Gog and the bowl of hot wrath

The first time I read about this I thought it had to be a spoof, like from The Onion or something — where this morning’s headlines look like this:

George W. Bush was a “born again” religious crackpot who never should have been entrusted with the power to start wars.  Somehow he managed to get himself elected President of the United States, and start one he did.  Wait till you hear the reason thoughtful reader.

For years, Americans, including myself, really hadn’t known why he launched the unnecessary Iraq war.  Official pretexts turned out to be baseless:  Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, and they weren't involved in 9/11.  Collapse of his asserted reasons led to speculation about hidden motives:  was it to gain control of Iraq’s oil, or maybe to complete Bush’s father’s old vendetta against Saddam Hussein, or to retaliate for Saddam’s attempted assassination of Junior’s dad?  Nobody ever could find a reason for the biggest foreign policy mistake made by a US president in my lifetime.

Until now.

While President Bush was promoting the Iraq invasion to US citizens and our allies 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.  No 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, President Chirac recounted that Bush 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.

At the time of the 2003 call, President Chirac, who says he “wondered how someone could be so superficial and fanatical in their beliefs,” had his staff ask Thomas Romer, a theologian at the University of Lausanne, to explain the weird appeal.  Dr. Romer explained that The War of Ezekiel 38–39 or The War of Gog and Magog is an episode described in the Old Testament Book of Ezekiel, chapters 38–39, which details how Gog of Magog (meaning "Gog from the Land of Gog") and his hordes from the north will threaten and attack the restored land of Israel.  Jehovah vows to smite them mightily, to “put hooks in [their] jaws and bring [them] out with [their] whole army—[their] horses, [their] horsemen fully armed, and a great horde with large and small shields, all of them brandishing their swords.” (Ezekiel 38:4), and slaughter them.  Can I get a Hallelujah?  In the New Testament, the mystical book of Revelation envisions Gog and Magog gathering nations for battle, but God sends an angel with a bowl of fire to scorch men with fire:  and the fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun, and there was given to it to scorch men with fire. (cf:  Revelation 20)

bowl of fire

“Excuse me, ma’am… what are the specials today?”

“Oh, we’ve got a yummy bowl of God’s wrath.”

“Ooo, excellent… I’ll have that.”

“Oh, it’s a bit hot!”

“Good, I like it spicy.”

“No, I mean it’s on fire.  It will scorch you.”

Now, lest you think I’ve gone all nutty on you thoughtful reader and someone has flipped my conspiracy theory switch, this is not from some “I hate Bush” sub-reddit where guys without girlfriends or boyfriends or lives sit around in their underwear and make wild, unsubstantiated claims about how the Freemasons (as opposed to the locked-up Masons) control the US government and the Illuminati control the Pope, à la a Dan Brown novel.  In 2007, Dr. Romer recounted Bush’s insane belief in Lausanne University’s review, Allez Savoir.  A French-language Swiss newspaper, Le Matin Dimanche, reported on it in a piece entitled — “When President George W. Bush saw the prophesies of the Bible coming to pass.”  France’s La Liberte likewise ran a story on it under the headline, “A small scoop on Bush, Chirac, God, Gog and Magog.”  But other news media, particularly in the United States, missed or buried (out of embarrassment?) the story.  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 for you thoughtful reader, on-line commentary sites are spreading the news, filling-in the blanks of what is being done in your name that led to the unnecessary slaughter of American lives sent to war because the president believed he was on a “mission from God” to defeat Iraq, which is what he himself told the Palestinian foreign minister at a 2003 summit in Egypt.

In 2009, Robert Draper of GQ magazine revealed that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld attached warlike Bible verses and Iraq battle photos to military reports and briefings he hand-delivered to Bush.  One such report declared, “Put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground.”  Another, from the book of Psalms, read, “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him… To deliver their soul from death.”

Subsequently, former President Chirac has confirmed the bizarre 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.

The goofy possibility that arcane, supernatural Bible prophecies cost US taxpayers perhaps $1 trillion dollars while an incompetent grinning idiot carried out a middle-east misadventure inspired by Iron Age writings is obscene when you consider that money could have been used for, oh I dunno, universal healthcare (Medicare for all), inner-city urban renewal, free higher education or vocational training for all to lift the American worker out of poverty and the American student out of debt, or even just lower taxes.

miss me yet?

If the wildly incompetent and racist Trump administration makes you long for the days of George W. Bush, this post should cure you of that.  We never knew how bad things got during the George W. Bush era.  True, we saw the results of Bush’s policies — a catastrophic terrorist attack on American soil, a staggeringly mismanaged quagmire of war, torture and degradation of prisoners, the proliferation of radical Islam and anti-American sentiment around the world.  All in the name of Jesus Christ.

For eight years, this nation was in the grip of theocracy, and all theocracies are the same.  Just like the Taliban of Afghanistan or the ayatollahs of Iran, George W. Bush believed his primary duty was not to follow the will of the people who have consented to be governed, but to serve what he believed to be the will of God.  Because of the religious beliefs of illiterate, desert-dwelling, cattle-sacrificing nomads from the Iron Age, aircraft carriers and Abrams tanks were sent to do battle because of myths recorded by people for whom the most advanced weapons of war were chariots and spears.

The United States of America was led into war by a scripture-quoting president who thought the Bible contained coded messages intended for him!  When revelation takes the place of reason, the results are always disastrous.  Faith allows — indeed, it encourages — us to make decisions with no thought for what is best, and when the person making the decisions commands the power of the most powerful military in the world, the chaos and carnage of Iraq is the result.  Crusades, pogroms, jihad — how much more bloodshed and death and suffering will result before we realize that we cannot rely on religious myths or messianic delusions to determine what is right?  Morality is doing what is right, regardless of what we are told, whereas religious dogma is doing what we are told, regardless of what is right.


We were born of risen apes, not fallen angels, and the apes were armed killers besides. And so what shall we wonder at? Our murders and massacres and missiles, and our irreconcilable regiments? Or our treaties whatever they may be worth; our symphonies however seldom they may be played; our peaceful acres, however frequently they may be converted to battlefields; our dreams however rarely they may be accomplished. The miracle of man is not how far he has sunk but how magnificently he has risen. We are known among the stars by our poems, not our corpses.
(African Genesis:  A Personal Investigation into the Animal Origins and Nature of Man, Robert Ardrey)

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