Bush II’s Finest Moment

For my money, President George W Bush’s finest moment was also one of his worst moments as president.

He took this nation to war based on the belief that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction.” Our troops got in there and found — guess what? — no weapons of mass destruction!

Why would I think that this was President Bush’s finest hour?

Because he didn’t lie about it.

He didn’t try to fake weapons of mass destruction.

He told us the truth.

Sad to say, that is as rare as hen’s teeth in the American presidency of the past few decades. Of all the things George W Bush did as president, some of which I agreed with strongly and others which I opposed adamantly, none earned my respect like the way he took it on the chin over the lies that got us into Iraq.

I am convinced that there were deliberate lies involved in this; lies told by what President Eisenhower called the “military industrial complex.” This “complex” appears to be always hungry for another war, and always willing to do whatever it takes to create one.

But President Bush redeemed himself and his intentions, at least in my eyes, by telling the truth.

Now, he did try to soft-soap the whole thing with talk about how “evil” the dictator of Iraq was. He did his best to shift attention away from this awful mess he’d made by invading Iraq. But he didn’t lie and he didn’t try to shift the blame. He let the buck stop with him.

For that, hats off, President Bush.

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Book Review: American Militarism vs the Kingdom of God

Fight To join the discussion about Fight A Christian Case for Nonviolence, or to order a copy, go here

Fight is an ironic name for a book that is a polemic on the Christian call to nonviolence.

The book’s author, Preston Sprinkle, wrote the book in response to and as a conversation with America’s militaristic evangelical community. Even though I have a few problems with some of his interpretations of specific scriptures, I think he’s got a point. In fact, I think he’s dead-on accurate in many of his conclusions.

I remember seeing a video of one of our preachers here in Oklahoma City. This preacher was speaking (I can not regard his speech as a sermon of any sort) to a thoroughly roused-up and enormous congregation. Since the speech was going out over the airwaves, his actual audience was much larger.

This preacher was charging up and down the stage, mike in hand, using all the theatrics at his disposal. He would bend over and lower his voice to make a bottom dropping point at one place, and then straighten up and shout out his next point. It wasn’t a sermon. It was a performance.

And it wasn’t even vaguely Christian.

This man was taking verses out of the Bible to weave a totally fallacious case that somehow or other Jesus supported invading Iraq.

He had his audience in the palm of his hand. After all, most of them came to this particular church because they liked performances for their sermons and because they wanted “christian teaching” that would get them going emotionally while making them feel great about whatever they wanted to do in the first place.

The audience cheered and yelled like they were at a football game.

I haven’t seen many things that disgusted me more than this performance sermon and its clearly heretical mis-use of Holy Scripture to support a war.

I knew, even then, that the whole Iraq invasion was a sham. This was an unnecessary war that we were going into for reasons that had nothing to do with what we were being told. I have never understood why anyone would have had trouble seeing through the excuses for this war.

I also saw that if America’s Christian community did not stop using Christ to justify war, it would eventually destroy itself. People will follow the theological heresy of militarism so long as if feels good. But, as Europe has shown us, bombed out buildings and gas ovens do tend to dim the luster of it.

War is an almost preposterous evil. The Civil War general, William Tecumseh Sherman, the same General Sherman who burned Atlanta and waged war on the civilian population in his infamous march to the sea, said that war is hell.

He was right.

A friend of my husband’s went to view the federal building after the bombing here in Oklahoma City. “That is nothing,” she said as she gazed at the ruins. “Nothing.”

She had lived through war waged on a large scale. She had, in her youth, seen whole cities razed to bombed out hulks, human beings burnt to ash as they hid in their bomb shelters.

We are so soft when horror comes to us. We can not bear our losses, cannot abide our pain. But we treat war itself, which is savagery writ unimaginable, as if it was a computer game. Maybe we do that because we can switch our wars off in the same way that we switch off computer games.

There is very little reportage of what is happening on the perpetual warfront that America has embarked on. We bomb and slay without the rest of us here at home knowing about it. Our best hint of what is happening is when we see our own soldiers, returning to us with shattered bodies and — often — shattered minds.

Something ugly is out there on the other side of the endless rambles of the talking heads debating their endless gaffe reporting about what some politician said to a friend in an elevator or mumbled under his or her breath when he or she thought the mike was off. Something really ugly is out there, but we can’t see it, don’t know about it.

Our only real intimation is that we hear constantly about our national debt. We are told that the cause of this debt is us. It’s Social Security and Medicare. It’s the public schools. The whole debt and economic malaise of this country is the fault of those who pay the bills: The American people. No one mentions, no one even whispers, that we are funding a war colossus that asks for more, more, more ever single year and has been doing so since World War II.

We never talk about that 800 lb gorilla sitting in the middle of the room eating all the bananas. Such talk would be unpatriotic. It would mean that we don’t want to “defend ourselves” against all those people out there “who want to kill us.”

Militarism is a false idol. It is also, according to the author of Fight, anti-Scriptural and anti-Christian.

Fight takes the reader on a survey of the Scriptures from the viewpoint of looking at God’s teachings about war and militarism. Notice that militarism is a category that is distinct from war. One is an action of government-sponsored violence. The other is an outlook, a belief in war itself. It is an idol.

A large part of what Mr Sprinkle writes about the Old Testament necessarily focuses on discerning what God meant, rather than what He said. This is important to all Christians because the Old Testament seems in many ways to challenge the New Testament. Western Civilization is at its best when it is responding to the clear teachings of the New Testament, and at its worst when it looks for excuses for its murderous impulses in the Old Testament.

How are Christians meant to understand the seeming contradictions in attitude between the two covenants?

Mr Sprinkle does a fine job of presenting his answer to this, at least so far as it concerns war and war making. Fight is a well-written, well-researched presentation of his viewpoint concerning violence, war and the call of all Christians to follow Christ, even to the cross.

I don’t honestly know what I think about some of the points he makes. I need to think them through first before I can say. But I do think the book is a good read that opens a debate American Christians need to have.

I do not want to see Christians in this country fall into the trap that Christians fell into in Nazi Germany of supporting militarism right down to the pit of hell.

I am not and never have been a pacifist. I believe in self defense. That would seem to put me outside the ideal Mr Sprinkle is advocating. However, I cannot deny that his presentation is compelling.

My main interest in his book is that it starts a needful conversation. I remember that preacher charging around the stage, preaching what was clearly the heresy of militarism to a cheering crowd. I see this country edging ever closer to economic ruin while we feed our resources into the maw of a war machine. And I know that we must change or die.

 

 

Murder in the UK: Reflections on Terror

Jessica Hoff, who blogs at nebraskaenergyobserver, gives us the British-eye-view of what she described as “the atrocity” in her post Reflections on Terror.

The “atrocity” Jessica refers to is the cold-blooded murder of a British soldier by Islamic radicals. Jessica raises a number of questions in her blog post that I think deserve thoughtful discussion. I hope that Public Catholic readers can contribute to it in an equally thoughtful way.

Here, reprinted with permission, is what she has to say:

Reflections on Terror

MAY 28, 2013 BY JESSICAHOF

The media in the UK has been dominated these past few days by the atrocity in Woolwich. Thanks to the ubiquity of what we call mobile phones and you call cell phones, we know precisely why the murderers did what they did. They wanted to take revenge for the deaths of Muslims in Syria,Iraq and Afghanistan. As the main cause of death among Muslims in these places is the action of other Muslims, one might stop and wonder who educated these kids; and then, when one knows, it makes sense. They were educated by hate-preachers who batten like parasites on some mosques, and who preach a message which has nothing to do with love and everything to do with hate. They have a version of what has happened since 9/11 (and earlier) and they feed these impressionable kids with it. The questions which occur to me is why that version is so easily swallowed?

Part of the answer to that is our own MSM. It took against the wars of Afghanistan and Iraq and has preferred to peddle a narrative of blaming Bush and Blair rather than one of asking what those regimes were like and why their overthrow has been a good thing; let’s play politics, people, it isn’t as though there is anything bigger at stake.

Here, let it be said, Bush and Blair have not been helpful to their own cause. Whatever the truth of the WMD claim, it turned out to be wrong, and it may well have been an excuse to do something they thought needed doing; if so, they have both paid a heavy price for any misleading statements which may, or may not, have been made. Interesting that neither of them was prepared to make the real case – that these regimes were barbarous and needed taking down. Perhaps if they had left it with Afghanistan, where the Taliban were utterly repulsive and when Bib Laden was being sheltered, it would have been better. But what happened, happened, and the narrative in our MSM is manna from heaven to the fundamentalist Imams everywhere. They have no trouble pointing out that our own media does not believe our own Governments, which feeds into their own narrative – that there is a Crusade going on.

This is not just mendacious, it is the opposite of the truth. From Kuwait and Bosnia in the 1990s, and through to Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, the West has actually tried to save Muslims from being slaughtered by other Muslims. If there is a criticism of the West, it is that there is no crusade; there is an attempt to bring peace.

But here there may be a failure in geopolitical vision, albeit one which is understandable. Muslims are fighting each other because they unhappy with the way things are in their own countries. Their leaders, at least in the Middle East, have tended to be brutal tyrants who rule with a rod of iron – in that sense Assad in Syria is typical.  We assume that these people want what we want – peace and stability and democracy. But where, in the history of that region is there warrant for such a belief?  Take the Palestinian problem. The Arab world is plenty rich enough to have provided each displaced Palestinian with another home and money – it has chosen not to because it wishes to keep a grievance against Israel.  It is plenty rich enough to spend its money on development and not guns, but it chooses the latter.

I wonder if it has occurred to anyone in power in our countries that these people do not want what we want, and that far from thanking us for our help, they don’t want it. Not sure where that reflection leads, but thought it ought to be articulated. (For more great posts by Jessica Hof, go here.)

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