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Interesting commentary from whomever "penned" it. And he's horribly on target with some of his/her observations.


-- Doubtless it is my own fault. Attribute it to too many years overseas in the Beiruts, Bombays and Burundis of the world. Too many romantic novels and dark, swashbuckling, sloe-eyed heroes out of "Casablanca" and "The Godfather."

Until now, it never occurred to me that balding, paunchy Americans with pacemakers, and lean, rangy cowboys swaggering out of the American sunset, and good churchgoing Yankees with the gleam of God in their eyes and political gospel in their hearts, could turn out to be men with the dreams of Napoleon and the dangerous saintliness of the Crusaders.

Yet it is happening in Washington today. There is no question now that President Bush's intention in invading Iraq -- along with his unlikely band of gray but gleamy-eyed compadres -- is based primarily on religious obsession and visions of personal grandiosity.

The final confirmation was revealed in President Bush's speech to the American Enterprise Institute on Feb. 26, when he made it clear that his primary intention was to transform the Middle East. Earlier motives of disarmament were all but dropped.

As The Washington Post wrote, "As it heads into what senior U.S. officials said are likely to be the final two weeks of U.N. deliberations, the administration has made it increasingly clear that the outcome of that debate is ultimately immaterial to its plans."

And so, we could begin to see, as the smoke cleared, the degree to which the United Nations was really always irrelevant, merely a bone thrown to "reasonable" men like Colin Powell and the senior Bush's friends. But finally, serious people are beginning to ask, "Why?"

The predominant answer coming out of different quarters -- one that I broached six months ago, to a certain degree of derision from some readers -- is that the president of the United States of America sees himself as part of God's divine plan. For America, for the Middle East, for the world! It is not doctrine that he espouses, but gospel; not a world of shifting national interests, but one of absolute truths.

One of the best analyses came last week from the Rev. Fritz Ritsch, pastor of the Bethesda Presbyterian Church in Virginia. "The president," he said, "confidently asserts a worldview that most Christian denominations reject outright as heresy: the myth of redemptive violence, which posits a war between good and evil, with God on the side of good and Satan on the side of evil." This approach, he went on, "is characterized by a stark refusal to acknowledge accountability, because to suggest accountability is to question American purity, which would undermine the secular theology of 'good vs. evil' inherent in present U.S. policy."

There is a growing awareness that something very different is going on inside this White House. In this week's Newsweek cover piece, "Bush and God," the president comes out as a man "on a messianic mission," with a "faith-based foreign policy of the most explosive kind."

This White House, the article avers further, is "suffused with an aura of prayerfulness" and a "sense of destiny that approaches the Calvinistic" and is little burdened with old questions of a conflict being a "just war" in the classic Christian sense. The president "just decided that Saddam was evil, and everything flowed from that."

Now, everyone knows that George W. Bush went through two earlier overnight conversions, first when he stopped drinking cold-turkey in 1986, and second, when evangelist Billy Graham talked to him about fundamentalist religion. What has not been so well noted is that he -- by more and more accounts -- underwent a third conversion in the first months after 9/11 as he became gripped by the idea that he was the man chosen to liberate the Middle East.

Actually, such a conversion -- to try to impose the "freedom" he talks about constantly on other people through secular means -- speaks to an inner struggle as old as America itself. The original settlers saw America as the "New Jerusalem." There was the idea that man's political future and will would end here. Then, the idea became caught up in the secular state, that all men should be helped (or, now, forced) to be "free."

"George Bush somehow picked up the creed," says David Brooks of The Weekly Standard. "It's in the air today. It's straight out of this gospel, the idea that history is incomplete so long as, for certain peoples around the world, freedom is not complete. Bush is gripped by this mission."

Of course, there are some problems here. Such messianic posturing is counter to the American system of checks and balances -- who, after all, dares challenge gospel in the hands of its believer? Such Old Testament reliance on forcing others to do and to believe as you is hardly going to be welcomed in the rest of the world -- but why would you have to explain anything if you are the hand of God?

President Bush has now said "Anyone who is not with us is against us" fully 99 times since 9/11 -- just in case you didn't get the idea.

Originally Published on March-06-2003
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