"No one in recent memory has pounded that pulpit for religion's role in government quite like the forty-third president," Stephen Mansfield writes in the introduction to his book The Faith of George W. Bush. Bush's "unapologetic religious tone" and his willingness to "speak of being called to the presidency, of a God who rules in the affairs of men, and of the United States owing her origin to Providence," separate him from recent predecessors.
Mansfield maintains that Bush puts his faith to work daily. In addition to having his legacy established by being president on 9/11, "another likely pillar of George W. Bush's legacy... is the matter of his religious faith and his attempts to integrate faith as a whole into American public policy," Mansfield writes.
As evidenced by the recent 60 Minutes interview with Bob Woodward, author of the new best selling book Plan of Attack, Bush has integrated his faith seamlessly into what he believes the war in Iraq and other global adventures are about. Woodward, whose book documents Bush's intention to invade Iraq as early as November 2001, told CBS' Mike Wallace that when he asked Bush if he had consulted with his father about Iraq, the president said: "You know, he is the wrong father to appeal to in terms of strength. There is a higher father that I appeal to."
According to Woodward's book, the day the president gave the orders to begin the invasion of Iraq he took a solitary walk outside the Oval Office. Bush later told Woodward: "Going into this period, I was praying for strength to do the Lord's will... I'm surely not going to justify war based upon God. Understand that. Nevertheless, in my case I pray that I be as good a messenger of His will as possible. And then, of course, I pray for personal strength and for forgiveness.'"
Bush apparently spends a considerable time in prayer. Mansfield describes aides discovering the president "face down on the floor in prayer in the Oval Office. It became known that he refused to eat sweets while American troops were in Iraq, a partial fast seldom reported of an American president. And he framed America's challenges in nearly biblical language. Saddam Hussein is an evildoer. He has to go."
April has been a cruel month
During his April 13 prime time speech/press conference, the president talked about how he grieves for the troops who lost their lives in Iraq. He also mentioned several times that he had recently visited with families of lost ones at Fort Hood. "Our nation honors the memory of those who have been killed, and we pray that the families will find God's comfort in the midst of their grief," the president said. "As I've said to those who have lost loved ones: We will finish the work of the fallen."
Since the beginning of April, the president has had a lot of grieving to do.
The total number of U.S. dead has risen above 700. The first two weeks in April was the deadliest two-week period for U.S. troops in Iraq since the beginning of the Bush invasion: More U.S. soldiers died in combat than in any two-week period since October 1971, during the Vietnam War.
News reports occasionally acknowledge the estimated 1000 Iraqis that have been killed in recent weeks, including several hundred women and children in Fallujah.
Today, as they have done for years, Iraqi families are mourning their loved ones. (For more on Iraqi casualties in Bush's war, see an October 2003 Global Policy Forum report The Wages of War: Iraqi Combatant and Noncombatant Fatalities in the 2003 Conflict, and a recent Amnesty International report on the human rights situation in Iraq.)
Images from home
And today, somewhere in the U.S., a family has the grave distinction of being the 700th family to have a loved one die in President Bush's war.
Since you are not likely to see the burials of America's young men and women who died in Iraq live on television, and have no way of visiting with the families of these troops, let me suggest you visit two special sections at CNN.com. One is called Grieving Families, and the other is called Remembering Loved Ones.
Slide One: Pictures of Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Serio, Marine Lance Cpl. Anthony P. Roberts, Army Sgt. 1st Class Marvin L. Miller, Army Spc. Michelle Witmer, Army Spc. Stephen "Dusty" Hiller and Marine Pfc. Christopher Cobb, who are among the casualties in Iraq since the beginning of April.
Slide Two: Marine Pfc. Christopher Cobb. Christopher's mother Sheila "is held up by Marines by the side of her son's grave during his burial in Bradenton, Florida. Cobb, 19, was killed in an April 6 firefight in Fallujah, Iraq."
Slide Three: Spc. Stephen "Dusty" Hiller. Hiller's wife Leslie "is comforted by her cousin Billy Danzey, left, and her aunt Corvet Danzey after the funeral... in Opelika, Alabama. Hiller, 25, was killed April 4 when rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire attacked his unit in Baghdad, Iraq."
Slide Four: Army Spc. Michelle Witmer. Michelle's twin sister Charity "speaks at a memorial service... in Brookfield, Wisconsin. Charity is joined by family members... father John, sister Rachel, mother Lori and brothers Tim and Mark. The three sisters all served in Iraq before Michelle, 20, was killed in an April 9 attack in Baghdad, Iraq."
Slide Five: Army Sgt. 1st Class Marvin L. Miller. Sgt. Miller's wife Linnette "holds the flag that covered the casket of her husband... The flag was presented to her at his grave site in Chesapeake, Virginia. Miller, 38, died April 7 when he was shot while on traffic control duty in Balad, Iraq."
Slide Six: Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Serio. Matthew's father Anthony "stands alongside his wife, Sharon... as they watch Marines unload the boxed casket of their son from an aircraft in Warwick, Rhode Island. Matthew Serio, 21, was killed April 5 in Iraq's Al Anbar province after his unit arrived to help quell an uprising."
Slide Seven: Lance Cpl. Anthony P. Roberts. "A Marine honor guard carries [Cpl. Roberts'] casket at Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Bear, Delaware. Roberts, 18, was killed April 6 by hostile fire in Iraq's Al Anbar province."
'Remembering Loved Ones'
Slide One: Capt. Brent L. Morel. "Mike and Molly Morel hold a picture of their son... at their home in McKenzie, Tennessee. Morel was killed April 7 by hostile fire in Iraq."
Slide Two: Sgt. George Scott Rentschler. George's mother Lillian, "talks to reporters [in her home in Louisville, Kentucky] about her son... who was killed when his military vehicle was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in Baghdad on April 7."
Slide Three: Marine Pfc. Ryan Jerabek. Ryan's mother Rita "is consoled by a family friend at the Jerabek home in Hobart, Wisconsin. Jerabek, 18, was killed April 6 in Iraq, becoming the state's youngest casualty since the war began."
Slide Four: Lance Cpl. Kyle D. Crowley. Kyle's high school friend, Emily Holt, a junior at California High School in San Ramon, California, "looks at a photo of... Kyle... who was killed April 6 in a firefight after Iraqi insurgents launched a large-scale attack in Fallujah. Students at Crowley's school put up his photo and signed remembrances."
Slide Five: Marine Cpl. Jesse L. Thiry. Jesse's father Randy "displays the Purple Heart his son was awarded for the injury that cost him his life in Iraq. Thiry, from Casco, Wisconsin, was killed by hostile fire on April 5."
In his book, Made in Texas, Michael Lind takes a close look at the coming together of President Bush's religious awakening and his foreign policy vision. Lind claims that the effort to remake the Middle East is rooted in the support offered by many fundamentalist Protestants who interpret the Bible's prophecy to explain the unfolding events of the Middle East and the world.
Commerce Secretary Don Evans has said that Bush's faith "gives him a desire to serve others and a very clear sense of what is good and what is evil."
"I think President Bush is God's man at this hour, and I say this with a great sense of humility," Timothy Goeglein of the White House Office of Public Liaison told World magazine, a Christian weekly.
Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His WorkingForChange.com column Conservative Watch documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the American Right.
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