In the continuing clean-out of my bookshelves, I came across a copy of Robert Hutchison’s Their Kingdom Come: Inside the Secret World of Opus Dei, which I ‘borrowed’ from my brother-in-law’s bookshelves 14 years ago, just after the attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001.
Imagine my surprise, after reading through the chapters about Opus Dei’s development and scandals, to find chapters mentioning Usama bin Ladin and the 1993 attacks on the World Trade Centre buildings.
Having re-discovered the book, preparatory to returning it to its rightful owner, I began re-reading those passages on islamic terrorism. Again, imagine my surprise when, only weeks after the beginning of the immense migration from muslim lands into Europe, I came across the following paragraphs, beginning on p.436, running through to p.443:
According to Vatican sources, [CIA chief William] Casey had also intended to attend but at the last moment was confronted with a triple intelligence crisis and had to cancel. On 6 June 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon. The following day, opposition leader Hissan Habre seized power in Chad, successfully concluding a long-planned CIA operation that ended [Libyan ruler Moammar] Qaddaffi’s influence there. Also the CIA expected Iran to launch an offensive against Baghdad within days that it feared would result in the setting up of a fundamentalist Shiite state in southern Iraq. All three emergencies highlighted the US administration’s concern with radical Islam. Consequently, the discussions with [Cardinals] Casaroli and Silvestrini focused mainly on how to contain the Islamic threat, though this was never reported.
In addition to the informal agreement over Poland, [US president Ronald] Reagan’s Vatican meeting was important for two other reasons. First, it came about as a result of Opus Dei’s growing influence both in Washington and on a policy level inside the Vatican. Opus Dei had played a determining role in shaping the Vatican’s reaction on Poland, giving rise to almost Byzantine rivalry and jealousy between Portillo and Casaroli. But the second key point that resulted from the meeting was the realisation that while the Pope’s attention remained fixed on Poland the emphasis of American foreign policy had tilted towards dealing with radical Islam. To be sure, the last spasms of Soviet imperialism – the Kremlin’s threat to send the Red Army into Poland and its invasion of Afghanistan – preoccupied the Reaganites, but they were more concerned with security of Middle Eastern oilfields should Islamic extremists take over the region …
The change in foreign policy focus was brought on by the downfall of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the US’s principal ally in the Persian Gulf, through which 70 per cent of the West’s oil passes. The Shah’s ouster by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who like the Pope had no armoured divisions, no squadrons of F-4 Phantoms, and no battle fleet, marked a dramatic turning for modern Islam. As long as the Cold War raged, Communism had been the common enemy of the West and most political commentators refused to take the work of the Prophet all that seriously. But they were wrong; a second confirmation of radical Islam’s new assertiveness came two years later when another group of fundamentalists, inspired by the same Ayatollah Khomeini, assassinated Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and very nearly succeeded in transforming America’s second major ally in the region into an Islamic theocracy hostile to the West. This prompted a reformulation of McNamara’s domino theory, giving it a radical Islam dynamic. Reagan’s advisers feared that if Egypt fell to Islamic extremists, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf kingdoms might soon follow …
Once the target of Ottoman expansion, as the end of the second millennium approached Poland was again a focus of Islamic regard, but for different reasons. With the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, the Polish capital became the nerve centre of an international bazaar dealing in surplus Soviet arms and the merchants of death did a brisk business selling the cast-off weapons to Allah’s troops. The arms were primarily destined for Islamic fundamentalist groups in North Africa, the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and Bosnia …
Soon after being named head of the CIA, Bill Casey adopted the idea of harnessing radical Islam to counter the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and he convinced the Saudis to bankroll the project. Casey never dreamt that the undisciplined extremists would actually succeed in defeating the Communists, only that they might contain them in the mountains of the Hindu Kush. By involving Islam’s fanatic fringe in what he considered a never-ending mission, Casey hoped to distract the fundamentalists from undermining Arab governments that were the West’s allies in the region.
As the holder of several papal distinctions, Casey would have shared the Pope’s view of Islam, considering it a religion that denies the Divine Revelation. However, the wily CIA chief appeared not to have taken into account that, since its founding in the seventh century, Islam has succeeded like no other force known to history in motivating men to kill or be killed in the cause of propagating their faith.
The extremist leaders were only too happy to take advantage of Saudi petrodollars and American logistics to form a strongly motivated army of militants. The Mujahedin-e-Islam – Combatants of Islam – were so successful in bleeding the Soviets in Afghanistan that they contributed in a major way – and in their view more so than the Christian Pope – to the disintegration of the Evil Empire. But once unleashed there was no stopping them. The Evil Empire had gone, but what became known as ‘Islam’s Floating Army’ kept on returning to haunt its creators.
For Christendom one of radical Islam’s most dangerous beliefs is that Allah has promised them Europe as Dar al-Islam, the Land of Islam. They regard the defeat that Charles Martel handed the Moors near Poitiers in 732 as only a temporary setback – albeit one that has dragged on now for more than 1,200 years. According to the Anglo-Islamic writer Ahmad Thomson, the most radical believe that the forces of Allah are again poised to harvest the fruit of the Almighty’s promise.
With its 2,000 years of institutional memory, the Vatican would not have forgotten that only 100 years before Charles Martel’s victory at Poitiers the old Roman province of Syria was one of the wealthiest corners of Christendom. Its towns and cities possessed magnificent churches and a well-endowed clergy. But its agriculture and industry were increasingly dependent on migrant labour to perform the more menial tasks, much as in Germany today with its 3.5 million guest workers and their families. The migrant workers around the year 600 were more often than not Arabs. Treated little better than slaves, they became increasingly discontent while realising as they grew in number that they constituted a social force in their own right.
Then one August day in 636 a ragtag army of 6,000 scimitar-wielding horsemen rode out of the desert to defeat the finest fighting force in the world, a 50,000-strong Byzantine army under Emperor Heraclius, and within a decade Christianity had all but disappeared from the region.
Everything learned about Opus Dei suggests that the question which today most concerns Villa Tevere is whether the West faces a similar fate. Participants at one of its closed-door seminars near Barcelona concluded that ‘a parallel exists between the present situation in the Occident and the fall of the Roman Empire, whose citizens were unaware of their own decadence.’ Now this was an alarmist, not to say scaremongering conclusion. But it was perfectly in line with Opus Dei’s use of the psychology of fear.
Reading these passages, 22 years on from their publication, is quite enlightening. One may draw the conclusion, from the anti-natalist and pro-immigration policies pursued in the European Union, that Opus Dei hasn’t been winning the arguments for some time.
But whether because of sound reasoning, or because of their perpetual paranoia about the safeguarding and extension of Christianity, the Opus Dei-ites were onto something. And now their worst fears are becoming manifest.