Once Upon a Time…

Extraordinarily perceptive essay by Arthur Silber on the pathological mindset of those now ruling the US. He starts from Dick Cheney’s vicious outburst the other day about those who dare to criticise the Iraq adventure.

The Bush-Cheney attack, at this moment and in this context, reeks of desperation. They behave like cornered rats. Their tactics are not wise in terms of any political strategy. They are no longer convincing, and they are no longer believed. And without much trouble, they could have taken another course entirely. They could have admitted that certain of the information they relied upon turned out to be inaccurate. They could have expressed their deep regrets on that issue, and their determination to correct what led to the errors. And then they could have said that since we are now in this situation, however much we might regret it, we must persevere, at least to the extent of making Iraq reasonably stable within a reasonable period of time.

Why can’t Bush-Cheney (and, by implication btw, Tony Blair) admit this? Silber continues:

Their behavior is completely unreasonable. It serves no purpose whatsoever that is comprehensible to any degree. So we can fairly and justifiably say this much: they are behaving completely irrationally, even on their own terms and if their stated aims are in fact their aims. So those aims cannot be the real ones. The purpose lies in another direction. From all the evidence, I would say that the refusal to admit error is the key. These people cannot bear to contemplate even the possibility that they’ve been wrong. The threat appears to be experienced as one to their entire worldview, and to their deepest view of themselves. This is the faith that Ron Suskind described in his article about Bush, but it is faith of a particular kind. It is absolutist, entirely and with regard to every specific. To admit error in one part, is to admit error about the whole. If a single beam is removed, the complete structure collapses.

The faith must be maintained, no matter what. All the negative consequences of the Iraq disaster don’t matter; all the deaths and destroyed lives don’t matter; the weakening of our military doesn’t matter; the mounting and increasingly ominous financial costs don’t matter. None of it matters. The faith itself is everything. You see the identical phenomenon in the most dedicated of the administration’s defenders.

This is not normal, says Silber; it doesn’t come within even the outermost boundaries of what is normal.

This is pathological, in that it deliberately discards huge parts of reality and pretends that they don’t exist. It does all this not out of a commitment to a provably reasonable alternative or anything close to it, but out of a psychological imperative.

This kind of pathology is extraordinarily dangerous. Facts don’t matter and, in the worst case, deaths don’t matter. More deaths and on a still wider scale don’t matter. This is why I continue to believe that these people are entirely capable of unleashing Armageddon. You can raise all the objections indicated in that post and many more, and they won’t matter. The faith must be maintained. But this faith is a lethal one as we continue to see every day, and we may not have seen its worst results yet. Pray that we never do.

Amen. This is a fine piece, reminding one of the extent to which the US now seems to be stuck, and it’s not clear how it will extract itself from this mess — which encompasses not just Iraq, but the country’s media, its Congress and even its judiciary.