Bully goes to war Ð blames God

“Missed you at Bible study.” – Bush to White House speechwriter David Frum (Jack Beatty, “In the Name of God,” Atlantic March 5, 2003)

The bully on the block always had guys who did the fighting for him. He would falsely accuse a weaker kid of planning some horrible conspiracy and then unleash the tough guys – as a pre-emptive move, of course. On my block, the bullies had the same MO. But not one of them got into an actual fight with anyone who might inflict pain on them. They picked on kids who would not fight back.

When a possible retaliator appeared, the bully would summon his surrogates to administer the beating – in his name. I recall several Irish Catholic bullies, egged on by a bigoted parish priest, invoking God’s name to justify the beatings they inflicted on me and other Jewish victims. “We’re kicking your ass cause you killed our Lord.”

Now the born-again bully occupies the White House. He picks on weak targets, taunts them – “bring ‘em on – gets others to fight for him and then serves turkey to his proxy warriors on Thanksgiving. But worse than his addiction for playing dress up for photo ops, he has made bullying into official U.S. policy. As president, you have the forum to conjure up threats, report them as certainties and then order the armed forces to fight them.

Go back to January 29, 2002, when George W. Bush in his State of the Union address vowed, “We will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.” No, Bush did not plan a pre-emptive strike against Russian, Chinese or even Israeli nuclear arsenals. He clarified his intentions by identifying North Korea, Iran and Iraq as “the axis of evil” – weak states. And he had no intention of doing the fighting himself. He never has.

Given his religious “forces of good and evil” fervor innuendo combined with the ignorance of the world – “I may not know where Bosnia is, but…” – that informs the President’s policy decisions, I think Bush might very well “hear” voices from above. He doesn’t feel compelled to read, or listen for long to those with knowledge in order to establish a firm basis for his judgments. He simply makes decisions. That’s what leaders do, he told biographer Bob Woodward (Bush at War).

Rather, the supposedly wise counselors whose jobs consist of imparting sound information and advice to the commander in chief simply twist information and analysis to suit his “religious” whims – like invading Iraq. Actually, some of the National Security Magi – Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and his Department colleagues Richard Perle, Douglas Feith – thought that such a move would establish the basis for remaking the Middle East – maybe the whole world.

Some of them even have rather strong financial motives for such worldly renovation (I mention Vice President Cheney’s connections to Halliburton, National Security Adviser Rice’s links to Chevron and of course Perle’s multiple involvements with defense companies that allowed him to “do well by doing good”).

For Bush, the spiritual advisers may well have mattered more. The Rev. Billy Graham and the theocratic leaders of the Christian soldiers, Pat Roberston and Jerry Falwell, take seriously the idea that God looks with special care at U.S. politics. After all, Falwell divined, He may have chosen Clinton to warn us against sin, just as he picked Bush to lead us out of temptation and into war in the Middle East.

Graham, one of the self-anointed celestial surveyors, as Eduardo Galeano calls him, understands that “paradise is none too roomy – no more than fifteen hundred square miles. The chosen will be few. Now guess which country has bought up all the entrance tickets?” (Galeano La Jornada, March 19, 2003).

God has made his entrance in U.S. politics on earlier occasions as well. In 1898, He allegedly told President William McKinley to seize the Philippines – in order to spread His religion there. McKinley told White House reporters that after spending a sleepless night pondering a decision over whether or not to invade the Philippines, God intervened and helped him make the decision to go to war.

Bush has intimated that God chose him to be President – whether or not he won the election. Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence General William Boykin repeated that assertion and declared in June in an Oregon speech, “The enemy is a guy named Satan.”

If only the majority in the civilized world would understand that war in Iraq meant more than conquering a country with lots of oil, run by a serious black hat! Do good Christians around the world not recall – at least through reading – the story of the crusades, God’s unfinished business in converting Muslims to Christianity? The tens of millions who took to the streets to demonstrate against the war did not understand that Bush made war for God’s peace, not just for a piece of Iraq.

Only by appealing to the apocalyptic of Biblical prophecy could the Bushies have justified a pre-emptive war. One of the most ardent war hawks, Richard Perle, who resigned on March 27, 2003 as chair of the Defense Policy Board but remained a member, finally admitted in public that the Administration had no casus belli, no legal recourse to wage war, while dismissing legalities as inapplicable.

In the November 20 Guardian, Oliver Burkeman and Julian Borger quoted Perle telling an Institute of Contemporary Arts audience in London: “I think in this case international law stood in the way of doing the right thing.” Perle’s belated honesty flies in the face of official White House statements – prepared by the legal staff – that avers that existing UN Security Council resolutions on Iraq justified the intervention.

Article 51 of the UN Charter allows for an act of “individual or collective self-defense, if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations.” For Perle and his neo-conservative allies, such a formula under “international law … would have required us to leave Saddam Hussein alone.”

Indeed, such a legalistic course would have proven “morally unacceptable,” according to Perle. The problems the Bushies faced in making war on Iraq, Perle insisted, came down to the non-existence of a “practical mechanism consistent with the rules of the UN for dealing with Saddam Hussein.” Since international law proved defective as an excuse to invade Iraq, the old weapons of mass destruction and links to Al-Qaeda ploys served the cause. Bush’s legal beagles resorted to the old “sovereign authority to use force” notion to “defend” the United States from the threat posed by mighty Iraq. Hitler and Tojo used preventive war as Germany and Japan’s justification to launch World War II. Prior to the start of the Nuremberg trials in the post war period, Supreme Court Justice Robert L. Jackson, speaking at the International Conference on Military Trials, August 12, 1945, underlined the fallacy of pre-emptive war.

“We must make clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their fallen leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they started it. And we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into a trial of the causes of the war, for our position is that no grievances or policies will justify resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy.”

Adding to such dicta about preventive war, President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953 said that Hitler invented “preventive war.” Ike dismissively said: “Frankly, I wouldn’t even listen to anyone seriously that came in and talked about such a thing.”

Iraq did disobey some UN resolutions. But the Bush-Blair war against Iraq literally shreds the international legal system. It amazes me how the media ignore the fact that Israel has disavowed more UN resolutions than any other country – with U.S. backing. The faithful do not look for consistency, for to do so would be to question God’s will. So, the fact that Israel has grabbed Palestinian land for the last thirty-six years and possesses a nuclear weapon stockpile does not concern those to whom God has instructed to dispatch the evil Saddam.

In the 21st Century, a President came to power – he was not really elected – with a mission that most literate political types thought had vanished in the volumes of law and experience. As the concept of imperialism became anachronistic, an imperial bully took advantage of the bully pulpit.

Bush told James Robinson, according to Paul Harris in the November 2, 2003 New York Observer: “I feel like God wants me to run for President. I can’t explain it, but I sense my country is going to need me. Something is going to happen… I know it won’t be easy on me or my family, but God wants me to do it.”

So, with God as Bush’s key adviser, where does that leave Karl Rove – and the rest of us?

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