On the 11th anniversary of 9/11, I blogged with the following:
Vanity Fair contributing editor and former NYTimes reporter Kurt Eichenwald is out promoting a new Bush-Derangement Syndrome book, 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars
You can read an excerpt at Vanity Fair.
To be clear, this is an anti-Bush book, putting the worst possible spin upon events described in the book. I loathe spending any money on this; but even partisan books can provide nuggets of useful information when you can cross-reference and wade through the bias filter that any actual facts had been transmuted and distorted through.
Last Friday, Thomas Ricks, author of Fiasco and The Gamble ( books highly critical of the Bush decision to invade Iraq), wrote a NYTimes review of Eichenwald’s new book:
A more deadly consequence of this heedlessness was the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 on the false belief that Saddam Hussein possessed an arsenal of chemical and biological weapons. An exchange from that time conveys the mind-set of the Bush administration. When Stephen Hadley, the deputy national security adviser, told Paul Wolfowitz, then the deputy defense secretary, that there was no intelligence linking Al Qaeda to Saddam Hussein, “Wolfowitz tightened his lips,” Eichenwald writes. “ ‘We’ll find it,’ he said with certainty in his voice. ‘It’s got to be there.’ ” The run-up to the Iraq war also elicits one of the most pungent lines in the book. After Bush told Jacques Chirac that biblical prophecies were being fulfilled and specifically that “Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East,” the French president decided, in Eichenwald’s words, that “France was not going to fight a war based on an American president’s interpretation of the Bible.”
BDSers- especially the secular militant atheistic extremist types- went stir-crazy during the Bush years over Dubbya’s apparent wearing of his religion on his sleeve.
Although the former president 43 is indeed a man of faith, he was hardly a Crusadist, theocratic leader who decided to invade Iraq because God Bible-thumpingly told him to (As far as I know, the claim is unverified heresay).
Tom Ricks liked the “Gog and Magog” reference so much, he found it noteworthy enough for a blogpost.
One of Ricks’ commenters, Xenophon, mentions:
Here is a passage from the “Secular Humanism” website that attributes the information on Bush’s Biblical prophecy to a Dr. Thomas Romer, a French theologian at the University of Lausanne who was asked by Chirac’s advisors to interpret Bush’s telephone message:
“After the 2003 call, the puzzled French leader didn’t comply with Bush’s request. Instead, his staff asked Thomas Romer, a theologian at the University of Lausanne, to analyze the weird appeal. Dr. Romer explained that the Old Testament book of Ezekiel contains two chapters (38 and 39) in which God rages against Gog and Magog, sinister and mysterious forces menacing Israel. Jehovah vows to smite them savagely, to ‘turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws,” and slaughter them ruthlessly. In the New Testament, the mystical book of Revelation envisions Gog and Magog gathering nations for battle, “and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.’
In 2007, Dr. Romer recounted Bush’s strange behavior in Lausanne University’s review, Allez Savoir. A French-language Swiss newspaper, Le Matin Dimanche, printed a sarcastic account titled: “When President George W. Bush Saw the Prophesies of the Bible Coming to Pass.” France’s La Liberte likewise spoofed it under the headline “A Small Scoop on Bush, Chirac, God, Gog and Magog.” But other news media missed the amazing report.”
CounterPunch‘s Clive Hamilton writes:
In 2003 while lobbying leaders to put together the Coalition of the Willing, President Bush spoke to France’s President Jacques Chirac. Bush wove a story about how the Biblical creatures Gog and Magog were at work in the Middle East and how they must be defeated.
In Genesis and Ezekiel Gog and Magog are forces of the Apocalypse who are prophesied to come out of the north and destroy Israel unless stopped. The Book of Revelation took up the Old Testament prophesy:
“And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle … and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.”
Bush believed the time had now come for that battle, telling Chirac:
“This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a New Age begins”.
The story of the conversation emerged only because the Elysée Palace, baffled by Bush’s words, sought advice from Thomas Römer, a professor of theology at the University of Lausanne. Four years later, Römer gave an account in the September 2007 issue of the university’s review, Allez savoir. The article apparently went unnoticed, although it was referred to in a French newspaper.
The story has now been confirmed by Chirac himself in a new book, published in France in March, by journalist Jean Claude Maurice. Chirac is said to have been stupefied and disturbed by Bush’s invocation of Biblical prophesy to justify the war in Iraq and “wondered how someone could be so superficial and fanatical in their beliefs”.
In the same year he spoke to Chirac, Bush had reportedly said to the Palestinian foreign minister that he was on “a mission from God” in launching the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and was receiving commands from the Lord.
Read the rest of Hamilton’s piece, and you get the sense that he might be writing his piece while wearing his tin-foil hat.
As in the Mahmoud Abbas claim regarding “God told me to invade Iraq”, I am willing to believe that President Bush might have mentioned God or even made reference to Gog and Magog, but that whatever he said has been conflated or distorted, giving more meaning and significance than is warranted.
It’s like George W. Bush making a case that freedom is a God-given right and “every human being bears the image of our maker.”
How many people find the following characterization alarmist:
he told a group of Christian broadcasters that his policies in the region were predicated on the beliefs that freedom was a God-given right and ‘every human being bears the image of our maker.'”
I’m also reminded of the following from 2007 as it relates to Bob Woodward’s promotion of his book, Plan of Attack:
Having given the order, the president walked alone around the circle behind the White House. Months later, he told Woodward: “As I walked around the circle, I prayed that our troops be safe, be protected by the Almighty. Going into this period, I was praying for strength to do the Lord’s will. I’m surely not going to justify war based upon God. Understand that. Nevertheless, in my case, I pray that I be as good a messenger of his will as possible. And then, of course, I pray for forgiveness.”
Did Mr. Bush ask his father for any advice? “I asked the president about this. And President Bush said, ‘Well, no,’ and then he got defensive about it,” says Woodward. “Then he said something that really struck me. He said of his father, ‘He is the wrong father to appeal to for advice. The wrong father to go to, to appeal to in terms of strength.’ And then he said, ‘There’s a higher Father that I appeal to.’”
(Pg 379 in Woodward’s book)
Obviously President Bush is devoted to his faith. But he never “Pushed his religion” on the nation. He just wasn’t afraid to express himself when most secularists want (and the ACLU demands) those who believe in a higher power to remain in the closet; to keep their faith tucked away out of public sight, murmured only in privacy and never on open display in public.
Remember how cringe-induced people were to President Bush mentioning of the word “crusade”? Think that was blown a bit out of context by those of eggshell sensitivities? Actually, it was a poor slip. But anyone who objectively looked at how President Bush prosecuted the GWoT could see that he was anything but anti-Islam and anti-Muslim.
Ricks does note in his NYTimes review that:
Eichenwald’s prose occasionally lapses into the style of Tom Clancy’s novels, complete with the bureaucrat-as-hero theme and overwrought prose: “The electronic timer on a concealed briefcase bomb flashed red, its digits counting down from five minutes. A small fan quietly whirred, generating a breath of air that could disperse enough sarin gas to kill everyone within several yards.” The histrionic tone seems unnecessary when writing about some of the most dramatic events of our time. And it is especially grating when the Clancyesque details are wrong, as when he portrays Donald Rumsfeld, then defense secretary, as sharply decisive when he was notorious inside the Pentagon for being imperious but vacillating. There are also some odd errors. The people of Afghanistan are “Afghans,” not “Afghanis,” which is the currency. Yet Eichenwald refers to them this way more than 20 times. Likewise, Aq Kupruk is near the Afghan town of Mazar-i-Sharif, but is a village, not a city, as Eichenwald writes. And Gen. Wesley Clark was retired from military service when he is shown on a visit to the Pentagon, so why is he depicted as having “dozens of medals and service ribbons gleaming on his chest”?
Sounds like a lot of fiction-writing and slip-shod sloppy research journalism to me…even the parts (or perhaps especially the parts) that anti-Bush author Thomas Ricks relished.
Not sure I will purchase Eichenwald’s book; but I’m curious enough to go down to the local Barnes & Noble and peruse the contents.
I love anti-Bush and anti-Iraq war books! Especially those of BDS-induced fevered imaginings.
Interesting passage from Robert Draper’s book, Dead Certain, pg 189-190:
Bush knew where he had to turn.
It didn’t come naturally, talking about his faith. Bushes tended not to boast of their devoutness. As a gubernatorial candidate, and later as governor, he never spoke publicly of his days teaching Sunday school in Dallas. He and Laura read the Bible daily, and they spoke to the girls about their Christian faith. And even though by 1996 Bush was a vocal proponent of government support for faith-based initiatives, he largely restricted his own articulation of faith to praying before his meals.
On November 3, 1996, Bush spoke to an Austin Presbyterian congregation at the behest of one of its elders, Karen Hughes. “I usually don’t address churches or religious organizations,” he acknowledged in his speech that Sunday. “I worry about the political world adopting the religious world. I think of the candidates who say, ‘Vote for me, I am the most religious.’ Or, ‘I walk closer to God than old so-and-so.’ How contradictory to the teachings of the Lord.”
Said Bush that day, “I have worries. Worries about dragging my wife into a fishbowl and worries about the happiness of our twin teenagers. I have moments of doubt, moments of pride, and moments of hope. Yet my faith helps me a lot. I have a sense of calm because I do believe in the Bible when it implores: ‘Thy will be done.’ I guess it is the Presbyterian in me that says if it is meant to be, it is meant to be. There is something very assuring in the belief that there is a higher being and a divine plan.”
Seven years later, on the eve of sending his fellow countrymen off to kill and possibly be killed, George W. Bush tried to explain to a group that belief was his beacon, not his almighty spear. “I would never justify my faith to make a difficult decision on war and peace,” he told them. “I would use my faith to help guide me personally and provide the strength I need as an individual.”