LONDON, England (Reuters) — U.S. President George W. Bush has alienated Muslims around the world by using absolutist Christian rhetoric to discuss foreign policy issues, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright says.
“I worked for two presidents who were men of faith, and they did not make their religious views part of American policy,” she said, referring to Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, both Democrats and Christians.
“President Bush’s certitude about what he believes in, and the division between good and evil, is, I think, different,” said Albright, who has just published a book on religion and world affairs. “The absolute truth is what makes Bush so worrying to some of us.”
Bush, a Republican, has openly acknowledged his Christian faith informs his decisions as president. He says, for example, that he prayed to God for guidance before invading Iraq.
Some Muslims have accused him of waging a crusade against Islam, comparable with those of the Middle Ages. The White House says it has nothing against Islam, but against those who commit terrorist atrocities in its name.
But Albright says Bush’s religious absolutism has made U.S. foreign policy “more rigid and more difficult for other countries to accept.”
In her book, “The Mighty and the Almighty,” Albright recalls how Bush, while he was governor of Texas, told Christians he believed God wanted him to be president.
She quotes from his speech to his party convention of 2004, when he told Republicans: “We have a calling from beyond the stars to stand for freedom.”
“Some of his language is really quite over the top,” Albright told Reuters on Sunday during a trip to London to promote her book. “When he says ‘God is on our side’, it’s very different from (former U.S. President Abraham) Lincoln saying ‘We have to be on God’s side.'”
Worse than Vietnam
The 69-year-old, who worked for Carter in the late 1970s and was Clinton’s secretary of state from 1997-2001, says the war in Iraq “may eventually rank among the worst foreign policy disasters in U.S. history.”
She describes it as arguably worse than the Vietnam War — not in terms of the number of people killed but because the Middle East is a more volatile region than southeast Asia.
She also bemoaned “the growing influence of Iran” in the region and warned sectarian violence between Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims could escalate into an all-out “Arab-Persian conflict.”
“We should not be contributing to what is a long historical struggle between the Sunni and Shia,” she said.
Asked about her own beliefs, Albright said she had “a very confused religious background.”
Born and raised a Roman Catholic in Czechoslovakia, Britain and then the United States, she converted to Anglicanism when she married and only later in life discovered she had Jewish roots.
It is this legacy which makes her wary of any religion which claims a monopoly on truth, she said.
These days, she describes herself as “an Episcopalian (U.S. Anglican) with a Catholic background”, recalling how she used to pray to the Virgin Mary as a child and still does.
“I know I believe in God but I have doubts, and doubt is part of faith,” she said.
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