Sunday, May 17, 2009

This War Has Nothing To Do With Religion!



Right-wing bloggers mocked me and everybody else who threw around words like "theocons" and "religious nuts" with regard to the Bush administration. They roundly dismissed claims that Bush said that God told him to invade Iraq. They said we were overreacing when Bush referred to the war as a "crusade." They scoffed at the notion that there's any connection between religiosity and hawkishness in America. (I guess the immense overlap between Iraq War supporters and the religious right is a coincidence. And the only reason Orthodox Jews are the only Jews who vote Republican is that they are the most rational. Uh-huh.)

And yet: Donald Rumsfeld put insane Bible verses (and chickenhawk war-porn) on the cover sheets of his top-secret intelligence briefings in the days surrounding the U.S. invasion of Iraq:












These are not powerpoint presentations put together by bored 12 year olds at Bible camp. These were the covers of intelligence briefings by the Secretary of Defense given to the President of the United States of America.

This country is so topsy-turvy. Americans say they'd never vote for an atheist, and being a religious fanatic is a plus. Gays in the military are required by law to hide their orientation (and consequently their families and loved ones) because homosexuality is something shameful and dangerous, but being a religious wacko will help you get promoted. Supposed followers of Jesus -- the Prince of Peace who was tortured to death in a "stress position" -- mindlessly support torture and atheists are called immoral or worse.

24 comments:

Shalmo said...

Awesome post JA!

Iraq is just one small example of countless other imperialistic adventures taken by the US government.

Other examples include the The Chilean coup d'├ętat of 1973 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._intervention_in_Chile), not to mention Reagan Contra Alliance (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contras#U.S._...cial_assistance), and the list just goes on and on from there

Here's "A Brief History of CIA Sponsored Terrorism 1951-2002":

http://grym.gnn.tv/blogs/8323/A_Brief_History_of_CIA_Sponsored_Terrorism_1951_2002

Most political upheavals on this planet can similarly be traced back to the US.

Yeah your country sucks big time!

Its a sad and unjust world we live in. We all must learn to get by.

Random said...

"They roundly dismissed claims that Bush said that God told him to invade Iraq. "

Because it's garbage. Even the guy who's supposed to have heard Bush say this denies it -

""This report is not true," the Abbas statement said today. "I have never heard President Bush talking about religion as a reason behind the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Bush has never mentioned that in front of me on any occasion and specifically not during my visit in 2003.""

And before you say "but he would say that, wouldn't he" - please, apply some critical thought to this, and don't fall into the trap of assuming it must be true because you want it to be. I mean, seriously, do you really believe the only time Bush would say something like this would be in a private audience with Palestinian officials?

"They said we were overreacing when Bush referred to the war as a "crusade.""

Because you were. Bush said it once and dropped it after the outrage. He was clearly only using it in the colloquial sense of any sort of enthusiastic campaign anyway (he's not the only one who uses it this way - google on "obama crusade" and you get 1,810,000 hits...). Using this as a reason to denounce Bush as a religious crazy is frankly about as relevant as denouncing Obama as a monarchist on the grounds of all the tsars he's appointing.

"They scoffed at the notion that there's any connection between religiosity and hawkishness in America."

Well, if we're going to blunt about it, we could say that the real overlap is between religiosity and a clear and firm sense of right and wrong, and in particular the idea that evil should be fought and not relativised into something acceptable. (And yes I do appreciate this is an over-simplistic interpretation that fails to do just to the motives of many perfectly sincere people on the other side. I hope and believe you would say the same thing about the statement it's in response to.)

As for the magazine covers, I'm not intending to disparage the quality of GQ's journalism or anything, but do you have a more susbstantive source for this story than a fashion/lifestyle magazine? It seems more than a little odd that forex the NYT hasn't picked up on this (the bible quotes look photoshopped on to me, but I'm not an expert at that sort of stuff).

Oh, one slightly more substantial reason to be sceptical about this - look in the bottom right hand corner of each picture and you'll see a date/time stamp in the format day:hour:minute - timezone marker - year. Now, the interesting thing here is the timezone marker and specifically the transition from EST (Eastern Standard Time) to EDT (Eastern Daylight Time). Now in 2003 daylight saving time came into effect in the USA on 6 April, and sure enough all the March covers are labelled EST and all the late April covers are EDT. Hoever - 7 April, EDT - check. 10 April, EDT - Check. 9 April, EST - oops. A small typo perhaps but documents at this sort of level do not tend to have small typos of this sort, they are simply checked far too many times (and this ignores the fact that that in my experience US military briefing documents of this sort use Universal Time - essentially GMT without daylight savings - anyway in order to avoid any timezone confusions in a country as large as the US). It is however the sort of mistake that might be made by a slightly careless photoshopper. I'm not flat out saying these things are fakes but I am a tad sceptical.

But let's assume they're genuine for a moment. Yeah, Rumsfeld was a dangerous idiot. You will find very few on the conservative side of the spectrum defending him, and quite a lot of folks saying that listening to him for so long was the biggest single mistake Bush made in his conduct of the war.

"Gays in the military are required by law to hide their orientation "

A Clinton-era law which Obama has shown zero interest in overturning, despite the fact that it would cost him almot nothing to do so (although rather more relevantly there would be almost nothing in it for him either). Are Clinton and Obama "religious whackos"?

Jewish Atheist said...

Shalmo:

Awesome post JA!Ugh, I hate when you agree with me. ;-)


Random:

Because it's garbage. Even the guy who's supposed to have heard Bush say this denies it -

Oh. Fair enough. *sheepish grin.*

He was clearly only using it in the colloquial sense of any sort of enthusiastic campaign anyway.

Maybe. This is just a sidepoint anyway.

Well, if we're going to blunt about it, we could say that the real overlap is between religiosity and a clear and firm sense of right and wrong, and in particular the idea that evil should be fought and not relativised into something acceptable.

You're basically agreeing with me here, just spinning it into a positive thing.

As for the magazine covers, I'm not intending to disparage the quality of GQ's journalism or anything, but do you have a more susbstantive source for this story than a fashion/lifestyle magazine?I don't, unfortunately. I did do a search for any sources that said these covers were fake (because they are hard to believe!) but I couldn't find anything.

I'm not flat out saying these things are fakes but I am a tad sceptical.Yeah, you probably should be. I'm a tad skeptical, too, which is why I searched for sources opposing them.

But let's assume they're genuine for a moment. Yeah, Rumsfeld was a dangerous idiot. You will find very few on the conservative side of the spectrum defending him, and quite a lot of folks saying that listening to him for so long was the biggest single mistake Bush made in his conduct of the war.Right, but Rumsfeld was not alone, he was part of a movement. Rumsfeld isn't even that religious! He was arguably exploiting Bush's simple-minded religiosity to get his way with these covers. Cheney, Ashcroft, Wolfowitz, Kristol -- all the neocons basically -- are all either religious nuts or military nuts happy to exploit the religious nuts. And they're largely running the GOP. Sarah Palin was Kristol's pick.

A Clinton-era law which Obama has shown zero interest in overturning, despite the fact that it would cost him almot nothing to do so (although rather more relevantly there would be almost nothing in it for him either). Are Clinton and Obama "religious whackos"?Did you miss my post slamming Obama for not repealing DADT yet? Clinton was a calculating politician who thought DADT was the best he could do for gays in the military without sacrificing more important (to him) goals. Obama I assume is also picking his battles. I'm not 100% sure if he's a religous wacko or just religious, to be honest.

Jewish Atheist said...

Stupid blogger html.

Sadie Lou said...

Hi Random!
(Hi JA)
"Gays in the military are required by law to hide their orientation "
- - - - -

A Clinton-era law which Obama has shown zero interest in overturning, despite the fact that it would cost him almot nothing to do so (although rather more relevantly there would be almost nothing in it for him either). Are Clinton and Obama "religious whackos"?
- - - - -
Obama didn't/doesn't support gay marriage either-but I understand it makes for a good "furthermore" in a blog post about Bush being a religious war monger.
- - - - -
"Supposed followers of Jesus -- the Prince of Peace who was tortured to death in a "stress position" -- mindlessly support torture and atheists are called immoral or worse."
- - - - - -
Mindlessly support torture? As if the only reason I don't speak out against is because Jesus died on the cross?
I don't speak out against it because I have put a lot of THOUGHT into it. I'm not in favor of it either.
If you really THINK about it, anyone who makes torture into a black and white/wrong or right issue is a hypocrite.
(In the Star Wars movies, do atheists associate themselves with the Sith or the Jedi? Just curious who you root for because the Sith deals in absolutes and believe in the "power within" while the Jedi believe in the "force" and that age old, "Higher Power" *wink*)
I could think of several instances where you would have to reconsider your position against torture. Given the right circumstances, most humane, kind hearted, peaceful people are capable of anything--even things they thought they would never be in support of.

Jewish Atheist said...

Sadie Lou:

(Hi!)

Obama didn't/doesn't support gay marriage either-but I understand it makes for a good "furthermore" in a blog post about Bush being a religious war monger.

Right, obviously it's a completely different topic. Which is why I've devoted several different posts to that.

Mindlessly support torture? As if the only reason I don't speak out against is because Jesus died on the cross?
I don't speak out against it because I have put a lot of THOUGHT into it. I'm not in favor of it either
.

I'm talking about Christians who are in favor of it.

If you really THINK about it, anyone who makes torture into a black and white/wrong or right issue is a hypocrite.

LOL @ a Christian Republican saying things aren't black and white.

(In the Star Wars movies, do atheists associate themselves with the Sith or the Jedi? Just curious who you root for because the Sith deals in absolutes and believe in the "power within" while the Jedi believe in the "force" and that age old, "Higher Power" *wink*).

In the Star Wars movies, the Force exists. We could simply observe a Jedi doing the old telekinesis trick. In real life, higher powers either do not exist or have never been scientifically verified. That's the difference between science fiction/fantasy and real life.

I could think of several instances where you would have to reconsider your position against torture. Given the right circumstances, most humane, kind hearted, peaceful people are capable of anything--even things they thought they would never be in support of.

True, but none of those instances are relevant. There was no ticking bomb scenario here. This was a systematic and widespread program of torture. Don't delude yourself into thinking this was a Jack Bauer situation.

Holy Hyrax said...

>mindlessly support torture

nice

Holy Hyrax said...

>You're basically agreeing with me here, just spinning it into a positive thing.

It's not a spin job at all. It's actually a main difference between present day right and left leaning ideologies.

Now you can make counter arguments that with all things weighed, it's just not worth it, but you aren't exactly insulting anyone on the right with your comment.


>I'm talking about Christians who are in favor of it.

WTF? Why are Christians all of sudden some punching bag for everything? How do you know they don't think about and what does Christianity have anything to do with it. What if it's a Jew that hasn't thought through it?

Holy Hyrax said...

btw- how is putting biblical verses on the briefings, make it a war of religion?

I mean, that really is the question.

Holy Hyrax said...

JA

Are you married yet? :D

Jewish Atheist said...

It's not a spin job at all. It's actually a main difference between present day right and left leaning ideologies.

Right. I'm agreeing about the difference, but saying that calling the right-side of that difference a good thing is spin. Both the Christian right and Al-Qaeda have "a clear and firm sense of right and wrong, and in particular the idea that evil should be fought and not relativised into something acceptable." And both act as if the liberal's more fluid concept of morality is a bad thing, when it's those two groups launching the wars that kill millions of people.

WTF? Why are Christians all of sudden some punching bag for everything? How do you know they don't think about and what does Christianity have anything to do with it. What if it's a Jew that hasn't thought through it?

You're right. Obviously there are a lot of Jewish neocons. But I did give the Orthodox a shout-out in this post. It's more a fundamentalism thing (Christian, Jewish, or Muslim) than a denomination thing.

btw- how is putting biblical verses on the briefings, make it a war of religion?

It just highlights the religious thinking going on.

Holy Hyrax said...

>Both the Christian right and Al-Qaeda have "a clear and firm sense of right and wrong,

Like I keep saying, both wipe their butts with toilet paper (hopefully), it doesn't make them the sense. There is no moral equivalence here

>You're right. Obviously there are a lot of Jewish neocons. But I did give the Orthodox a shout-out in this post. It's more a fundamentalism thing (Christian, Jewish, or Muslim) than a denomination thing

But it's not that either. Your comment implies those that agree with it have not thought it through, and those that are against have. So it really has nothing to do with fundamentalism or denomination but values.

>It just highlights the religious thinking going on.

So? Does it make the war have anything to do with religion?

Jewish Atheist said...

Like I keep saying, both wipe their butts with toilet paper (hopefully), it doesn't make them the sense. There is no moral equivalence here.

I'm not trying to create a moral equivalence. I'm saying that having "a clear and firm sense of right and wrong" can just as easily make one immoral as moral, and so when Random was insinuating that that is a *good* thing about religiosity, he was spinning it.

And I don't think there's much toilet paper in Afghanistan, for the record. Not that it matters.

But it's not that either. Your comment implies those that agree with it have not thought it through, and those that are against have. So it really has nothing to do with fundamentalism or denomination but values.Not at all. I was specifically criticizing those who "mindlessly support torture" as opposed to those who "thoughtfully support torture" and as opposed to those who oppose it mindlessly or not. I think that the religious right's *moral clarity* lets them more "mindlessly" support torture, because after all, we're torturing Them, not Us. Evil, not Good. Etc.

Holy Hyrax said...

>I think that the religious right's *moral clarity* lets them more "mindlessly" support torture, because after all, we're torturing Them, not Us. Evil, not Good. Etc.

But it doesn't come from mindlessness. You are interpreting it that way. It comes from a set value system that believes ultimately in the value of life and that torturing an evil person to spare innocents is, between the two, the moral choice. It's not necessarily the ideal choice of how you want, but between those two, it would be the moral one.

Now you can disagree with that, but don't confuse that with being mindless

Holy Hyrax said...

>I'm saying that having "a clear and firm sense of right and wrong" can just as easily make one immoral as moral, and so when Random was insinuating that that is a *good* thing about religiosity, he was spinning it.

No, that isen't what can cause it. What can cause it is really deciphering what IS evil and what IS good. I disagree with you that having a more fluid sense is the better one between the two.

Jewish Atheist said...

What can cause it is really deciphering what IS evil and what IS good. And the Iraq war and 9/11 are two things we get when people decide that they can "decipher" what IS evil and what IS good. Objectively speaking, of course.

"God's on our side" doesn't usually lead to moral behavior.

Orthoprax said...

JA,

""God's on our side" doesn't usually lead to moral behavior."

Neither does the alternative. It's a well known cliche already that atheist regimes have not been moral exemplars.

"And the Iraq war and 9/11 are two things we get when people decide that they can "decipher" what IS evil and what IS good. Objectively speaking, of course."

So would you rather that the US would have, say, remained "undeciphered" during WWII? There's an obvious slippery slope here. To fail to act when you should can be just as bad as acting when you shouldn't. Making morality undecipherable is a recipe for paralyzation.

Jewish Atheist said...

Ortho:

Neither does the alternative. It's a well known cliche already that atheist regimes have not been moral exemplars..

The atheist regimes in question had their own forms of dogmatic certainty. What I want is a secular government.

So would you rather that the US would have, say, remained "undeciphered" during WWII?

I didn't mean we shouldn't choose sides, just that we shouldn't kid ourselves that we have deciphered objective Good and Evil. We should be humble in our moral judgments, not filled with hubris, thinking that the all-powerful Creator of the Universe thinks that we're the good guys and they're the bad guys and that the ends justify the means.

Sadie Lou said...

JA-

"LOL @ a Christian Republican saying things aren't black and white."
- - - -
Why can't some thing be black and white and some things be gray? You're guilty of stereotyping and putting Christianity in a box labeled "Jewish Atheist's Opinion of Christianity"

- - - - - -
"I'm talking about Christians who are in favor of it."
- - - - - -
Why can't a Christian or a non Christian for that matter, be in favor of torture in some situations and against it in other situations? Why must you make the issue of torture, black & white?
- - - - - -
"In the Star Wars movies, the Force exists. We could simply observe a Jedi doing the old telekinesis trick. In real life, higher powers either do not exist or have never been scientifically verified."
- - - - - -
I was just asking who you identify with--who you root for in the movies.
:)
- - - - - -
True, but none of those instances are relevant. There was no ticking bomb scenario here. This was a systematic and widespread program of torture. Don't delude yourself into thinking this was a Jack Bauer situation.
- - - - - -
And you would be ignorant to believe there aren't more ticking time bomb scenarios than misconduct--you don't know what happens more or less so how are you able to judge? Based on media releases? That's shaky testimony.
~S

Orthoprax said...

JA,

"The atheist regimes in question had their own forms of dogmatic certainty. What I want is a secular government."

I actually agree with you - but I think what you are failing to realize is that oftentimes "God is on our side" is as meaningful as saying one side is "on the right side of history" - a phrase I often hear coming from the Left. There are many like-phrases. These are mostly meaningless statements in themselves and surely non-demonstrable and non-falsifiable, but they hold as euphemisms for objective moral validity of the cause.

"I didn't mean we shouldn't choose sides, just that we shouldn't kid ourselves that we have deciphered objective Good and Evil."

How can one morally choose sides without appealing to at least an attempt of understanding morality? Of course humility should play its role but we need to be confident in our conclusions.

Baconeater said...

As of yesterday, the Pentagon has trashed the bible quotes. Check it out on God is For Suckers.

Jewish Atheist said...

Ortho:

I actually agree with you - but I think what you are failing to realize is that oftentimes "God is on our side" is as meaningful as saying one side is "on the right side of history"...

"Oftentimes," sure. But not this time. This time we're talking about prominently featuring Bible verses on intelligence documents. No reason to talk about the generic when we are discussing the specific.

How can one morally choose sides without appealing to at least an attempt of understanding morality?I'm talking about the notion of objective morality which is based not on a combination of empathy, life experiences, and careful consideration but on dogma, religious or otherwise.

Of course humility should play its role but we need to be confident in our conclusions.Obviously. But the Bush administration was 10 miles past "confidence" and well into "hubris." And I think religious faith had a lot to do with it (for Bush. The neocons had their own "faith," I suppose.)

Comrade Kevin said...

The Old Testament God is so petty and violent.

Sadie Lou said...

JA, you never told me who you root for--The Jedi or the Sith?
~Sadie