It came during the Q&A in his Cleveland speech, in response to a question he never expected to be asked, at least by the lapdogs in the White House press corps.
And was, regrettably, not mentioned by any media report I saw or heard.
Corporate audiences are obviously less-screened than most of Bush’s “public” appearances, so someone asked:
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. 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?
Of course, Bush did not directly answer this loaded question. But what he did say should have been news, and wasn’t.
After saying he’d never been asked such a question, and lying that he’d never “really thought of it that way,” he launched into the usual “September the 11th,” “war on terror” bullshit before he pronounced a substantial change in U.S. foreign policy:
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.
I believe this is the first time that a U.S. president has publicly said that we will fight to protect Israel. In all of Israel’s previous wars, we supplied intelligence, military equipment and political support, but never did we commit the American military to fighting for Israel.
Israel is certainly a U.S. ally, one reason our notional policy of being an “honest broker” between the Israeli government and the Palestinians is derided by most in the Arab/Islamic world.
We borrow from our grandkids to give Israel billions every year, some of which is used to support illegal colonization of the West Bank by fundamentalist extremists; we supply Israel with our most advanced tactical aircraft, armor, anti-missile and military communications systems; we wink at Israel’s development of a substantial nuclear weapons force; we leisurely investigate Israeli espionage and influence peddling in Washington.
But we’ve never said that American soldiers will fight and die for Israel.