President Bush seems to be engaged in a messianic, Jesus-like calling “to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” (Luke 4: 19b) He continues to justify his Administration’s war of choice against non-threatening Iraq by repeatedly playing both the democracy and the religion cards: “Freedom is not America’s gift to the world, it is God’s gift to every man and woman in the world.” (Acceptance Speech to Republican Convention Delegates, The New York Times, Sept. 3, 2004) “Freedom” is the preferred code word as it represents a palatable universal ideal. Substitute “Christ” for “freedom” as “God’s gift to the world” and the same intent to dominate, rather than liberate, seems obvious. However, unlike Jesus who chose to ride on a donkey to set people free, Bush resorts to overwhelming military force that kills and maims all who resist or happen to be in the path of “the advance of liberty”.
Like “freedom,” “God” is also big here. Power over others, whether for their oil or to anoint them with “the oil of gladness” (Hebrews 1:9b) is best hidden behind a posture of piety. And what better place to also hide other deceptions than behind the appearance of purity, honesty, humility, devotion. President Bush’s faith-based deception is readily seen. His Administrations’s pre-emptive war began on bended knee.
At his March 6, 2003 news conference, President Bush said, “I pray daily. I pray for guidance and wisdom and strength. . . . I pray for peace. I pray for peace.” (The New York Times, Mar. 7, 2003). Two weeks later American military unleashed 21,000 pound “shock and awe” bombs on the people of Iraq. Bush’s daily prayers evidently discredited US intelligence showing no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and no Iraqi ties to the 9/11 attacks-the two key arguments to justify invading Iraq, charges that were not only wrong but knowingly false. Nor were Bush’s prayers informed by UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix, whose team “found no evidence of Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction,” and who said when Bush’s war-starting “moment of truth for the world” ended the search, “I don’t think it is reasonable to close the door to inspections after 3 _ months.” (The Boston Globe, Mar. 19, 2003)
To whom did President Bush pray daily for peace? His former Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neill, said that removing Saddam Hussein from power “was topic ‘A’ 10 days after the inauguration-eight months before Sept. 11.” (“Bush Sought ‘Way’ To Invade Iraq” www.cbsnews.com, Jan. 11, 2004) And Richard Clarke, Bush’s former chief advisor on terrorism, reported that Bush seemed determined to use the 9/11 attack against America as a pretext to invade Iraq. According to Clarke, Bush told him “to find whether Iraq did this.” And when he replied, “We looked at it . . . [and] there’s no connection,” Bush insisted that he “come back with a report that said Iraq did this.” (Clarke’s Take on Terror,” www.cbsnews.com, Mar. 21, 2004)
In spite of all the evidence, including the bi-partisan 9/11 Commission finding “no credible evidence” of a “collaborative relationship” between Iraq and Al-Qaeda in the attack on America, President Bush continues to use that discredited argument to justify his administration’s selective, costly war. During the first presidential debate, when Senator Kerry told him that he “made a mistake in invading Iraq,” Bush replied, “But the enemy attacked us . . . and I have a solemn duty to protect the American people.” Kerry responded by pointing out the obvious: “Saddam Hussein didn’t attack us. Osama bin Laden attacked us. Al-Qaeda attacked us.” Here may be seen one reason why Bush initially resisted the creation of the 9/11 Commission.
To whom does President Bush pray “for wisdom and guidance and strength”? His repeated campaign stump speeches-to uncritical, by-invitation-only audiences-lacks truth-telling: he saw a “threat,” shared it and “the intelligence” with Congress, whose members came to the same conclusion. He then “went to the United Nations because this country must always try diplomacy first. . . . We sent inspectors into his country” whom “he systematically deceived” (www.lesun-news.com, “Text of President Bush’s Speech in Las Cruces”, Aug. 26, 2004)
A recent New York Times special report reveals that senior Bush Administration officials withheld key intelligence from Congress: that seized aluminum tubes destined for Iraq “were likely intended for small artillery rockets,” and not “irrefutable evidence,” as Vice-President Cheney said, of Saddam Hussein rebuilding his “mushroom cloud”-threatening nuclear weapons program. (Oct. 3, 2004)
Whatever deity President Bush prays to appears neither to inspire “wisdom” or love-especially regarding perceived enemies. He repeatedly tells his selective campaign stump speech audiences, “See, you can’t talk sense to the terrorists. You cannot negotiate with them. You cannot hope for the best. You must bring them to justice.” (Ibid; www.whitehouse.gov, “President’s Remarks in Canton, Ohio,” July 31, 2004)
Ironically, President Bush could not talk to Hans Blix about the assumed weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. If he had during the run-up to the war, Blix would have told him that “recent inspections proved far-ranging and more effective than any previously in Iraq,” that “while inspectors followed up leads from US intelligence, I must regret we have not found . . . any smoking guns.” (The Boston Globe, Mar. 19, 2003) Bush evidently also had difficulty “talking sense to” Richard Clarke about “Iraq! Saddam!” when Clarke told him “there’s no connection” between Iraq and the 9/11 attack on America.
Most telling was President Bush’s reaction to the UN inspectors’ pre-war search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. His resistance to the inspections led him to repeatedly say, “I’m sick and tired of games and deceptions.” (The New York Times, Jan. 15, 2003). “How much time do we need to see clearly that he is not disarming.” (The New York Times, Jan. 22, 2003) “No doubt he will play a last-minute game of deception. The game is over.” (The New York Times, Feb. 7, 2003). Saddam Hussein had stated, “As I tell you, and have said on many occasions before, that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, whatsoever.” (“60 Minutes II,” CBS, Feb. 5, 2003) The final report on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction prepared by Charles A. Duelfer, America’s chief weapons inspector for Iraq, is now in: “Iraq had destroyed its illicit weapons stockpile within months after the Persian Gulf War of 1991, and its ability to produce such weapons had significantly eroded by the time of the American invasion in 2003.” (The New York Times, Oct. 7, 2004). Bush constantly accused Hussein of the very deception he was practicing-and continues to practice with his faith-based posturing.
So-called “terrorists,” Hans Blix, and Richard Clarke are not the only persons President Bush evidently “can’t talk sense to.” The deity to whom he prays apparently led him not into the United Nations, but delivered him from the French, the Germans, the Russians, the Chinese and the leaders of other countries. He turned off many by the unilateralism underlying his call to arms in the fight of good against evil: “You’re either with us or with the terrorists.”
There seems to be a whole host of people President Bush has difficulty “talking sense to.” During a 2000 presidential campaign debate, when asked to name the political philosopher or thinker with whom he most identified, he answered, “Christ, because he changed my heart.” When the moderator followed up with, “I think the viewer would like to know more on how he changed your life,” Bush replied, “Well, if they don’t know, it’s going to be hard to explain.” It was. Bush repeated, “Ah, when you turn your heart and your life over to Christ, when you accept Christ as a saviour, it changes your heart, it changes your life. And that’s what happened to me.” Bush’s inability or refusal to “talk sense” to people extends far beyond so-called “terrorists.”
A basic threat to our security is President Bush repeatedly telling us Americans that “you can’t talk sense to the terrorists.” In declaring his global war “to rid this world of evil and terror,” he repeatedly demonizes his administration’s selected enemies, who are stripped of their humanity by being constantly called “evildoers,” “the evil ones,” “killers,” “terrorists.” (“George W. Bush’s insights on evil,” www.irregulartimes.com Oct. 5, 2004) Here a child, woman, older man, or another civilian caught in the onslaught of “liberation” is able to be counted as a dead “insurgent.” Here there is Abu Ghraib Prison. Here there is fostered a dehumanizing culture of death which prizes the presidential candidate who can best “hunt down and kill the terrorists.” Here there is no need for “the greatest nation on the face of the earth” to engage in soul-searching about its foreign policy, no need to take the log out of its own eye, as Jesus taught, so that its people may see clearly enough to experience, rather than interpret, the reality of another country.
To whom does President Bush pray? It is not believed to be about prayer but about global domination masked as divine intervention. It is about conquest and exploitation in the name of “freedom.” It is about the “transfer of power” to selective Iraqis secretly completed, with the “gift” of “freedom” now in Iraq-wrapped in US occupation. It is about resisting “insurgents” being ground under to pave the way for an election-at the point of a gun. It is about resistance to occupation driven by nationalistic love of country and not about “terrorists” who “hate our success [and] our liberty.” (Ibid.)
It is not assumed to be about “the ways of Providence” but about arrogance disguised as “moral clarity.” It is about instilling fear to control us and stay in power under the pretext of providing security to protect us. It is about conformity parading as patriotism. If “the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power,” does that mean the world is better off without Kenneth A. Milton? Without Jose A. Perez? Without Samuel R. Bowen? And is the world better off without all those other American sons and daughters being killed–and maimed– in Iraq?
Faith-based deception is believed to be about George W. Bush and his administration and not about “the loving God behind all of life and all of history.” (The New York Times, Jan. 21, 2003). A loving God talks to everyone, wants his sun to shine “on the evil and on the good,” rather than setting them warring against each other. A loving God desires the rain to descend on and refresh “the just and the unjust,” not have them imposing irreconcilable, demonizing differences between each other. A loving God “is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked,” not only inspires love of one’s neighbor as oneself, but love of one’s enemies as well. (Matthew 5: 43-48; 22:35-40; Luke 6:31-36) Peace is not just about “bringing terrorists to justice” but about bringing justice to those terrorized by poverty and domination.
Rev. WILLIAM E. ALBERTS, Ph.D. is a hospital chaplain. Both a Unitarian Universalist and a United Methodist minister, he has written research reports, essays and articles on racism, war, politics and religion. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org