Recent remarks by the evangelist Pat Robertson about George Bush and the pretext for the Iraqi invasion were interesting.
Yet, before you shake Robertson's hand, it's important to hear the whole story.
America's Bill of Goods
Yesterday Raw Story delivered this interesting news:
Televangelist Pat Robertson on Monday blasted former President George W. Bush for selling Americans a “bill of goods” before the Iraq invasion, which led to the violence that is currently sweeping across the country.
Robertson, a former ardent Bush supporter, is the founder and chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network and the Christian Coalition. Broadcasts of his 700 club reportedly reach a daily audience of one million viewers, both on cable and through syndication.
His sudden lucidity with regards to the Iraq war and Bush deceptions is a bit of a breathtaking shock. It is a rare occasion that Robertson has a sensible position on any subject. Given his history of supporting controversial right-wing projects, His reluctance to question the conservative position was supposed to be bed-rock solid. For example, his fundraising for the Nicaraguan Contras during the Reagan era.
In addition to that, he served as the past president of the Council for National Policy, which is described as an "umbrella organization and networking group for social conservative activists in the United States. One progressive media critic called CNP a "highly secretive... theocratic organization -- what they want is basically religious rule."
Those are some fairly hefty- and disturbing- credentials.
However, on Monday, Pat Robertson condemned George W. Bush's Iraq invasion in no uncertain terms. He said:
“Right now, what we did — and it was a great mistake to go in there..We were sold a bill of goods, we should never have gone into that country!”
In addition, he questioned the credibility of Bush administration claims that Saddam Hussein was close to building an atomic bomb. (That claim, incidentally was also promoted by John McCain in the lead up to the invasion.) Robertson called the allegation "a lot of nonsense."
He told his audience that Hussein, as bad as he was, at the very least, held the sectarianism in check and that the situation is now "unfixable."
Since it was his show, there was no way to ask any follow-up questions.
- Would, for instance, he support a war crimes trial for members of the Bush administration?
- Does he believe presidents must be held accountable for lying to the public, especially when it leads to catastrophic results?
- According to the Bible, what is the proper punishment for knowingly leading a nation into a disastrous war?
- Given the fact that an entire nation has been destroyed, and a superpower has practically been brought to midget status by this war, could you forgive Bush administration officials, like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld for their participation in the deception?
- What would he say to John McCain who promoted the Bush administration's false narrative?
Although as far as I am concerned there is nothing better than hearing two (or three) pompous old men arguing about things, I doubt very much either men would dare. Clearly Senator McCain would like to forget his role as head cheerleader at Quagmire High School.
But then, Pat Robertson also has his share of forgetting to do.
With God on Our Side
Let's take a closer look at what Pat Robertson was saying on the eve and in early days of the Iraq war. It was, he said, the kind of war that God would approve of.
In April 2003, he gave his approval in no uncertain terms. Astoundingly he told his Christian viewers that the conflict was being fought in accordance with principles of the faith. Many Christians who supported the war, in theory, might worry over the potential loss of lives, he said but they shouldn't be too concerned about that.
Robertson said that some Christians might be reluctant to embrace the war effort because of their opposition to the taking of human life."But as long as we continue the course we're on," Mr. Robertson said, referring to the overall concern for Iraqi civilians, "we're on solid ground, not only in terms of Christian, biblical concepts, but also in terms of public relations
Solid grounds in terms of...public relations? Huh?
Not all religious leaders in the US agreed with Robertson's endorsement of Bush's adventure in Iraq. For instance, Jesse L. Jackson Jr made his position clear. Unlike Robertson, he believed the war was "initiated for impure reasons and, therefore, can never be reconciled with the Christian ideals of fair engagement."
That must have taken a good deal of restraint to say.
A year later there was another Robertson gaffe when Robertson told his followers that President Bush had assured him earlier in the Iraqi engagement, there would be no casualties. That was something that the White House spokesman quickly denied.
Even then Robertson wanted to play both sides. While criticizing the president for allegedly promising the impossible, (and for convincing Robertson that modern warfare is really not harmful to human health) Robertson also continued to support the president and encouraged his audience to do the same.
He gave this account of a meeting he had with the president.
I emphatically stated that, 'I believe 'the blessing of heaven is upon him,' and I am persuaded that he will win this election and prevail on the war against terror in order to keep America safe from her avowed enemies.
In a CNN interview Robertson called Bush "the most self-assured man I've ever met in my life."
That was obviously enough to persuade Robertson (and consequently for Robertson to use his show to persuade his audience.)
He concluded his interview with:
"Even if he stumbles and messes up -- and he's had his share of stumbles and gaffes -- I just think God's blessing is on him. .
Who could argue with a president that had been blessed by God? Clearly, Robertson's insight into the mind of God failed somewhere.
Today Pat Robertson might have an axe to grind with the things Bush was able to get away with, but that comes 11 years too late for the over 4000 soldiers who died and for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians that were caught up in the conflict. Ultimately, whether he cares to admit it to his ever so patient and trusting flock, Robertson is as much deceiver as he was deceived.
And Monday's statement shows that he is prepared to continue pulling the wool over their eyes about Bush and Iraq.
Although Robertson might have found his personal Jesus moment about Iraq, that suffering and bloodshed has been unleashed and goes on today.