Of God and country

We’ll admit it, George. You really had us going there for a while. You really had us convinced that the War on Terrorism was actually a religious war, one between good and evil. Every time one of your little helpers issued a statement about how the United States and Islam are such good friends (in much the same manner that the local redneck explains that “some of my best friends are Muslim”) you’d trot off to another pep rally and bark out a few nasty “death to the evil-doers!”

We agree, of course, that flying airplanes full of people into buildings full of people is by definition a despicable act. If it were any other political leader, we probably wouldn’t have even noticed the obsessive-compulsive use of the word “evil.” But you’re not any other political leader, George. You’re one of two born-again Christians ever elected (well, sort of elected) to the office of the presidency. Your use of the word “crusade” in the beginning days of the current crisis was no accident. Your continuing use of the word “evil” is intentionally loaded and coded, a crude device designed to unite your Christian-Right base, if not the nation, even as it divides humanity into separate camps. No need to ask whose we’re in.

Like we said, George, you really had us fooled. For a second, we imagined that the War on Terrorism was actually about something more than protecting U.S. access to the oil fields of the Middle East and beyond—the same behavior that got us into this mess in the first place. But if initial reports coming out of Afghanistan are any indication, God isn’t doing too well on the battlefield, George. British writer Robert Fisk, one of the most respected journalists working in the Middle East, offered this assessment in his piece documenting the Taliban’s bloody fall in the Kandahar Province: “I stood behind them and wondered at the battle I had watched for 20 years: a swaying host of eighth-century black turbans and, just behind them, the contrails of a B-52 heading in from Diego Garcia. God against technology.” Ironically, a fervent (some might say suicidal) belief in God was virtually all that held the Taliban together.

Now, we’re not questioning the sincerity of faith, George, but its well-known where you and your Texas cronies, including Vice President Dick “M.I.A.” Cheney, put your money: oil and weapons stocks, i.e. technology. We can understand that. If it came down to a choice between God and technology, the vast majority of Americans would probably put their money on technology, too, albeit with a slightly different portfolio.

What we mean to say, Mr. President, is that the “evil-doer” talk doesn’t float anymore; it’s transparent. The New York Times reports that after an initial surge immediately following the September 11 attack, attendance at houses of worship has slacked off to previous levels. The country has been beyond good and evil for years now, George, but we do know the difference between right and wrong. There’s no need to turn the victims in New York and Washington into religious martyrs. It’s kind of like taking the Lord’s name in vain.