Bush’s ‘Great Leap Forward’

There is no real need for a line-by-line analysis of the speech delivered yesterday by the Trotskyite-in-chief: a succinct summary will suffice. The president’s response to the polls, which show overwhelming opposition to the Iraq war, is: screw you. To those Republican members of Congress who rightly fear for their seats as election day approaches, a similar message of disdain has been delivered. It’s “victory or death” – the death of the GOP, that is, which is likely to lose control of the Senate, or the House of Representatives, and quite possibly both. In this, our president resembles those suicide bombers who are wreaking havoc in Iraq: he is willing to go down in flames, supremely indifferent that innocents are consumed in the resulting conflagration.

Such fanaticism masquerades as “idealism,” but is in reality a mental affliction, a kind of madness akin to megalomania in which the victim believes himself to be endowed with god-like powers. As Seymour Hersh and others relate, the president lives in a fog of “religious idealism”: his apparent belief in his own near-supernatural abilities would seem to exempt him from the laws of God and man, and endow him with a mission that must be finished no matter what. The problem is that there is no end in sight, as the very sharp Karen Kwiatkowski put it recently:

“This is, in fact, unfinishable. It is unfinishable in the sense that the objective never included a U.S. military withdrawal. It is unfinishable because it was never intended to liberate Iraqis, or to ensure their self-determination. It is unfinishable because ‘success’ requires the ongoing maintenance of regional lines of communication and a large number of massive military bases in Mesopotamia. It is unfinishable because the invasion was conducted precisely to facilitate and create new operational missions against Syria, Saudi Arabia, and later Iran and Pakistan.”

Bush and his fan club believe history will absolve him. More than a few bystanders may suffer in the process, but 20 or 30 years from now he’ll be hailed as a far-seeing leader who resisted the naysayers and pulled off a stunning success – a success only visible in hindsight. His is a greatness for the ages!

As a senior White House aide once confided to writer Ron Suskind:

The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'”

It is futile to argue with this administration, to debate the terms of our engagement in the Middle East – or anywhere else, for that matter. Every attempt to remind them of the facts of reality runs up against a wall of indifference to the truth: these people believe they can create their own truth, by sheer coercion. The interaction of neoconservative intellectuals and administration policymakers is, in this instance, a perfect illustration of the co-dependence of what Ayn Rand called “Attila and the Witch Doctor.” As Attila moves in for the kill, the Witch Doctor rationalizes the carnage – without referring to facts, but to nebulous aims, goals, and words, words, words.

To such people, words have a mystical – even magical – significance. In the mind of an ideologue, words have the power to transform reality, to defy the laws of nature and overcome all earthly powers. Are we losing the war? Well, then, let us have more words – a presidential speech, preferably delivered before an audience of adoring Praetorians, is enough to turn the tide.

Are the insurgents gaining popular support, to the point where even the elected Iraqi government our soldiers are dying to protect has declared that Iraqis have the “right of resistance“? Well, then, the answer is to re-name them “rejectionists,” denounce them as “terrorists,” and insist that we will henceforth describe them as “enemies of the legitimate Iraqi government” instead of insurgents. As Arianna Huffington wittily put it, it’s “victory through vocabulary.” This sums up not only Bush’s “victory plan” but also the radical subjectivist mindset of the War Party.

This is the essence of Bushevism – the same radical subjectivism that worships “revolutionary will” and led Mao to decree the creation of backyard steel furnaces during China’s “Great Leap Forward.” No steel was produced by those Maoist mini-foundries, however: instead of going forward, China slid back into a state of economic and political chaos.

As the disaster unfolded, the Maoist high command – Mao and the “Gang of Four,” including his wife, Chiang Ch’ing – ignored the consequences as best they could, and, through their control of the massive machinery of propaganda, managed to hold on to power, all the while painting a rosy portrait of China embarked on the road to a communist paradise.

It wasn’t until the crisis reached its height, and the Chinese state apparatus started to come apart at the seams, that Mao relented and reined in the Gang – albeit not until they had inflicted much damage. It took China decades to recover from the traumatic “Cultural Revolution” inaugurated by Madame Mao and her clique.

The “Great Leap Forward” being attempted by this administration is the democratization of the entire Middle East, a goal explicitly referred to in the recently-published “Victory Plan.” This document, which is nothing more than a glorified PowerPoint presentation, constantly invokes the need to inspire and otherwise assist a wave of “reform” supposedly sweeping through the region. It doesn’t matter that this wave is an upsurge of enraged nationalism and religious fanaticism, inspired by opposition to the invasion of Iraq: those aren’t Egyptian Jeffersonians who are being elevated to power and prominence by that nation’s recent elections, but members of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that combines Islamist fanaticism with a hatred of all things Western. The neoconservatives, who have been running our foreign policy since 9/11, believe in deception as a matter of policy, especially self-deception, a practice they have elevated to a high art.

The War Party, backed into a corner, is snarling its defiance at the American people: far from pulling back, they are barreling full speed ahead with their messianic mission. Led by a president who believes God has chosen him to carry out His divine will, we are headed to Syria, to Iran, and perhaps a lot further afield than that. Confronted with an increasingly assertive Congress, the strategy is to reframe the debate in terms of supporting the troops or failing to do so. This president is daring Congress to cut off the funds that make this war possible – and counting on their cowardly refusal to do so.

The gathering antiwar opposition, led by Rep. Jack Murtha – and, in the GOP, by Walter B. Jones and Ron Paul – is calling on George W. Bush to establish a timetable for withdrawal. Yet the president has made clear he’s having none of it, and the ball is back in the congressional court. Congress must set the timetable, and declare: after six months, we’ll cut off your funding.

A war is like any other government program, except that its destructive effects are immediately and dramatically apparent: once started, they are almost impossible to end, because so many powerful groups in society are benefiting. With the advent of the American empire, a new wing of the ruling elite – the colonial class – has emerged full-grown like Athena from the head of Zeus. Since they are almost exclusively native to Washington, D.C., and environs, they are extremely well-placed to lobby for the continuation of an imperialist foreign policy. The colonial class is made up of administrators, policy wonks, publicists, and party hacks – such as the Lincoln Group, which, as the Los Angeles Times reported, is funneling “news” stories to Iraqi newspapers on behalf of the U.S. government, planting items to give a good “spin” to the occupation.

Too clever by half, these geniuses have come up with a novel method of implanting an pro-American regime in hostile soil: push anti-Americanism for all it’s worth. This is done indirectly, in the first place, by bombing civilians – in what Seymour Hersh calls the great unreported story of this war, bombing raids are causing massive civilian casualties and creating enemies out of the people we pledged to “liberate.” When we aren’t bombing them, we’re using Iraqi civilians for target practice – and videotaping ourselves doing it. And as the tide of anti-Americanism reaches tsunami proportions, we’ve put the scribes of the Lincoln Group to work invoking it explicitly in the Iraq media, as the New York Times reports:

“Titled ‘The Sands Are Blowing Toward a Democratic Iraq,’ an article written this week for publication in the Iraqi press was scornful of outsiders’ pessimism about the country’s future. ‘Western press and frequently those self-styled “objective” observers of Iraq are often critics of how we, the people of Iraq, are proceeding down the path in determining what is best for our nation,’ the article began.”

Those evil Americans, you know how they are: so arrogant and self-centered that they don’t understand how Iraq’s death squads are really instruments of “democratic” righteousness. They fail to see that Ahmed Chalabi, instead of being a scoundrel, is a hero, the Iraqi version of George Washington. After all, he fooled the Americans, didn’t he? Why, those clueless peaceniks – why don’t we go out and kidnap a bunch of them?

To be fair, much of the outrage we hear over this manufactured “news” operation in Iraq is feigned. After all, the same methods were used by the Clinton administration during the Kosovo war: remember those “psy-ops” guys who were taken on at CNN? We didn’t hear much of anyone protesting when that operation was exposed. The Rendon Group conducted an “information war” in cyberspace, setting up a “Balkan Information Exchange” Web site to get out the Clintonian pro-war message. This is the same Rendon Group, by the way, that virtually created the Iraqi National Congress and that sold Chalabi as our exile leader of choice. However, unlike my distinguished “libertarian” colleagues over at the Cato Institute, I’ll take my outrage, real or feigned, where I can get it. Timothy Lynch, director of Cato’s Project on Criminal Justice, observes that Clinton, too, lied us into war – in Bosnia, he says, although it was Kosovo. Lynch demands an end to this double-standard, and avers that if an investigation into prewar intelligence is going to be conducted in the case of Iraq, then we must do the same with our Balkan misadventure. Barring that, he says,

“Congress ought to establish some neutral criteria for prewar representations regarding future conflicts, criteria that can lay down markers for all presidents in all circumstances. Does an impeachment proceeding for deception depend upon which political party controls the White House? Does honesty and candor about war depend upon the particular war aims of the president? Does impeachment for deceit depend upon how well the war is going? Or is candor on such a fundamental matter simply indispensable to the proper functioning of a constitutional republic in all circumstances? Let’s put some neutral criteria to a vote so that we can get some of these opportunistic and hypocritical politicians on the record.”

Lynch, in short, wants to regulate how and under what circumstances our government can lie to us. We need “neutral criteria” to tell us when to impeach a public official for misrepresenting facts before we rashly condemn them – after all, government officials have feelings, too! Besides that, this president is forging ahead with his bold plan to “transform” the Middle East – not just mucking about in the Balkans, as Clinton did. Yes, Clinton got away without incurring a single American casualty, although hundreds of Yugoslavs were killed in the bombing raids, but do we really want to hold our commander-in-chief to that standard – do idealistic motives count for nothing? Finally, candor is not always the bedrock of good statecraft, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt showed. That this is Lynch’s view is implied when he brings up the example of how an American president lied us into World War II “for our own good,” citing Professor Thomas Bailey of Stanford University:

“‘Because the masses are notoriously shortsighted and generally cannot see danger until it is at their throats, our statesmen are forced to deceive them into an awareness of their own long term interests,’ writes Mr. Bailey. Presidents must therefore act like physicians, who must sometimes tell lies ‘for the patient’s own good.'”

Lynch doesn’t dare come right out and say he agrees with Professor Bailey, but the implication is clear:

“Can you imagine the uproar if Messrs. Bush and Cheney responded to the recent Democratic attacks by saying, ‘Yes, we did lie about Iraq, but it was for the good of the country’? Sen. Ted Kennedy would doubtless call for impeachment proceedings.”

Well, then, why shouldn’t he? In Lynch’s view, such a call for impeachment would be misguided: after all, would Sen. Kennedy call for impeaching the great Roosevelt?

This is how to tell that someone is a neocon, the genuine article and not a cheap imitation: for them, it is always 1938. Roosevelt, Pearl Harbor, and Hitler – always Hitler, looming just beyond the horizon. Candor, in the neocon view, is not only quite dispensable, it is impossible to express: all that they can really be honest about is their program, which is about creating reality rather than responding to it.

“Neutral criteria” my ass – the neocons just want the public to shut up and Congress to mind its place as a subordinate extension of the Imperial Presidency. That the formerly libertarian Cato Institute is reduced to this – invoking the shade of That Man in the White House to head off a congressional investigation and popular outrage over a costly and ill-conceived war – marks their final degeneration into a grotesque mutant species of regime “libertarians.” As Charles V. Pena, former director of defense policy studies at the Cato Institute, put it in an article for the Beirut Daily Star:

“The right, or conservative, side of the policy marketplace spectrum essentially espouses the now familiar Bush administration talking points, first for going to war against Iraq and then for spreading democracy. Conservative – even libertarian – organizations have signed on to a Republican version of Wilsonianism, at least in Iraq if not in the rest of the Middle East and the world. Seeking coveted access to the White House, they allow themselves to believe that they are influencing administration thinking. The reality is just the opposite: it is the administration that is shaping think-tank policy. As a result, the institutions are becoming cheerleaders and losing one of their most important qualities in the process: independence, which in turn erodes their credibility.”

No wonder Cato hasn’t published anything of consequence on the Iraq war since January: they don’t want their grassroots base among authentic libertarians to know that they’ve become shills for the War Party, just yet. After all, sometimes people have to be lied to “for their own good” – you know, like that great libertarian, Franklin Roosevelt.


Cato was founded by the man who inspired this Web site: Murray N. Rothbard, the libertarian economist and philosopher, whose works provide the ideological inspiration for this writer as well as the editorial staff of Antiwar.com. That the institute he originated, and named, in a series of strategy memos written in the 1970s, has now become one of the major ideological props of the Washington War Party is obscene, a breathtaking betrayal that needs to be noted and deplored by real libertarians everywhere.

If you’ve ever given Cato a dime, you’ve been ripped off, my friend. If you ever had confidence in them – and I did, at one time – you’ve been let down, bigtime. These guys are going around claiming to be “libertarians” – and they’re putting out swill like Lynch’s apologia for a regime of liars and war criminals. If you’re a libertarian, surely that pisses you off. Why not let them know how you feel? You can contact their media relations department by e-mailing: jdettmer@cato.org

Or just give them a call (be polite!): (2) 842-0200.

Oh, and be sure to tell them Justin Raimondo sent you…

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of Antiwar.com, 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].