If there was ever any doubt that President George W. Bush is a psychopath, his speech to the nation last night announcing an increase of over 20,000 American troops in Iraq should have quelled them.
According to the current psychiactric and psychoanalytic theory (and to my late mother, a psychotherapist of forty years who treated her share of disturbed people and pegged Bush as a psychopath during the 2000 election campaign), a psychopath or sociopath--the terms are practically interchangeable--exhibits behavior that reflects a lack of empathy or conscience, poor control of his impulses, and is manipulative of others around them. He or she has no concerns for the feelings of others and a complete disregard for any sense of social obligation. Not surprisingly, then, someone with this illness is egocentric, lack insight and any sense of responsibility or consequence. Finally, their emotions are thought to be superficial and shallow.
Is there a more accurate description of our President?
He invaded Iraq impulsively, and lied and manipulated the American people and our political institutions to make it happen. He has demonstrated no empathy with the thousands of dead and tens of thousands of injured American soldiers, and more so for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have died because of the invasion and US occupation. He has no regard for the desires of others-in this case the American people, who have clearly let it be known that they want the troops brought home, not sent to Iraq in even greater numbers, and more specifically to the Iraq Study Group, which clearly advised against such a path, particularly one involving only a relatively small increase in troop strength. His egocentrism, as Paul Krugman of the NY Times points out, is so great he cannot bring himself to admit the mistakes behind the war, and he has refused to take responsibility for the consequences of the disastrous occupation.
President Bush also lied, as the NY Times reveals, when he said that the Iraqi Government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Malaki, is behind the plan. In fact, the Iraqis are quite wary of it.
In proposing such a relatively small increase, the President is acting with callous irresponsible disregard for the soldiers under his command and their families as well. In short, the President is demonstrating a total disregard for his social and political obligations as President.
The distortions continue. Mr. Bush also says that his new effort will succeed where past ones failed because in the past the US didn't have enough troops to hold areas once they were cleared of insurgents. But he doesn't mention what we all know; that he was advised from the moment our troops arrived in Iraq that this is precisely what would happen if he didn't put a lot more troops on the ground. He didn't put them there because he didn't care enough about Iraq, or American soldiers to do anything that would jeopardize his delusional plan to destroy and then recreate the Middle East in the neocon's image.
What's more, he blatantly misrepresents the facts in claiming that "radical Islamic extremists" are the main group involved in "creat[ing] chaos in the region." Sadly, the United States is the main force behind the chaos in Iraq, which has been specifically generated as a way to advance US policy objectives of more or less permanent--in Bush speak, "generational"--war, in which the best and indeed only answer to losing one war is to expand the war-front even further, until the stakes are so high and the violence spread so wide that World War Three becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and the American people have no choice but to fight till the bitter end, which as Bush warns us, will not come for decades and in a form we still cannot imagine.
The President's speech also mentions new efforts aimed towards increasing economic development and reconstruction. But he doesn't mention that the entire system of US-sponsored economic development and reconstruction in Iraq is rotten to the core and has been since the day we arrived. It cannot be fixed because it was never meant to help Iraqis, but rather enrich Bush Administration corporate sponsors and supporters. More money will only mean more money to the thieves who destroyed Iraq in the first place, which is exactly the Bush Administration's intentions, yesterday, today and tomorrow in Iraq.
But by far the most dangerous predilection laid bare by the speech last night was the President's ongoing propensity for large scale violence. In the last week this has been most clearly demonstrated by US attacks on Somalia, which our military refuses to provide details about other than to claim it's all about stopping al-Qa'eda from making Somalia a base of operations (as if that strategy has worked in Iraq). Even more frightening, as William Arkin points out in the Washington Post, n his speech Bush specifically threatened to attack Syria and Iran, again in complete contradiction of the Iraq Study Group and the wishes of the American people. And again, his threats are based on lies-that Iran and Syria are involved significantly in smuggling weapons into Iraq (the Brits have been searching for smugglers along the Iran-Iraq border for months if not years and have found very little evidence of any organized, government sponsored activities), and it is well know that Syria has been cooperating with the US in terms of intelligence about al-Qa'eda in and outside Iraq.
Given this reality, the President's ability to look squarely at the American people--indeed, the world--and claim that America is the best hope for the " millions of ordinary people... from Afghanistan to Lebanon to the Palestinian Territories... [who] are sick of the violence," demonstrates one of the most important traits of a psycho or sociopath, the ability to lie pathologically, without a hint of conscience, or of guilt or remorse at the consequences of these lies.
But what of the American people? Why are the vast majority of citizens, including those who voted the Republicans out of both houses of Congress, and including the Democratic legislators whom we chose to replace them with, sitting by and allowing this to happen? Sure, there will be a "symbolic" vote against further deployments, but nothing will be done actually to stop the President. Instead, as the editor in chief of one of the major inside the beltway publications explained to me yesterday, the Democrats are perfectly happy to sit back and let Bush bleed America dry in order to avoid being blamed for losing Iraq in 2008. They, and the American people who are doing nothing to stop them, will let thousands of more troops die, wars spread to ever more countries, all to achieve the greatest political capital for use in the next presidential election.
Behind this calculus is the the belief that the more American soldiers that die in the next two years and the more of our tax dollars that disappear, the greater the chance that Americans will vote for the Democratic ticket come November 2008 because they will blame the President. This may be true, but it is a spineless and immoral truth that thoroughly blemishes a Democratic Party already blackened with guilt for its enabling of the invasion to begin with, not to mention the wholesale war on America's most basic liberties and Freedoms in the last six years.
The American people are ultimately, and now primarily, responsible for this reality, and we seem not to care nearly enough to do something to fight it.
The President did say one thing right last night: "The challenge playing out across the broader Middle East is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time. On one side are those who believe in freedom and moderation. On the other side are extremists who kill the innocent, and have declared their intention to destroy our way of life."
Does President Bush realize which side he is on? Do we realize which side America has joined?