1,000 Points of Bin Laden
When George Bush Sr. was crowned president in the 1980s, he moved his office pens, pencils and stuff into the Oval Office to the sound of a pretty swell soundbyte. Remember: "One-thousand points of light."
It was a beautiful idea. One everybody in networked society could completely understand. The Reagan era capped off the tank with all of its trainees, a whole beehive of cronies, and so the only problem was with a nation of 250 million people was, hey, if you really looked at it, "One-thousand points of light" was still pretty elite company.
After a decade of gestures in the form of little wars in the 1980s, the Company launched us all on another 10 years of real big war in Iraq. True to form: It was a group effort. A small group, yes. But now, look and see, the 1,000 points are still in action. The Company, still intact.
But what we failed to avoid, or understand, in the rush to another large-scale compaign, was this: History was repeating itself. Not the first Bush era, but a whole `nother millennium.
Somewhere in one of Dubya's first speeches after Sept. 11, another unfortunate mantra sprung from the Company spin machine: A "crusade" against terrorism.
This was the problem.
Our language, our first media soundbyte to declare a war on terrorism, "crusade," only served to stir up a festering beehive. And just like the Popes of yore, the Christian world poured itself into the melee only to increase the feedback loops of incredible vengeance.
President Bush, our former national executioner, egged on by the 1,000 pointed hats, inspired a network of new lights on the other side of the world. Call them "One-thousand points of Bin Laden."
With news that if elected, the Bush administration will likely bring on the draft, one is haunted to remember the first Crusades. They were real disasters. Except, that is, for those who stood to make a profit from all the action. Like the pointed hats.
For example, if you are wondering if perhaps a land war in an arid nation on the other side of the world is wise, we could learn a few lessons in history. So, as a public service, I offer this excerpt from Piers Paul Read, who boiled down one such adventure in The Templars: The Dramatic History of the Knights Templar, the Most Powerful Military Order in the History of the Crusades.
In 1185, according to the book (please forgive the sudden introduction of most of these names for the leaders of the Christian army, which had gathered in Jerusalem):
" ... King Guy (the Christian appointee for Jerusalem) ordered the army to march at dawn. Taking the northern route over the arid hills toward Tiberias, constantly harassed by Muslim archers, and soon debilitated by thirst, they reached the village of Lubiya. Here the King received a request from the Templars who brought up the rear, to stop for the night. Count Raymond, leading the vanguard, was aghast: 'Ah, Lord God, the war is over. We are dead men. The kingdom is finished.'
"The well at Lubiya was dry. The army camped on the waterless plateau known as the Horns of Hattin, overlooking the village of Hattin where Saladin's army awaited them. As the night progressed, the Muslims edged closer: any soldiers who went in search of water were caught and killed. The Muslims set fire to the scrub that covered the hill: the breeze carried the smoke into the Christian camp.
"At dawn, Saladin ordered the attack. Maddened by thirst, the heat and smoke, the Christian army tried to break through the Muslim phalanx to the lake. They were either killed or taken prisoner. Above them, the armoured knights repelled the repeated assaults of the Muslim Cavalry time and time again, but they too were weakened by thirst and each onslaught reduced their numbers. With his knights, Count Raymond charged against the Muslim phalanx which suddenly opened to let them through. Unable to return to the main body of the army, they fled to Tripoli.
"Behind them, the remaining knights formed a circle around the king, making numerous sorties against Saladin's men. With them was th e Bishop of Acre holding the precious relic of the True Cross. When he fell, the True Cross was taken. The battle was over. King Guy and those knights who remained alive now fell from exhaustion, not from the sword. The most eminent among them were led off captive to the tent of their conquerer, Saladin -- among them King Guy, his brother, Amalric, Reginald of Chatillon and young Humphrey of Toron. With the exquisite courtesy for which he was famed, Saladin offered the thirsty King a glass of rose-water, cooled with ice from the peak of Mount Hebron. After drinking from it, the King passed it to Reginald of Chatillon but before Reginald could slake his thirst, the glass was taken from him, the life of a captive who is given food or water is assured.
"Saladin now berated Reginald for all his iniquities and, again in obedience to Muhammad's teaching, offered him the choice of accepting Islam or death. Reginald laughed in his face, saying it was rather Saladin who should turn to Christ: 'If you believe in Him, you could avoid the punishment of eternal damnation which you should not doubt is prepared for you.' On hearing this, Saladin took up his scimitar and cut off Reginald's head."
Now, we could wax on and on about this eternal futility of trying to convert each other. We could wax on the irony of our current Pope lashing Bush for his own pointy-hatted war (oh well, he was always the reformer). We could argue on and on ... hell, we could fight it out for a century. But mostly, next, we should pursue the following point: The rest of the book on the Templars by Piers Paul Read is a bit of a disappointment. Worse than that, it's disheartening.
And it's more than his scepticism about the Grail Legends, and, whether or not the small cottage industry of "Da Vanci Code"-style historians have any true secrets to reveal.
For example, as he approaches his climax, he writes this beaut:
"A final verdict on the Templars must depend upon our judgement of Catholic Christianity, and in particular of it's long war against Islam, the crusades. By and large, the crusades -- like the Inquisition -- are perceived today to have been a bad thing."
His point being that at least by launching centuries of warfare on a foreign foe, the powers of medieval Europe were able to stimulate their economy, and, keep the riff raff from duking it out on their own shores. The processes of Western civilization were served pretty well by it, despite all of the bloodshed.
But what do we expect from a man who wrote "Alive!," the best-selling book about plane-crash victims in the Andes turning to canibalism to survive? The end justifies the means: One of the first civic lessons you learn in grade school about Republicanism.
So yes, even if the trickle-down effect begins with the Pointy Hats of Light, there's an inherent fallacy because Republicanism is planetary feudalism. In its national self-interest, it lacks a global perspective. Sure, pour the bucks into the war effort, from Halliburton to every defense gadget now drawn up to the Department of Homeland Security. As Robert Penn Warren often repeated in his imitation of the southern political boss Huey Long, "All the King's Men": "It takes a lot of manure to make the grass green."
Sure, that's the real world. War is generally good for a stalled capitalist monarchy. It certainly keeps eyes away from problems at home. But, to borrow from another planetary Liberal, Canadian singer/songwriter, from his song, "Nicaragua": "Sandino of the shining dream ... who stood up to the U.S. Marines."
The final point being, the U.S. Government has unleashed a whole new generation of people who delight in the idea that they, too, can dream the dream of Saladin. Who cares if we ever get that relic chunk of the True Cross back? That antique is way too costly, in the long run. When the Company got another four years of power, we became instituted for at least a century of global sectarian conflict. In fact, it may already be too late. "One-Thousand Points of Bin Laden" is a hell of a price to pay for a piece of wood.