I've been laying off of blogging, particularly political musings, for a while now, as I'm trying to work on a larger project. Of course, that's getting nowhere fast, and one astute observer has suggested that I ought to at least throw in a few smaller projects to keep my musing and writing skills at some level of competence. I had been uninspired about this possibility until very recently.
So what was it that drew me out of my slumber? Was it outrage over the insanity of the far-right belligerence about health insurance reform (quoting Charles Blow of NYT, “Belligerence is the currency of the intellectually bankrupt.”), or the shameless funding of politicians on both sides of the aisle by pharmaceutical and other corporate players in the health care realm? No, but at least I got in a quick shout-out on those points.
In fact, it's the revelation, not altogether recent but only now getting significant airplay Stateside, about President George W. Bush and the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. You remember Bush, the seemingly uncomplicated guy who made decisions of national and international import based on his gut rather than his head, and trusted in the leadings of his perception of God through Jesus Christ to guide his footsteps. Apparently we never realized just how much he was consulting the Good Book for foreign policy guidance.
According to several published reports, President Bush called French President Jacques Chirac in early 2003 to seek his support for invading Iraq. According to Thomas Romer, a theologian at the University of Lausanne who claims that French officials turned to him for help in decoding Bush's cryptic Biblical references, Bush cited a prophecy from the book of the prophet Ezekiel (later cited in Revelation) about Gog and Magog, two warrior nations whose movements in the Middle East would foreshadow the Rapture and coming Apocalypse. According to Romer, Bush said to Chirac:
“Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East…. The biblical prophecies are being fulfilled…. This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a New Age begins.”
This may seem simply an odd, offbeat, obscure bit of Biblical end-times ranting (if it had come from anyone other than the leader of the free world and the Commander-in-Chief of the greatest military power the world has ever known), but I can assure you from my days in the evangelical camp that it's standard eschatological fare, popularized by such very well-known authors as Hal Lindsey and championed by the likes of Pat Robertson.
I remember sitting in a lovely Stockholm cafe in the summer of 2006 enjoying a great dinner with a couple of my spouse's Swedish relatives, trying to explain to them the reasons behind America's foreign policy in the Middle East. As I described American evangelicals' obsession with eschatological prophecies and their resultant unquestioning support for Israel and concomitant opposition to Islam, and the expectation that Jesus would return to Earth and gather all of his followers up into heaven once the Temple was rebuilt in Jerusalem, my Swedish relatives began snickering. When I told them that I had read estimates that fully one-quarter to one-third of all Americans actually believed in this one particular literalist interpretation of Biblical prophecies, they openly guffawed. But when I told them that our President and Commander-in-Chief was one of those believers, they fell silent. At the time I was only speculating that this insane religious worldview was part of President Bush's foreign policy motivation. Now, unfortunately, I find my speculations confirmed. If anything could encourage me to believe in a benevolent deity, the fact that the world survived eight years of the Bush Administration might be it.
References and links – check these out:
You can read the original report by French journalist Jacques Sterchi of La Liberté here (original is in French; use Google Translator if your French comprehension, like mine, is a bit rusty). An article by visiting Yale professor Clive Hamilton, in which he draws in the connection of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's practice of embellishing military memos with quotes from Scripture (presumably to help persuade Bush), can be found here. The original cover sheets of the Worldwide Intelligence Updates produced by the Secretary of Defense's office are available here – view these only when you're prepared to be thoroughly appalled.