The Threat of
Bush’s Faith-based America
By John Lewis
In the war between reason and religion, declared by Islamic fundamentalists, President Bush is firmly on the side of religion. The positions he supports most passionately are those of theocracies: prayer in schools, a national pledge “under God” recited by children, judges who uphold religion in government, laws against abortion, publicly-funded faith-based initiatives, bans on cloning and genetic research, censorship of pornography, and a marriage amendment to the Constitution. If he has not imposed religious censorship, it is not because it is antithetical to his core values. Mr. Bush is energizing the political foundations of an American theocracy.
Nevertheless, there is only one issue in the 2004 election: the war with militant Islam. Here Mr. Bush has also remained true to his principles. He has not acted against a single religious government.
He took down the Taliban because they had aided those who “hijacked a great religion.” He threw down a secular dictator in Iraq and established the terms by which the country can become fundamentalist. Iranian mullahs have been assured that their overthrow is not on our agenda. We have bombed their opponents in Iraq, and negotiated with their Shi’ite stooges who plan to take over Iraq. If they succeed, they will control a second country— bordering on their first, Iran. A greater Islamic state, armed with nuclear bombs, would be a gift from George Bush.
Mr. Bush accepts that people may establish a government based on religious principles; after all, he thinks, that is what we did in America. He uses US troops to preserve the “rights” of foreigners to establish the same religiously-inspired governments that attacked us to begin with.
From the start, Mr. Bush exercised his leadership by declaring the war not against militant Islam, but against “terrorism.” This has obfuscated the nature of our enemies and led us to squander our resources in ways not central to our interests. Had our president named the enemy properly, but then taken no action at all, we would be able to repudiate that inaction and fight the war properly. Now we must repudiate the very aims of the war. It will take extraordinary leadership to reverse this error.
The result is that the source of America’s enemies remains untouched. Iran is building nuclear bombs. Pakistan (a thug who seized power) and Russia (an ex-KGB officer) are called allies. Syria and the Saudis have not been confronted. Afghanistan and nuclear-armed Pakistan remain hideouts for Al Qaeda. We arm Islamic soldiers while our money builds schools in Baghdad. When we leave, those schools will teach radical Islam, and those soldiers will shoot at us.
Further, Mr. Bush is undercutting the very idea of self-defense. He spent over a year asking the UN for permission to invade Iraq, while claiming that no permissions will be sought. He is re-defining “overwhelming force” into a consensual war fought with compassionate regard for “innocents.” Such a conceptual stew leaves people with little guidance as to what offensive retaliation against foreign enemies is.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bush has established a permanent, institutionalized state of siege at home. The war can now be fought against Unabomber-types, without ethnic “profiling.” And, don’t forget: you are permanently at risk; the war will be long; better buy some duct-tape.
This is all a consequence of Mr. Bush’s “faith-based” thinking. He has “faith in markets,” “faith in the American people,” “faith that people want freedom.” He holds such ideas as religious absolutes. He shoots out a strong statement from his subconscious (“we will make no distinction between the terrorists and those who harbor them”), and then watches it dissolve in the face of arguments he cannot answer. The statement becomes an empty utterance, compromised in words and actions, precisely because it was held on faith rather than as a rational, defensible conviction.
More specifically, Mr. Bush’s policies are defined by two elements: religious patriotism, and religious altruism. The first demands that he stand tall against America’s ungodly enemies. The second demands that he spend billions to help the unfortunate. Picture two bombers over Afghanistan: one drops a bomb (precision-guided, to avoid hitting a Mosque), and the next drops peanut butter. The first satisfies the patriot, the second redeems the altruist. This, he thinks, is how God wants him to fight the war.
It is a positive sign that many Americans want a forthright offense against our enemies. But they are confused if they think that Mr. Bush advocates this in fact. I do not wish to abet that confusion.
What about John Kerry, an obnoxious Carter / Kennedy / Clinton wannabe who sees Americans as war criminals? He does not hide his desire to subordinate American defense to a foreign consensus. This leaves less confusion in its wake; no one will mistake him for George C. Patton. Besides, Mr. Kerry will be desperate to be seen as tough on terrorism; he might actually do a better job against America’s real enemies.
Most of all, in the war with fundamentalist militant Islam, Bush is pro-religion, all the way to the core of his soul. Kerry does not share this premise.
If you think that a turn towards a theocracy in America is far-fetched, remember that “The Passion of the Christ” is approaching a half a billion dollars in box-office take, and conservatives have lined up to extol its blood-soaked message.
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