I am about half-way through a recently published book about Rev. Billy Graham entitled, The Prince of War: Billy Graham's Crusade for a Wholly Christian Empire by Cecil Bothwell. Bothwell is an investigative reporter from Asheville, North Carolina and has a weblog at Bothwell's Blog.
While Billy Graham has been described as the pastor to the presidents, according to Bothwell, he was much more. Bothwell has gathered what Billy Graham has actually said throughout the years, as well as words from his biographers, news accounts, historians and presidents. From his preface:
"It reveals a Billy Graham who has been an unabashed nationalist and capitalist and advocate for American empire. The picture that emerges is decidedly not that of a disinterested man of the cloth. Rather, Graham often appears as a well-connected covert political operative....You may be as surprised as I was at the picture that emerges in these pages. It is not the story of a man of peace." (p. 12-13)
According to Bothwell, Graham not only fully supported the Vietnam War, but encouraged Nixon to increase the bombing. In April 1969, he sent a thirteen-page letter to Nixon titled, The Confidential Missionary Plan for Ending the Vietnam War. Graham wrote:
"There are tens of thousands of North Vietnamese defectors to bomb and invade the north. Especially let them bomb the dikes which could over night destroy the economy of North Vietnam." (p. 109--From Richard M. Nixon Presidential Materials, National Archive)
Bombing the dikes would have resulted in the deaths of a million civilians and destroyed the nation's agricultural system. Bothwell points out that according the Crimes of War Project that this would have amounted to a war crime. Hardly the suggestion of a man of peace.
Graham advised presidents on everything from foreign policy to selection of vice presidents to legislation.
Bothwell's book is an important one. It will not be popular as it reveals the darker side of religion in the political sphere.