In recent months, Foreign Policy has featured a fascinating exchange over the legacy of President George W. Bush. The debate began with the publication this year of Jean Edward Smith’s critical biography of the former president, especially Smith’s controversial characterization of Bush as a militaristic religious zealot. In his review of Smith’s book, Will Inboden undertook a systematic rebuttal. Inboden particularly focused on Smith’s claim that in attempting to persuade French President Jacques Chirac to support a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing the Iraq War, Bush told Chirac “Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East. Biblical prophecies are being fulfilled. This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase His people’s enemies before a new age begins.” Citing several people with firsthand knowledge of the call, Inboden dismissed this anecdote as “utterly and completely false.”

In responding to Inboden’s review, Smith maintained that the story is true, based in part on the account of a French journalist who interviewed Chirac several years later. Ambassador Kurt Volker, the former United States Permanent Representative to NATO, who was personally involved with those calls, offers these following reflections on the debate.

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