Page 16


and changed how we choose to go to war and conduct wars. Greenwald lays out how the Bush administration and its collaborators have gotten us to believe in an endless war on terror that is right out of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. We have entered an ahistorical world of newspeak and nonspeak. Since Orwell was writing, in his own words, “directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism,” we can see what our democracy has become. The third, and perhaps most misleading, aspect of Greenwald’s title is its implication that George Bush’s good-vs.evil mentality has destroyed his presidency. Would that this were true. Instead, as Greenwald explains, the Bush presidency and its supporters remain powerful enough to move our country toward another war and to control public debate on issues ranging from the use of torture to the erosion of our own civil liberties. Bush is recycling for Iran the same arguments and rhetorical strategies used in the run-up to the war in Iraq. The Bush presidency is still what it has always conceived itself to be, and it is still doing what it set out to do. Greenwald makes clear that Bush’s good-vs.-evil mentality is not merely a political strategy. The president believes the world is divided into good and evil. He believes the United States represents good. It would therefore have been helpful if Greenwald had discussed this premise. Even a reference to a study like Michael J. Sullivan’s American Adventurism Abroad: 30 Invasions, Interventions and Regime Changes since World War II would have signposted an inconvenient truth. The United States has not been a constant force for good in world affairs. In 26 of the 30 cases Sullivan examines from the start of the Cold War to the beginning of the Bush presidency, U.S. interventions destabilized democratic governments, supported dictatorships and military juntas, and caused “disproportionate destruction of life.” We engaged in 10 invasions, 10 coups tion attempts, and nine instances of overkill, often letting our economic interests override our declared national values. Nonetheless, our commander-in-chief acts under the influence of powerful illusions about American goodness in foreign affairs and his own religiously based role in history. He is armed with the congressional joint resolution on Authorization for Use of Military Force and USA Patriot Improvement and Authorization Act. He believes he is called to continue fighting, by use of armed force, the “monumental struggle of good vs. evil.” The lack of support in opinion polls for the war in Iraq and his presidency in general does not concern him, his advisers, or neocon thinkers. Greenwald identifies the clever psychological and rhetorical strategies used by “enthusiasts for endless war” to shove “a complex world into a simplistic moralistic framework.” By identifying Iraq and Iran as “Nazi-like Evil” and their leaders as Hitlers, and by implying that the use of diplomacy would have the same disastrous results as Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler in 1938, Bush supporters accomplish two things, according to Greenwald. They stifle debate by transforming the question of whether to wage war “from a mere political question into a moral and even psychological one. … [B]y opposing war, one is revealed to be an appeaser of Evil and worse, weak, spineless and cowardly.” When the question of going to war is framed in such terms, it would take real courage for any member of Congress to vote no. Bush supporters simultaneously “challenge the president’s courage and manlinesswill he prove that he is a brave and devoted warrior for Good by recognizing Iran as pure Evil and treating it accordingly, or will he back down and reveal himself as a coward, one who submits meekly to political pressures and crawls away from the epic challenge of his time?” Here readers of Greenwald might read Justin A. Frank’s Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President to understand the president’s psychological makeup and his acute susceptibility to such a challenge: the unresolved Oedipal complex, the desire to compensate by outdoing daddy, the adolescent omnipotence transformed into adult grandiosity, the lifelong atmosphere of extreme privilege and entitlement. This perspective helps explain his Wanted-Dead-or-Alive proclamations, the aircraft carrier landing and play-acting as a “passenger in a pilot’s costume,” the arrogance that does not want to face the moral complexities and limitations of presidential decisionmaking. Instead, the president substitutes black-and-white simplicity. Frank’s study reveals one of the worst and cleverest of the Bush administration’s many political successes. It has “tapped into the part of our personality that hates external reality and prefers to cling to a simplistic, secure world view.” As Frank explains, “George W. Bush behaves like a modern day version of the preachers during the witch-hunting days of Cotton Mather.” A substantial portion of the American electorate still wants to be reassured that their idea of goodness will prevail in a world where our primacy and invulnerability are suddenly no more. So they listen with keen ears when the Bush administration gives them a simple story of good and evil. Greenwald reminds us that in April 2003, Bill Kristol, neoconservative Fox news contributor and Weekly Standard editor, proclaimed that the “battles of Afghanistan and Iraq have been won decisively and honorably. But these are only two battles. We are only at the end of the beginning in the war on terror and terrorist states.” Still, as Greenwald shows, the fact that our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have since proved so costly, corrupting, and indecisive has not deterred Kristol from likening our hesitation to act militarily against Iran to the do-nothingness that followed Germany’s occupation of the Rhineland in 1936. Kristol’s Iraq dj vu includes claims that any strategy that does not include attacking Iran “emboldens” the Iranian regime, “disheartens … our friends in the region:’ and leaves our “allies more confused.” The sense of unreality a nonbeliever gets from reading neocon sources that Greenwald cites is almost hallucinogenic. For example, with no acknowledgment of how overstretched our military forces and national treasury already are, his 24 THE TEXAS OBSERVER NOVEMBER 16, 2007