More than 3,500 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq, at least a million Iraqis are dead and wounded, and an estimated four million Iraqis have fled their homes because of Bush Administration lies, Congressional complicity, and the public’s fear, ignorance, and skewed patriotism. Finally, finally, a majority of Americans now oppose this war and believe that our country is on the wrong path. They voiced this opinion with their votes in November.
Yet, most of the Republican candidates for president have just said that we were justified in attacking Iraq and they, also, endorse the use of tactical nuclear weapons on Iran. War, war, and more war. No regrets. War is the stimulant that gets them through the day. And faith in their religious convictions is affirmation that their high is mighty.
Meanwhile, the Democratic candidates, some of whom voted to give George Bush money, wheelbarrows of money, aircraft-carrier loads of money, to fund the war, have declared that he or she will end the war upon becoming president. They, too, claim to be people of faith, and they sure as hell want us to know it.
I’m not a fan of organized religion. When I was a child, growing up in Kentucky, I listened to ministers who gave me bad dreams and guilt trips with all that yelling about sin, sinners, and eternal damnation. If I did anything wrong, I was sure a vengeful God would hurl a lightning bolt, aimed at my heart. It took years for me to unlearn the fear and hellfire that seemed to define Baptist sermons.
Plus, there’s that huge issue of what we do to each other and not for each other. I’m talking about war—aerial bombings, white phosphorous, depleted uranium, death, maiming, psychological trauma, collateral damage, the components of our conquest arsenal. And I’m also talking about poverty and our failure to provide for those in need. A living wage, education, health care. All impossible for me to reconcile with declarations of faith.
John Edwards has apologized multiple times for giving George Bush the authority to go to war. He always is applauded for this. But Hillary Clinton—well, she just digs her heels in deeper to blame only Bush for the humanitarian catastrophe that is Iraq. Being human means having to seek forgiveness. Being Hillary means never having to say you’re sorry.
In New Hampshire this past week, all of the Republican White House hopefuls except Ron Paul either spoke or nodded that we were right in attacking Iraq even though no weapons of mass destruction were found, even though Saddam Hussein wasn’t connected to 9/11, and even though a majority of Americans believe the war hasn’t made us safer from terrorism. In other words, the war was necessary and still is. According to all but Paul, the one thing wrong with the war in Iraq is its mismanagement. Oh, if only Ronald Reagan were president, this war would be flawless.
And, we have the three who do not accept evolution. During the first Republican debate, Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee, and Tom Tancredo raised their hands to acknowledge that they are not descended from primates. On the spot, John McCain had an uh oh moment, frightened that he could lose some of the fundamentalist Christians he’s so desperately befriending. He quickly sucked up with: “I believe in evolution. But I also believe, when I hike the Grand Canyon and see it at sunset, that the hand of God is there also.”
More revealing to me about McCain is that when he listens to the Beach Boys song, “Barbara Ann,” he changes the lyrics to “bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran,” providing real insight into what kind of president he’d be and what kind of man he is. In fact, all these candidates who claim to rely on their faith and place themselves in the column of the religious should examine the atrocity of war and themselves. So it isn’t just Brownback, Huckabee, and Tancredo who aren’t evolved. The truth and tragedy is that few of the candidates are.