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Delusionary, Dancing Bush

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By Ray McGovern
April 1, 2008

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 the costume).

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 bud.

"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
cheering section.

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
air support.

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,
Iranian-made rockets."

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 tough fellas."

Attacking Iran

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 Guant√°namo 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 worth pondering.

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
coming months:

"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.

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