So what do we make of the empire’s salvation story, now that we are acquainted with the fact that it frequently strengthens Muslim extremists (those called “terrorists” by the Western media), making them an effective weapon against the empire’s opponents?
Citizens of countries that receive benefits from imperial control tend to rationalize this by saying, “Well, running the world can be a dirty business. So long as the dirty business is done for a good purpose, I won’t complain. And keeping tabs on extremist Muslims is a good purpose.”
Here’s why I reject that approach.
1. The empire has made war on Muslim nations that oppose Wahhabi extremism (Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Syria), not those that promote it (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Turkey). In the process, it has destroyed functioning societies that provided decent-to-good educational, health and commercial opportunities for its citizens. These same societies had strong secular traditions and had achieved some success at peacefully integrating adherents of different religions and different strands of Islam. Each resisted the empire’s way of governing and doing business, but none threatened the empire militarily.
I don’t see any “good purpose” at work when the empire destroys such societies.
2. Without doubt, Muslim extremists define and pursue their own goals. But their prominence on the world stage over the past 35 years has been largely attributable to financial support from two members of the empire (Saudi Arabia and Qatar) and the military training and support of other members of the empire (including the USA). If the empire wanted to reduce the impact of Muslim extremism in our world, it could achieve this result quickly through restrictions in funding and arms from members of the imperial coalition.
This has not happened because fear of Muslim extremism is so valuable in winning public support for wars of aggression, military spending, and restrictions in government transparency and civil liberties. In short, the empire’s entire salvation story has come to resemble a criminal protection racket.
3. The dishonesty of the empire’s story infects the entire enterprise, including the covert relationships between the empire’s intelligence agencies and the Muslim extremists who carry out targeted terror attacks. Thus, we can no longer tell whether or not particular acts of terrorism–Paris, Nairobi, Boston, Mumbai, Beirut, Samarra, London, Madrid, Jakarta, Bali, New York–have been facilitated or even planned by the empire.
The best we can do is make an educated guess, and assume half have been and half have not.
In the final book of the Bible, the author of The Revelation to John speaks three times of the empire’s deception (13:14; 18:23; 19:20). The Apostle Paul saw this coming. Writing forty years earlier, he told Jesus-followers in Colossae that the empire claiming to be the hope of the world was in reality “the power of darkness” (1:13) seeking to “take captive” (2:8) their hearts and minds.
Our situation today is similar to theirs.