By John Corry on 3.5.02 @ 12:03AM
Pat Robertson has warned you: The next Muslim you see may kill you. As he explained on his Christian Broadcasting Network’s “700 Club” the other day, “I have taken issue with our esteemed president in regard to his saying Islam is a peaceful religion. It’s just not. And the Koran makes it very clear. If you see an infidel, you are to kill him.”
And then Robertson went on to warn about the Muslim immigrants who come to our shores. “They want to coexist,” he declared, “until they can control, dominate, and then if need be destroy.”
Mind you now, Robertson was not actually calling for a pogrom. He did stop short of that, although liberals, of course, were alarmed. They always get upset when Robertson talks this way, and accuse him of being a bigot or an ignoramus. But the liberals miss the point, and if our esteemed president or anyone else in the White House, Colin or Condi, perhaps, is upset with Robertson, they’re missing it, too. Robertson is an entrepreneur, and there is nothing personal in his diatribes; actually it’s only business.
But in fairness to Roberston, it must be admitted that not all of the business is controversial. “700 Club” viewers remember seeing him on horseback last year. He was wearing a hacking jacket, black riding helmet and goofy smile, and promoting, as I recall, a vitamin elixir. Apparently if you took it, you could be just as peppy as him, and what could be controversial about that?
On the other hand, I also recall a “700 Club” program last year in which Robertson praised Liberia and its president, Charles Taylor, and insisted that Christian Liberia was threatened by its Muslim neighbors. This was, in fact, a hideous distortion. As the Bush administration, the U.N., and even the Congressional Black Caucus had recognized, Taylor, a protégé of Libya’s Colonel Qaddafi, was financing the murderous rebels in Sierra Leone who specialized in amputating the limbs of innocent civilians. In return for Taylor’s support, the murderous rebels then passed on diamonds from Sierra Leone to Liberia. The Bush administration believes that some of the profits from this then went to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda.
So why was Robertson championing Charles Taylor and Liberia? It seemed to make no sense, although as I discovered a few months later, there was an explanation. Columnist Colbert King noted in the “Washington Post” that Robertson had a business arrangement with Taylor. Robertson, through Freedom Gold, an offshore company registered in the Cayman Islands, but based at Christian Broadcasting headquarters in Virginia, had signed an agreement with Taylor. Freedom Gold would get exploration and mining rights in southeastern Liberia, and Taylor in return would get 10 percent ownership in Freedom Gold. After the exploration period, Taylor and his cronies would be allowed to buy an even larger share of the ownership.
Well, of course. That explained things. Robertson had made deals before with unattractive people, while either saying nice things about them, or else saying nothing at all. The late dictator of Zaire, Mobutu Sese Seko, a world-class thug and thief, awarded Robertson’s African Development Company concessions to allow it to search for gold and diamonds. The operation went bust, but not for want of trying.
Meanwhile, at the same time Robertson was dealing in Zaire, or Congo, as it is now called, he was also looking at the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Robertson was interested in the cement business in Vietnam, although mindful, perhaps, that many conservatives were troubled by the MIA issue, he took pains not to show it. He conducted negotiations with Hanoi through intermediaries. The intermediaries, or cut-outs, were unsuccessful, but even so, Robertson was still attracted to totalitarian countries in Asia.
Colbert King reported recently that Robertson has formed a for-profit Internet portal, Global Business Development, to do business in the People’s Republic of China. Will he now campaign against forced abortions there, or the limits on religious freedom? You hope he will, of course, although you don’t really expect it. As Robertson said in 1988, when he ran for president, he is not a televangelist, he is a businessman.
Meanwhile, back in Liberia, Charles Taylor has just announced that Muslims have launched a holy war against Liberia’s Christians. Few resident diplomats and journalists, however, seem to believe him. At the same time, the British “Economist” dryly reported, “Mr. Taylor has surprised everyone with his new-found Christian zeal.” In fact, only the day after Robertson had warned us on television about the Muslims in America, Taylor told the crowd at a big prayer meeting in Liberia: “Take off your shoes! For you are standing on holy ground. This is a new Liberia.” And as the “Economist” then reported:
“Encouraged by members of his special anti-terrorist unit, scattered around the football field with their AK-47s casually aimed at foot level, people readily complied.”
John Corry is a former New York Times media critic and reporter.
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