One Nation under God

By Aijaz Zaka Syed – Dubai

George W Bush and his overzealous friends might have signed off but their shenanigans during their eight years in power continue to emerge, fascinating the world. Last week, Robert Draper revealed in Gentleman’s Quarterly how Donald Rumsfeld sent top-secret, intelligence briefings to Bush covered with photographs of Americans at war abroad and ‘relevant’ Biblical verses.

In one such briefing, above a huddle of US soldiers, appears the question famously put by God, “Whom shall I send and who will go for Us?” The answer is right here. This line from Isaiah appears over the photograph of a group of US soldiers apparently headed to Iraq: “Here I am, Lord. Send me.”

And look at this promise from Proverbs to those promoting Bush’s mission of ‘freedom and human dignity’ around the world: “Commit to the Lord, whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” Another briefing cover, according to Draper, shows Isaiah-inspired US tanks with the command: “Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter.”

One Nation Under God! The Righteous Nation on a divine mission from God! This wasn’t part of a Doomsday cult’s literature or something that appeared in a Dan Brown thriller.

They had been part of the US government’s briefings and were exchanged at the highest level of chain of command of the world’s most powerful army. This is why all this is so disturbing. Many in the US media have tried to underplay these revelations as barmy manifestations of Rumsfeld’s overactive imagination.  I am not so sure though.

For this has been more like a general pattern, rather than an exception. Rummy may be a fruitcake. But he knew what he was doing when he sent those memos and briefings dripping with evangelical fervor to the commander-in-chief. He knew they would make his Bible-thumping boss happy. After all, Bush took his mission as ‘savior of the world’ rather seriously.  He actually once told Palestinian foreign minister he was on a ‘mission from God’ to save the world. 

Recently, former French president Jacques Chirac revealed how in the run up to the Iraq invasion Bush called him up to warn that the Biblical creatures Gog and Magog (Yajuj and Majuj in the Quran, I think!) were at work in the Holy Land and why they must be defeated by the Coalition of the Willing.

According to Genesis and Ezekiel, Gog and Magog, the forces of Apocalypse, will come out of the north to attack the Children of Israel. Insisting end times were nigh, Bush reportedly told the French president: “This war is ordained by God, who wants to wipe out His people’s enemies.”

The story of this Bush-Chirac conversation was first revealed by Thomas Romer, a theology professor at the University of Lausanne, in an article in Allez savoir, in 2007. 

Romer had been consulted by a baffled Elysee Palace after Bush’s call. Chirac confirmed it recently in a new book by French author Jean Claude Maurice recalling how he was stupefied by Bush’s divine justification for the war on Iraq.

Bush sincerely believed the Iraq war was the fulfillment of Biblical prophesies and that he was the Chosen One for the divine mission. And I hardly need elaborate who, in his view, God’s people and their enemies were. Is it any wonder then the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are seen in the Muslim world as new crusades?

More than a million Iraqis and thousands of US soldiers have paid with their lives for Bush’s mission to protect Israel. So, it turns out, the Iraq war was after all driven by religious zealotry and the US Right’s preoccupation with Israel, as long suspected by many in the Middle East. More alarmingly, while Bush and his cronies have retired to their ranches, the crusader’s mindset is still at work.

In fact, as James Carroll wrote in Boston Globe this week, this influence of extreme Christian evangelicalism on the US army has acquired alarming proportions under successive Pentagon bosses like Rumsfeld.

I do not have anything against anyone’s beliefs. What worries me though is this chip on the shoulder, this perception of US soldiers about themselves as God’s Army which seems to shape and define their approach towards the people they have come to ‘reform’. Remember those iconic images from Abu Ghraib? 

Recently, an Al Jazeera report showed US soldiers distributing copies of Bible in Afghanistan and conducting group prayer services. The army was forced to destroy thousands of Bible copies after Al Jazeera report sparked outrage in Kabul.

It is this mindset in the US establishment that opposes all attempts to put America back on the track. These are the forces that are opposed to the closure of Guantanamo Bay and offering justice to its long suffering inmates.

While Obama tries hard to restore the rule of law and battered image of his country, the Republicans and many in Obama’s own party are bending over backwards to defend the indefensible.

The US Senate has overwhelmingly rejected Obama’s plan to shut the gulag at Gitmo – 90 against 2 – despite it being repeatedly condemned by rights groups and the international community as an outrage against the Geneva Conventions and America’s own laws and lofty ideals.  

After what the Bushies visited on the world, you would expect them to lie low out of shame and for fear of reprisals. If I were in Cheney’s shoes, I would disappear with my copy of Mein Kempf before I am bundled and dragged before the world court at The Hague.  

But the irrepressible former vice president has been going around defending the shame of Abu Ghraib and Gitmo and arguing why the US must continue the policy of abduction and torture of innocent people from around the world to protect itself. 

Following the Senate vote against Gitmo closure, an angry Obama went before the Americans, passionately pleading for upholding justice and rule of law for the sake of building a better America. 

In response, Cheney made at least nine television appearances crying how Obama’s plan to shut the Gitmo and his ban on ‘enhanced interrogation methods’ (read torture) and other equally persuasive practices put ‘our way of life’ at risk! “To bring the worst of the worst terrorists inside the United States would be cause for great danger and regret in the years to come,” snarled Cheney in his speech after the Senate vote.

It is now up to the American people what, or rather who, represents and defines them: Men like Bush, Cheney and Company, who turned the world upside down, making America one of the most despised countries on the planet; or Obama who epitomizes everything that is good and noble about America and who is trying hard to reinvent the original land of the free that all of us once loved? 

I think the Americans have already made their choice by throwing out the party of Bushes and Cheneys to elect Obama.  

– Aijaz Zaka Syed is a Dubai-based commentator. He contributed this article to Contact him at:

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