Did President George W. Bush invade Iraq because God told him to?
The story first began knocking around cyberspace and has now broken into the national print media. As the allegations go, Bush was meeting with Palestinian officials in June of 2003 as part of Middle East diplomacy when he asserted that God controls his foreign policy.
Nabil Shaath, then-Palestinian foreign minister, told the BBC that Bush said, “God would tell me, ‘George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.’ And I did, and then God would tell me, ‘George, go and end tyranny in Iraq’…and I did.’”
Shaath also claimed that Bush told him to “go get the Palestinians their state.”
White House officials have strongly denied the story. Press Secretary Scott McClellan flatly denied it, calling the claim “absurd.” Even Shaath has backed off a bit, asserting that he interpreted Bush’s words not as literal commands from God but as an indication that he was inspired by his religious faith to act.
Still, some confirmation of Shaath’s account exists. The Washington Post reported that shortly after Bush’s meeting with the Palestinians, an Israeli newspaper obtained the minutes of a meeting by then-Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, during which Abbas recounted the session with Bush. Abbas’ retelling of the meeting “was remarkably similar to the BBC account,” reported The Post.
But an Arabic translator who examined the remarks for The Post interpreted them somewhat differently. The translator felt Bush said, “God inspired me to hit al Qaeda, and so I hit it. And I had the inspiration to hit Saddam [Hussein], and so I hit him.”
Political commentators overseas have been especially alarmed by Bush’s entangling of religion and public policy. Some of them noted that what’s really significant about the story is that it sounds entirely plausible.
“In one sense, however, it doesn’t matter what he actually said,” wrote columnist Paul Vallely in the Canberra Times of Australia. “What is alarming enough is that it is the kind of thing he would say. Every line of it is entirely consonant with George W. Bush’s religious world view.”
Vallely called Bush’s over-reliance on religion “dangerous.”
“It allows him to dwell happily with insufficient real knowledge about those he has branded as the enemy,” observed Vallely. “It creates in him a delusional sense that he and his nation have been chosen by God for special responsibilities and special favors fostering the perilous perception that his norms are absolute norms, his form of government automatically superior to all others, and his spiritual tradition the only really true religion. And, most dangerously, it allows him to classify ‘the other’ as evil.”
In other news about the Bush administration and religion:
Bush sent advisor Karen Hughes on a “listening” tour of the Middle East recently, where she promptly spread inaccurate information about the nature of the U.S. Constitution.
Speaking to reporters after the trip, Hughes recounted a conversation she had with one overseas Bush critic who questioned his frequent use of God in speeches. Hughes replied, “And I asked whether he was aware that previous American presidents have also cited God, and that our Constitution cites ‘one nation under God.’”
There is no mention of God in the Constitution. The phrase Hughes cited comes from the Pledge of Allegiance.