This will be my last article about George W. Bush. Actually, I had decided a few months back to never write about him again, and would be honoring that pledge, had he not delivered a perfectly delusional and maddening farewell address to the nation last Thursday night.
In his speech, Bush articulated, in two forms, the doctrines of his neo-conservative "religion" On the one hand, he laid out this belief systems’ general framework, noting that "good and evil are present in this world, and between the two, there can be no compromise… freeing people from oppression and despair is eternally right. This nation must continue to speak out for justice and truth. We must be willing to act in their defense and advance the cause of peace."
Bush then reflected on how he has applied these beliefs in practice, noting that our nation is engaged in "a struggle between two dramatically different systems," describing one as "as small band of fanatics [that] demands total obedience to an oppressive ideology." The other system (i.e., ours) "is based on the conviction that freedom is the universal gift of almighty God, and that liberty and justice light the path to peace."
It is this very bizarre mixture of beliefs, to which Bush has blindly adhered, that has shaped his (and our) post-9/11 world. At one point, he conflates Christian fundamentalism and American Messianism, while, at the same time, transposing familiar anti-Soviet rhetoric onto his campaign against "Islamic extremism." Because he has held these beliefs absolutely and, in his own obsessive way, has refused to admit the failures they have wrought, he has dug a deep hole, and ignoring reality, has continued to dig deeper.
Even now, in his farewell address, he characterizes Afghanistan as having "gone from a nation where the Taliban harbored al-Qaeda and stoned women in the streets, to a young democracy that is fighting terror and is encouraging girls to go to school." He described Iraq, as having "gone from a brutal dictatorship and sworn enemy of America to a democracy in the heart of the Middle East." These observations, of course, fly in the face of the Taliban’s resurgence, Al-Qaeda’s continued presence, and the enormous difficulties facing women in Afghanistan today; and the chaos in Iraq that has resulted in one-fifth of its population ethnically cleansed into refugee or internally displaced status; and polls which continue to show America bitterly resented by a strong majority.
But, in Bush’s world, where certainty reins supreme and ideology trumps reality, doubts are dismissed and failure is ignored.
What brought Bush’s blindness into even starker relief was his the absence of even a mention the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In his farewell address, Bush notes "when people live in freedom, they do not willingly choose leaders who pursue campaigns of terror. When people have hope in the future, they will not cede their lives to violence and extremism." These, of course, are noble propositions, to which Palestinians would agree. But in Bush’s world, all was turned upside-down. Instead of a free people choosing leaders, Bush insisted that Palestinians hold elections before they were free – putting forth and insisting on the surreal proposition that Palestine become a democracy before Palestinians could have a state. The results, of course, were that a people under occupation, angry and despairing of peace, voted for those who pledged to resist – with consequences that are playing out today.
In the end, it is this rejection of reality, and adherence to absolutist ideology, that has created the chaos Bush will hand off to Obama.
I remember the self-righteous indignation of the incoming Bush Administration when, upon entering the White House on January 21st, 2001, they discovered that irate Clinton-Gore staffers (still fuming over the disputed election outcome) had, in their pique, removed the letter "W" from White House keyboards. It was a childish prank, to be sure, but not worth the rage voiced by their successors. How much worse is the mess George W. Bush leaves behind to his successor? And the fact the he can’t even see the mess, or admit to it, is what makes me term him delusional, and see the entire situation as so maddening.