A New General for God's Army?

OAKLAND, Calif. - In recent appearances on two U.S. cable news networks, he was slinging and zinging -- the well-rehearsed pitchman for the Biblical "End Times" was dead certain that "Iran is going to have to be attacked" before 2008.

He also claimed that during a recent visit to Iraq, he was told by intelligence sources that Iran had given the green light to Hezbollah to unleash suicide bombers in the United States this summer.

Mike Evans is a shock jock for Armageddon, a cheerleader for the apocalypse. These days, the bestselling author and head of the "Jerusalem Prayer Team", a U.S.-based pro-Israeli Christian evangelical organization, is at the top of his game. On Jun. 3, his new book, "The Final Move Beyond Iraq: The Final Solution While The World Sleeps", made it onto the New York Times bestsellers' list at number one in the paperback category.

Evans's publisher bills him as "one of America's top experts on the Middle East" and "a personal confidant to most of Israel's top leaders." He has several bestselling books under his belt, including "Beyond Iraq: The Next Move" and "The American Prophecies".

Evans' latest offering -- 200 pages of text and 100 of assorted appendices -- is relatively uncomplicated: Iran is the biggest threat to the United States and to peace in the Middle East, and it should be confronted militarily no later than the end of the George W. Bush presidency. Under no circumstances should U.S. troops be withdrawn from Iraq before the mission is accomplished -- the mission being the disarming of Iran. The U.S. public has been dumbed down by the secular left and the liberal media. And god has been removed from the public square in the U.S., resulting in Christians being systematically "stripped" of their rights.

His prose is pugnacious, a style you might expect from a writer who claims that he is giving the U.S. its "final wake up call." In the book, and in its promotional materials, terms like "appeasement," "secular humanist God-haters," and "pro-Islamic radical sympathizers" are tossed around as easily as if he were playing catch in the backyard.

In one passage, Evans maintains that the recommendations in the bipartisan Iraq Study Group (ISG) report, issued in early December 2006, are a "call to appeasement -- just like Chamberlain's in the face of Nazi aggression in 1938."

The ISG report, which was largely ignored by the administration, had urged the withdrawal of virtually all U.S. combat troops by next spring, as well as the engagement of Iraq's neighbors, including Syria and Iran, as part of a comprehensive "diplomatic offensive" designed to both stabilize Iraq and to address "key regional issues", including the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Evans essentially agrees with the core group of neoconservatives in the Bush administration who were the architects of the war in Iraq and have more recently been advocating a robust response to Iran. He departs company with them, however, in that his analysis appears to be strictly based on his reading of the Bible and what he calls the relentless attack on Christians in the United States.

In the penultimate chapter, titled "The Battle for the Soul of America", Evans argues that the assassinations in the 1960s of President John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr. "signaled the end of the age of innocence that had been enjoyed by the American people."

The social revolution that followed "was a full frontal assault against traditional family values and an American culture steeped in the tenets of the Bible," and was accompanied by a "lack of moral clarity."

This "lack of moral clarity" resulted in "battle after battle [that] has slowly stripped Christians in America of their rights," he says. "The American courts that espouse such movements as 'gay rights,' 'abortion rights,' and even 'animal rights' are now pursuing the right to be godless."

The book's appendices offer an interesting array of excerpts from interviews with former Israeli Defence Forces Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former CIA director James Woolsey, former Chairman of the Armed Services General Hugh Shelton, Harvard University Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, and U.S. News & World Report editor-in-chief Mort Zuckerman.

The journey of "The Final Move Beyond Iraq" to the number one spot on the New York Times bestselling paperback book list is a fascinating tale in and of itself. Evans and his publisher, FrontLine, an imprint of the Christian publishing house, Strang Communications, flew under the radar of the mainstream media, using near-daily e-mail blasts to supporters urging them not only to buy multiple copies of the book, but to help publicize it by writing five-star reviews at Amazon.com.

The goal of the campaign was two-fold: Become a bestselling book, and have that result in multiple appearances on mainstream radio and television programs. By all accounts, this approach has achieved its aims.

Evans had "made himself a major religious movement and media figure long before his new book was published," John Stauber, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy and the co-founder of PRWatch, told IPS. Although "he pegs himself as a 'journalist,' he's really a right-wing religious political advocate with great media marketing savvy."

For Stauber, the co-author of two books on Iraq, "Weapons of Mass Deception," and "The Best War Ever," Evans fits into the conservative evangelist Pat Robertson category "in some ways." After all, "Pat started the 700 Club and morphed his run for the presidency into the Christian Coalition."

The success of Evans' book "shows is that if you can tap into a passionate movement, present yourself well in the media, know how to raise money, and have a fan base of hundreds of thousands of rabid fans, you can sell books. He uses the media -- right wing, religious, mainstream and online -- very effectively. He's not just an author, he's a general in God's patriotic army, and he knows how to mobilize his troops," Stauber added.

Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His column "Conservative Watch" documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the U.S. Right.

Copyright (c) 2007 IPS-Inter Press Service

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