Tuesday, November 18, 2003


The British (and indeed European) antipathy towards President George W. Bush has caused considerable consternation among leading White House officials. But then world leaders do tend to exist in their own hyperfast thought bubbles, transported by jets to far-off places where they have little time or inclination to understand the globe as viewed from significantly different perspectives.

US correspondent Gary Younge quotes Bush Jr. as telling moderate Asian Muslims, in a recent round-table, "I've been saying all along that not every policy issue needs to be dealt with by force." Clearly he thought this would sound encouraging rather than foreboding!

This morning a senior US diplomatic figure noted (in passing, and without comment from the interviewer on BBC Radio 4) that the impending demonstrations against the US President were a sign of Europe's "moral decay". The idea that his nation is the planet's ethical arbiter seemed so natural as to be, quite simply, common sense.

It is this unshakeable certitude, allied to the fractures and fissions of a divided and uneven world, the growing incommensurability of its ideologies, the weakening of international institutions and the politics of overwhelming force that is proving - tragically - such a fertile breeding ground for terror and political extremism.

President Bush styles himself as a 'Bible believer'. But he seems not to have grasped the fact that the Book of Revelation, so abused by the religious right to whom he allies, is precisely a playground for apocalyptic ideology because it reflects the violent revenge fantasies of the oppressed (which, rent asunder from their context, easily become the fantasies of the armed and self-righteous). The redemption in the text, of course, is that these fantasies do not prevail. It is the Lamb who is slaughtered - not the slaughterers of lambs - who triumphs in the narrative, with its message that a love which can embrace suffering (rather than force that can inflict it) is ultimately the only 'power' that will save us from destruction.

At present Bush's trust - whatever his personal religious profession - is not in the love of the Crucified One and the belovedness of the crushed. It is in the salvific capabilities of armies, occupations and 'bombing to make us good'. This may seem to generate short-term gains, but as the unfolding tragedy in Iraq testifies, it reaps what it sows. Until this truth is grasped the violence, anger and incomprehension on all sides will continue. As will the protests and demonstrations.

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