A clutch of headlines over a span of two days in April: US dispatches elite troops to Ukraine. US sends warships to Yemen to join naval blockade. BP taking more oil from Iraq in payments as government coffers dwindle. Saudi bombs boost al Qaeda. Sale of US arms fuels wars in Arab states. Michelle Bachmann says all signs point to the Rapture. For the first time in my life, I agree with Michelle Bachmann.
(Note: This was my column in the May edition of CounterPunch magazine.)
You remember Bachmann, don't you? She was once considered a serious candidate for the presidency. On the campaign trail, she would describe the road-to-Damascus moment that led her to become a Republican: reading Gore Vidal's "snotty novel," Burr. "If that's what Democrats believe," she said of Vidal's mordant look at the corruption and conniving of our Founding Dads, "then I must be a Republican." (Thank god she didn't read Myra Breckinridge, eh? Who knows what she would have become?)
Anyway, during those busy April days, Bachmann was interviewed on a Christian radio station and declared that the disastrous results of America’s foreign policy were clear harbingers of the coming Rapture: that blessed time when the Lord, like a celestial Mr. Scott, will beam up the saved to the heavenly Enterprise — then destroy the earth and kill billions of people with ravaging fire and photon torpedoes.
(You can see why Bachmann and her literalist ilk don’t worry too much about climate change; why bother to save a planet that’s going up in smoke any day now? And why bother to tend the sick and feed the hungry and all that other jazzmo Jesus talked about, when most of them are going to have their flesh fried and their souls shipped to hell? But oddly enough, the prospect of imminent departure doesn’t seem to stop these pious paragons from padding their portfolios with long-term investments. Well, faith is a mystery, as they say.)
Of course, the apocalyptic foreign policy Bachmann talked about was not Obama’s insane dance along the nuclear tripwire in Ukraine. Nor his brutality in helping impose a naval blockade of Yemen — a nation that imports 90 percent of its food, mostly by sea. The fact that Yemenis were starving and dying and running for their lives under the bludgeoning of American bombs dropped by Saudi aggressors did not trouble Bachmann at all.
Nor was it the fact that the Saudi assault has been a tremendous boon to al Qaeda, who had been stymied by their enemies, the Houthis, but were now free to capture airports and take chunks of territory with the help of their frequent allies, the Americans. (See Syria, Libya, etc.) Nor did she care about Obama’s record-breaking arms sales to some of the most repressive regimes on earth. Her only quibble with any of this would be that it did not go far enough — that there weren’t more troops in Ukraine bellying up to the Russkis, that there weren’t more bombs and starvation in Yemen, doing God’s work in killing heathen Muslims, that there weren’t more arms going to the Islamic extremists in Saudi Arabia so they too could kill more heathen Muslims.
This is not what set Bachmann off. On all these things there is remarkable comity and unity across the breadth and depth of the American political establishment, from the far right wing that Bachmann represents to the, er, not-quite-as-far-right wing that Obama and Hillary Clinton and other system-supporting “progressives” represent. The only “debate” in our militaristic empire is how fast we kill, how many we kill, and with whom we kill at any given time.
No, the great sign of the impending end of the world that Bachmann saw was … a prospective agreement to keep Iran from making nuclear weapons. (Which they have not done, are not doing, and have repeatedly declared they will never do — even though Israel has a vast arsenal of illegal, uninspected nuclear weapons aimed at them.) The slightest chance of a temporary pause in Iran’s eternal punishment for its demonic lèse-majesté — kicking America’s imperial stooge out of their country 36 years ago — is, for Bachmann (and for many others in the political establishment) an abomination unto the Lord, for which He will soon implement the mother of all final solutions.
Now here we come to a splitting of theological hairs. I do agree with Bachmann that there is decidedly something mephitic and end-timesy in the air these days, a blind, reckless — even willful — rush toward catastrophes beyond imagining. And I agree that American policies — foreign and domestic — are, like the Gadarene swine, the main receptacles of the deathly spirit driving us toward the cliff. However, I don’t think the proposed agreement with Iran is a divine blazon of the end. Nor do I think that God’s little sunbeams like Michelle will be plucked away to escape the consequences of our maniacal folly.
But in her own ignorant, horse’s-ass way, I think Bachmann has, as through a glass darkly, touched on the pulse of our times. For this is indeed the Age of Rapture — a word taken from the Latin, meaning “seizure, rape, a snatching away.” The sense of what is best in us — most human, most real and connected — is being brutally violated and snatched away. But there will be no transporter to save us; we are all, right now, in hell.