Paul Craig Roberts / CounterPunch & Robert Fisk / The Independent & Frank Rich / The New York Times – 2006-12-05 23:19:23
When Denial Goes Pathological: Is Bush Sane?
Dr. Paul Craig Roberts / CounterPunch.org
(December 3, 2006) — Tens of millions of Americans want President George W. Bush to be impeached for the lies and deceit he used to launch an illegal war and for violating his oath of office to uphold the US Constitution.
Millions of other Americans want Bush turned over to the war crimes tribunal at the Hague. The true fate that awaits Bush is psychiatric incarceration.
The president of the United States is so deep into denial that he is no longer among the sane.
Delusion still rules Bush three weeks after the American people repudiated him and his catastrophic war in elections that delivered both House and Senate to the Democrats in the hope that control over Congress would give the opposition party the strength to oppose the mad occupant of the White House.
On November 28 Bush insisted that US troops would not be withdrawn from Iraq until he had completed his mission of building a stable Iraqi democracy capable of spreading democratic change in the Middle East.
Bush made this astonishing statement the day after NBC News, a major television network, declared Iraq to be in the midst of a civil war, a judgment with which former Secretary of State Colin Powell concurs.
The same day that Bush reaffirmed his commitment to building a stable Iraqi democracy, a secret US Marine Corps intelligence report was leaked. According to the Washington Post, the report concludes: “the social and political situation has deteriorated to a pointthat US and Iraqi troops are no longer capable of militarily defeating the insurgency in al-Anbar province.”
The Marine Corps intelligence report says that Al Qaeda is the “dominant organization of influence” in Anbar province, and is more important than local authorities, the Iraqi government and US troops “in its ability to control the day-to-day life of the average Sunni.”
Bush’s astonishing determination to deny Iraq reality was made the same day that the US-installed Iraqi prime minister al-Maliki and US puppet King Abdullah II of Jordan abruptly cancelled a meeting with Bush after Bush was already in route to Jordon on Air Force One.
Bush could not meet with Maliki in Iraq, because violence in Baghdad is out of control. For security reasons, the US Secret Service would not allow President Bush to go to Iraq, where he is “building a stable democracy.”
Bush made his astonishing statement in the face of news leaks of the Iraq Study Group’s call for a withdrawal of all US combat forces from Iraq. The Iraq Study Group is led by Bush family operative James A. Baker III, a former White House chief of staff, former Secretary of the Treasury, and former Secretary of State. Baker was tasked by father Bush to save the son. Apparently, son Bush hasn’t enough sanity to allow himself to be saved.
Bush’s denial of Iraqi reality was made even as one of the most influential Iraqi Shiite leaders, Moqtada al-Sadr, is building an anti-US parliamentary alliance to demand the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.
Maliki himself appears on the verge of desertion by his American sponsors. The White House has reportedly “lost confidence” in Maliki’s “ability to control violence.” The Fox “News” disinformation agency immediately began blaming Maliki for the defeat the US has suffered in Iraq. NY Governor Pataki told Fox “News” that “Maliki is not doing his job.” Pataki claimed that US troops were doing “a great job.”
A number of other politicians and talking heads joined in the scapegoating of Maliki. No one explained how Maliki can be expected to save Iraq when US troops cannot provide enough security for the Iraqi government to go outside the heavily fortified “green zone” that occupies a small area of Baghdad. If the US Marines cannot control Anbar province, what chance is there for Maliki? What can Maliki do if the security provided by US troops is so bad that the President of the US cannot even visit the country?
The only people in Iraq who are safe belong to Al Qaeda and the Sunni insurgents or are Shiite militia leaders such as Moqtada al-Sadr.
An American group, the Center for Constitutional Rights, has filed war crimes charges in Germany against former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. A number of former US attorneys believe President Bush and Vice President Cheney deserve the same.
Bush has destroyed the entire social, political, and economic fabric of Iraq. Saddam Hussein sat on the lid of Pandora’s Box of sectarian antagonisms, but Bush has opened the lid. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed as “collateral damage” in Bush’s war to bring “stable democracy” to Iraq. Tens of thousands of Iraqi children have been orphaned and maimed. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have fled their country. The Middle East is aflame with hatred of America, and the ground is shaking under the feet of American puppet governments in the Middle East. US casualties (killed and wounded) number 2 5,000.
And yet Bush has not had enough!
What better proof of Bush’s insanity could there be?
Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is co-author of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. He can be reached at: email@example.com
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Like Hitler And Brezhnev,
Bush Is In Denial
Robert Fisk / The Independent
(December 2, 2006) — More than half a million deaths, an army trapped in the largest military debacle since Vietnam, a Middle East policy already buried in the sands of Mesopotamia — and still George W Bush is in denial. How does he do it? How does he persuade himself — as he apparently did in Amman yesterday — that the United States will stay in Iraq “until the job is complete”? The “job” — Washington’s project to reshape the Middle East in its own and Israel’s image — is long dead, its very neoconservative originators disavowing their hopeless political aims and blaming Bush, along with the Iraqis of course, for their disaster.
History’s “deniers” are many — and all subject to the same folly: faced with overwhelming evidence of catastrophe, they take refuge in fantasy, dismissing evidence of collapse as a symptom of some short-term setback, clinging to the idea that as long as their generals promise victory — or because they have themselves so often promised victory — that fate will be kind. George W Bush — or Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara for that matter — need not feel alone. The Middle East has produced these fantasists by the bucketful over past decades.
In 1967, Egyptian president Gamel Abdul Nasser insisted his country was winning the Six Day War hours after the Israelis had destroyed the entire Egyptian air force on the ground.
President Carter was extolling the Shah’s Iran as “an island of stability in the region” only days before Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic revolution brought down his regime. President Leonid Brezhnev declared a Soviet victory in Afghanistan when Russian troops were being driven from their fire bases in Nangahar and Kandahar provinces by Osama bin Laden and his fighters.
And was it not Saddam Hussein who promised the “mother of all battles” for Kuwait before the great Iraqi retreat in 1991? And was it not Saddam again who predicted a US defeat in the sands of Iraq in 2003? Saddam’s loyal acolyte, Mohamed el-Sahaf, would fantasise about the number of American soldiers who would die in the desert; George W Bush let it be known that he sometimes slipped out of White House staff meetings to watch Sahaf’s preposterous performance and laugh at the fantasies of Iraq’s minister of information.
So who is laughing at Bush now? Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, almost as loyal a retainer to Bush as Sahaf was to Saddam, receives the same false praise from the American president that Nasser and Brezhnev once lavished upon their generals. “I appreciate the courage you show during these difficult times as you lead your country,” Bush tells Maliki. “He’s the right guy for Iraq,” he tells us. And the Iraqi Prime Minister who hides in the US-fortified “Green Zone” — was ever a crusader fortress so aptly named? — announces that “there is no problem.”
Power must be more quickly transferred to Maliki, we were informed yesterday. Why? Because that will save Iraq? Or because this will allow America to claim, as it did when it decided to allow the South Vietnamese army to fight on its own against Hanoi, that Washington is not to blame for the debacle that follows?
“One of his frustrations with me is that he believes that we’ve been slow about giving him the tools necessary to protect the Iraqi people.” Or so Bush says. “He doesn’t have the capacity to respond. So we want to accelerate that capacity.” But how can Maliki have any “capacity” at all when he rules only a few square miles of central Baghdad and a clutch of rotting ex-Baathist palaces?
About the only truthful statement uttered in Amman yesterday was Bush’s remark that “there’s a lot of speculation that these reports in Washington mean there’s going to be some kind of graceful exit out of Iraq [but] this business about a graceful exit just simply has no realism to it at all.” Indeed, it has not.
There can be no graceful exit from Iraq, only a terrifying, bloody collapse of military power. The withdrawal of Shia ministers from Maliki’s cabinet mirror the withdrawal of Shia ministers from another American-supported administration in Beirut — where the Lebanese fear an equally appalling conflict over which Washington has, in reality, no military or political control.
Bush even appeared oblivious of the current sectarian map of Iraq. “The Prime Minister made clear that splitting his country into parts, as some have suggested, is not what the Iraqi people want, and that any partition of Iraq would only lead to an increase in sectarian violence,” he said. “I agree.” But Iraq is already “split into parts.” The fracture of Iraq is virtually complete, its chasms sucking in corpses at the rate of up to a thousand a day.
Even Hitler must chuckle at this bloodbath, he who claimed in April 1945 that Germany would still win the Second World War, boasting that his enemy, Roosevelt, had died — much as Bush boasted of Zarqawi’s killing — while demanding to know when General Wenck’s mythical army would rescue the people of Berlin. How many “Wencks” are going to be summoned from the 82nd Airborne or the Marine Corps to save Bush from Iraq in the coming weeks? No, Bush is not Hitler. Like Blair, he once thought he was Winston Churchill, a man who never — ever — lied to his people about Britain’s defeats in war. But fantasy knows no bounds.
© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited
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Has He Started Talking to the Walls?
Frank Rich / Op-Ed, The New York Times
WASHINGTON (December 3, 2006) — It turns out we’ve been reading the wrong Bob Woodward book to understand what’s going on with President Bush. The text we should be consulting instead is The Final Days, the Woodward-Bernstein account of Richard Nixon talking to the portraits on the White House walls while Watergate demolished his presidency.
As Mr. Bush has ricocheted from Vietnam to Latvia to Jordan in recent weeks, we’ve witnessed the troubling behavior of a president who isn’t merely in a state of denial but is completely untethered from reality. It’s not that he can’t handle the truth about Iraq. He doesn’t know what the truth is.
The most startling example was his insistence that Al Qaeda is primarily responsible for the country’s spiraling violence. Only a week before Mr. Bush said this, the American military spokesman on the scene, Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, called Al Qaeda “extremely disorganized” in Iraq, adding that “I would question at this point how effective they are at all at the state level.”
Military intelligence estimates that Al Qaeda makes up only 2 percent to 3 percent of the enemy forces in Iraq, according to Jim Miklaszewski of NBC News. The bottom line: America has a commander in chief who can’t even identify some 97 percent to 98 percent of the combatants in a war that has gone on longer than our involvement in World War II.
But that’s not the half of it. Mr. Bush relentlessly refers to Iraq’s “unity government” though it is not unified and can only nominally govern. (In Henry Kissinger’s accurate recent formulation, Iraq is not even a nation “in the historic sense.”)
After that pseudo-government’s prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, brushed him off in Amman, the president nonetheless declared him “the right guy for Iraq” the morning after. This came only a day after The Times‘s revelation of a secret memo by Mr. Bush’s national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, judging Mr. Maliki either “ignorant of what is going on” in his own country or disingenuous or insufficiently capable of running a government. Not that it matters what Mr. Hadley writes when his boss is impervious to facts.
In truth the president is so out of it he wasn’t even meeting with the right guy. No one doubts that the most powerful political leader in Iraq is the anti-American, pro-Hezbollah cleric Moktada al-Sadr, without whom Mr. Maliki would be on the scrap heap next to his short-lived predecessors, Ayad Allawi and Ibrahim al-Jaafari.
Mr. Sadr’s militia is far more powerful than the official Iraqi army that we’ve been helping to “stand up” at hideous cost all these years. If we’re not going to take him out, as John McCain proposed this month, we might as well deal with him directly rather than with Mr. Maliki, his puppet. But our president shows few signs of recognizing Mr. Sadr’s existence.
In his classic study, “The Great War and Modern Memory,” Paul Fussell wrote of how World War I shattered and remade literature, for only a new language of irony could convey the trauma and waste. Under the auspices of Mr. Bush, the Iraq war is having a comparable, if different, linguistic impact: the more he loses his hold on reality, the more language is severed from its meaning altogether.
When the president persists in talking about staying until “the mission is complete” even though there is no definable military mission, let alone one that can be completed, he is indulging in pure absurdity. The same goes for his talk of “victory,” another concept robbed of any definition when the prime minister we are trying to prop up is allied with Mr. Sadr, a man who wants Americans dead and has many scalps to prove it.
The newest hollowed-out Bush word to mask the endgame in Iraq is “phase,” as if the increasing violence were as transitional as the growing pains of a surly teenager. “Phase” is meant to drown out all the unsettling debate about two words the president doesn’t want to hear, “civil war.”
When news organizations, politicians and bloggers had their own civil war about the proper usage of that designation last week, it was highly instructive – but about America, not Iraq. The intensity of the squabble showed the corrosive effect the president’s subversion of language has had on our larger culture. Iraq arguably passed beyond civil war months ago into what might more accurately be termed ethnic cleansing or chaos.
That we were fighting over “civil war” at this late date was a reminder that wittingly or not, we have all taken to following Mr. Bush’s lead in retreating from English as we once knew it.
It’s been a familiar pattern for the news media, politicians and the public alike in the Bush era. It took us far too long to acknowledge that the “abuses” at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere might be more accurately called torture. And that the “manipulation” of prewar intelligence might be more accurately called lying. Next up is “pullback,” the Iraq Study Group’s reported euphemism to stave off the word “retreat” (if not retreat itself).
In the case of “civil war,” it fell to a morning television anchor, Matt Lauer, to officially bless the term before the “Today” show moved on to such regular fare as an update on the Olsen twins. That juxtaposition of Iraq and post-pubescent eroticism was only too accurate a gauge of how much the word “war” itself has been drained of its meaning in America after years of waging a war that required no shared sacrifice. Whatever you want to label what’s happening in Iraq, it has never impeded our freedom to dote on the Olsen twins.
I have not been one to buy into the arguments that Mr. Bush is stupid or is the sum of his “Bushisms” or is, as feverish Internet speculation periodically has it, secretly drinking again. I still don’t. But I have believed he is a cynic – that he could always distinguish between truth and fiction even as he and Karl Rove sold us their fictions. That’s why, when the president said that “absolutely, we’re winning” in Iraq before the midterms, I just figured it was more of the same: another expedient lie to further his partisan political ends.
But that election has come and gone, and Mr. Bush is more isolated from the real world than ever. That’s scary. Neither he nor his party has anything to gain politically by pretending that Iraq is not in crisis. Yet Mr. Bush clings to his delusions with a near-rage – watch him seethe in his press conference with Mr. Maliki – that can’t be explained away by sheer stubbornness or misguided principles or a pat psychological theory.
Whatever the reason, he is slipping into the same zone as Woodrow Wilson did when refusing to face the rejection of the League of Nations, as a sleepless L.B.J. did when micromanaging bombing missions in Vietnam, as Ronald Reagan did when checking out during Iran-Contra. You can understand why Jim Webb, the Virginia senator-elect with a son in Iraq, was tempted to slug the president at a White House reception for newly elected members of Congress. Mr. Bush asked “How’s your boy?” But when Mr. Webb replied, “I’d like to get them out of Iraq,” the president refused to so much as acknowledge the subject. Maybe a timely slug would have woken him up.
Or at least sounded an alarm. Some two years ago, I wrote that Iraq was Vietnam on speed, a quagmire for the MTV generation. Those jump cuts are accelerating now. The illusion that America can control events on the ground is just that: an illusion.
As the list of theoretical silver bullets for Iraq grows longer (and more theoretical) by the day – special envoy, embedded military advisers, partition, outreach to Iran and Syria, Holbrooke, international conference, NATO – urgent decisions have to be made by a chief executive who is in touch with reality (or such is the minimal job description). Otherwise the events in Iraq will make the Decider’s decisions for him, as indeed they are doing already.
The joke, history may note, is that even as Mr. Bush deludes himself that he is bringing “democracy” to Iraq, he is flouting democracy at home. American voters could not have delivered a clearer mandate on the war than they did on Nov. 7, but apparently elections don’t register at the White House unless the voters dip their fingers in purple ink. Mr. Bush seems to think that the only decision he had to make was replacing Donald Rumsfeld and the mission of changing course would be accomplished.
Tell that to the Americans in Anbar Province. Back in August the chief of intelligence for the Marines filed a secret report – uncovered by Thomas Ricks of The Washington Post – concluding that American troops “are no longer capable of militarily defeating the insurgency in al-Anbar.” That finding was confirmed in an intelligence update last month. Yet American troops are still being tossed into that maw, and at least 90 have been killed there since Labor Day, including five marines, ages 19 to 24, around Thanksgiving.
Civil war? Sectarian violence? A phase? This much is certain: The dead in Iraq don’t give a damn what we call it.
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
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