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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

on a mission from God?

(Forgive me for stepping out of our non-serious world of campus politics for a moment, this article/issue seemed to warrant it.)

The New Yorker this week features a disturbing article about the War in Iraq. The article reveals a quiet controversy over US plans for replacing ground soldiers with bombings, US Generals' increasing frustration over not being able to get through to the President, and the disturbing depiction, by top pentagon and administration officials, of a President who is religiously and ideologically so rigid that he cannot respond to reality. Hersh has done some of the best reporting on the war, (breaking the Abu Ghraib story, for instance) and this is an absolute must-read. If you're short on time, or learn better through multimedia, you can watch this interview with Hersh from CNN: windows media and quicktime.

The article's depiction of the President is downright frightening. So that people read it, I'm going to leave it all on the front page. READ THIS(emphases are mine):
Current and former military and intelligence officials have told me that the President remains convinced that it is his personal mission to bring democracy to Iraq, and that he is impervious to political pressure, even from fellow Republicans. They also say that he disparages any information that conflicts with his view of how the war is proceeding.
After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the former official said, he was told that Bush felt that “God put me here” to deal with the war on terror. The President’s belief was fortified by the Republican sweep in the 2002 congressional elections; Bush saw the victory as a purposeful message from God that “he’s the man,” the former official said. Publicly, Bush depicted his reelection as a referendum on the war; privately, he spoke of it as another manifestation of divine purpose.
“He doesn’t feel any pain. Bush is a believer in the adage ‘People may suffer and die, but the Church advances.’ ” He said that the President had become more detached, leaving more issues to Karl Rove and Vice-President Cheney. “They keep him in the gray world of religious idealism, where he wants to be anyway,” the former defense official said. Bush’s public appearances, for example, are generally scheduled in front of friendly audiences, most often at military bases. Four decades ago, President Lyndon Johnson, who was also confronted with an increasingly unpopular war, was limited to similar public forums. “Johnson knew he was a prisoner in the White House,” the former official said, “but Bush has no idea.”
The President's religious convictions have been widely reported (he told a newspaper when he was running for Governor of Texas that he had a long debate with his mother and Rev. Billy Graham about whether or not someone who doesn't accept Jesus could go to heaven: they both said yes, he said no). But, until now they have mostly just been cause for skepticism or adoration, and their links to his decision-making process only hinted at. If this depiction is true, however, we have a problem in this country that goes so far beyond partisanship and liberal/conservative that it boggles the mind.

NOTE: If you're interested in learning more about President Bush's religious convictions, I highly recommend this Frontline documentary: "The Jesus Factor."


At 11:05 PM, Anonymous sarika said...

Over the summer, I met this academic who told me he had been lucky enough to sit in on some important economic policy meeting in the White House. He told me the thing he was most affected by was how many times people used the word God when discussing what America's economic future will look like.

At 9:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, Mr. President, you think I'm going to Hell?

At 4:05 PM, Blogger Erik Garrison said...

Let's take it beyond God. Lots of other things can be God. Human rights can be God. Development can be God. Freedom can be God. A named identity (middle-class, asian, white, black, Afro-Cuban) can be God. A political party or set of beliefs can be God. It all depends on where you define your center, or if you even attempt to define one.

What do you always refer back to? What node in your hierarchy of ideas do you refer to constantly? In virtually all cases where this kind of centrally-referential thought occurs, people make mistakes because they are unable to adapt to the fluid reality which they have attempted to understand by way of that central node.

Bush is a bad president not because he believes in God, but because he ascribes to a highly rigid form of world interpretation which cannot respond to the pressures of reality.

I feel like a lot of the articles on this site are reactionary towards religiosity because their authors' beliefs are of the same form as the religious beliefs which they attempt to attack; hierarchically inflexible and unimaginative.

What do I mean by that inflammatory remark? That only by truly rejecting the notion of incontrovertible truth (or at least its importance in the pragmatic process of political discourse) can we begin to heal
this nation.

Instead of focusing on deep pragmatic refoms of the system, we're getting caught up in self-identification and distinction from what abhors us.

Unconsciously invoking a God (i.e. core liberal belief system) to fix the multiple problems of Iraq and Bush is as futile as brandishing a Bible to expel homosexuals from your hometown. It does not matter what you believe is true, your horror of the beliefs of another. It matters how you practially craft your multifaceted knowledge of the world into solutions to this problem.

A lot of people believe in a lot of different gods. If you want to move them you have to invoke what ties them together, practical things which lie at the heart of human beings. I'm not going to claim that I have any real answers to this; it's a fucking hard question to ask, but most certainly a more rewarding one that the tasks to which we seem to have devoted these efforts. You don't mean it at all, but the fences you're building, Andrew Golis, are going to keep a lot of thirsty people from water.

If you have comments, I've copied this post to: cambridge uncommon

At 4:17 PM, Blogger andrew golis said...

I think you're absolutely right, for the most part. I did not mean to impune God in general, and those of us who are scared by religious fundamentalism (inflexibility found in religious dogma) must be careful not to conflate it with religiosity in general. This is true whether we're talking about Christianity in America or Islam in Iraq.

I'm curious to hear more about times in which we have been reactionary or inflexible, or more importantly build fences that prevent people from water. This certainly isn't my intention, and I would love to be able to check myself if it's something I unconsciously do...

Thanks for your thoughts!


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