Original version published in The Moscow Times, June 27, 2003.
So now we know. After all the mountains of commentary and speculation, all the earnest debates over motives and goals, all the detailed analyses of global strategy and political ideology, it all comes to down to this: George W. Bush waged war on Iraq because, in his own words, God "instructed me to strike at Saddam."
This gospel was revealed, appropriately enough, in the Holy Land this week, through an unusual partnership between the fractious children of Abraham. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz was given detailed minutes of a negotiating session between Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and faction leaders from Hamas and other militant groups. Abbas, who was trying to persuade the groups to call a ceasefire in their uprising against Israeli forces, described for them his recent summit with Ariel Sharon and George W. Bush.
During the tense talks at the summit, Bush sought to underscore the kind of authority he could bring to efforts at achieving peace in the Middle East. While thundering that there could be "no deals with terror groups," Bush sought to assure the rattled Palestinians that he also had the ability to wring concessions from Sharon. And what was the source of this wonder-working power? It was not, as you might think, the ungodly size of the U.S. military or the gargantuan amount of money and arms America pours into Israel year after year.
No, Bush said he derived his moral heft from the Almighty Himself. What's more, the Lord had proven his devotion to the Crawford Crusader by crowning his military efforts with success. In fact, he told Abbas, God was holding the door open for Middle East peace right now – but they would have to move fast, because soon the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe would have to give His attention to something far more important: the election of His little sunbeam, Georgie, in 2004.
Here are Bush's words, as quoted by Abbas in Haaretz: "God told me to strike at al Qaeda and I struck them, and then He instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me, I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them."
You can't put it plainer than that. The whole chaotic rigmarole of Security Council votes and UN inspections and Congressional approval and Colin Powell's whizbang Powerpoint displays of "proof" and Bush's own tearful prayers for "peace" – it was all a sham, a meaningless exercise. No votes, no inspections, no proof or lack of proof – in fact, no earthly reason whatsoever – could have stopped Bush's aggressive war on Iraq. It was God's unalterable will: the Lord of Hosts gave a direct order for George W. Bush to "strike at Saddam."
And strike he did, with an awesome fury that rained death and destruction on the mustachioed whore of Babylon, with a firestorm of Godly wrath that consumed the enemy armies like so much chaff put to the flame – and with an arsenal of cruise missiles, cluster bombs, dive bombers and assault helicopters that killed up to 10,000 innocent civilians: blasted to pieces in their beds, shot down in their fields and streets, crushed beneath the walls of their own houses, boiled alive in factories, ditches, and cars, gutted, mutilated, beheaded, murdered, women, children, elders, some praying, some wailing, some cursing, some mute with fear as metal death ripped their lives away and left rotting hulks behind. This was the work of the Lord and His faithful servant, whom He hath raised high up to have dominion over men.
And this is the mindset – or rather, the primitive fever-dream – that is now directing the actions of the greatest military power in the history of the world. There can be no doubt that Bush believes literally in the divine character of his mission. He honestly and sincerely believes that whatever "decision" forms in his brain – out of the flux and flow of his own emotional impulses and biochemical reactions, the flattery and cajolements of his sinister advisers, the random scraps of fact, myth and fabrication that dribble into his proudly undeveloped and incurious consciousness – has been planted there, whole and perfected, by God Almighty.
And that's why Bush acts with such serenity and ruthlessness. Nothing he does can be challenged on moral grounds, however unethical or evil it might appear, because all of his actions are directed by God. He can twist the truth, oppress the poor, exalt the rich, despoil the earth, ignore the law – and murder children – without the slightest compunction, the briefest moment of doubt or self-reflection, because he believes, he truly believes, that God squats in his brainpan and tells him what to do.
And just as God countenanced deception on the part of Abraham, just as God forgave David for the murders he ordered, just as God blessed the armies of Saul as they obliterated the Amalekites, man, woman and child, so will He overlook any crime committed by Bush and his minions as they carry out His will. That's why Bush can always "do whatever it takes" to achieve his goals. And by his own words to Abbas, we see that he places his election in 2004 above all other concerns, even the endless bloodshed in the Middle East.
So what new crimes will the Lord have to countenance to keep His appointed servant in power?