George W. Christ?
r u t h o u t | Perspective
May 5, 2003
In the 835 days Americans have passed
since the inauguration of George W. Bush, we have come to know
him as a man who wears many masks to suit a variety of political
purposes. Even before he won the lawsuit that put him in his
lofty position, we saw a man who cloaked his vision in terms
that smacked of humility. "Ours will be a humble nation,"
Bush said during the Presidential debates. There are a number
of words which can be applied to the actions of this administration,
but "humble" is not one of them. At the time, however,
it suited his purposes to make Americans believe he saw himself
as unassuming, perhaps even small.
This was the same man, however, who
mocked Texas death row inmate Karla Faye Tucker so viciously
before she rode the lightning to whatever awaits us on the Other
Side. He was asked, in an interview for Talk Magazine during
the campaign, what Tucker might say to him if she were given
the chance to plead for her life. "Please," said Bush
with pinched face and lips drawn down in a quivering bow as he
imitated the woman about to die, "don't kill me." Then
You would think we'd have known better
835 days ago. We didn't, mostly because the news media decided
such stories were without merit. Now we are a humble nation that
brazenly disregards the entire planet as we seek military solutions
to diplomatic problems. Now we are a humble nation that breaks
treaties by the boatload and 'punishes' nations that foolishly
believe they can make decisions for themselves. One is forced
to wonder if Bush sat in front of a television as the 'Shock
and Awe' firebombing/cluster-bombing of Baghdad began, face pinched
and mouth drawn down, saying "Please, don't kill me"
in the voice of an Iraqi civilian. One is forced to wonder if
he laughed afterwards.
We have come to see a new mask in the
aftermath of the attacks on September 11. In the 18 months that
have passed since that dark day, we have been introduced to Bush
the Soldier. Draped in flags and the veneer of patriotism, Bush
has spent a great deal of time and energy identifying himself
with the very military he described as unfit for service during
the 2000 campaign. The metastasizing of Bush into some sort of
military hero reached a crescendo during this past week when
he landed on the deck of the carrier Abraham Lincoln in the co-pilot's
seat of a Navy S-3B Viking combat aircraft. According to the
lore that has been rapturously reported on every hour by cable
television news services, Bush took the stick "momentarily"
to pilot the craft. He hopped out, garbed in the flight suit
of a Navy pilot, and flashed a thumbs-up sign across the deck.
This, we were told by the media, harkens back wonderfully to
Bush's service piloting F-102 fighters for the Texas Air National
Guard during the Vietnam War.
The problem, as with any mask, is that
whatever is underneath bears little comparison to the mask itself.
According to the reports, it was appropriate for Bush to don
the gear of an actual military pilot, because it mirrors the
reality of his experience back in the Texas Guard. In reality,
Bush may as well have put on the standard attire of a Mongolian
yak herder from the Asian continental steppe. That would have
been fitting, too, because neither the Navy suit nor the yak
gear have anything at all to do with Bush the Actual Person.
Neither has anything to do with history, or with fact.
An article by David Corn entitled "Bush's
Top Gun Photo-Op," which appeared in The Nation magazine's
online publication this past week, described the disturbingly
under-reported facts behind Bush's dalliance with the Texas Air
Enlisting in the Guard was one way to
beat the draft and avoid being sent to Vietnam. Is this why Bush
signed up? During the campaign, Bush said no. Yet in 1994, he
had remarked, "I was not prepared to shoot my eardrum out
with a shotgun in order to get a deferment. Not was I willing
to go to Canada. So I chose to better myself by learning how
to fly airplanes." That sure sounds like someone who was
looking to avoid the draft and pick up a skill. Obtaining a slot
in the Guard at that time was not usually easy--for the obvious
reason: lots of young men were responding to the call of self-preservation.
(Think Dan Quayle.) Bush, whose father was then a congressman
from the Houston area, has said no strings were pulled on his
behalf. Yet in 1999, the former speaker of the Texas House of
Representatives told The New York Times that a Houston oilman
who was a friend of Bush's father had asked him to grease the
skids for W. and he obliged.
What Bush did in the Guard. In Bush's
campaign autobiography, A Charge To Keep, he wrote that he completed
pilot training in 1970 and "continued flying with my unit
for the next several years." But in 2000, The Boston Globe
obtained copies of Bush's military records and discovered that
he had stopped flying during his final 18 months of service in
1972 and 1973. More curious, the records showed Bush had not
reported for Guard duty during a long stretch of that period.
Had the future commander-in-chief been AWOL?
In May 1972, with two years to go on
his six-year commitment to the Guard, Bush moved to Alabama to
work on a Senate campaign. He asked if he could do his Guard
duty there. This son-of-a-congressman and fighter pilot won permission
to do "equivalent training" at a unit that had no aircraft
and no pilots. The national Air Reserve office then
disallowed this transfer. For months, Bush did nothing for the
Guard. In September 1972, he won permission to train with a unit
in Montgomery. But the commander of the unit and his administrative
officer told the Boston Globe that they had no recollection of
Bush ever reporting for duty. And when Bush returned to Texas
after the November election, he did not return to his unit for
months, according to his military records. His annual performance
report, dated May 2, 1973, noted he had "not been observed
at this unit" for the past year. In May, June and July of
that year, he did pull 36 days of duty.. And then, as he was
on his way to Harvard Business School, he received permission
to end his Guard service early.
The records suggest Bush skipped out
on the Guard for about a year. (And during that time he had failed
to submit to an annual physical and lost his flight status.)
A campaign spokesperson said Bush recalled doing duty in Alabama
and "coming back to Houston and doing duty." But Bush
never provided any real proof he had. Asked by a reporter if
he remembered what work he had done in Alabama, he said, "No,
I really don't." A fair assumption was that he had gamed
the system and avoided a year of service, before wiggling out
of the Guard nearly a year before his time was up. It looked
as if he had served four, not six years.
When he enlisted in the Texas Air Guard,
Bush had signed a pledge stating he would complete his pilot
training and then "return to my unit and fulfill my obligation
to the utmost of my ability." Instead, he received flight
training--at the government's expense -- and then cut out on
his unit. He had not been faithful to the Guard. He had not kept
this particular charge.
The problem with masks is that, after
wearing one for a very long time, a person might reach a level
of self-delusion that tells them their reality is the mask itself,
and not what lies underneath. Bush has been skittering around
the fact that he went AWOL during his term of military service
for over three years now. The spectacle on the Abraham Lincoln
suggests he has finally managed to convince himself that he did,
in fact, serve the military of his country with honor and in
accordance with the oath he took. Either that, or he is so utterly
without shame as to be beyond the scope of normal human understanding.
Neither choice is particularly palatable,
and never mind the inherent danger in a civilian commander so
energetically equating himself with the military. Americans don't
have a war leader anymore. They have a leader who is war personified.
The fact that this personification comes at the expense of fact
and truth is merely an accent in the symphony.
Another mask was donned by Bush on the
deck of that aircraft carrier, one whose implications are far
more dire and disturbing. Bush was there to tell the world that
combat operations in Iraq had ceased. He did not go so far as
to declare victory, as such a declaration would have required,
under the Geneva Convention, the release of POWs and the withdrawal
of American forces. The banner hanging across the control tower
-- "Mission Accomplished" -- said all that needed to
In his remarks, Bush closed with a paraphrasing
of the Book of Isaiah: "In the words of the prophet Isaiah,
'To the captives, 'come out,' and to those in darkness, 'be free,''"
This was a quotation from Chapter 61
of Isaiah, the very book Jesus Christ used when proclaiming that
Isaiah's prophesies of the Messiah had come true. Using this
passage from Isaiah, Jesus presented himself as the Son of God
in Nazareth. Thus it is told in Luke, Chapter 4, Verses 16-22:
"And he came to Nazareth, where
he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his
custom was, on the sabbath day. And he stood up to read; and
there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened
the book and found the place where it was written, "The
Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to
preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release
to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set
at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable
year of the Lord." And he closed the book, and gave it back
to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue
were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, "Today this
scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.""
Under normal circumstances, we could
write this off as a President reaching for hopeful Biblical language
to frame a particular argument. This has been done before, by
many American leaders in many situations. In this case, taken
on the political surface, we could see a President using the
Bible to define the latest reason for war in Iraq -- the 'liberation'
of the people -- in the conspicuous absence of the oft-repeated
reason that started the war -- the presence of mass destruction
weapons. A further analysis of George W. Bush himself, however,
leads to some serious questions.
The passage of Isaiah referenced by
Jesus at Nazareth, and by Bush on the Abraham Lincoln, is part
of a larger collection of verses known as the "Servant Songs."
The specific verse used by Bush, out of Isaiah 61, is most important;
it is widely accepted by both Christian and Jewish scholars as
announcing the Messiah. For Christians, the Messiah is Jesus,
and so this passage refers specifically to Him and His coming.
The fact that Jesus Himself used this passage to announce His
presence further confirms this. Bush's reading of this passage
suggests the possibility that he believes this coming, for the
second time, has arrived.
It has been oft-reported that Bush witnessed
the attacks of 9/11 and came to believe that God Himself, and
not Scalia and the rest, put him into the Presidency for the
sole purpose of pursuing this war against terrorism. It has likewise
been oft-reported that Bush is an evangelical Christian of the
vigorous Billy Graham stripe. We have witnessed the failure of
every rationalization for making war on Iraq -- the WMDs, the
terrorist connections -- and are left now with the rhetorical
argument that we did the whole thing to 'save' the Iraqi people.
Ergo, Bush positioned himself on the deck of that aircraft carrier
as a savior.
We are talking about a man who wears
masks for the sake of political opportunism, and to survive moments
when he has to address himself in the bathroom mirror. Does this
newest mask have George W. Bush taking on the mantle of Jesus
Christ, Savior and Redeemer?
Here is a man so steeped in self-denial
that he can shunt aside his own shameful history in order to
pretend he is on the same moral level as the soldiers he abandoned
when his time of service came due. Here is a man intent upon
making war on as much of the Muslim world as he can put his hands
around, while wrapping around himself the image and prophesies
of Jesus Christ. What is next? Will we see George W. Bush standing
before the American people saying "Today this scripture
has been fulfilled in your hearing"?
George W. Bush, master of denial. George
W. Bush, wearer of masks. George W. Bush, soldier for Christ.
George W. Bush, Christ Himself?
Oh dear God, let there be light.
For more stories by: William Rivers
William Rivers Pitt is a New York
Times best-selling author of two books - "War On Iraq"
available now from Context Books, and "The Greatest Sedition
is Silence," now available at http://www.silenceissedition.com
from Pluto Press. Scott Lowery contributed research to this report.
© Copyright 2003 by TruthOut.org
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