Is Bush Unhinged?

Category: Americas, World Affairs Topics: Conflicts And War, George W. Bush Views: 5931

Before you conclude that I myself must be unhinged even to raise such a question, ask yourself this: If a man talks as if he has lost contact with reality, then might he actually have done so? Granted that this possibility deserves evaluation, then consider President George W. Bush's rhetoric in his March 19 speech to diplomats and others at the White House.

The president begins by stating his interpretation of the recent bombings in Madrid, reiterating one of his recurrent themes of the past two and a half years: "[T]he civilized world is at war" in a "new kind of war." The concept of war, of course, ranks high among evocative metaphors. Not by accident have politicians declared wars on poverty, drugs, cancer, illiteracy, and an assortment of other alleged enemies. A society at war, as William James observed in 1906 in his call for the "moral equivalent of war," finds a reason for unaccustomed solidarity and-here's where the politicians come in-for unaccustomed submission to central government authority. James himself, after all, was arguing that "the martial type of character can be bred without war." Political leaders are always seeking to establish such character, with themselves in command of the battalions of "disciplined" subjects. Insofar as the so-called war on terrorism merely represents the latest attempt to bend the war metaphor to an obvious political purpose, we might well dismiss the president's rhetorical flourish as nothing but the same old same old.

Bush, however, will allow no such dismissal. "The war on terror," he insists, "is not a figure of speech." Well, I beg your pardon, Mr. President, but that is precisely what it is. How can one go to war against "terror," which is a state of mind? Even if the president were to take more care with his language and to speak instead of a "war on terrorism," the phrase still could not be anything more than a metaphor, because terrorism is a form of action available to virtually any determined adult anywhere anytime. War on terrorism, too, can be only a figure of speech.

War, if it is anything, is the marshalling of armed forces against somebody, not against a state of mind or a form of action. Wars are fought between groups of persons. We might argue about whether the United States can wage war only against another nation state, as opposed to an indefinitely large number of individuals committed to fanatical Islamism who in various workaday guises are living in scores of different countries. The expression "war on certain criminals and conspirators of criminal acts" would fit the present case better and would entail far more sensible thinking about the proper way to deal with such persons. The idea of war, obviously, calls to mind too readily the serviceability of the armed forces. Hence the application of such forces to the conquest of Iraq in the name of "bringing the terrorists to justice," although that conquest was actually nothing but a hugely destructive, immensely expensive diversion from genuine efforts to allay the threat posed by the Islamist maniacs who compose al Qaeda and similar groups. "These killers will be tracked down and found, they will face their day of justice," the president declares, speaking as always as if only a fixed number of such killers exist, rather than a vast reservoir of actual and potential recruits that is only augmented and revitalized by actions such as the U.S. invasion of Iraq. It would be a boon to humanity if the president could be brought to understand the distinction between waging war and establishing justice.

Whatever our understanding of the president's "war on terror" might be, however, he definitely parts company with reality when he states, "There is no neutral ground-no neutral ground-in the fight between civilization and terror, because there is no neutral ground between good and evil, freedom and slavery, and life and death." Of course, this Manichean pronouncement echoes the administration's previous declaration that everybody on earth is either with us or against us-and if they know what's good for them, they'll fall into line with our wishes. Aside from the undeniable fact that some nations simply prefer, as did the Spanish people (as opposed to the Aznar government), to avoid the blowback of U.S. interventions around the world, the president's insistence on equating U.S. policy with good, freedom, and life and all alternative policies with evil, slavery, and death represents the sort of childish bifurcation one expects to find expressed by a member of a youth gang, not by the leader of the world's most powerful government. To raise but a single example, though a highly relevant one in this context, can any dispassionate person argue that the U.S. position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is entirely good, whereas every alternative position is entirely evil?

... the president declares that "the terrorists are offended not merely by our policies-they are offended by our existence as free nations." I myself have seen no evidence to confirm such a statement

... translated testimony of one Osama bin Laden, who in a famous October 2001 videotape objects to U.S. support for Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to the presence of U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia, and to U.S. economic sanctions and other hostile actions against Iraq-that is, to various U.S. policies.

... I have seen no evidence that bin Laden or any other known Islamic terrorist takes offence at our very existence, provided that we mind our own business in our own homeland.

Observers endowed with humane moral sensibilities recognize that there is plenty of evil to go around in Israel and elsewhere. In Iraq, for example, the U.S. government bears clear responsibility for killing and injuring thousands of noncombatants in the past year-not to mention the horrendous mortality and suffering it brought about previously by enforcement of the economic sanctions used to cripple that country for more than a decade. Some people maintain that the price was worth paying, that ultimately the good obtained will more than compensate for the harm caused in the process, but even if one accepts that assessment for the sake of argument, it remains true nevertheless that much harm was caused, that the burden of responsibility for evils perpetrated must be borne by the U.S. side as well as by the demonized enemy (Saddam Hussein having been made out after 1990 as "another Hitler"). International conflicts in the real world do not often divide neatly into nothing-but-good versus nothing-but-evil. For the president of the United States to employ such a juvenile characterization raises the possibility that his mind is so immature that he ought to be removed from office before he propels the world into even worse disasters.

Seemingly aware of previous criticism, the president declares that "the terrorists are offended not merely by our policies-they are offended by our existence as free nations." I myself have seen no evidence to confirm such a statement; certainly the president has adduced none. I have seen, however, the translated testimony of one Osama bin Laden, who in a famous October 2001 videotape objects to U.S. support for Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to the presence of U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia, and to U.S. economic sanctions and other hostile actions against Iraq-that is, to various U.S. policies. "Millions of innocent children are being killed in Iraq and in Palestine and we don't hear a word from the infidels. We don't hear a raised voice," says bin Laden. In my ears, this statement sounds like an objection to U.S. policies. I have seen no evidence that bin Laden or any other known Islamic terrorist takes offence at our very existence, provided that we mind our own business in our own homeland.

In the president's mind, however, every deviation from adherence to his promulgated national-security policy of U.S. world domination and preventive warfare represents a dangerous form of appeasement: "Any sign of weakness or retreat simply validates terrorist violence, and invites more violence for all nations. The only certain way to protect our people is by early, united, and decisive action"-that is, by global military intervention by the United States, with all other nations serving as its lackeys. In the neoconservative vision to which the president has been converted, time stands still: It is always 1938, and if we fail to bring all our military might to bear preventively against the Hitler du jour, we shall certainly be plunged into global catastrophe.

Waxing positive, the president credits recent U.S. and allied military actions with bringing about "a free Afghanistan" and the "long-awaited liberation" of the Iraqi people. He maintains that the fall of the Iraqi dictator has removed a source of violence, aggression, and instability in the Middle East. . . . [Y]ears of illicit weapons development by the dictator have come to the end. . . . [T]he Iraqi people are now receiving aid, instead of suffering under the sanctions. . . . [M]en and women across the Middle East, looking to Iraq, are getting a glimpse of what life in a free country can be like. . . . Who would begrudge the Iraqi people their long-awaited liberation?

This effusion evinces a tenuous grip on reality. Nobody begrudges the Iraqi people their freedom, but many of us have serious doubts about just how much freedom those long-suffering people really have. Their country is occupied by a lethal foreign army whose soldiers roam freely, breaking into homes and mosques at will, maintaining checkpoints that often become the venues of unjustified killings, carrying out police activities by employing such means as aerial bombardment and bursts of heavy machine-gun fire. If this unfortunate scene is the "glimpse of what life in a free country can be like" that others throughout the Middle East are getting, then woe unto anyone who yearns to stimulate those Middle Easterners to seek freedom. "With Afghanistan and Iraq showing the way, we are confident that freedom will lift the sights and hopes of millions in the greater Middle East," the president states. If he really harbors such confidence, one can only note how ill-founded it is.

The president seems to have no idea of what a free society consists of. Violent military occupation and the complete absence of the rule of law totally invalidate any claim that either Iraq or Afghanistan is now a free society. At present Iraq is awash with violence perpetrated by resistance fighters and occupation forces and with criminality of all sorts unleashed by the disruptions associated with the war and by the U.S. dissolution of the old police apparatus. "We will not fail the Iraqi people, who have placed their trust in us," Bush declares. But they never placed their trust in us in the first place; they simply suffered our invasion and occupation of their country. In any event, we have already gravely disappointed the hopes that many Iraqis held for life after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime. The country is rife with resentment and hostility, and the people are eager for U.S. forces to get out. Although the president maintains that "[w]e've set out to break the cycle of bitterness and radicalism that has brought stagnation to a vital region," one cannot help concluding from the facts on the ground that the upshot of the U.S. invasion and occupation has been just the opposite, that U.S. actions in Iraq have only poured fuel on the fires of terrorism there as well as in the wider world.

It is disconcerting for me to listen to the president's speeches. I get the unsettling feeling that the man inhabits another world in which things are the exact opposite of how they seem to me. Of course, I may be the one whose perspective is askew. Unlike Bush, I cannot claim that the Almighty has licensed my position. Yet I fear that time will tell in favor of my view of the matter-a view shared, of course, by most people on the planet, indeed, by nearly everybody who has not been bribed, intimidated, or blinded by partisan loyalty to the Bush administration. For now, this difference of views might seem to be nothing more than that-just one man's opinion jousting with another's-but reality has a way of passing definite judgment, and I will not be surprised if Bush's pronouncements ultimately come to be seen as having no more substance than a bad dream.

Robert Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy at The Independent Institute and editor of its scholarly quarterly journal, The Independent Review. He is also the author of Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government and the editor of Arms, Politics and the Economy: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives.

  Category: Americas, World Affairs
  Topics: Conflicts And War, George W. Bush
Views: 5931

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Older Comments:
Claiming that the West and Islam are enemies is not a helpful attitude, and I oppose all who would create such a situation. Dialogue among civilizations is much more preferable to a "clash", in my opinion.

Another good point Lee Glaesemann. To me some Muslims have somewhat taken on the mentality that African-Americans used to have. That of blaming the "man".

Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.

Many of us are to focused on the West but are not focused on ourselves moving closer to Quran and Sunnah thus insurring success.

And we most definitely should hold Muslims accountable for their actions towards each other and towards non-Muslims, when those actions are not in line with Quran and Sunnah.

We should also shake off the mentality that we need to emulate the West.

As a Muslim I proudly proclaim there is no system, or ideology past, present or future that is superior to Islam. Rather Islam is SUPERIOR TO ALL ELSE.
Muslims need to stand up and proclaim this to the world and stop APOLOGISING!

Asalaam alaikum, Ahmed:

I, too, am Muslim, but I don't necessarily agree that all Muslims should assume an extremist view point, which, according to the Quran, is very unIslamic.

I understand why Muslims are furious about the treatment of Palestineans in Israel, but shouldn't we equally speak out against the atrocities Muslim leaders perpetrate against their own people? The Quran explicitly states that we are to testify against anyone who is unjust, even if it means ourselves.

I noticed that you're writing from Bahrain. I know this statement works both ways, but, to Americans, how can you expect them to sympathize with the plight of Muslims when militants verbally demonize the U.S. and execute bombings and attacks?

I understand that our media present a different image of current events, but the same can be said for news coverage in the east. The ultimate question is whom to believe. I agree that Americans need to be exposed to another perspective on world events, but the same holds true for Muslims from the east.

Honestly, will we, as Muslims, ever move beyond the standard diatribes against Israel and the U.S. and start searching for at least additional reasons why our umma is so fractured?

Here's some info on the PNAC and what they're about:

Hopefully, Iviews won't see this as an "anti-Muslim" website and will allow to get posted.

Yes Salahudin it should be called a war of terror.
It reminds me of the fear and intimidation that the Ku Klux Klan tried to instill in African-Americans in the 20th century.


Lee Glaesemann you have made a good point. As a Muslim I don't have much against Bush. I don't feel like he's the one in control. I feel as if his cabinet, Ashcroft, Cheney and Rumsfield are the ones who are really making the decisions.
these are the ones I don't like.
I think that many Arab Americans Muslim or otherwise voted for Bush because they were fooled into thinking that he would actually keep his promises.
The fact is many voters Muslim or otherwise voted for the lesser of two evils.
Some people in this country know that voting is useless, all these politicians do is make promises to get into office, then they kick you in the behind and spit in your face!
There is not much difference bewteen the two parties. Kerry if elected will probably pull a
similar stunt, any Muslim that puts their hopes and dreams in this government is going to be badly disappointed.
For some odd reason American Muslims want to assimilate like other ethnic groups. They want to blend in, convince other Americans " we are
just like you"!
Only problem is we are not just like other Americans.

Who is a bigger dummy; the man who is dumb or the man who follows the dumb man?

Even dogs beg for crumbs from the masters table! The master in this case is the western world, which is led by America. You, including Muslims, belief this western mind/man has the answer to your prayers, so you worship him. Yet, you were not prepared to pay the price...which is your soul and land.

You beloved King/President sold you out for crumbs and you want to blame America. Get real and get your priorities in order. The leadership of every last so-called Muslim country needs to be weaned off the masters table because those crumbs are not worthy of you. Yet, and still you will deny the truth for the purpose of saving face - my beloved King/President worships non but Allah(swt)...Yeah, right!

We all reap what we sew, and at present my peole here in America are reaping our the way I include myself as earning my just reward. My people here in America are so screwed up it is scary.

We are impotent, at present, because we too eat from your masters table. We sold our soul begging our master for for Civil Rights and an Equal Playing field. As if he had any interest in our full development as a people.

Wake up my brothers and sisters. My we turn to Allah(swt) for guidance and get our house in order before we call out someone else for having a dirty house.

As Salaam Alaikum wa rahmatullah wa barakhatu


If we had only looked to Allah for guidance and stayed

The article is pure idiocy. The idea that one can only be at war against a nation or exactly defined group of people is simplistic. In Islam jihads are described by some as personal wars against immorallity, surely the writer is aware of this. The author's ability to ignore normal conventions for the purpose of spouting mindless propaganda is why others view our religion as dangerous. The author doesn't even attempt to hide his agenda by adding the other "wars" America is always involved in ('war on poverty', 'war on crime', 'war on drugs', etc), only the 'war on terrorism' to prove Bush is stupid. You sir are so easy to spot coming it ceases to be worth my time to point out all the other flaws so I won't.

Bush is an .. Idiot who stole the elections and gave a free ride to all right wingers extremists who are screwing every one in this nation and abroad. He must go with all his dirty attachments.

Dear lee
If you want to know why muslims don't like Bush then do a google on PNAC. You will find the architects of this document are mostly Zionists and/or their supporters, referred to as neoconservatives. they are the ones who are using this simplton Bush to do their dirty bidding. and he has fallen for it like any man who is full of his own baloney. the man is a fool, he is influenced by the last person he spoke with!

as for kerry, he is tarred with the same brush, but he is samrter and i am not sure if that is good or bad, in his case. but i do know that he also toes the zionist line. they appoint US prseidents. politician careers are in zionist hands.
it used to be a saying in 80's that America has the bestlegal system that money can buy. Well now it has the best democracy that money can buy. only with at least $200million in your bank balance you can barely contemplate to get into the race for presidency. makes a mockery of democracy really. they have stitched it nicely and the average american is just a slave paying tax machine because rest assured those huge corporations don't pay their dues as much as an individual worker does, considering tax a percentage of income. and most avoid it totally because they have smart laywers and 'creative' accountants. and you thought creativity was only the domain of arts!!

p.s. someone is foaming at the mouth with muslim fundamentalists - what an ignorant lot this man is. he must work for the likes of Pipes, because his vision (and his brain) is as norrow as a small dia pipe.

OMAR said:

If we listen carefully to Dick Cheney&co it's like they're waging a war in the name of "civilazed" islam against "radical" islam...
the real irony is that(in their sheer blindness and arrogance) they are actually helping true islam to emerge under the various tyrranosaurus type of rulers in islamic world(just wait and see)...
as for Bush...I think it's utter stupidity for Muslims to attack him....because even people around him despise him for his lack of intelligence.....he's just like a dummy on the wrong set...I feel kinda sorry for him....

Many Muslims hate George Bush because they believe that he follows a "double standard" when it comes to the Palestinians. It's kind of like the "double-standard" that the Arab media follows whenever an Arab dictator slaughters Kurds. The Muslim world seems to get more agitated whenever a single Muslim dies at the hands of a non-Muslim than when groups of Muslims kill of other groups of Muslims. Only God knows why.

The irony, of it all, is that American Muslim citizens likely were responsible for voting President Bush into office because they couldn't support Liberman, who is Jewish.

I'm not trying to cause trouble, but could someone explain in succinct terms why Muslims disapprove of George Bush? It's important to have specific reasons so that we can compare them to the Kerry vision of the future.

Also, will Kerry make an effort to satisfy Muslim needs in the U.S. and around the world?

Maybe our discussions as Muslims should focus on addressing which political candidates will offer Muslims the most. At some point, we have to be able to write to our leaders explaining why or why not we approve of their political decisions.

Right now, when I read several articles and users' comments on this web site, the focus too often is purely emotional.

Well done! One of the few articles that I have read that is to the point. Again , well done.

Bravo! Robert Higgs. Excellent article. I totally agree with your points of view on the so called 'War on Terrorism'.

Be rest assured that you are not the only one who thinks the way you have expressed in the article. There are many people on this planet who share your views, in fact majority of them.

It's true that the 'War On Terrorism' is ONLY going to bring more death and destruction without acheiving any of it's objectives, it is indeed a metaphor and there is no real war between Terrorism which is an ideology and a people. In this perpetual war, more Innocents will continue to die because of so called 'Collateral Damage'. How can it be called a war when it's creating more terror?

What an irony that majority of Terrorist actions in the world are bred by the actions of two countries, USA and Israel, the former claiming to be waging the 'war on terror' and the latter, supporting it, while they are being backed by some mindless cronies. These countries have Blood on their hands and the Almighty Allah, the Judge of the Judges shall Deal with them, InshaAllah!

If there's anyone in a position to stop this catostrophic juggernaut rolled by USA, it's the American people. Wake up Americans, Wake up! See the unjust policies/actions your government is perpetrating around the world, see how your image is being tarnished around the world by your government, Wake up! and take back America from this group of thugs, insane and immoral, merciless killers. The world is watching you. Only you can teach them a lesson. Stop appeasing the evil nation of Israel and stop acting like it's servant. Wake up and teach them a lesson. Be Just in dealing with the Israel-Palestinian conflict and see how your image improves in the Islamic world and how it brings peace to major parts of the world that are conflict ridden. Gain the prayers of millions of people around the world and see how the Almighty Blesses America. Peace to all!

The writer is absolutely right. The "war" that the "civilized" world is waging and was spearheaded by Mr. Bush is just too difficult and too abstract to define and therefore to justify. When an individual's mind starts to wander into ideations that are farstretched from reality and thinks that these are bigger and more real than what other minds have to say then that person is said to be "not in touch with reality" which, alarmingly, is the main feature of psychotic thinking. The world we live in today is already saturated wth various sorts of social and political ills. Psychoneurotic thinking is definitely not going to help.

Shall we change Mr Bush's'War on Terror' to "War of Terror'?

Bismillahir rahmanir raheem. as salaam alaykum. I am not a psychiatrist so I'll leave that speculation to others. But, there are other reasons for a person's talk to not match his actions or to seem like he is in a different reality and those reasons revolve around simply being a liar. The US administration has had world dominaton on their agenda for a long time now. I believe that the secrecy revolving around this and the lies that must be maintained are what causes these remarks to seem so crazy. On top of that, Bush is too stupid to really carry out the plan intelligently in public and his immature schoolboy attitude has so much ego in it that it is hard for him to not brag in some way. He is proud that he is part of some "in crowd" and doesn't want the rest of us to forget it. I would direct your attention to the news article about the purpose of the invasion of Iraq being one to protect Israel. This is a secret that the administration would rather not let out. So, in the absense of openness and transparency in the US government, the lies they have to perpetrate, and the inability of Bush to squelch his egotistical rantings, he may seem a bit crazy. But he is not, he's just a liar. wa allahu alim.

Cowboys need Indians. When they run out of Indians they decided to invent more targets for their shooting games.

then came the commies, vietkongs, pol pots, russians, khumeini, saddam, obl, and now bush has found the perfect Indian. One that can not be replaced, so the problem is solved. the target is a noun - terrorist - war on a noun, a never ending war. the cowboy's delight. they love guns and are fixiated with WMD. they invented them and proliferated them. they have troops stationed in more than 100 countries and have waged wars more than any empire in history. and all to save the world. it is good v. evil. god v. satan.

it never ends. good for bidniz as bush wud say. good for keeping them arms manufacturers in bidniz and keeping our boys working. its our oil in their land. suv's? cia, fbi, kgb, go shake em up honey, kwik draw mcgrow - shootin from hip r us. no beating around the bush, or is it the shrub?

Cowboys need indians. i no that coz johnny wayne told me so. c ya in kermanshah next fall. kerman what? look it up on your map dude! they speak funny language there. and bty bring em on including those mre meals coz they have no flush loos!

Robert, you hit it right on the head by
introducing the infantile "Manichaen"
approach. In the USA we always hear that the
average adult reads and thinks on a 12 year
old level. But this is the first time we've had an
"average" adult as president of the United
States of America. Our violin-slinging Nero
has little concept of the difference between a
sovereignty and an ideology. Maybe the USA
can go to war against Iraq, Afganistan or
whatever, but democracy cannot go to war with
terrorism because both are endless,
self-propagating ideologies that cannot be
exterminated, regardless which one you might
consider to be the plague. It's like trying to
stop an ocean wave by standing in front of it.
How futile a plan; what a tragic waste of good
will; I hope our children are wiser or we may
very well see "Rome" burn again.


Daniel Pipes would agree with the author that the Bush's decision to call this a "war on terror" is probably not appropriate. The real war that has been declared against the U.S., according to Pipes, is the war that pits my country against Islamic militants. Makes sense, since arguably they are the real enemy of the American people at this time. After all, is it not the militants who propagate the lie that America wants to destroy Islam? Of course this is silly, but there are a lot of people in the Muslim world who have been indoctrinated into the Big Lie.

As an American, I can only hope that the moderates from the Muslim world can lead their brethren into the light. God willing...