Thoughts on righteous war

The Bush was back in Reno this month, preaching on the righteousness of our terror war. Sadly, I didn’t make it to the Dean Heller fundraiser. Now Heller may be an OK guy. But when Bush started talking about how Heller shares his priorities—one being “faith"—I had to shudder.

Bush’s so-called faith scares the hell out of me. If I had to make the call based on the president’s example, I’d had to say that evangelical Christians are frightened consumers armed with AK-47s, desperately trying to amass wealth—Hummers, wide-screen TVs and, paradoxically, closets full of Wal-Mart clothes. No matter that tax cuts for the wealthy have landed our nation in the deepest dept ever. No matter that our terror war has not increased the peace, according to federal agencies, that we’re more in danger now that when we sent troops to Afghanistan five years ago.

I read the fawning account of Bush’s visit in the Reno Gazette-Journal. Described was the touching moment between Bush and a job-seeking uberconservative Sharron Angle (whose Christianity manifests itself in the fight for property tax breaks for the rich mansioneers who give her money). The reporter observed that it was Bush’s “wit as a politician that touched the crowd.”

Apparently Bush “joked” about terrorists not going to therapy. Funny. I couldn’t help thinking about the nearly 3,000 U.S. troops killed along with 50,000 to 100,000 or more (depending on who’s counting) innocent Iraqi civilians who’ve lost their lives in this misguided “righteous” war.

My inner Sunday School teacher wondered if Bush has ever read the Bible—or ever considered what lessons lie therein about “righteous” war. One example: The Old Testament book of Judges tells about how God’s “chosen” people, Israel, worshipped false gods, aka “idols.” (Good thing reality-TV-addicted American evangelicals don’t share this problem.)

As the story goes, God allows his chosen people to be oppressed by mean Midianites who destroyed crops and homes and killed people to steal their oil. To drive out the Midianites, God chose Gideon to kick some terrorist butt. ("You cannot negotiate with these people,” as Bush told Renoites.) Gideon amassed an army of 32,000. No much compared with the innumerable axis of evil horde. But God, in the story, said Israel’s army was too big. Send home everyone who’s “afraid and trembling,” God said, “lest Israel become boastful saying my own power has delivered me.”

Given the offer to cut and run, 22,000 Israeli soldiers jogged off. Though only 10,000 Israeli soldiers were left, God said it was still too many. The Almighty told Gideon to send the men to the river. The soldiers who lapped the water like dogs from their hands could stay and fight. Those who slurped from the river went home. Weird, but hey, George Bush supporters say they believe the Bible comes from the desk of God.

Now 300 freedom fighters were left. Gideon armed his small band of guerrillas with the latest in weaponry—trumpets, torches and empty pitchers. The men surrounded the terrorist camp, blew trumpets, broke pitchers and held their torches high. Admittedly odd tactics. Perhaps a “righteous” war doesn’t require a nation to go into debt commissioning high-tech weapons from Lockheed Martin.

Gideon’s plan worked. Waking up to the noise and chaos of trumpets and torches disconcerted the Midianite terrorists, who raced around killing each other. Gideon lopped the heads off survivors.

Useful lessons abound here—the most important being that preemptive invasion seems a terrorists tool, not the response of the “righteous.”

Bush is not Gideon. The United States isn’t Israel. When Bush says, “You cannot negotiate with these people,” perhaps he means us.