Stuff Happens: Donald Rumsfeld, the Free Will Defense, and the Problem of Suffering

After the invasion of Iraq in April 2003, George Bush’s Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, provided a free-will defense for the rampant street looting in Iraq. Why was it occurring, and why wasn’t the United States actively engaged in stopping it? Here’s Rumsfeld’s answer:

Freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They’re also free to live their lives and do wonderful things. And that’s what’s going to happen here.

Note five striking parallels between Rumsfeld’s response and the free will defense of suffering commonly offered by theologians:

  • Stuff happens, but it’s not God’s (the United States’s) fault.
  • God (the United States) values freedom above all other values, and so does not interfere with a free people, even when they are choosing badly.
  • Sin (looting) causes suffering.
  • People (the Iraqis) can start choosing differently, and get behind God’s (the United States’s) plan, and when they do, then everything will be “wonderful.”
  • Things look bad now, but things are going to get better soon. You’ll see. Be patient. God (the United States) is not finished yet.

I can imagine George Carlin right now, at the gates of heaven, like a reporter, shouting tough questions at Saint Peter:

Carlin: Hey, Saint Peter, what’s up with the Holocaust?

Saint Peter: Freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They’re also free to live their lives and do wonderful things. And that’s what’s going to happen here.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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1 Response to Stuff Happens: Donald Rumsfeld, the Free Will Defense, and the Problem of Suffering

  1. shorewalker says:

    At least we know the US is real.

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