Events of the last week offer a metaphorical glimpse
at the delusion pervading President George W. Bush's White House and other enclaves
of Iraq supporters in Washington. Bush and the First Lady spent last Monday
clowning with the Easter Bunny (White House counsel Fred Fielding having donned
At the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), war cheerleaders, dressed as academicians,
were delivering a panegyric on how peaceful and stable the situation in Iraq
had become. The "surge," they announced, had nipped a civil war in
"The civil war is over," AEI's Fred Kagan, co-author of the surge,
declared proudly. Brookings twins Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack led the
Meanwhile, back in the southern Iraq city of Basra and elsewhere, full-blown
civil war seemed about to explode. And in Baghdad, formerly protected folks
were getting killed by mortar and rocket fire in what is customarily referred
to as "the highly fortified Green Zone," which has sequestered U.S.
embassy and military officials as well as those of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's
Two American officials and two Iraqi guards of Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi
died in the Green Zone attacks, which are continuing.
At ABC in New York, Good Morning America's Diane Sawyer was trying hard
Thursday to understand it all. Shaking her head in disbelief after four straight
days of attacks on the Green Zone, she asked how a round "can actually
get inside the embassy; how fortified is that?" ABC national security correspondent
Jonathan Karl let her down easy, explaining that artillery fire can actually
get "over the walls … so it does happen: they do get inside the embassy
A teaching moment. Mortar and artillery fire can actually get "over the
walls." Quick, someone tell Gen. David Petraeus.
But Don't Bother Bush
No need to drag the president away from the Easter
Bunny with such nettlesome details. Interestingly, it was Sawyer herself who
asked Bush, during an interview on Dec. 16, 2003, where he gets his news and
how he reacts to criticism. The president's answer was revealing:
"Why even put up with it when you can get the facts elsewhere?
I'm a lucky man. I've got… it's not just Condi and Andy [Andy Card, former
chief of staff], it's all kinds of people in my administration who are
charged with different responsibilities, and they come in and say this
is what's happening, this isn't what's happening."
By Thursday, someone did tell the president about Maliki's big gamble in taking
on militias loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr in the Basra area, the stiff resistance
Iraqi government forces encountered, and the application of U.S. ground and
And someone told the president to take the line that the outbreak of major
violence was "a positive moment," and so that's what he said. No matter
that the upsurge in hostilities threatened to demolish the myth of a "successful
surge." The White House spin machine could be counted on to take care of
that. And, for good measure, the shelling of the Green Zone could be blamed
on Iran. Indeed, Petraeus was quick to label the projectiles "Iranian-provided,
Reality? We Make Our Own
It is comfortable to stay in denial, and President
George W. Bush basks in it. Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska saw that
early on. In June 2005 he told U.S. News & World Report:
"The White House is completely disconnected from reality… it's
like they're just making it up as they go along."
Would that someone had summoned the courage to tell Bush of William F. Buckley
Jr.'s observations about Iraq in National Review on Feb. 24, 2006:
"Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable
by an invading army of 130,000 Americans. … Mr. Bush has a very difficult internal
problem here because to make the kind of concession that is strategically appropriate
requires a mitigation of policies he has several times affirmed in high-flown
pronouncements. His challenge is to persuade himself that he can submit to a
historical reality … different plans have to be made. And the kernel here is
the acknowledgment of defeat."
A few months later, on June 13, 2006, Bush flew to Baghdad to size up Prime
Minister Maliki. The president told American troops gathered in the "heavily
fortified Green Zone" that he had come "to look Prime Minister Maliki
in the eyes – to determine whether or not he is as dedicated to a free Iraq
as you are. I believe he is."
This, of course, was not the first display of the president's propensity to
draw significant impressions from eyeballing foreign leaders. Five years before,
Bush had quickly taken the measure of Russia's Vladimir Putin: "I looked
the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy.
… I was able to get a sense of his soul."
Souls can change, I suppose. But apparently not eyeballs. Maliki's retinal
scan apparently remains valid for at least two years, judging from the president's
automatic endorsement of Maliki's major gamble last week in the Basra area.
Bush has now ordered U.S. ground and air units to support Maliki's effort. The
general objective is to root out Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army units in the area,
but the campaign faces formidable obstacles and does not appear to be going
Doesn't Make a Lot of Sense? So?
In the past, Bush has let himself be convinced
by Vice President Dick Cheney's "analysis" that increased enemy attacks
were signs of desperation – an indication that the enemy is in its "last
throes," if you will. And it seems clear that Cheney is still, as Col.
Larry Wilkerson has put it, "whispering in Bush's ear."
That is scary. There were abundant signs during Cheney's recent visit to the
Middle East that, among other things, he continues to be receptive to Israeli
importuning, as Israeli president Shimon Peres put it on March 23, to deal with
what both referred to as "the Iranian threat" before Bush leaves office.
Bush and Cheney seem to have given Israeli leaders the impression that the Bush
administration has made a commitment to do precisely that.
Gen. Brent Scowcroft, who was national security adviser to the president's
father and who was appointed chairman of the President's Foreign Intelligence
Advisory Board by the son, took the unusual step of going public with a startling
remark in October 2004 that should give us all great concern. Just before he
was sacked, the usually discreet Scowcroft told the Financial Times that
former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had George W. Bush "mesmerized."
Eyeballing again – this time in Bush's direction, it appears.
And Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, with masterful tutoring from the psychologists
in the Israeli Mossad, has shown he can duplicate the spell. Who can forget
watching Olmert's fulsome praise of George W. Bush during his recent visit to
Israel and how Bush seemed to turn to putty. Aw, shucks, he seemed to
be saying, at least the Israelis respect me. And they are "mighty
The point is that if Cheney and Olmert both whisper
"attack Iran," the president may give the order with the full expectation
that – with Adm. William Fallon out of the way – a malleable secretary of defense
and martinet generals and admirals left over from former defense secretary Donald
Rumsfeld's reign will salute smartly and launch a much wider and more dangerous
war in the Persian Gulf area. (After all, those rockets hitting the Green Zone
are, according to Gen. Petraeus, "Iranian-provided, Iranian-made.")
Why attack Iran? Israeli officials have not been reluctant to insist publicly
that they want our impressionable president to take care of their Iran problem
before he leaves office.
Last October, for example, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Sallai Meridor rang
several changes on the theme of Iran's "threat" to Israel. In warning
dripping with chutzpah and unintended candor, the Israeli ambassador served
notice that countering Iran's nuclear ambitions will take a "united United
States in this matter," lest the Iranians conclude that, "come January
'09, they have it their own way." Meridor stressed that "very little
time" remained to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and the time
frame he has in mind is clear.
Why attack Iran? Well, also, just because! Because, as Bush is fond of saying,
he is commander in chief. And he considers the U.S. armed forces his plaything.
And because he can. Never mind the consequences. When has anyone held George
W. Bush accountable for consequences?
Worse still, Bush's open-ended rhetorical commitment to defend Israel if attacked
could spell big trouble. If Iran were to strike Israel, Bush has said, "We
will defend our ally, no ifs, ands, or buts." That is great rhetoric; trouble
is that it surrenders the initiative to the Israelis, who have it within their
power to provoke the Iranians.
And, Please, No Jimmy Baker
Bush chafes at any thought that those he considers
his father's cronies could rein him in. Bête noire number-one is
the fella the president calls "Jimmy Baker." Negotiate with Iran?
Draw down troops? George W. Bush will instinctively do the opposite. If Baker
says Guantanamo should be shut down (as he did, joining five other former secretaries
of state last week), then keep it open.
But, most of all, enjoy the last 10 months of "unitary executive"
That is perhaps most disturbing of all. George W. Bush is tap-dancing through
it all. And the worse things get, the more jocular he seems to become. Commenting
on Bush's recent manic behavior, Justin Frank, M.D., author of Bush on the
Couch, suggests that Bush is "acting like a kid planning to make a
real mess as only he knows how – given his comfort with sadism, his lack of
shame or conscience, and his propensity to take delight in breaking things."
Trouble is that as he tap dances the next few months away, he is systematically
destroying the armed forces of the United States, and there does not seem to
be anyone with the courage to try to stop him.
Eight months ago, Dr. Frank and Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
(VIPS) collaborated on an article we called "Dangers
of a Cornered Bush." The president and his imperial court now have
10 more months to act out. The scenarios we explored in that memo are still
Let me close with a remark Seymour Hersh made last year, even though it may
seem flippant and in no way conveys the enormity of the danger we face in the
"These guys are scary as hell… you can't use the word 'delusional,'
for it's actually a medical term. Wacky. That's a fair word."
With so much destructive power at the disposal of George W. Bush, we need to
be increasingly alert to signs that additional delusional policies are about
to be executed.
This article appeared first on ConsortiumNews.com.