Bush: God told me to invade Iraq
President 'revealed reasons for war in private meeting'
By Rupert Cornwell in Washington
Friday, 7 October 2005
President George Bush has claimed he was told by God to invade Iraq and attack Osama bin Laden's stronghold of Afghanistan as part of a divine
mission to bring peace to the Middle East, security for Israel, and a state for the Palestinians.
The President made the assertion during his first meeting with Palestinian leaders in June 2003, according to a BBC series which will be broadcast
The revelation comes after Mr Bush launched an impassioned attack yesterday in Washington on Islamic militants, likening their ideology to that of
Communism, and accusing them of seeking to "enslave whole nations" and set up a radical Islamic empire "that spans from Spain to Indonesia". In
the programmeElusive Peace: Israel and the Arabs, which starts on Monday, the former Palestinian foreign minister Nabil Shaath says Mr Bush told him
and Mahmoud Abbas, former prime minister and now Palestinian President: "I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, 'George, go and
fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.' And I did, and then God would tell me, 'George go and end the tyranny in Iraq,' and I did."
And "now again", Mr Bush is quoted as telling the two, "I feel God's words coming to me: 'Go get the Palestinians their state and get the
Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East.' And by God, I'm gonna do it."
Mr Abbas remembers how the US President told him he had a "moral and religious obligation" to act. The White House has refused to comment on what it
terms a private conversation. But the BBC account is anything but implausible, given how throughout his presidency Mr Bush, a born-again Christian,
has never hidden the importance of his faith.
From the outset he has couched the "global war on terror" in quasi-religious terms, as a struggle between good and evil. Al-Qa'ida terrorists are
routinely described as evil-doers. For Mr Bush, the invasion of Iraq has always been part of the struggle against terrorism, and he appears to see
himself as the executor of the divine will.
He told Bob Woodward - whose 2004 book, Plan of Attack, is the definitive account of the administration's road to war in Iraq - that after giving the
order to invade in March 2003, he walked in the White House garden, praying "that our troops be safe, be protected by the Almighty". As he went into
this critical period, he told Mr Woodward, "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 will be as good a messenger of His
will as possible. And then of course, I pray for forgiveness."
Another telling sign of Mr Bush's religion was his answer to Mr Woodward's question on whether he had asked his father - the former president who
refused to launch a full-scale invasion of Iraq after driving Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in 1991 - for advice on what to do.
The current President replied that his earthly father was "the wrong father to appeal to for advice ... there is a higher father that I appeal
The same sense of mission permeated his speech at the National Endowment of Democracy yesterday. Its main news was Mr Bush's claim that Western
security services had thwarted 10 planned attacks by al-Qa'ida since 11 September 2001, three of them against mainland US.
More striking though was his unrelenting portrayal of radical Islam as a global menace, which only the forces of freedom - led by the US - could
repel. It was delivered at a moment when Mr Bush's domestic approval ratings are at their lowest ebb, in large part because of the war in Iraq, in
which 1,950 US troops have died, with no end in sight.
It came amid continuing violence on the ground, nine days before the critical referendum on the new constitution that offers perhaps the last chance
of securing a unitary and democratic Iraq. "The militants believe that controlling one country will rally the Muslim masses, enabling them to
overthrow all moderate governments in the region" and set up a radical empire stretching from Spain to Indonesia, he said.
The insurgents' aim was to "enslave whole nations and intimidate the world". He portrayed Islamic radicals as a single global movement, from the
Middle East to Chechnya and Bali and the jungles of the Philippines.