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God may speak to us through detractors

Rev. Jack Van Ens

We like to hear the sound of our voices. They reassure us that our convictions are correct. Our voices’ mellow tones knock rough edges off our prejudices and mistakes. These voices agree with us, becoming our best friends.George W. Bush shares our habit of listening to ourselves and declaring what we hear as true. A strength our president shows is that he doesn’t beat around the bush. He talks straight. On the bloodiest day of the war in Iraq for American troops, Bush at a news conference repeated his mantra. Everyone desires liberty. God implants this longing within the hearts of all. Our nation is called to spread liberty and stamp out tyranny. “The story today is going to be very discouraging to the American people,” Bush admitted, referring to a helicopter crash killing 31 U.S. soldiers. ” I understand that. … And we weep and mourn when soldiers lose their life. … But it is the long-term objective that is vital, and that is to spread freedom.”Seems almost silly to argue with this conviction, doesn’t it? God’s for liberty. Our nation endorses freedom. And President Bush resolutely will make it happen. Great numbers of Iraqi people went to the polls to cast their ballots for freedom.The argument for Iraqi freedom sounds legitimate. God prefers it. Our nation’s troops occupy the land to insure it. Our president assures us that the way to freedom, rather than tyranny, is the only course to pursue. Still, does a word come from the Lord when we learn that he may speak through our detractors? Their objections may offer alternative views when we assume we have clear vision.So often the good book reads, “The word of the Lord came to me … .” (Jeremiah 13:8). Could these moments of truth strike us when we listen to those who differ, who dismiss our easy arguments, who rescue us from lackeys agreeing us to death?President George H.W. Bush wrote about going to war in Iraq, “Trying to eliminate Saddam … would have incurred incalculable human and political costs … . There was no viable ‘exit strategy’ we could see, violating another of our principles. Furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War world. Going into and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations’ mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land.”Our president’s father offered this counsel five years ago in “The World Transformed,” a book he co-authored with his security adviser, Brent Scowcroft. George H.W. Bush, a detractor in print from his son’s gung-ho military quest to establish freedom, explains why he didn’t rush Desert Storm forces into Baghdad at the end of the 1991 Gulf War.Why didn’t we knock the stuffing out of Saddam Hussein after liberating Kuwait? Liberty does not wait, right? Now we know from our former president why the road to Baghdad is filled with suicide bombers and exploding cars.Mr. Scowcroft clanks around Washington like Banquo’s ghost, a pundit writes. He got kicked out of his job as chairman of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. George W. Bush’s war council didn’t like him detracting from their foreign policy. In what ways does Bush Sr.’s war expert distract from Bush Jr., who puts the best face he can on a terribly scarred Iraq? He warns that the elections show a “great potential for deepening the conflict.” The elections may split the Shiite and Sunni Muslims, inflaming their passions for “an incipient civil war.” Mr. Scowcroft believes that our troops, who President George W. Bush calls “liberators,” may be hated as conquerors by Muslims. Better to let the United Nations or NATO defuse this time bomb.Unlike his son, George H.W. Bush engaged in heavy combat as a pilot in World War II. He knows when battles must be fought and when the better part of valor is to back off. We would expect that he and his son might frequently compare notes on Iraq.Bob Woodward, author of “Plan of Attack,” relates how George W. Bush outflanks his detractors, even his father. Woodward asked George W. if he ever checked signals with his dad before going to war in Iraq. Our president possessed only a fuzzy recollection. He dodged the question by saying that he might have. He did show certainty about sources he did contact. “There is a higher Father that I appeal to,” he told Woodward.The question our president obviously avoided before going to war is how a word from this higher Father comes to us. Could his Heavenly Father speak through George W. Bush’s earthly father? Only God knows. His ways are often past our definitively finding out. His ways are not always our ways. Has God signed up for a tour of duty in Iraq? Only he knows for sure.In Ron Chernow’s celebrated biography about Alexander Hamilton, we learn that George Washington during the Revolutionary War listened to his young aid. Hamilton almost became a father to Washington with sage advice he dispensed. He made the father of our country look good in print as Hamilton wrote voluminous correspondence for Washington, whose battlefield savvy shone brighter than his writing ability. Hamilton knew the British possessed the premier standing army in the world. Only by indirect attack, guerilla raids and clandestine maneuvers would the patriots win. “The circumstances of our country put it in our power to evade a pitched battle,” wrote 20-year-old Hamilton. “It will be better policy to harass and exhaust the soldiery by frequent skirmishes and incursions than to take the open field with (the British).” Do Alexander Hamilton and George H.W. Bush sound like God or not? The Rev. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads Creative Growth Ministries, enhancing Christian worship through storytelling and dramatic presentations. Van Ens’s book, “How Jefferson Made the Best of Bad Messes,” is available in local bookstores for $7.95. Vail, Colorado


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