Before I go any further, I want to make a few things clear. I know about Chavez's history, including his own failed coup attempt in 1992, and that he is not a perfect democrat as we in Canada would define the concept and has some faults along with his virtues. However, given he won two elections, survived a coup against him and a referendum in the past five years, and is looking likely to win a third election next year it would seem his citizens are not bothered by this. The last election was monitored by Jimmy Carter and other well respected international election observers and they said it was a legitimate election, so whatever else someone wants to say about the ideology/politics of Hugo Chavez he at least is a democratically elected President. As for his anti-American tone, well given that since the Bush Administration came to power it has done nothing but try to undermine him and his government both covertly (as in funding organizations that ended up being involved in the referendum and strike he faced in the last few years) and overtly (see the lack of denouncing of the coup and the apparent support/recognition Bush was appearing to give to the "new" government) that should come as no surprise/shock, or be seen as without any merit. Given the whole rationale behind Iraq these days at least is creating democracy to fight international terrorism on top of the long standing American doctrine to support democracies, having the image of a major American political player and supporter of this Administration and the party controlling both the Executive and Legislative branches calling for the assassination of duly elected Head of State can be seen as on the same level as when someone like Khomenei issued his fatwas against western leaders/figures. This undermines a foundation of American foreign policy, at least official policy. Policy which I would add is espoused both by the current Administration and also by previous Presidents going many decades back.
Now, before I hear someone trying to tell me Pat Robertson is no one of any real significance/power in America as I have already seen too many pundits in America doing, I will show why I believe that to be false. Let's look back at Pat Robertson's accomplishments of the last couple of decades. He founded the Christian Coalition, one of the foundations for the rise of the religious/evangelical right in American politics, as well as its loyalty to the GOP. In 1988 he ran for President seeking the GOP nomination and even did well in Iowa before being derailed by Pat Buchanon taking most of the base Robertson had hoped to command. Indeed, it was his loss that caused him to set up the Christian Coalition one can fairly argue. His 700 Club even now is believed to get one million viewers daily even after his many scandals and many intolerant and hateful statements, some examples of can be found here. After all, this man was one of those that said 9/11/01 was Gods retribution for things like abortion and gay rights in America. Not to mention nuking the American State department. Then there is his American Center for Law and Justice that he set up as a counter to the ACLU and to specifically aid in the obtaining of legal privileges and rights for religion in the States that it had never held before among other things. Indeed this group he founded and is still President of last I heard argues that the separation of church and state is superceded by the individual's right to worship freely as he/she chooses. One last point to consider to underscore his continued power. Last year late in the Presidential elections Pat Robertson publicly stated that Bush told him that there would be no casualties from the Iraq war before he launched it. The response from the Bush campaign to such a damaging statement was not to vigourously denounce it but to distance themselves from it as gingerly as they could for fear of alienating Robertson's supporters within the GOP political base. That more than anything else underscores the reality of his ongoing and current power and influence in America conservative political circles
So we know this is not a nobody, despite the attempts to describe him that way. Indeed, he was one of the religious leaders that after last November made it clear that he felt Bush owed him and his followers for their support in electing him, and that they expected payback. One example of that was the Terri Schiavo case where he flew back to sign the emergency legislation from his Crawford ranch, something he had done for no other legislation before or since. Indeed, it also illustrated the power of Robertson and so many of his followers and their allies within the religious right in the GOP Congress that they got this legislation through at all, let alone with the speed it received. Understand that this legislation was effectively trying to find an activist judge that would overrule the rulings of the judicial system and judge Greer's perfectly legal and following Florida law decisions as written by its legislature, and was doing so by empowering any judge that was willing to do so in this one special case. Now supposedly activist judges are one of the worst enemies of not just the American political right but the religious right themselves. Indeed, they go on about the dangers of activist judges more so than any other segment of the American population from all I have seen and heard. So we see the hypocrisy in action in this case showing that their mantra of the evils of activist judges is nothing more than a partisan piece of rhetoric despite all the attempts to cloak it as principle based.
This also though underscores again the still growing power of this movement in American politics and government these days. This is also why when someone with Pat Robertson's stature and influence within that community makes such a statement as he did on assassination is a very serious matter and a bright light warning of just how far down the road of religious zealotry American foreign policy as well as domestic has gone. What is even more serious though is the lukewarm denunciations of this statement by those in the American political right, that is when they have made a condemning statement at all on this. President Bush has said nothing publicly that I am aware of, all that has been said was from either Rumsfeld or the State department spokesperson. Yet whenever a prominent Islamic religious figure makes any sort of statement supporting assassinations of anyone it is considered to be required for all moderate Muslim leaders to bitterly denounce such statements otherwise they are assumed to be somehow supportive of them. So where is the outcry from the moderate Christian community denouncing is the strongest possible terms the anti-Christian nature of Robertson's remarks? Why as of this post aren't the Blogging Tories denouncing this example of support for religious terrorism like they do all the Islamic ones they find? Assassination is a tool of terror especially when it is being taken against those whose views or political actions one does not like after all.
So far I see mostly a deafening silence from those same voices that get all up in arms whenever an Islamic religious figure, and ones without the power and prominence within their societies as Robertson has I might add, preaches a violent message against those they disapprove of. Yet these voices have plenty of time to attack a gold star mother for speaking her mind and exercising the legal rights she has and that her son died in the name/service of? I see a huge double standard in the treatment of Christian extremism and Islamic extremism in play here, as I have seen in all too many other cases as well. As one example take the abortion provider killings and the many within the religious right that see it as legitimate self defence and not murder at all. Even bombing clinics is seen as moral, for they see them as equivalent to the gas chambers and other places of mass killing/murder. Yet we do not see these religious extremists being denounced as a threat to the health of a free and rule of law based society by this government and its supporters, indeed whenever this is raised by the opposition to the GOP it is decried as being anti-Faith in some manner more often than not. At most we see from the mainstream religious right in America is a pro forma tut tuting such wrongheaded actions, not exactly ringing denunciations of such methods. Religious extremism is a threat to free and open societies, whether that religion is Islam or Christianity. To truly fight this conflict we are in we cannot afford to pretend otherwise, otherwise not only do the Christian extremists become stronger and more dangerous within our societies but it also undercuts any notion that the fight against Islamic extremists is anything other than a Christian crusade, and that would only exponentially increase the active as well as passive support for such extremism within the over one billion strong Muslim community globally as being in defence of the persecution of their Faith.
I realize some may think I am taking Robertson and this latest wild statement of his far too seriously. I would obviously disagree. I see not simply his statement but the various reactions and lack of reactions to it to be some really alarming/serious aspects though. It shows yet again just how powerful Christian religious zealots and zealotry have become within the American political power structure, especially in the current governing party. It shows the threat posed by too many of the social conservatives in our societies, more so currently in America because they have a higher (double) percentage of fundamentalist (in this case defined as believing the Bible to be the literal word of God) Christians to get out to the ballot boxes. It also underscores that the battle against religious extremism and religious terrorism is not just with the Islamic extremists, it is also as much with the Christian extremists, and currently they are getting away with murder quite literally given their power of the American foreign policy at this time.
So ultimately despite all we have been told to the contrary we have been witnessing a de facto Christian crusade against Islamic religious extremists, and that is a very dangerous thing. When Robertson makes comments like this, he only underscores that for those Islamic extremists as well as providing confirmation of their own ideology and propaganda regarding American/western intentions and true motives and nature for them to use in recruiting more supporters/soldiers to their cause. The lack of the proper denunciations from other Christian leaders in America and the current Administration given its close connections to Robertson are also useful as corroboration for the perception/belief that this is a religious war being masked as a secular one by the Christians controlling the American government, thereby legitimizing the notion that there truly is a need to defend Islam from an attacker of the Faith. So this can also be reasonably seen as aiding the cause of those Islamic extremists, or as the American right and religious right like to claim of liberals/Democrats when they are critical of President Bush and his handling of Iraq, providing aid and comfort to the enemy in time of war except in this case one can actually make that argument credibly. Yet where are the voices calling Pat Robertson a traitor to America, anti-American, pro-terrorist, etc? (crickets chirping in background)
We live in very dangerous times when the most powerful nation on the planet is under the control of people that are religious zealots or pander to religious zealots to maintain their power. That someone like Pat Robertson is still respected/feared by any American political party, let alone the current governing one as he is, is a very bad sign, IMHO. One last irony to note. The 700 Club which this statement was made on is a show carried on the Disney Family Channel. Consider that and then consider the messages of hatred and things like praying for deaths being considered acceptable family viewing and something wholesome for the kids to see. Yet let a bare nipple show at a Superbowl game and it is a federal offence for the corruption and immorality it presents. The picture that presents in not one of a healthy society in my view, but rather one in serious danger of becoming theocratic in nature. Given the belief that the notion of separation of church and state is seen as not something the American Founding Fathers intended for despite all the evidence to the contrary from their writings, and that this view is gaining mainstream credibility over the last two decades, that is nowhere as far fetched as I suspect too many people may think/claim it is.