Is About as Serene as a Cat With a Can Tied to its Tail
March 11, 2003
By David Swanson
I don't believe the President is at ease.
George W. Bush's staff assures us that he is calm, serene,
and confident despite massive global resistance to his policies,
because he knows he is right. If this were true, the arrogance
and lack of respect for popular opinion would be astounding.
The lack of doubt, hesitation, or humility might even be called,
as some have called it, psychopathic.
Far be it for me to suggest that our President is insane,
but hear me out.
Some report that Bush manages to stay tranquil because he
doesn't view attacking Iraq as a decision at all, but as an
"historical inevitability," and because he views
himself as engaged in a religious battle for "good"
and against "evil." Perhaps he believes that his
God has instructed him to attack Iraq, and therefore the question
of whether to do so need not stress him out.
Clearly such delusional motivations can lead to real-world
damage. Witness the faith-based attacks of Sept. 11, 2001,
But in most cases, such delusions are far from complete and
are indicative of doubt and grave misgivings. Some of the
strongest of religious believers have doubts and "crises
of faith" about their belief in God, though they never
doubt many more ordinary beliefs, such as that the White House
Bush did not begin this push for a war by talking about historical
inevitability and having no choice in the matter. On the contrary,
he focused on specific reasons, such as alleged meetings between
Iraq and Al Qaeda, alleged Iraqi plans to attack U.S. imperial
troops or even the "homeland," alleged Iraqi weapons
programs, and even the need to "liberate" Iraq by
bombing it, or the need to maintain U.S. power by following
through on a threat.
As these claims have failed to gain credibility, Bush's push
for war has continued, but it has been drawn out longer than
he can possibly have intended. Karl Rove is not an idiot,
and this endless threat of war has been the most politically
idiotic thing a White House has tried in years, allowing thoughtful
opposition to grow before any bombing (and the accompanying
That various reasons for the war have been abandoned without
Bush's lust for war diminishing does not mean that he didn't
partially convince himself of those reasons while they lasted,
or even still. Whatever his primary motivations may be (oil,
military spending, empire, revenge, votes) he undoubtedly
to some degree has also believed the various public reasons
that have come and gone.
Bush has now substituted for those reasons an ever more religious
rhetoric, disclaiming responsibility, viewing himself as the
hand of fate inevitably confronting "evil" with
"good." This is the language of someone struggling
to believe something. Just as we believe in Heaven because
we can't bear the death of loved ones, Bush believes in the
inevitability of bombing Iraq because he can't bear the idea
of failing to kill Saddam Hussein.
It's not just the religiosity of his language that makes
me doubt Bush's serenity. Another factor is his graying hair.
Remember how much brown was still on the head of candidate
George W. back in 2000? This President has set a record for
vacations and short work days, and yet his photos tell a story
that doesn't fit with the claim that he is serene.
Another factor is Bush's increasing inability to put on a
presentable performance for a press conference. Not only does
he flub his lines, but he reveals secrets, such as the degree
to which an entire event has been scripted. Is he perhaps
tired of keeping secret his doubts, the ones that he keeps
secret even from himself?
I don't think it's too far-fetched a fantasy to imagine that
some day soon a reporter will ask the President at a press
conference a question that breaks through the fašade, something
"Mr. President, we've all heard the phrase 'Love your
enemies.' Could you please identify the source of it and explain
Imagine this scene as one more straw on the back of a camel
already loaded down with unrelenting public protest, corporate
opposition to the latest tax cut plans, Christian opposition
to the next planned war on Muslims, and Republican Congressional
The message from the White House the next day will be that
the President is instructing Buddhists in his secrets of serenity,
but some will notice that the President is going bald.
And the war will be called off.
David Swanson's website is www.davidswanson.org.