Rational people, acting as individuals or as a group, learn from their mistakes. They gather data, they make decisions, and they take actions. Then they assess the feedback from reality and adjust.
For example, if you rely on a person and learn that he or she has lied to you, then you get rid of that person. If you hire people to do a job and they fail miserably, then you fire them and replace them with more competent people. If your adviser predicts one outcome and the opposite outcome occurs, then you dump your adviser.
All of these things have happened to the Bush administration, and it has acted as if they had not happened. Ahmed Chalabi, convicted bank embezzler and head of the Iraqi National Congress, has practically boasted that he and his group misled the United States in order to manipulate us to get rid of Saddam Hussein. He’s still listened to and is about to be put into power in Iraq.
The CIA, the FBI and the Defense Intelligence Agency all failed to detect signs of the impending attack, which was easy to see was coming. Even I predicted a terrorist attack inside the United States in a column in August 2001. I had no idea what kind of attack or when it would happen, but only a fool would imagine that we could meddle in Middle Eastern affairs and remain immune from blowback.
Well, I hope you share the president’s faith. The same people who failed to protect us in September 2001 are still where they were. So is Paul Wolfowitz, the architect of the Iraq War, who said we would be greeted with flowers and dancing in the streets. Bush ought to put him in charge of Iraq. He deserves to live in Baghdad for the rest of his life.
Another failure to learn from is the arrest warrant issued for cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. In Palestine, Yasser Arafat’s popularity could be in the subbasement, but as soon as the Israelis threaten him with exile or assassination, what happens? The Palestinians rally to his side. You don’t need a degree in Middle Eastern studies to figure out that the way to make Muqtada al-Sadr a national hero is to threaten him with arrest or death, which the Bush administration has done. It’s that old rule of human nature. A guy might be an SOB, but he’s our SOB, and don’t you outsiders mess with him. Somebody should slip Bush a note and remind him that in Iraq, we are the outsiders.
Normally, when an individual disregards feedback from reality and keeps repeating the same actions that produce bad outcomes, he’s pronounced insane. In the case of the Bush administration, its behavior just tells us that it is driven by ideology rather than by reality.
An ideologue shares a lot of traits with the insane. His ideology provides him with all the answers to all the questions. When reality throws up facts that don’t jibe with the ideology, he ignores reality and sticks with his ideology.
That’s the basic problem with the Bush administration. Its members have all the answers, and reality be damned. No matter what happens on the ground in Iraq, they proceed with their belief that a people who have never known democracy nevertheless hunger for it and love us for giving them the chance to experience it. If the atrocity in Fallujah is an example of Iraqi love, it’s pretty darn tough love.
Ideologues are dangerous, whether their ideology is the neoconservative variety, Zionism, communism or Islamic extremism. Their minds all work the same way: We know the answers; don’t try to confuse us with facts. I am deeply grieved about every young American who is killed or maimed in Iraq. Their sacrifice is for a lunatic idea and nothing else.