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Did Bush Say God Told Him To Go To War?

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    Did Bush Say God Told Him To Go To War?      Monday, June 30, 2003      by Ira Chernus Did God tell George W. Bush to strike at Al-Qaeda and Iraq? God
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 2, 2003
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      Did Bush Say God Told Him To Go To War?

           Monday, June 30, 2003
           by Ira Chernus

      Did God tell George W. Bush to strike at Al-Qaeda and Iraq?
      God only knows. Did Bush SAY that God told him to strike? We
      don't know yet, for sure. But we damn well better find out.
      Because if George W. said it, he-and all of us-could be in
      for some big trouble.

      Here is what we know for sure, so far. Journalist Arnon
      Regular wrote, in the June 28 edition of Ha'aretz (Israel's
      most reputable newspaper), that he has minutes of a meeting
      among top-level Palestinian leaders, including Prime
      Minister Mahmoud Abas. The minutes are apparently quite
      detailed, because Regular wrote a long article recounting
      very specific conversations. The last paragraph of the
      article reads:

           "According to Abbas, Bush said: 'God told me to
           strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he
           instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did,
           and now I am determined to solve the problem in
           the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if
           not, the elections will come and I will have to
           focus on them.'"

      Before you jump to any conclusions, remember that you are
      reading a translation of a translation of a translation.
      Mahmoud Abas does not speak English. Bush does not speak
      Arabic. If Bush said these words, or something like them,
      Abas heard them from a translator. Then Abas repeated them,
      as he remembered them a couple of weeks later, in Arabic.
      Some unknown person wrote down what he thought he heard Abas
      say. Then Regular, or someone at Ha'aretz, translated them
      back into English-or perhaps first into Hebrew and then into

      Clearly, we don't yet know what Bush said, or why. Just as
      clearly, the man has some explaining to do. And whatever the
      truth of the matter, he has serious problems.

      First, let's give him some benefit of the doubt. Maybe he
      never said it. The quote could be fabricated-though it is
      hard to see who would gain by making it up. Maybe he did say
      God told him to make war, but he doesn't really believe it.
      He might have made it up for effect, trying to score some
      political points in the Middle East.

      Whatever benefit he got should be far outweighed by the
      price he has to pay here price at home. This is no little
      incident that can slip away and be forgotten. Once Bush is
      called to account, his problems will really begin.

      If he confirms the Ha'aretz report, those of us who say God
      has no place in the Oval Office had better ring the alarm,
      as loud and long as we can. If he truly believes that he
      hears the voice of God, there is no telling what God might
      say tomorrow. This is a man who can launch the world's
      biggest arsenal of weapons of mass destruction-biological,
      chemical, and nuclear-at any moment.

      We should certainly make it a big issue in next year's
      election. If the quote is accurate, Bush cares more about
      getting re-elected than bringing peace to the Middle East.
      If he admits he lets God design our foreign policy, that
      might make it easier for us to deny him what he wants most.

      But not necessarily. Bush got to be president only because a
      lot of people think he is an upright, devout, spiritual man.
      In the 2000 election, the crucial swing voters were those
      who agreed with Al Gore on the issues, but voted for Bush
      anyway. They wanted a leader with absolute moral standards,
      not the "feel good" immorality that Bill Clinton represented
      to them. They assumed that moral standards come from
      religious belief. They voted for the man they thought would
      be more Godly. If we do indeed have a president who lets God
      tell him to go to war, these voters must share a big chunk
      of the responsibility.

      They also pose a big problem for Bush. Suppose he denies
      that the quote is accurate, or admits he said it but claims
      it was a mistake? Can he apologize for letting God's will
      determine his most important decisions. How will that go
      down with his political base, the Christian right? They want
      him to proudly confirm the controversial remark. Of course
      he should consult God,  they will say, before he decides to
      go to war. Of course he should be guided by the will of the
      Lord. Can Bush afford, politically, to distance himself from
      God? Even his political genius, Karl Rove, might lose sleep
      figuring out that one.

      This incident can do more than befuddle the Bush
      administration and slow down its war machine. It can also
      make some of his religiously-minded supporters stop and
      think. When they voted for him because he was more Godly,
      did they realize what they were getting? Did they understand
      where the connection of religion and politics can lead? If
      Bush admits the quote is accurate, now they know where it
      can lead. Some will not be surprised or upset. But some
      will-perhaps enough to make a difference in our nation's
      political life.

      It is up to us to help those folks think through the issue.
      If we view our religiously-minded, pro-Bush fellow-citizens
      as enemies to be defeated, they will only stiffen their
      backs and rally round the president. But if we view them as
      our partners in a shared political life, people we have to
      talk with constructively, they might just listen. They might
      just understand that it is not only dangerous to let God
      tell the president when and where to strike. It is just
      plain un-American.

      When the president lets God tell him what to do, it violates
      the spirit of democracy. In a democracy, it is the people,
      not God, who make the decisions. The president is supposed
      to represent the will of the people. Yes, he must seek the
      best advice he can get and use his own best judgment.  That
      means relying on facts, intelligent analysis, and rational
      thought-not divine inspiration. Once the president lets
      God's voice replace the human mind, we are back in the
      Middle Ages, back in the very situation our revolution was
      supposed to get us out of.

      If Bush lets God make foreign policy decisions, is he
      violating not just the spirit but the letter of the law? The
      Constitution gives him the right to make foreign policy. It
      does not say what should or should not go through his mind
      in the process. It certainly does not forbid him from
      consulting God. But it does protect us from having any
      religious belief determine our laws and policies. Did Bush
      violate the First Amendment's separation of church and
      state? The answer is not totally clear.

      It is crystal clear, though, that another part of the
      Constitution has been violated. It is absolutely
      unconstitutional for the president to let God tell him to
      take the country to war-not because the president is
      forbidden to consult God, but because the president is
      forbidden to take the country to war. Only Congress can
      declare war.

      If Bush's conversations with God led to war, it is Congress
      that bears the greatest blame. Congress gave Bush a blank
      check. Bush never asked for a declaration of war against
      Al-Qaeda or Iraq. Congress ducked its responsibility, rolled
      over eagerly, and gave away its Constitutional duty to make
      those decisions.

      So let's demand that Bush tell us what he said to Mahmoud
      Abas. If he really did say that God tells him when and where
      to strike, let's spread our outrage around. Let's hold
      Congress as well as the president responsible for
      dereliction of their democratic duty. At the same time,
      let's face the fact that many of our fellow citizens won't
      be outraged, and learn how to persuade them they should be.

      And while we focus, quite rightly, on Bush and God, let's
      not forget to ask the president another question: Do you
      really plan to forget about Middle
      East peace next year, because you will be too busy trying to
      get re-elected.  Is that the kind of president we want?

      Ira Chernus is Professor of Religious Studies at the
      University of Colorado
      at Boulder. He can be contacted at chernus@...


      Until the lions have their own historians,
      tales of hunting will always glorify the hunter.

      -African Proverb

      Love and Peace Prevail,


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