National Commentary

Nicholas F. Benton: Bush

President Bush’s latest commitment of additional troops to Iraq, in the face of a fierce opposition tantamount to a popular national mandate, only reconfirms the reality that an irrational religious zeal, more than any other singular factor, drives the president’s thinking.

It is a zeal that associates the United States’ role in the world with God’s will and will not be deterred by public opinion. Among its roots are the theories of the late R. J. Rushdoony, a seminal thinker of the Christian Reconstructionist movement that seeks to create a theocracy based on Biblical law in the U.S. and around the world.

But this movement is far from merely theological, however. It has grown with great care and feeding of every leading right wing philanthropist in the U.S., driven by ulterior motives and seeking objectives far beyond merely religious ones.

Since the 1970s, charitable foundations established by families with politically conservative views have donated billions of dollars to what one watchdog group has called “an extraordinary effort to reshape politics and public policy priorities at the national, state and local level,” according to a special report from the Washington Window, “Following the Money,” by Jim Naughton.

Names like Ahmanson, Bradley, Coors, Olin, Scaife and Smith-Richardson have, among other things, accounted for more than half the operating budgets of the Institute for Religion and Democracy and, oh yes, the American Anglican Council that has engineered the defection of numerous congregations within the Episcopal Church recently. This is according to an examination of IRS records.

What makes President Bush both unique and uniquely dangerous as a world leader is the fact he may be the first totally reconstructed creature of this movement that has made it to the White House.

Bob Woodward documented in a biography of Bush when he began his first term how struck he was by the impact that religion played in Bush’s thinking. Dismissed by many as the typical ploy of politicians to wrap their motives in religiosity, Bush’s case, as Woodward warned, went much deeper. It was really, really sincere.

We have identified in this column before, through an examination of Bush’s use of language, a special kind of religious worldview that is ominous in its implications for foreign policy, in particular. His us-versus-them, black-versus-white characterization of the world and its problems precludes, we have noted, any resolution other than the final, absolute domination of the globe by the U.S. as a Christian nation.

This Rushdoony-ish mindset is both messianic and apocalyptic, dependent on an end-game that is nothing less than the Biblical vision of Armageddon.

That the world’s wealthiest right wing activists would sponsor and cultivate such a world view among cadres of political leaders, as they have done and continue actively to do, is not aimed at jump-starting the rapture so much as to ensure a world that will perpetually require all the accoutrements of multi-fronted wars and police actions, including police states both at home and abroad. After all, such are what their industries are set up to profit from.

President Eisenhower warned of these people when, as he was leaving office in 1961, he spoke of the threat to American democracy and world peace arising from its own “military-industrial complex.”