George W. Bush: Neocon Napoleon

George W. Bush wants to “change the world”: he said so a few dozen times the other night in his Q&A with reporters. That was his ultimate answer to everything. When confronted at his recent press conference with the embarrassing paucity, in retrospect, of the case for war – the complete absence of WMD in Iraq, of links to Al Qaeda, of any sense that the Iraqis consider us their “liberators” – the President had a ready answer:

“A secure and free Iraq is an historic opportunity to change the world and make America more secure.”

Uh, yes, Mr. President, but what about rising sentiment against the war?

“And as to whether or not I make decisions based upon polls, I don’t. I just don’t make decisions that way. I fully understand the consequences of what we’re doing. We’re changing the world….”

Yes, but, with all due respect, Mr. President – where’s the beef? What happened to all those “weapons of mass destruction” that supposedly threatened not only Iraq’s neighbors, but also the continental United States?

“And, of course, I want to know why we haven’t found a weapon yet. But I still know Saddam Hussein was a threat, and the world is better off without Saddam Hussein. I don’t think anybody can – maybe people can argue that. I know the Iraqi people don’t believe that, that they’re better off with Saddam Hussein – would be better off with Saddam Hussein in power. I also know that there’s an historic opportunity here to change the world….”

But what about the rising rebellion in Iraq against the occupation – and not only from neo-Ba’athists but also Shi’ites, who were initially not our enemies, or at least were willing to give us the benefit of a doubt, and have now turned decisively against us? And our allies aren’t exactly enthusiastic: in terms of troops on the ground, the “coalition” is mostly American. Shouldn’t we get out while the going is good?

“That’s what they want to do – they want us to leave. And we’re not going to leave. We’re going to do the job. And a free Iraq is going to be a major blow for terrorism. It will change the world.”

The President stumbled through most of the Q&A, but there was one point where he waxed passionate, and became momentarily articulate, as if possessed by some neocon demon speaking through presidential lips:

“One of the interesting things people ask me, now that we’re asking questions, is, can you ever win the war on terror? Of course, you can. That’s why it’s important for us to spread freedom throughout the Middle East….

“That’s why I’m pressing the Greater Middle East Reform Initiative, to work to spread freedom. And we will continue on that. So long as I’m the President, I will press for freedom. I believe so strongly in the power of freedom.”

This is the only moment in the whole painful event when the President didn’t look as if he were undergoing the tortures of Hell. His voice ringing with certainty, he actually seemed to be enjoying himself:

“You know why I do? Because I’ve seen freedom work right here in our own country. I also have this belief, strong belief, that freedom is not this country’s gift to the world; freedom is the Almighty’s gift to every man and woman in this world. And as the greatest power on the face of the Earth, we have an obligation to help the spread of freedom.”

He piously likened the spread of American power to the Christian obligation to feed the hungry, somehow forgetting those other commandments – something about not killing people, I believe. In any case, Bush’s manner was smoothly messianic as he pointed out to the assembled press corps that just as “we have an obligation to lead the fight on AIDS, in Africa,” so we also:

“Have an obligation to work toward a more free world. That’s our obligation. That is what we have been called to do, as far as I’m concerned. And my job as the President is to lead this nation into making the world a better place. And that’s exactly what we’re doing. Weeks such as we’ve had in Iraq make some doubt whether or not we’re making progress. I understand that. It was a tough, tough period. But we are making progress.”

In this moment of spontaneity, unscripted by Karl Rove and completely unfiltered, Bush revealed the madness at the heart of his presidency, the corruption that eats away at the White House and infuses Washington, the Imperial City, like a dense hallucinogenic fog. He really does think his job is “to lead this nation into making the world a better place.” Not defending the nation, not protecting our security, not getting out of the way of prosperity, but “changing the world.”

Hey, bud, how about making America a better place?

Bush tries to argue that our own security is assured if only we’ll fight endless wars overseas, but this is hardly convincing when anti-Americanism is on the rise worldwide. It is especially egregious as we watch “liberated” Iraqis put aside their ethnic and religious divisions – grudges that date back thousands of years, in some cases – in order to unite against a common enemy: the hated Americans.

But none of this phases our chief executive and Commander-in-Chief, who clearly fancies himself President, not merely of these United States, but of the World.

The radicalism of this administration is frightening to behold, and never more so than manifested, the other night, in the person of the man who stands at its head. George W. Bush morphed into Norman Podhoretz in a cowboy hat: stubborn, bellicose, grandiose, and inflexible. He clearly sees himself as an American Napoleon, destined to lead America to its enthronement as global hegemon.

Of course, there are plenty of would-be Napoleons out there, locked safely away in mental institutions, or else they have medicated their delusions into quiescence. But in the case of the President of the United States there isn’t a whole lot we can do. Except, perhaps, have him declared incapacitated – but that would amount to jumping into the fire straight out of the frying pan. President Cheney would make Bush II look like Bush I.

In contemplating the actions of this administration, I am struck by something Richard Clarke said about the Iraq war in his eye-opening book:

“It was as if Usama bin Laden, hidden in some high mountain redoubt, were engaging in long-range mind control of George Bush, chanting ‘Invade Iraq, you must invade Iraq.'”

How else do we explain the President’s endorsement of Israel’s annexation of lands on the West Bank? Bin Laden himself couldn’t have created a more favorable environment for terrorist recruitment. It must be mind control: that would explain the clueless glaze that clouds his eyes and furrows the presidential brow with a look of perpetual perplexity.

Yeah, but who’s doing the controlling? That’s what I want to know….

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].