Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Bush Defenders Want it Both Ways

When opponents of the war quite reasonably pointed out that our continued military presence in Iraq recruits additional support for enemy organizations such as Al Qaeda, defenders of Bush's disastrous actions countered with, "The United States does not allow its enemies to determine its policies."

Yet, just today, I read an opinion piece in which the writer asserted that, "Democrats and liberals who call for the impeachment of President Bush over alleged violations of the Constitution fail to realize that such public challenges to our Commander-in-Chief embolden our enemies; we must not sacrifice our security at home to what is essentially a political exercise." Excuse me? What happened to, "We don't let our enemies dictate policy?" All of a sudden, we're supposed to tolerate a president who violates our Constitution because to call him on it might "embolden our enemies?"

It seems that Bush's defenders want it both ways. They want to claim that it is not a legitimate criticism to point out that our ill-considered invasion of Iraq actually makes us less safe -- because we won't let fear of the enemy intimidate us -- but they want to stifle attempts to hold our elected Chief Executive accountable to the American people because "we don't want to embolden our enemies." Well, which is it, guys? Are we so sure of ourselves that we don't care how many mad mullahs and their fanatical followers we piss off? Or are we so afraid of what the terrorists might do that we're willing to grant an incompetent president dictatorial powers?

Actually, both positions are indefensible. A war built on lies should not be allowed to continue; neither should we tolerate the erosion of the very freedoms that define us by an arrogant imbecile whose favorite political ploy is to invoke the bogeyman. When your only device for holding onto power is manipulating fear, we know what to call you: a terrorist.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Goldwater Redux

Now it becomes clear: George W. Bush is delusional.

As you know, I am a mental health professional by trade. Prior to the 1964 presidential election, a psychiatrist published an opinion piece in which he stated that candidate Barry Goldwater's favorable disposition towards the use of nuclear (then called "atomic") weapons proved that the Arizona Republican was mentally ill -- dangerously so, in fact. This damning pronouncement, coming as it did with the weight of a clinician's expertise behind it, was credited by some with helping to bring about Goldwater's landslide defeat to the incumbent Lyndon Johnson (who went on to greatly escalate the American military role in Vietnam before refusing the nomination a second time).

The psychiatrist responsible for the opinion piece (and, by extension, the entire psychiatric profession) later came under fire for having had the audacity to render a clinical diagnosis on a public figure whom he had not personally interviewed, with the intent of influencing the outcome of the election. Psychiatry's professional organizations responded by drafting guidelines that later became known as the "Goldwater Rule" -- a general prohibition against offering diagnostic assessments, meant to be taken as clinically valid, on public figures whom the clinician had not actually evaluated in person.

I am here now to brazenly violate that rule, and to tell you that, in my carefully considered clinical opinion, President George W. Bush is dangerously delusional. And I don't just mean "delusional" in the colloquial sense, either; the clinical definition of a delusion reads as follows: a false, fixed belief that cannot be shaken by overwhelming, reality-based evidence to the contrary. By that definition, what else can we call Bush's insistence that the invasion of Iraq was justified, is central to the "war on terror," or is winnable in the conventional sense? There is practically no one anywhere in the world at this point, save for Cheney, Rice, and the new DOD figurehead Gates, who honestly still believes that the invasion of Iraq was not a colossal mistake, has made the U.S. safer, or can be won if we simply increase the number of young Americans being sent to be maimed or killed there.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not suggesting that Bush hears voices in his head (other than the Almighty's), wears aluminum foil hats to keep out the alien rays, or shuffles about the White House mumbling to himself (as far as I know). What I am saying is that Dubya is so deranged characterologically -- what psychiatrists call a personality disorder -- that he is unable to distinguish between reality and his own fantasies, which is a dangerous state of affairs for the leader of the free world.

One of my favorite post-World War II novels was Herman Wouk's The Caine Mutiny, later made into a successful motion picture starring Humphrey Bogart, and then a stage play, in which a decorated Navy ship's captain named Queeg displays increasingly bizarre behavior under stress. Queeg finally comes completely unglued as his destroyer, the USS Caine, threatens to founder in a Pacific typhoon, prompting his first mate to illegally take command. During the court-martial for mutiny, the defense attorney systematically proves that Queeg repeatedly gave commands that reflected his own distorted assessment of the situation rather than the reality of it...but the final blow comes when a Navy psychiatrist who has interviewed Queeg is called to the stand. The good doctor is repeatedly pressured by the defense attorney to put a name to his diagnosis of Queeg's disorder, while insisting that Captain Queeg is "well-compensated." Finally, the tribunal orders the doctor to answer, and he blurts out that Queeg is suffering from a "paranoid personality disorder...but well-compensated." The trial is essentially over at that point; Queeg has been labeled, he's damaged goods. Queeg himself then takes the stand, where he proceeds under cross-examination by the defense to have a complete meltdown. Point, game, and match; the now-pathetic Queeg shambles off the stand, a ruined man.

Bush is not exactly paranoid, but he is narcissistic to an astonishing degree, continually and greatly over-estimating his own capabilities, and dismissing any and all evidence that clearly demonstrates his staggering incompetence. His fantasy, of course, was that he would create a "free Iraq" that would be a Western-friendly state in the middle of the Middle that just happened to sit on the second-largest oil reserve in the world, which he and his oil buddies would then control. Reality would seem to have doomed this rosy view, but Bush won't or can't see that. And we are all the worse off for it.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Common Cause: No More Consolidation