Saturday, October 08, 2005

Bush: God told me to invade Iraq

President George W. Bush has claimed God told him to invade Iraq and attack Afghanistan, as part of a divine mission to bring peace to the Middle East, security for Israel, and Palestinian independence.

The President made the assertion during his first meeting with Palestinian leaders in June 2003, according to a new BBC series.

The broadcast came on the day Mr Bush launched an impassioned attack in Washington on Islamic militants, likening their ideology to communism, and accusing them of seeking to "enslave whole nations" and set up a radical Islamic empire "that spans from Spain to Indonesia".

In the programme, Elusive Peace: Israel and the Arabs, former Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath says Mr Bush told him and Mahmoud Abbas, former Prime Minister and now Palestinian President, that "I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, 'George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.' And I did, and then God would tell me, 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq', and I did."

And Bush is quoted as telling the two men, "I feel God's words coming to me: 'Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East'. And by God, I'm gonna do it."

The BBC reported that the White House had dismissed the allegations as "absurd". "He's never made such comments," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

But the BBC account is anything but implausible, given that throughout his presidency Mr Bush, a born-again Christian, has never hidden the importance of his faith.

He told Bob Woodward - whose 2004 book Plan of Attack is the definitive account of the road to war in Iraq - that after giving the order to invade, he walked in the White House garden, praying "that our troops be safe, be protected by the Almighty". He told Woodward, "I was praying for strength to do the Lord's will. I'm surely not going to justify war based upon God. Understand that. Nevertheless, in my case, I pray that I will be as good a messenger of His will as possible. And then of course, I pray for forgiveness."

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