[Mb-civic] The Hollow World of George Bush By Sidney Blumenthal
michael at michaelbutler.com
Sat Sep 25 10:13:22 PDT 2004
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The Hollow World of George Bush
By Sidney Blumenthal
Thursday 23 September 2004
The power of positive thinking is the president's shield from reality.
The news is grim, but the president is "optimistic". The intelligence is
sobering, but he tosses aside "pessimistic predictions". His opponent says
he has "no credibility", but the president replies that it is his rival who
is "twisting in the wind". The UN secretary general speaks of the "rule of
law", but he talks before a mute general assembly of "a new definition of
security". Between the rhetoric and the reality lies the campaign.
In Iraq, US commanders have plans for this week and the next, but there is
"no overarching strategy", I was told by a reliable source who has just
returned after assessing the facts on the ground for US intelligence
services. The New York Times reports that an offensive is in the works to
capture the insurgent stronghold of Falluja - after the election. In the
meantime, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and other terrorists linked to al-Qaida
operate from there at will, as they have for more than a year. The president
speaks of new Iraqi security forces, but not even half the US personnel have
been assigned to the headquarters of the Multinational Security Transition
George Bush's vision of the liberation of Iraq has melted before harsh
facts. But reality cannot be allowed to obscure the image. The liberation is
"succeeding", he insists, and only pessimists cannot see it.
In July, the CIA delivered to the president a new national intelligence
estimate that detailed three gloomy scenarios for Iraq's future, ranging up
to civil war. Perhaps it was his reading of the estimate that prompted Bush
to remark in August that the war on terrorism could not be won, a judgment
he swiftly reversed. And at the UN, Bush held a press conference where he
rebuffed the latest intelligence.
Bush explained that, for him, intelligence is not to inform
decision-making, but to be used or rejected to advance an ideological and
political agenda. His dismissal is an affirmation of the politicisation and
corruption of intelligence that rationalised the war.
In his stump speech, which he repeats word for word across the country,
Bush explains that he invaded Iraq because of "the lesson of September the
11th". WMD goes unmentioned; the only reason Bush offers is Saddam Hussein
as an agent of terrorism. "He was a sworn enemy of the United States of
America; he had ties to terrorist networks. Do you remember Abu Nidal? He's
the guy that killed Leon Klinghoffer. Leon Klinghoffer was murdered because
of his religion. Abu Nidal was in Baghdad, as was his organisation."
The period of Leon Klinghoffer's murder in 1985 on the liner Achille Lauro
(by Abu Abbas, in fact) coincided with the US courtship of Saddam, marked by
the celebrated visits of then Middle East envoy Donald Rumsfeld. The US
collaborated in intelligence exchanges and materially supported Saddam in
his war with Iran, authorising the sale of biological agents for Saddam's
laboratories, a diversification of his WMD capability.
The reason was not born of idealism, but necessity: the threat of an
expansive Iran-controlled Shia fundamentalism to the entire Gulf.
The policy of courting Saddam continued until he invaded Kuwait. But
realpolitik prevailed when US forces held back from capturing Baghdad for
larger, geostrategic reasons. The first Bush grasped that in wars to come,
the US would need ad hoc coalitions to share the military burden and
financial cost. Taking Baghdad would have violated the UN resolution that
gave legitimacy to the first Gulf war, as well as creating a nightmare of
"Lebanonisation", as secretary of state James Baker called it. Realism
prevailed; Saddam's power was subdued and drastically reduced. It was the
greatest accomplishment of the first President Bush.
When he honoured the UN resolution, the credibility of the US in the
region was enormously enhanced, enabling serious movement on the Middle East
peace process. Now this President Bush has undone the foundation of his
father's work, which was built upon by President Clinton.
Bush's campaign depends on the containment of any contrary perception of
reality. He must evade, deny and suppress it. His true opponent is not his
Democratic foe - called unpatriotic and the candidate of al-Qaida by the
vice-president - but events. Bush's latest vision is his shield against
them. He invokes the power of positive thinking, as taught by Emile Coue,
guru of autosuggestion in the giddy 1920s, who urged mental improvement
through constant repetition: "Every day in every way I am getting better and
It was during this era of illusion that TS Eliot wrote The Hollow Men:
Between the idea/ And the reality/ Between the motion/ And the act/ Falls
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