The overwhelming importance of Seymour Hersh’s latest jawdropping report in The New Yorker lies, of course, in the fact that we have apparently reached a point where real power in Washington is interested in using nuclear weapons, soon. There’s something inherently theological about that notion — destruction on such a scale can only be the work of a sociopath or profoundly violent religious imagination — but we call your attention, too, to the religious echoes throughout Hersh’s report, particularly Bush’s determination to A) “humiliate the religous leadership” of Iran through catastrophic destruction of Iranian infrastructure; B) make this destruction his “legacy,” on the principle that no other politician of any stripe will have the courage to do so. “This guy has a messianic vision,” says one congressman who’s been briefed on Bush administration meetings on the issue.
One needn’t love the Ayatollah Khameini to recognize the spiritual ambition of Bush’s first objective — one humiliates religious leadership by making a mockery of its claim to know and mediate the will of God. Religious authority often depends on coercion, inertia, and aesthetic appeal; but some part of it results from a belief that that the priestly caste can keep even greater religious authority — God — happy. Bush bombs Iran back to the stone age, and what — in his imagination, anyway — is the result? Mass disillusionment. A nation losing its religion. And that, in his book, seems to be a good thing.
But only because, like his recently promoted General Boykin, he believes his God is bigger than theirs. So big, in fact, that this big God has chosen Bush as a special messenger, an angel of destruction, the only politician in America who would nuke Iran.