Agog Over Gog and Magog

By James Haught

James Haught is editor of West Virginia’s largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette, and a senior editor of Free Inquiry. He is 87-years-old and would like to help secular causes more. This series is a way of giving back.

[Editor’s Note: If the wild incompetence and racism of the Trump administration makes you feel nostalgia for George W. Bush – a thought I’ve caught myself having a few times – then today’s post is a useful corrective. —Adam]

By James A. Haught

Incredibly, when President George W. Bush was stampeding the Iraq invasion in 2003, he told French President Jacques Chirac that the attack was needed to thwart Gog and Magog, the Bible’s satanic agents of the Apocalypse.

Honest. This isn’t a joke. The president of the United States, in a top-secret phone call to a major European ally, asked for French troops to join American soldiers in invading Iraq as a mission from God.

After leaving office, Chirac recounted that the American leader appealed to their “common faith” (Christianity) and told him: “Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East…. The biblical prophecies are being fulfilled…. This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a New Age begins.”

This bizarre — seemingly deranged — episode happened while the White House was assembling its “coalition of the willing” to unleash the Iraq invasion. Chirac says he was boggled by Bush’s call, and “wondered how someone could be so superficial and fanatical in their beliefs.”

After the 2003 call, the puzzled French leader didn’t comply with Bush’s request. Instead, his staff asked Thomas Romer, a theologian at the University of Lausanne, to analyze the weird appeal. Dr. Romer explained that the Old Testament book of Ezekiel contains two chapters (38 and 39) in which God rages against Gog and Magog, sinister and mysterious forces menacing Israel. Jehovah vows to smite them savagely, to “turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws,” and slaughter them ruthlessly. In the New Testament, the mystical book of Revelation envisions Gog and Magog gathering nations for battle, “and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.”

In 2007, Dr. Romer recounted Bush’s strange behavior in Lausanne University’s review, Allez Savoir. A French-language Swiss newspaper, Le Matin Dimanche, printed a sarcastic account titled: “When President George W. Bush saw the prophesies of the Bible coming to pass.” France’s La Liberte likewise spoofed it under the headline, “A small scoop on Bush, Chirac, God, Gog and Magog.” But other news media missed the amazing report.

Subsequently, ex-President Chirac confirmed the nutty event in a long interview with French journalist Jean-Claude Maurice, who told the tale in his book, Si Vous le Répétez, Je Démentirai (If You Repeat it, I Will Deny), released by the publisher Plon.Oddly, mainstream media ignored this alarming revelation that Bush may have been half-cracked when he started his Iraq war. My own paper, The Charleston Gazette in West Virginia, is the only U.S. newspaper to report it, so far. Canada’s Toronto Star recounted the story, calling it a “stranger-than-fiction disclosure… which suggests that apocalyptic fervor may have held sway within the walls of the White House.” Fortunately, on-line commentary sites are spreading the news, filling the press void.

The French revelation jibes with other known aspects of Bush’s renowned evangelical certitude. For example, a few months after his phone call to Chirac, Bush attended a 2003 summit in Egypt. The Palestinian foreign minister later said the American president told him he was “on a mission from God” to defeat Iraq. At that time, the White House called this claim “absurd.”

Later, GQ magazine revealed that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld attached warlike Bible verses and Iraq battle photos to war reports he hand-delivered to Bush. One declared: “Put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground.”

It’s awkward to say openly, but now-departed President Bush is a religious crackpot, an ex-drunk of small intellect who “got saved.” He never should have been entrusted with power to start wars.

For years, Americans really hadn’t known why he launched the unnecessary Iraq attack. Official pretexts turned out to be baseless. Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, after all, and wasn’t in league with terrorists, as the White House alleged. Collapse of his asserted reasons led to speculation about hidden motives: Was the invasion loosed to gain control of Iraq’s oil — or to protect Israel — or to complete Bush’s father’s old vendetta against the late dictator Saddam Hussein? Nobody ever found an answer.

Now, added to the other suspicions, comes the goofy possibility that arcane, supernatural Bible prophecies were a factor. This casts an ominous pall over the needless war that killed more than 4,000 young Americans and cost U.S. taxpayers perhaps $1 trillion.

(Haught is editor emeritus of West Virginia’s largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette-Mail This column appeared in his paper on July 23, 2009, and in Free Inquiry magazine, Aug-Sept 2009. It was syndicated nationally by Knight-Ridder-Tribune.)

Link here at Daylight Atheism.

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Photo by João Pedro Salles on Unsplash

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