Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Seymour Hersh. Fantastic as usual.

As is the case with nearly every article written by the man, Seymour Hersh's article in The New Yorker is simply a must read. It is entitled Up In The Air, and in large part covers the possibility that the administration may withdraw large numbers of ground forces and rely upon air power to halt a possible civil war. In the past I have argued for a similar type arrangement for withdrawal, based upon the thoughts of Juan Cole whom I find imminently knowledgeable and very much worthy of consideration when forming opinion on the subject. However the Hersh article has led me to reconsider the wisdom in supporting such a plan. I haven't abandoned said arrangement mind you. I am simply willing to consider the questions raised by the Hersh article in this regard. This sort of reconsideration of ones position in face of evidence that does not support ones stance would be a great example for president Bush, should he ever decide to read this blog! **snark**

For the purpose of this post however, let us consider the first part of the Hersh article. This section deals with the mindset of the president, various close advisors, and the generals in charge of carrying forth his vision for Iraq. Mr. Hersh writes:
Current and former military and intelligence officials have told me that the President remains convinced that it is his personal mission to bring democracy to Iraq, and that he is impervious to political pressure, even from fellow Republicans. They also say that he disparages any information that conflicts with his view of how the war is proceeding.
The inability of this president to consider viewpoints that differ from his own is one of the most glaring weaknesses of the man. It is not a weakness to gather information that does not comport to your viewpoint. In fact it is dangerous to simply push alternate evidence aside because the decision maker and his/her advisors are only human and may make mistakes. If you are mistaken in concluding the predetermined outcome to your decision, failing to even comprehend the possibility that you may be wrong, you have no way of realizing the consequences of the error prior to the disaster. You simply can not be led to understand that you may be wrong for this or that reason. But this realization only comes when one believes one is liable to have human failings. Mr. Hersh's article seems to indicate that president Bush is not concerned by this type of misgiving:
Bush's closest advisers have long been aware of the religious nature of his policy commitments. In recent interviews, one former senior official, who served in Bush's first term, spoke extensively about the connection between the President's religious faith and his view of the war in Iraq. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the former official said, he was told that Bush felt that "God put me here" to deal with the war on terror. The President's belief was fortified by the Republican sweep in the 2002 congressional elections; Bush saw the victory as a purposeful message from God that "he's the man," the former official said. Publicly, Bush depicted his reƫlection as a referendum on the war; privately, he spoke of it as another manifestation of divine purpose.
To me this divine inspiration attributed by president Bush is one of the most terrifying manifestations of his stewarship. President Bush would be well served to remember he is only human. This near messianic complex from the president ought to be an example to future generations of how dangerous the mixing of church and state can be. This belief has led us down the path of financial ruination, caused the death of tens of thousands in a needless war, led to arguably the greatest strategic blunder in American military history, and caused us the esteem of nearly the entire world. Not a good record from Gods hand on Earth. Furthermore, if the president is considering the results of the various elections in determining the will of God, it would serve him well to remember that Al Gore actually won the 2000 election popular vote, and that only a supreme court intervention (which supreme court one may add is continuously attacked by fundamentalists as being consistently Christian christian in its rulings) gave the electoral college votes to Bush. It seems like saner heads in the white house would perhaps work towards disillusioning the commander in chief of these dangerous notions, but according to Hersh, such is hardly the case:
"The President is more determined than ever to stay the course," the former defense official said. "He doesn't feel any pain. Bush is a believer in the adage 'People may suffer and die, but the Church advances.'" He said that the President had become more detached, leaving more issues to Karl Rove and Vice-President Cheney. "They keep him in the gray world of religious idealism, where he wants to be anyway," the former defense official said. Bush's public appearances, for example, are generally scheduled in front of friendly audiences, most often at military bases. Four decades ago, President Lyndon Johnson, who was also confronted with an increasingly unpopular war, was limited to similar public forums. "Johnson knew he was a prisoner in the White House," the former official said, "but Bush has no idea."
People may suffer and die, but the Church advances? I thought the charge of Jesus Christ was to spread the gospel. Gospel among other things means the good news. It seems to me that the gospel as practiced by president Bush would be unrecognizable to the saviour he purports to follow. Rather it seems that the God of Bush is distinctly of an old testament nature, complete with the vengeful display of the mighty armies of Gods chosen people to the sorrow and annihilation
of the non-believer.

So we see that rather than disabusing the president of his messainic complex, his advisors have actually encouraged it. I hope with great fervor that this does not culminate with the president awaking some dark night in a cold sweat, having been given a message from God in his dreams that some nation Bush does not see eye to eye with should be given a lesson in the righteousness of the lord via an intercontinental messenger of holy atomic vengeance. And who might be there at that crisis moment to dissuade the president from carrying forth the will of God? The people who have encouraged that belief in the first place? We have three more years of leadership from a man who is insulated, can not be made to acknowlege the basic reality of events he is supposed to be leading us through, and thinks he is called by God thus making his reasoning divine. This is a dangerous time for America, and the world.

Finally... the issue delineated by the last quote from the Hersh article is troubling for me as well. The notion that public events by the president are for the benefit of supporters alone is something I sincerely hope future presidents will not promulgate. Bush is not the president of the red states of America. His policies do not just affect the conservatives who live here. In my readings of civil war history I am often struck by the access given to president Lincoln by the average citizen of the time. I certainly would not condone opening the white house to the public as was largely the case of Lincolns time, but the insulation of the president of the United States from the dissent of American citizens seems somehow intrinsically un-American to me. Since when should a citizen be denied access to a governmentally paid town hall meeting simply because of the bumper sticker on their car. Loyalty oaths to vote a certain way to gain access to campaign events? Quite simply that seems wrong. Let the president face the people every now and then. Not the people the local Republican party musters for the event, but an actual representative sample of the public. The president should hear the voice of the people, or all the bluster about spreading democracy around the world seems to be simply a hollow echo with no real meaning. Listen up president Bush! The people are telling you to change your ways and you refuse to hear them.

The inability of this president to consider viewpoints that differ from his own is one of the most glaring weaknesses of the man. It is not a weakness to gather information that does not comport to your viewpoint. In fact it is dangerous to simply push alternate evidence aside because the decision maker and his/her advisors are only human and may make mistakes.

We seem to have come full circle here--from Clinton, who actually encouraged strife and debate in his cabinet meetings--to Bush who purportedly tolerates no dissenting views.
Many of your comments on Bush are on target. I think you misjudge how he see's himself though. I'm not sure if I can articulate my impression of him but, I'll try.

He does think he is part of God's plan and that he does God's work and he's honored and humbled by that. I am almost 100% sure he doesn't have a egomanical form of messanic complex. His perception is still dangerous but, a lot more humble than his critics attribute to him.

He sees himself as servant of God. He doesn't see himself as a savior but, he is overwhelmed when he has the honor of being part of what he sees as God's "plan". He sees his position as an opportunity to defend America, Freedom, and humanity. Being in a position to "vanquish" evil overwhelms him at times. He is convinced that evil is a powerful force and that it will not be an easy win. He expects adversity and hardship that must be endured.

This is where he draws his drive to "Stay the Course". This is where "People may suffer and die, but the Church advances", comes from. He endures for God and to vanquish evil. Your typical messianic kook doens't expect to suffer hardship. This is also however, why he "disparages" contrary information. He sees this as coming from people that don't see the greater vision of things and don't understand. He also sees this as people not realizing that these negatives they talk about are merely the struggle that he and other servants of a good god must endure in the battle against evil.

He also sees Iraqis as a suffering people. Many people in the world do suffer. Imagine if you were president. Imagine you were able to rescue the Kurds from Hussein. A man that mustard gassed them. You can stop Hussein's sons from torturing their Olympic soccer team after losing. You can stop the brutality against the Shiites to the south. You can protect Israel, the birthplace of Christ, from Arab attack or from the forces of evil. It would be psychologically overwhelming.

If you have ever personally saved someone's life from a fire or pushed them from the path of an oncoming truck you might wonder...Was I part of a greater plan that I just happend to be in the right place at the right time? I believe that is the light in which Bush see's himself. I bet he is overwhelmed at his part and cries tears when he contemplates the beauty of the struggle.

This does lead to a blindness. A blindness that is exagerrated by his extreme sense of loyalty. Perhaps God won him the election he should of lost. Perhaps Harriet Myers isn't the most qualified for the Supreme Court but, there is that loyalty. Maybe he wonders....is Harriet the "woman" a servant of God as well? After all she is my good friend and that must be so for a reason. Now of course his view of her is altered now that she was unsuccessful.

He didn't feel the "pain" before because of his belief. He does now. I can see it. There is a difference in how he carries himself. He has flickering doubts now that cause an internal crisis of faith at moments. He feels disappointment for some that he feels have given up and a deep resentment toward some of his staff he sees as not being loyal and staying the course. He has a psychological need to save Iraq but, the American body count is weighing on him. He feels a loyalty to new friends in Iraq and knows their lives will be harder if he leaves them. He doesn't want to save Iraq or win there. He has a deep psychological NEED to save Iraq and win. This isn't an Old Testament thing but, he does believe in the struggle. He has his own kind of Jihad going on but, he sees it as rescue rather than vengeance.

Other than his self-perception I generally agree with you on this. I also agree that it was a good piece by Seymour Hersh. I also think you provide a lot of good material on this blog and your arguements are well thought out.
Hey britt :) As the judge says in the movie My Cousin Vinnie: (paraphrasing from memory here) "Counsel that was a lucid, cogent, well thought out and presented objection... DENIED!" **raps gavel**

I do think that Bush uses an over reliance on the holy seal of approval of his line of thinking. There have been several instances of Bush seeming to justify policies based upon divine guidance. One example I posted about previously is here: http://clublefty.blogspot.com/2005/10/president-as-pope.html . I truly believe the president feels he is Gods hand on earth and to be honest I find it unnerving. I often consider how my life reflects my belief in God and how certain circumstances may be guided by forces I could never pretend to understand. But I would never be so bold as to claim that my daily decisions are guided by the direct will of God. I can simply hope to do the best that I can and try to be a good person in Gods eyes. My goal is to do what is right, not to be the hand of God affecting all that I survey. I think George has a problem to be honest. He sees his own handiword as divinely inspired and to him, thats just the way it is.
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