February 26, 2003

The Spirit of Ljubljana and

The Spirit of Ljubljana and The Influence of Religion on Dubya

Remember the Spirit of Ljubljana? On June 16th, 2001, George Bush and Vladimir Putin held their first summit in the Slovenian capital. Bush has mentioned something about looking into Vlado's eyes and feeling he had seen his soul. Neo-cons like Bill Safire and unreconstructed Kremlinologists gagged a bit. Bob Woodward, in his latest behind the scenes account of Washington D.C. crisis policymaking ("Bush At War"), has an interesting account of the first meeting as described by Dubya himself:

"And in comes Putin, and he sits down, and it's just me, Condi, Putin, whatever that guy--Rashilov, and the interpreter from both sides. And he wants to get started. And I said, 'Let me say something about what caught my attention, Mr. President, was that your mother gave you a cross which you had bless in Israel, the Holy Land.' And he said, 'It's true.' I said that amazed me, that here you were a Communist, KGB operative, and yet you were willing to wear a cross. 'That speaks volumes to me, Mr. President. May I call you Vladimir?'" So it became Vladimir and George after that, he said."

Thus was the Spirit of Ljubljana born. I share this with you because I have been arguing with many Europeans that Dubya is not motivated by religion regarding his desire to attack Iraq. The Euro-left consistently denigrates him as a religious nut. The unsubtle tactic is to equate Osama bin Laden's theocratic barbarism with an equally noxious Christian evangelical strain from the loony praries of Texas. It is an awful, relativistic canard. I refute it as often as I can.

Yet stories like the above continue to display that, for Dubya, religion does play an important role. Discovering Jesus and becoming a born-again Christian weened him off the bottle, salvaged his marriage, and allowed him to succeed in business and then politics. In short, religion changed the course of his life. No wonder then, that the final lines of his last SOTU read as follows:

"Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity.
We Americans have faith in ourselves, but not in ourselves alone. We do not know -- we do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving God behind all of life, and all of history.
May He guide us now. And may God continue to bless the United States of America."

So, Bush is a religious nut, right? Are we going to be spilling innocent civilian blood for America's God, as Harold Pinter goes on about seemingly ad infinitum (when not describing Tony Blair as Dubya's hired "Christian thug")?

Far from it. Dubya merely taps into a long line of U.S. Presidents evoking religious imagery when speechifying about freedom. For Osama, religion is the kernel of the movement--he wishes to ban infidels, ie. non-Muslims, from the entire Arabian Peninsula. Dubya, just after the 9/11 attacks, visited the main mosque in Washington D.C. and called for tolerance of Muslims so as to stamp out the threat of revanchist killings. True, there is an evangelical fervor to Presidents like Wilson, Carter, Bush 43. But this language is used to support objectives that are firmly secular in nature, ie. Wilson's Four Principles, Carter's human rights initatives, Dubya's focus on disarming Saddam.

To close: "And it is imperative that we should stand together. We are being forged into a new unity amidst the fires that now blaze throughout the world. In their ardent heat we shall, in God's Providence, let us hope, be purged of faction and division, purified of the errant humors of party and of private interest, and shall stand forth in the days to come with a new dignity of national pride and spirit. Let each man see to it that the dedication is in his own heart, the high purpose of the nation in his own mind, ruler of his own will and desire. I stand here and have taken the high and solemn oath to which you have been audience because the people of the United States have chosen me for this august delegation of power and have by their gracious judgment named me their leader in affairs. know now what the task means. I realize to the full the responsibility which it involves. I pray God I may be given the wisdom and the prudence to do my duty in the true spirit of this great people."

Dubya again? Nope, this is taken straight from Woodrow Wilson's second inaugural speech.

Posted by Gregory at February 26, 2003 10:58 PM
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