Sunday 5 April 2009

Obama is marching into Jerusalem on the back of a Beast of his own

Obama is marching into Jerusalem on the back of a Beast of his own

“They say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them” (St Paul 1 Thessalonians 5:3).

In 1894, in his book “Christianity and Patriotism”, Leo Tolstoy noted that among the Russian and French political and military leaders there was much celebrating of renewed relations and present and future peace. Generals from both sides dined together at international meetings, public embraces were exchanged.

Tolstoy has great fun satirising the propaganda of these two great states and their new found affection for one another: quoting the presses eager interest in the menus and bar tabs of the soldiers and statesmen.

“With each menu a description was also given of the drinks swallowed by the festive party, some sort of 'vudka', some sort of Bourgogne vieux, Grand Moet and so on. In an English newspaper all the intoxicating drinks consumed during these fetes were enumerated, the quantity of it being so enormous that all the drunkards in Russia and in France could hardly have swallowed it in such short a time.”1

Little has changed in media obsession. It takes a second or two to discover that the G20 leaders at the London summit in April had Bakewell tart and custard for pudding coutesy of celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver.2 How much booze was involved we may never know.

In his early months as USA President, Barak Obama has made diplomatic and deliberate recourses to better relations with the Russians than Bush. And not just Russia – a video link to Iranian T.V., a change of course in Iraq and Afghanistan. It all looks pretty good. The prince of HOPE is doing the job he was elected to do.

But then again.

“It is true that in all the speeches and toasts uttered during those festivities, and in all the articles about them, it was constantly proclaimed that the object of what was happening was to secure peace. [However,...] this constant repetition of the sentence: 'We don't want war, we want peace!” and the silence about what is in everyone's mind, is a most menacing symptom.”3 Tolstoy was offering an educated and insightful guess but things were more complicated: Germany initial saw itself as having to capitulate diplomatically to Russia as Britain lost influence along the Mediterranean but the threat of Russia's greater alliance with France lead indirectly to the Schleiffen Plan and a greater alliance between German and Austria against Russia as a means of self-defense. So the Franco-Russian talk of peace was really another of the many examples of one nation posturing militarily alongside another to threaten the neighbours.

In 1894 the peace between Russia and France only made a strong alliance for war with Germany. St Paul, wise to the ways of empire, warned the Thessalonian Christians of those political leaders who made much talk of peace and held out his own hope that they would be subject to God's judgment (1 Thess. 5:3).

That is why we should take note of Obama's words in Turkey on Palm Sunday this year. He does not ride into Europe on a donkey but in “The Beast”, his armoured gas-guzzler. And like the Sanhedrin, he is looking for the next scapegoat to save a whole nation.

"All nations must come together to build a stronger, global regime. And that's why we must stand shoulder to shoulder to pressure the North Koreans to change course."
(Obama in Prague 5 April 2009)

So what does Obama mean when he calls for unity, peace, hope, and an end to the proliferation of nuclear weapons as president of a country developing “usable” nuclear weapons as we sleep and eat? He means what we must listen for in the silence.