Benedict XVI Meets Bush In Realignment of Church and State

June 13, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI, head of the Roman Catholic church, granted a special audience to U.S. President Bush on Vatican state grounds earlier today. This is their second official meeting in exactly three months. Photos of the seemingly casual encounter unambiguously articulate a new alignment and alliance between the two powerful leaders. Both men walk (or sit) side by side — as amiable colleagues, placing Western religion and Western politics on equal, albeit very precarious, footing.

bushpopeOn the surface, the two men appear diametrically opposed. Joseph Ratzinger consciously adapted his papal name from Benedict XV, known as the “peace pope” during World War I. While George W. Bush simply inherited an ancestral name then fell into (some say stole) a legacy of war.

So why the love fest?

We can only speculate. Both are heads of institutions whose global dominance and relevance are currently on the wane. Future growth and stability are dependent on cultures outside their historic territories. Do they simply need each other to survive into the next century?

The more important question for me is why Benedict XVI has positioned himself (and therefore his god, his church) so squarely on the side of a president who continues to wage a profoundly unjust war.

There are at least three answers — all of which, of course, just lead to more questions:

1. The pope condones war. Has Benedict XVI chosen to walk in the footsteps, NOT of Benedict XV, but of one of Benedict XV’s proteges: Pius XII, who was crowned pope on March 12, 1939, the eve of Adolf Hitler’s march into Prague? (Controversy over Pius’ papacy continues today because of his refusal to condemn the Nazi regime and his silence in face of the Jewish holocaust.)

2. The pope rejects war. Perhaps these meetings are subtle attempts to sway Bush from staying the course of war. The Vatican’s official line, of course, is that Benedict XVI rejects the war and is “skeptical of politics without reference to the Gospel.”

3. The pope rejects war but has to turn a blind eye in order to win his church’s larger battle — converting the entire world over to Christianity. In other words: the elimination of all other religions, including the Abrahamic traditions of Judaism and Islam.

It’s a new world. All roads no longer lead to Rome. Strangely, they now all lead to the Middle East.

Whichever the answer (and there are admittedly many more), both Benedict and Bush seem to be ideal counterparts. Not two men from different spheres, but two halves of a single neoconservative coin.

During his visit, Bush reportedly told Benedict: ‚ÄúThis is fantastic up here… Thank you so much for showing me this.” The view of the gods must be spectacular. Caution: thunderbolts ahead.

Photo from Getty Images, as published in NYT’s lede story this morning.

Bush Responds to Housing Crisis with “National Homeownership Month”

June 7, 2008

Home foreclosures are at a record high. And nothing bulldozes the American Dream faster than an eviction notice.

Have no fear: the Bush White House has declared June “National Homeownership Month”! From the official press release (i.e., not a joke):

For many Americans, owning a home represents freedom, independence, and the American dream. During National Homeownership Month, we highlight the benefits of owning a home and encourage our fellow citizens to be responsible homeowners

…I encourage all Americans to take advantage of financial education opportunities to explore homeownership. My Advisory Council on Financial Literacy is finding ways to help educate people from all walks of life about matters pertaining to their finances and their futures. By practicing fiscal responsibility, Americans can contribute to the strength of our neighborhoods and our country.

screamThis is not a matter of education. It’s the economy, stupid.

America’s existential crisis continues.

Get the Bushites and McCainites out of Our House now.

Image: Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”, 1893, oil, tempera, and pastel on cardboard. 91 x 73.5 cm. National Gallery, Oslo.

Bush 2003: Major Combat Operations in Iraq Have Ended

May 1, 2008

5 years ago today Bush stood on the deck of aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. Under the now infamous “Mission Accomplished” banner, he pridefully declared:

“Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed…

In the images of falling statues, we have witnessed the arrival of a new era. For a hundred years of war, culminating in the nuclear age, military technology was designed and deployed to inflict casualties on an ever-growing scale. In defeating Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, Allied forces destroyed entire cities, while enemy leaders who started the conflict were safe until the final days. Military power was used to end a regime by breaking a nation.

Today, we have the greater power to free a nation by breaking a dangerous and aggressive regime. With new tactics and precision weapons, we can achieve military objectives without directing violence against civilians. No device of man can remove the tragedy from war; yet it is a great moral advance when the guilty have far more to fear from war than the innocent.

In the images of celebrating Iraqis, we have also seen the ageless appeal of human freedom. Decades of lies and intimidation could not make the Iraqi people love their oppressors or desire their own enslavement. Men and women in every culture need liberty like they need food and water and air. Everywhere that freedom arrives, humanity rejoices; and everywhere that freedom stirs, let tyrants fear…”

bushbannerToday, the U.S. casualty count totals 4,065. The Iraqi count is near-impossible to determine but is in the range of 90,000 documented civilian deaths. The cost to the U.S. alone grows by about $200 million per day. There’s no victor here. Bush’s myopic and hubristic speech on May 1, 2003 ought to be remembered as a warning for future generations. Of course, to the contrary, near silence in the American press about this today.