Pat and God

Thursday, September 1st, 2005

God speaks through fools. With this in mind, let’s listen one last time (I hope) to Pat Robertson:

“We have the ability to take him out, and I think 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.”

Without intending to be anything but hyper-patriotic, the one-time presidential candidate and popular purveyor of Intolerance brand Christianity has managed to lay bare the heart of a superpower’s hypocrisy. In his impulsive call for, what the hell, the assassination of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Robertson forced Bush and Co. to emit gasps of horror and feign allegiance to moral limits in the conduct of foreign policy.

The assassination of a head of state, as Donald Rumsfeld was quick to point out, is illegal, for heaven’s sake. (Has been since the Ford administration.) If the U.S. wants to take out a leader, it has to do it the right way: with shock and awe bombing and maybe a full-scale invasion. We have to pile up the corpses of the anonymous innocent, wreck a country’s infrastructure, foul its environment with depleted uranium dust and other collateral toxins and bankrupt ourselves financially and spiritually.

The abstract noun “war” is impenetrably opaque to the human mind, concealing its carnage in a fog of romantic glory. But “assassination” is so personal; you can hardly utter it without flashing on the razor blade across the throat or the ice pick in the back. That’s why Robertson’s clueless candor made so many people squirm and set off scandalized titters in the media.

This religious con man deserves censure, but if we had real news delivered to our doorstep or broadcast into our living rooms — the deep tremor stuff, not merely the amusing diversions — maybe the recent machinations of the far more dangerous Dick Cheney would be getting the same national attention.

Have you heard? According to the Aug. 1 issue of The American Conservative, Cheney’s office has “tasked” the United States Strategic Command, or STRATCOM, with planning, in the event of another 9/11-type terrorist attack on U.S. soil, a massive air assault on Iran that includes the use of so-called tactical nuclear weapons.

The money sentence in the item is this: “As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States.”

This sucks the breath away. A nuclear stealth-agenda emanating from the office of the vice president, once outed, ought to send shock waves across the continent. Instead, we’re treated to the Best of Pat Robertson: Remember when he said we should nuke the State Department? Ha ha! And how about his warning to Orlando, Fla., that commemorating Gay Pride Month will bring hurricanes (and maybe a meteor)? You’re killing us, Pat!

In the absence of real news and real national debate about who we are as a country, we’re left with the voice of a fool, blithely spilling a nation’s backroom secrets: “It’s a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.”

Shhh, Pat. Don’t say that stuff out loud.

Maybe assassinating Chavez isn’t on the agenda of Bush and Co., but there’s probably no one in this hemisphere they’d be happier to see abducted by aliens. Ironically — and irony, of course, is the language of God — Robertson’s “700 Club” tirade against Chavez has thrust Venezuela’s hugely popular, democratically elected president (survivor of a U.S.-backed coup attempt in 2002) into the media spotlight here, and some people, at least, are saying, hey, wait a minute, this guy sounds interesting.

Usually when Chavez’s name comes up in the news, he’s dismissed as rabidly “anti-American” and practically a communist — our enemy. But perhaps this defiant leader of the most oil-rich country in the Western Hemisphere is only the enemy of some of us.

We read, for instance, that he has offered to sell gasoline directly to impoverished U.S. communities at rates far below the inflated prices at American pumps. He’s the enemy, it turns out, of the profit-bloated middlemen. At home, he has used the nation’s oil wealth to give hope and dignity to the poorest of the poor — the ones who are always left out of the equation — with free health care and access to university-level education, among much else.

Thanks to Robertson, this side of the Chavez presidency is now getting some mainstream coverage. We can only pray that, on the next “700 Club,” Robertson decides to crack the nation up with a joke about nuking Iran.