A television adaptation of Nebula Award-winning
author John Kessel's short story "A Clean Escape," which aired on
ABC's new sci-fi anthology series titled Masters of Science Fiction,
is set in a post-Apocalypse future, but it reminded me of current events. Psychiatrist
Deanna Evans interrogates a distinguished but disoriented man who appears to
be suffering from a memory lapse. After a climactic buildup, it is revealed
– and this is a spoiler alert, if you don't want the story ruined – that he
is the U.S. president, responsible for a global nuclear holocaust. They are
two of a few hundred survivors of a nuclear war that resulted from the president's
decision to launch a preemptive nuclear strike against a "rogue nation."
Yet, not remembering what happened, he is unable to acknowledge his role or
to take responsibility.
Kessel's president lives in a world of make believe, in which he is a patriotic
American, committed to serving his country and ensuring that democracy reigns
supreme worldwide. No, he says again and again, there was no nuclear holocaust!
No, America is prospering and his family is alive and well! No, he isn't the
president, just a hard-working citizen! But Dr. Evans forces him to overcome
what could be a form of short-term memory loss and face reality. She shows him
photographs of the destroyed White House, of the dead bodies of his wife and
daughter, of devastated cities. "Mission accomplished, president?"
Sound vaguely familiar? Indeed, at times it seems to me that President George
W. Bush and his advisers, not unlike the fictional president in "A Clean
Escape," reside in a world of make believe of their own creation – let's
call it the "Neocon World."
In their alternate reality, the ouster of Saddam Hussein was part of the war
on the terrorists who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks. In the real world, Saddam
Hussein had no ties to al-Qaeda, whose leaders and members are now hiding in
Pakistan (which in the Neocon World is an ally of the United States in the war
against al-Qaeda). In the Neocon World, there were WMDs in Iraq. In the real
world, such Iraqi WMDs do not exist. In the Neocon World, the United States
has liberated Iraq. In the real world, U.S. troops are facing a powerful insurgency,
and most Iraqis want them out. In the Neocon World, the United States has turned
Mesopotamia into a model of political and economic freedom. In the real world,
Iraq is ruled by a Shi'ite government committed to narrow ethnic interests and
religious values, its economy is ruined, and it is disintegrating into a bloody
civil war. In the Neocon World, the United States is now spreading democracy
in the Middle East. In the real world, the United States is providing huge arms
packages to help strengthen the power of the theocracy of Saudi Arabia and the
military regime of Egypt. In the Neocon World, the Iraq War is strengthening
the position of the United States and its allies in the Middle East. In the
real world, the Iraq War strengthened the hands of anti-American Iran and its
allies in the Middle East, including Hezbollah and Hamas.
Remember Hezbollah and Hamas? Well, in the Neocon World, the Cedar Revolution
and free elections in Lebanon helped empower the pro-Western forces in Lebanon.
In reality, they helped empower the pro-Iran Hezbollah movement that represents
the Shi'ite community. In the Neocon World, Israel's attacks on Hezbollah and
other targets in Lebanon were going to destroy the military and political infrastructure
of that movement, and by extension weaken Iran. In the real world, the Israeli
military operation in Lebanon turned Hezbollah and its leader into the most
popular players in the Arab world and played into the hands of Iran. In the
Neocon World, the free elections in Palestine were going to lead to the emergence
of a moderate Palestinian government that would make peace with Israel. In the
real world, the free election brought into power the radical Islamic Hamas that
refused to recognize and make peace with Israel. In the Neocon World, economic
sanctions against the Palestinians were expected to weaken the political and
military power of the elected Hamas government. In the real world, Hamas overpowered
the militias affiliated with the more secular and moderate (and corrupt) Fatah
and forced them out of the Gaza Strip.
According to those in the Neocon World, we have arrived at a place and time
when the Israelis and the Palestinians are close to reaching a peace deal. Which
recalls another scene in the Neocon World, the one in which the Road to Jerusalem
went through Baghdad – the assumption being that the rise of Iraq-the-Democratic-Model
and the strengthening of the influence of U.S. power and values would encourage
the Palestinians, backed by the entire Arab world, to make peace with Israel.
In the real world, that clearly didn't happen.
In the real world, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, presiding over a very
unpopular government, opposes the terms that Israel offered Yasser Arafat
and the Fatah leadership at Camp David in 2000 and which were then rejected
by the Palestinians, while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas continues
to support the "right of return" of Palestinian refugees to Israel,
which the majority of Israelis oppose. Also in the real world, the Israelis
have been building a "security fence" that runs inside the occupied
West Bank, resulting in many of the Jewish settlements there becoming part of
Israel, something that the Palestinians won't accept under any condition. And
in the real world, the Gaza Strip and its 1.5 million Palestinians continue
to be ruled by Hamas, which does not recognize Mahmoud Abbas' government.
But in the Neocon World, the Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, are so worried
over the rising power of Iran and its Shi'ite allies that they are willing to
push for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement under U.S. sponsorship as a way of
strengthening the pro-U.S. forces in the Middle East – the Saudis are even willing
to take part with Israel in a peace conference – what a great diplomatic achievement
for the Bush administration! In the real world, the Saudis promoted a peace
plan that Israel rejected, and they are not going to press the Palestinians
to reach peace under current conditions. And the Saudis had already taken part
with Israel in the Madrid Peace Conference of 1991, because unlike in the case
of George W. Bush, they trusted President George H.W. Bush, who unlike his son
actually won a war in the Gulf while getting U.S. troops safely home.
That happened not long ago in the real world. But Bush Junior, not unlike the
ficitional president from "A Clean Escape," is living in a dream world,
pretending that he's doing well in the Neocon World, where the "surge"
is working, the United States is winning in Iraq, and peace will soon come to
the Promised Land and to the entire Middle East. It is a dangerous delusion.
Reprinted with permission from Right Web.