President Bush said he hasn’t considered the global war on terrorism in light of Bible prophecy.

Asked by a questioner following his speech on the War on Terror at the City Club of Cleveland tonight whether the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism are signs of the apocaplyse, Bush responded, “The answer is – I haven’t really thought of it that way.”

It was the first of several questions posed to the president.

“My question is that author and former Nixon administration official Kevin Phillips, in his latest book, ‘American Theocracy,’ discusses what has been called radical Christianity and its growing involvement into government and politics,” asked an unidentified woman. “He makes the point that members of your administration have reached out to prophetic Christians who see the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism as signs of the apocalypse. Do you believe this, that the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism are signs of the apocalypse? And if not, why not?”

The president elaborated: “Here’s how I think of it. The first I’ve heard of that, by the way. I guess I’m more of a practical fellow. I vowed after September the 11th, that I would do everything I could to protect the American people. And my attitude, of course, was affected by the attacks. I knew we were at war. I knew that the enemy, obviously, had to be sophisticated and lethal to fly hijacked airplanes into facilities that would be killing thousands of people, innocent people, doing nothing, just sitting there going to work.

“I also knew this about this war on terror, that the farther we got away from September the 11th, the more likely it is people would seek comfort and not think about this global war on terror as a global war on terror,” he said. “And that’s good, by the way. It’s hard to take risk if you’re a small business owner, for example, if you’re worried that the next attack is going to come tomorrow. I understand that. But I also understand my most important job, the most important job of any president today, and I predict down the road, is to protect America.”

He continued: “And so I told the American people that we would find the terrorists and bring them to justice, and that we needed to defeat them overseas so we didn’t have to face them here at home. I also understood that the war on terror requires some clear doctrine. And one of the doctrines that I laid out was, if you harbor a terrorist, you’re equally as guilty as the terrorist. And the first time that doctrine was really challenged was in Afghanistan. I guess the Taliban didn’t believe us – or me. And so we acted. Twenty-five million people are now free, and Afghanistan is no longer a safe haven for the terrorists. And the other doctrine that’s really important, and it’s a change of attitude – it’s going to require a change of attitude for a while – is that, when you see a threat, you got to deal with it before it hurts you. Foreign policy used to be dictated by the fact we had two oceans protecting us. If we saw a threat, you could deal with it if you needed to, you think – or not. But we’d be safe.

“My most important job is to protect you, is to protect the American people,” the president said. “Therefore, when we see threats, given the lesson of September the 11th, we got to deal with them. That does not mean militarily, necessarily. Obviously, the first option for a President has got to be the full use of diplomacy. That’s what you’re watching in Iran right now. I see a threat in Iran. I see it there – I’m kind of getting off subject here, not because I don’t want to answer your question, but kind of – I guess, that’s what happens in Washington, we get a little long-winded. But now that I’m on Iran, the threat to Iran, of course – the threat from Iran is, of course, their stated objective to destroy our strong ally Israel. That’s a threat, a serious threat. It’s a threat to world peace; it’s a threat, in essence, to a strong alliance. I made it clear, I’ll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally, Israel.”

The president’s pledge to protect Israel drew applause from the crowd.

“At any rate, our objective is to solve this issue diplomatically. And so our message must be a united message, a message from not only the United States, but also Great Britain and France and Germany, as well as Russia, hopefully, and China, in order to say, loud and clear to the Iranians, this is unacceptable behavior,” said Bush. “Your desire to have a nuclear weapon is unacceptable.”

He concluded: “And so, to answer your question, I take a practical view of doing the job you want me to do – which is how do we defeat an enemy that still wants to hurt us; and how do we deal with threats before they fully materialize; what do we do to protect us from harm? That’s my job. And that job came home on September the 11th, for me – loud and clear. And I think about my job of protecting you every day – every single day of the presidency, I’m concerned about the safety of the American people.”

Asked a similar question in October 1984 – whether he believed in Armageddon, President Ronald Reagan answered: “Yes, Armageddon could come the day after tomorrow.”

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