Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Tuesday, July 01, 2003  

There is, however, some serious run on this.

"God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them."

--George W. Bush to Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, according to Abbas

I would probably let it stand, as did Josh Marshall, for it pretty much speaks for itself. (Prudent bloggers should note: it's a second-hand quote. There's a lot of room for misunderstanding there.) If it's relatively close to what the President said, it's not inconsistent with things he's said before, and publically.

But Kevin Drum asks: "I can't pretend to know what Bush really feels in his heart, but is this really so bad?" Adding some analysis about how the remark was made in confidence, when the President was presumably gaining trust, the Calpundit gives Bush a pass. "He's talking to a religious person engaged in a largely religious dispute and trying to gain his trust. The remarks were made privately, and were obviously an attempt to speak in language that would be appreciated by the Palestinians."

Two thoughts. The quote itself, if we take it at face value, is the same kind of simplistic moralism Bush has used to justify about every action he's ever taken. It's unyielding fundamentalism, and he means it very literally: he believes he was instructed by God to invade Iraq. How a Palestinian is to regard this as good news escapes me. If God is on Bush's side and Bush is on Israel's side, how could Abbas think this was a hopeful comment?

More importantly, if Bush is conducting his foreign policy based on religious dictates, we should all be concerned. I'm less interested in letting Bush off the hook on the comment, because he seems insistent on making the point that this is not a game of politics or confidence-gaining, it's moral clarity. You're with him or you're agin him. Kevin compares Bush to Jimmy Carter, who also used his faith to create agreement. But Carter used it in exactly the opposite way: he used the universality of religion and the compassion of Christ as a way of building bridges. Bush isn't interested in agreement--he's interested in others yielding to his (and God's?) will. Big difference.

posted by Jeff | 1:12 PM |
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