wing Christian activists, under the auspices of a group called the Committee to Restore American Values. The committee, which assembled about two dozen of the nation's leading fundamentalist firebrands, was chaired by LaHaye. At the time, many evangelicals viewed Bush skeptically: Despite his born-again views, when he was governor of Texas, Bush had alienated many of the state's Christian-right activists for failing to pursue a sufficiently evangelical agenda. On the national level, he was an unknown quantity.
That day, behind closed doors, LaHaye grilled the candidate. He presented Bush with a lengthy questionnaire on issues such as abortion, judicial appointments, education, religious freedom, gun control and the Middle East. What the preacher thought of Bush's answers would largely determine whether the Christian right would throw its muscle behind the Texas governor....
When the meeting with Bush ended, LaHaye gave the candidate his seal of approval. For Bush, it was a major breakthrough, clearing the decks for hundreds of leaders of the Christian right
[ NOTE : Tim LaHaye's "End Time" theology has been the topic of an ongoing series here at Talk To Action, by veteran researcher Chip Berlet, and LaHaye's "Left Behind" book series has inspired a now-notorious "Convert or Kill" videogame, set in a "post rapture" NYC, that was the focus of another Talk To Action series - The Purpose Driven Life Takers that has been read by over a quarter of a million people so far
Close ties between the Bush Administration and "End Times" Christian groups, and their apparent influence on US Mideast policy, are not new - over two years ago, a piece by Rick Perlstein in the Village Voice illustrated the influence of what Perlstein called "rapture Christians" on the Bush White House :
[ Village Voice May 18, 2004 ]
The Jesus Landing Pad - by Rick Perlstein May 18th, 2004 10:00 AM
Bush White House checked with rapture Christians before latest Israel move
It was an e-mail we weren't meant to see. Not for our eyes were the notes that showed White House staffers taking two-hour meetings with Christian fundamentalists, where they passed off bogus social science on gay marriage as if it were holy writ and issued fiery warnings that "the Presidents [sic] Administration and current Government is engaged in cultural, economical, and social struggle on every level" -- this to a group whose representative in Israel believed herself to have been attacked by witchcraft unleashed by proximity to a volume of Harry Potter. Most of all, apparently, we're not supposed to know the National Security Council's top Middle East aide consults with apocalyptic Christians eager to ensure American policy on Israel conforms with their sectarian doomsday scenarios.
But now we know.
"Everything that you're discussing is information you're not supposed to have," barked Pentecostal minister Robert G. Upton when asked about the off-the-record briefing his delegation received on March 25. Details of that meeting appear in a confidential memo signed by Upton and obtained by the Voice.
The e-mailed meeting summary reveals NSC Near East and North African Affairs director Elliott Abrams sitting down with the Apostolic Congress and massaging their theological concerns. Claiming to be "the Christian Voice in the Nation's Capital," the members vociferously oppose the idea of a Palestinian state. They fear an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza might enable just that, and they object on the grounds that all of Old Testament Israel belongs to the Jews. Until Israel is intact and Solomon's temple rebuilt, they believe, Christ won't come back to earth.
Abrams attempted to assuage their concerns by stating that "the Gaza Strip had no significant Biblical influence such as Joseph's tomb or Rachel's tomb and therefore is a piece of land that can be sacrificed for the cause of peace."
Three weeks after the confab, President George W. Bush reversed long-standing U.S. policy, endorsing Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank in exchange for Israel's disengagement from the Gaza Strip.....[ read entire story ]
Background - see Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak, cofounder of Jews On First, on Christian Zionism :
What is Christian Zionism?
by Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak, JewsOnFirst, July 31, 2006
Christian Zionism is a movement within Protestant fundamentalism that understands the modern state of Israel as the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and thus deserving of political, financial, and religious support. Christian Zionists believe that when all Jews are gathered in Israel, Jesus will reappear; there are varying "end times" scenarios for what follows. read more of this article