The Magazine

Special Envoy to the Taliban

How Jeremiah Wright can serve his country.

Mar 30, 2009, Vol. 14, No. 27 • By P.J. O'ROURKE
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"  .  .  .  part of the success in Iraq involved reaching out to people that we would consider to be Islamic fundamentalists, but who were willing to work with us  .  .  . "

--President Obama, interview with the New York Times

published March 7, 2009

I've been pondering President Obama's idea to split the Taliban and get some of those maniacal fanatics on our side for a change. It's a magnificent idea. It's not, mind you, a good idea. But it's magnificent--grand, sumptuous, rich, splendid--a great, big, thought-filled ideal of an idea, the kind you'd expect from deep-thinking, idealistic Barack Obama. Boy, is this a thinking man's administration. They are thinking so hard over at the White House, having such bright, shining, effulgent, coruscating thoughts, that if you're a thoughtful person like me (and I'm sure you are), you can't help being carried away with enthusiasm. The next thing you know you're thinking yourself.

Of course I'm not an Ivy League-educated thinker like Obama. But I've got a notion that might help the president. I have the perfect person for the job of splitting the Taliban. I know who the president should appoint. Only one man fills the bill as Special Envoy to the Beard-o's and Weird‑o's to Get Them Quarrelling Among Themselves. That man is the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

I suppose the president isn't listening to me. I'm a Republican, a conservative, and I think the opinion that Rush Limbaugh voiced on Obama's efforts at economic stimulus was too much of an attaboy. But victory in Afghanistan is not a partisan issue. Even I am not Republican enough to wish for an Obama failure in Kabul. Furthermore, I know what I'm talking about. I've seen the Muslim world as an adult, without the distractions of rambunctious Indonesian madrassa schoolmates with their noisy games of dodge-fatwa.

The president isn't listening to me. And Jeremiah Wright isn't speaking to the president. So there are a couple of practical problems with my plan. But President Obama isn't the kind of fellow who'll let something as mundane as reality interfere with hope and change.

Splitting the Taliban is the same hope-to-hell, change-a-roo that the FBI used to destroy Boston organized crime. The FBI gave sympathy, comfort, and wire tap information to Whitey Bulger, Steve "the rifleman" Flemmi, and other members of the Winter Hill Gang. This caused a split between Irish mobsters and Italian mafia. Now all of Boston's organized crime figures are on the lam or in jail and--bonus--so are most of the Boston FBI agents. Organized crime has been eliminated in Boston. Crime is no longer elitist and exclusionary; it has been returned to the common people of Roxbury, Dorchester, and Jamaica Plain.

To give another example, there's the financial bailout strategy to split the assets of troubled banking institutions. Good assets will go to a "good bank." Bad assets will go to a "bad bank." I'm opening a checking account at a bad bank ASAP. New customers at bad banks won't get good things like toasters, they'll get bad things like liquor and guns. And the personalized checks in bad bank checkbooks won't have pretty pictures on them, they'll have printed messages: "This Is a Stick-Up."

Therefore President Obama shouldn't let the fact that Pastor Wright and I are ticked off at him stand in the way of high hopes for big changes in Islamic fundamentalism any more than I let the fact that Pastor Wright is a left-wing loony stand in the way of how much I love the guy.

I'm serious about that. Jeremiah Wright is a kick-ass preacher of the Christian gospel. In his infamous post-9/11 "America's chickens are coming home to roost" sermon, Wright talks about Psalm 137, the reggae song one, "By the rivers of Babylon. " Wright points out that "this psalm is rarely read in its entirety." Easy to see why when you get to the end and hear the psalmist describe the fun the Hebrews will have when they defeat the Babylonians. "Look at the verse, Verse 9," Wright says,

"Happy they shall be who take your little ones and dash them against the rocks." The people of faith .  .  . moved from the hatred of armed enemies to the hatred of unarmed innocents. The babies. The babies. Blessed are they who dash your babies' brains against a rock.  .  .  . Yet that is where the people of faith are in 551 B.C., and that is where far too many people of faith are in 2001 A.D.