Friday, March 27, 2009

Hysterica Passio

First published in The Moscow Times on October 22, 2004.

Now we come at last to the heart of darkness. Now we know, from their own words, that the Bush Regime is a cult — a cult whose god is Power, whose adherents believe that they alone control reality, that indeed they create the world anew with each act of their iron will. And the goal of this will — undergirded by the cult’s supreme virtues of war, fury and blind faith — is likewise openly declared: "Empire." You think this is an exaggeration? Then heed the words of the White House itself: a "senior adviser" to the president, who, as The New York Times reports, explained the cult to author Ron Suskind in the heady pre-war days of 2002.

First, the top Bush insider mocked the journalist and all those "in what we call the reality-based community," i.e., people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." Suskind’s attempt to defend the principles of reason and enlightenment cut no ice with the Bush-man. "That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality," he said. "And while you’re studying that reality, 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."

Anyone with any knowledge of 20th-century history will know that this same megalomaniacal outburst could have been made by a "senior adviser" to Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini or Mao. Indeed, as scholar Juan Cole points out, the dogma of the Bush Cult is identical with the "reality-creating" declaration of Mao’s "Little Red Book": "It is possible to accomplish any task whatsoever." For Bush, as for Mao, "discernible reality" has no meaning: Political, cultural, economic, scientific truth — even the fundamental processes of nature, even human nature itself — must give way to the faith-statements of ideology, ruthlessly applied by unbending zealots.

Thus: The conquered will welcome their killers. The poor will be happy to slave for the rich. The Earth can sustain any amount of damage without lasting harm. The loss of rights is essential to liberty. War without end is the only way to peace. Cronyism is the path to universal prosperity. Dissent is evil; dissenters are "with the terrorists." But God is with the Leader; whatever he does is righteous, even if in the eyes of unbelievers — the "reality-based community" — his acts are criminal: aggressive war that kills thousands of innocent people, widespread torture, secret assassinations, rampant corruption, electoral subversion.

Indeed, the doctrine "Gott mit Uns" is the linchpin of the Bush Cult. Tens of millions of Americans have now embraced the Cult’s fusion of Bush’s leadership with Divine Will. As a Bush volunteer in Missouri told Suskind: "I just believe God controls everything, and God uses the president to keep evil down ... God gave us this president to be the man to protect the nation at this time." God appointed Bush; thus Bush’s acts are godly. It’s a circular, self-confirming mind-set that can’t be penetrated by reason or facts, can’t be shaken by crimes and scandals. That’s why Bush’s core support — comprising almost half of the electorate — stays rock-solid, despite the manifest failures of his administration. It’s based on blind faith, on poisonous fantasy: simple, flattering ("We’re uniquely good, God’s special nation!"), comforting, complete — so unlike the harsh, bewildering, splintered shards of reality.

This closed mind-set is constantly reinforced by the ubiquitous right-wing media — evoking the threat of demonic enemies on every side, relentlessly manufacturing righteous outrage — and by Bush’s appearances (epiphanies?) at his carefully screened rallies, where even the slightest hint of demurral from his Godly greatness is ruthlessly expunged. For example, three schoolteachers were ejected from a Bush rally under threat of arrest last week. Not for protesting — they hadn’t said a word — but merely for wearing T-shirts that read, "Protect Our Civil Liberties." Thus the faithful "create the new reality" of undivided loyalty to the Leader.

The dogma of Bush’s godliness is no rhetorical flourish; it has been forged with blood and iron. Consider General Jerry Boykin, who, in uniform, toured churches across the United States, declaring openly that "George W. Bush was not elected by the majority of the American people; he was appointed by God" to lead his "Christian nation" against Satan and the "idol-worshippers" of Islam, as reports. Bush then made Boykin the Pentagon’s chief of military intelligence — the point man for wringing information out of Islamic captives in the "war on terror." The result — confirmed even by the Pentagon’s own anemic investigations — was a military intelligence system gone berserk, systematically torturing and occasionally murdering prisoners who, as the Red Cross notes, were overwhelmingly innocent of any crime. Bush signed orders removing these prisoners from the protection of U.S. and international law; Boykin’s boys then visited divine wrath upon the heathens. But these atrocities cannot be crimes, because Bush and Boykin are, in the general’s phraseology, "Kingdom warriors" in the "Army of God."

This isn’t politics as usual — not even an extreme version of it, not McCarthyism revisited, Reaganism times two, or Nixon in a Stetson hat. There’s never been anything like it in American life before: a messianic cult backed by vast corporate power, a massive cadre of religious zealots, a highly disciplined party, an overwhelming media machine and the mammoth force of history’s most powerful government — all led by men who "create new realities" out of lies, blood, theft and torment.

Their "empire" — their Death-Cult, their power-mania — is an old madness rising again.