“The great mass of people will more easily fall victim
to a big lie than to a small one.”
Adolf Hitler Mein Kampf (1925)
And the most egregious lies through human history have been told in the name of god and religion. Greed, exploitation, domination and aggression - all otherwise unattractive traits, gain societal sanction when they are dressed up in religious terms. Religion is not only an alibi for blatantly selfish motives to be packaged as common good, it is also the most artful escape hatch. Those who bolster their actions and choices as a message from god, cannot be wrong and therefore need not take responsiblity for their dismal failures. What argument can one construct against the divine voice with only the human tools of reason and rationality?
Osama bin Laden has no compunction in sending impressionable Muslim youths to their untimely deaths by invoking god and religion. But Osama is a turbaned savage sitting in a cave, right? We take his rant for what it is - scary and cynical manipulation by a deranged fanatic. But what are we to think when the president of the United States, the most powerful and technologically advanced nation, invokes god to justify an immoral war which kills and maims hundreds of thousands - how scary is that?
One would have hoped that in the twenty first century, with the not so distant memory of the human carnage of WW II, responsible world leaders would scrupulously avoid mixing race, religion and ethnicity with geo-political considerations. But bad habits, especially ones that have been hard wired into our fragile psyche over thousands of years, are not lightly shed. George W. Bush was elected and re-elected by Americans who find religiosity of their leaders a more endearing quality than their competence, honesty and intelligence. The world is paying a heavy price for that simple minded miscalculation. (Some are having sobering second thoughts.)
Even after the havoc he has wreaked in Iraq, Bush recently justified (in relatively subdued tones) his wild Iraqi adventure and implied once again that his actions were guided by God. He acknowledged making mistakes in a grudging and generic way but not about specifics such as troop levels, WMD and the whole dishonest basis for the stupid war spearheaded by evil minds. I shudder to think what his ventriloquist from heaven is telling him to do in Iran - he hasn't told us yet. Those who claim direct communication with other worldly forces for their earthly actions are either lying or deluding themselves. In both cases, it is dangerous to vest extraordinary powers in such unreliable hands.
"President Bush today said he had tried to avoid war with Iraq "diplomatically to the max."
Speaking to a business group in Irvine, Ca., he admitted mistakes were made in planning for the Iraq invasion, but he defended the troop level, saying "it was the troop level necessary to do the job," and he would commit the same number if given a second chance.
The remarks came as another former general joined seven others who in recent days have called for the resignation of Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld, saying he had mismanaged the planning and execution of the war.
Bush also explained, in unusually stark terms, how his belief in God influences his foreign policy. "I base a lot of my foreign policy decisions on some things that I think are true," he said. "One, I believe there's an Almighty. And, secondly, I believe one of the great gifts of the Almighty is the desire in everybody's soul, regardless of what you look like or where you live, to be free.
"I believe liberty is universal. I believe people want to be free. And I know that democracies do not war with each other."
Bush said he'd sat in a California church on Sunday near a mother and stepfather grieving for their son who had been killed in Iraq. "I also want to let you know that before you commit troops that you must do everything that you can to solve the problem diplomatically," he commented. "And I can look you in the eye and tell you I feel I tried to solve the problem diplomatically to the max and would have committed troops both in Afghanistan and Iraq, knowing what I know today."
In his remarks, the president repeatedly referred to the need to stay in Iraq to deny terrorists a "safe haven." He asserted, according to the White House transcript that, "Iraq has -- had weapons of mass destruction and has the knowledge as to how to produce weapons of mass destruction." He also said that our enemies "know, and it doesn't take much to realize, that when you put carnage on our TV screens, it causes us to weep."
He also said: "It's not easy work, by the way, to go from tyranny to democracy. We had kind of a round go ourself, if you look back at our history. My Secretary of State's relatives were enslaved in the United States even though we had a Constitution that said all were -- that believed in the dignity, or at least proclaimed to believe in the dignity of all. The Articles of Confederation wasn't exactly a real smooth start for our government to begin. And what you're watching on your TV screens is a new democracy emerging."
Update: A reader feels that I have misrepresented Bush's statement here. He said that nowhere in the above article does George Bush claim that he has "spoken" to God. But he does claim to know what the "Almighty's" desire is. He must have learnt that from some form of communication with the Almighty. But it was not that interpretation alone which led me to write what I did. I felt confident of writing the title of this post from knowing what Bush has said before. Please see an earlier post where Bush clearly and unequivocally describes a direct dialogue with God (on a first name basis) in deciding his policies. I should have provided that link here. So, it isn't my imagination and it is not misrepresentation. For those who are too pressed for time to read the entire article, I will copy the relevant portion here. The White House has never contradicted the account.
Nabil Shaath (erstwhile Palestinian Foreign Minister) says: "President Bush said to all of us: 'I'm driven with a mission from God. 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 the tyranny in Iraq !" And I did. And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, "Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East." And by God I'm gonna do it.''