Is President Bush Sane?
- Has He Started Talking to the Walls?
By Frank Rich
12/04/06 "New York Times" --- - 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.
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.
Is President Bush Sane?
Paul Craig Roberts
12/02/06 "Information Clearing House" -- -- 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
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 point that 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
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, 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
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." 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 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 25,000.
And Bush has not had enough!
What better proof of Bush's insanity could there be?
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