Book Review: Faith-Based War: From 9/11 to Catastrophic Success in Iraq

by on October 27th, 2009

T. Walter Herbert’s book Faith-Based War: From 9/11 to Catastrophic Success in Iraq looks at how the United States came to invade Iraq. Many believe this war violates every American principle of law and justice. Herbert, a careful student of history, agrees with them. In this book, he shows how what he calls “Christian Americanism” developed from Puritan roots in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The Puritans have influenced the Christian conservative political movement. They saw themselves as a “chosen people.” The doctrine of Manifest Destiny grew from this belief. It allowed them to practice genocide and take the ancestral lands of Native Americans.

Roger Williams disagreed with the Puritans over their treatment of the native people around Massachusetts Bay. The Puritans, not known for tolerance, expelled him for it. He later went on to found Rhode Island.

The United States, like many other great cultures, has developed a mythology. This mythology influences political life in ways that Americans do not necessarily see. Herbert calls attention to one myth in particular, the “six-gun savior.” This hero of the American West shows up in countless books and movies. He comes to save the oppressed. Rather than obeying the rule of law, the six-gun savior is beyond the law. He restores order with violence. Clint Eastwood played the role of a six-gun savior in the movie Dirty Harry.

George W. Bush stepped into this role on 9/11. He saw himself as one appointed by God to bring divine vengeance on those who attacked America. Because his mission came from God, laws no longer restrained him. Because his mission came from God, those who opposed him were enemies of God. Enemies of God deserve destruction, and who better than to destroy them than America? Bush used vaguely religious rhetoric to rally support for his plans. He made the invasion of Iraq a sacred war. He considered those who disagreed with him blasphemers.

Herbert goes on to explain how Christian beliefs have become justification for torture. God, in saving man, tortured his son. He condemns the unfaithful to an eternity of torture. If God tortures his enemies, the six-gun savior can do it for Him.

Anyone who has ever agreed with the bumper sticker “Who would Jesus bomb?” will enjoy this book for its insights. Herbert untangles logical knots that empower Christians to commit extremely un-Christian acts. He explains why many Christian conservatives cannot be persuaded through logic and reason. The only thing he cannot do is tell us how to deprogram them.

Faith-Based War: From 9/11 to Catastrophic Success in Iraq

by T. Walter Herbert

176 pages, 2009 Equinox Publishing, London

Ann Weaver Hart