Friday, January 15, 2010

Why Bush Can't Leave

This is not yet another discussion about whether or not we should have gone into Iraq. (Bad move.) Nor is this a conversation about the tactics employed after the war. (Worse still)
Or about the devastating politi-zation that placed ideology above competence in staffing the provincial government after the war (some would say “moronic”).

It also isn’t about the rhetoric that is being vulgarly brandished about in all corners regarding the "fight for democracy and freedom". Anyone who actually believes that democracy and freedom have anything at all to do with our ongoing involvement in Iraq might as well stop reading now. We’re way to far apart for you to get what I’m saying here.

It would be so easy to talk about the oil, presidential politics, neo-conservative doctrines, the war profiteering, and all that other self-serving blather. But at this stage of the game, none of that is driving Bush, nor will it define his actions from now till the end of his Presidency. And that’s what this article is about.

I disagree with those who suggest Bush isn’t very smart. Okay, maybe he’s not sophisticated, but he’s definitely not shallow. Personally, I think he would be a great guest to have at a backyard barbecue, and I’m pretty damn picky about who I invite to my house. He's plenty smart, but more than that, he is a visionary. And like many visionaries, he is painfully susceptible to the fawning advice given by those around him who will use (and ultimately corrupt) the magic of his vision to promote their own agendas.

In spite of any thing that may cause one to conclude otherwise, President Bush understands, at a painful, soulful and deeply personal level, the disastrous consequences of his actions in launching this war. In that dark and lonely realm of realization, it simply doesn’t matter whether he thought he was right (I believe he did). Nor does it matter that he may have resorted to manipulation or dishonesty in marketing the whole war mythology to the US public and the rest of the world.

At the most intuitive level, Bush believed in the moral and strategic rightness of his actions. He believed it so strongly that he was willing to carve his vision out of stone if need be, no matter the consequences. That kind of determination takes guts and honor. He was not driven by some divine mission of doing God’s work. When George Bush stood on the frontiers of history, he saw a vision of a shining city and he took off.

In many ways, history may well congratulate the president for the boldness and expanse of his vision. And in many others it will castigate him for the same thing. But, contrary to the conventional wisdom, Bush isn’t even thinking about how history will regard him. You see, what ever public comments, justifications or endless spin there are that pollute the airwaves and conversations, the President knows something that no one in his camp is willing to acknowledge. As sure as he knows that he must connect Iraq to terrorism, he knows that he started it all. And the pain of that knowledge is brutal and relentless.

It provides him very little consolation to speak the words that he speaks about why we must stay. As much as he drives the talking points home day after day, he simply cannot escape the fact that he and he alone, opened Pandora’s Box. In the still of the night when the pundits and advisors are silent and the adoring neo-con supporters have gone off to dinner, he must be with himself, and he knows. When he reads about the horrendous suffering of 2,000 people being killed or maimed by pissed-off Sunnis and their bombs in the Northern Iraq Yazidi villages, he knows that this senseless act is a consequence of opening the box, even though it has nothing to do with terrorists or democracy or even the solidarity of the Iraqi Parliament. For all the rhetoric, it's impossible to find any comfort whatsoever in that kind of stupid brutality, no matter how useful it may be in supporting a position. And he knows there will be more.

In the Greek myth, sweet Pandora, who was wise and noble and fatally curious, pressed her ear next to the box and heard the faint voices inside pleading for release. "Help us. Please open the box and let us out, Pandora. We need to be free." In spite of knowing that she shouldn’t do so, she opened the box. The nasty, liberated spirits attacked and mauled her before visiting untold anguish on her innocent husband (who had beseeched her to NOT open the box in the first place). As they flew off in gleeful malice to torment the rest of humanity, Pandora was crushed with the realization that, despite the passionate warnings to leave it alone, she had unleashed the worst evil imaginable on her fellow humans. Despite her innocence and her longing for the world to be a beautiful, peaceful place, she was forever burdened with the yolk of knowing that she had opened that box. There simply is no escaping that burden.

Just as with the ill-fated Pandora, Bush unleashed some horrifically bad energy when he authorized the invasion of Iraq. In spite of pleas and admonishments from so many around him to “not open that box”, he could not suppress his inner self and, with the best of intentions, he opened the box. Centuries of hatred, repression, fear, insult and vengeance erupted, and mankind has been forever changed by the bites and stings of those spiteful forces.

For years now, supporters have rushed to the defense of that decision. But as the debates rage, and America searches for the right answer and the world stands in judgment, the president stands alone, knee deep in the blood and carnage, because he knows that he opened that box and he could have stopped it from happening.

Mu Guiying, the remarkable Woman General of The House of Yang in 947 AD, is quoted as saying:

“Before going to war, the general must be so sure of the rightness of his actions that he is willing to be hated and despised by millions of innocent people for the suffering he will cause them.”

No way was this president prepared for the suffering he would unleash on millions of innocent people. And while a president may be able to justify unleashing a holocaust for a good cause, it is a terrible burden for a man to face. At least it is for a good man, and George Bush is a good man. And the damnable hell of it is that, as he sees corruption, greed and megalomania hijacking his noble vision, he has no certainty that his actions were worthy enough to justify the hatred of millions of people who have suffered because of them. Indeed, evidence to the contrary mounts daily. Making matters worse, in the midst of the death and suffering, all around him greedy, power-hungry people are profiting from the mayhem and couldn’t really care less about his vision. It was just a fortuitous vehicle and he was an unwitting front man. And he has to live with that.

After Pandora realized the consequences of her deed “She cried softly as she sat on the green grass under the pale sun and leaned against the box. Tears stained her beautiful face and she hung her head in shame. For though the creatures had not identified themselves, something in her knew who they were.

There is a final turn to the Greek story, and this is the part that Bush is holding out for. When all “the sprites of disease, hunger, hopelessness, cruelty, and the rest” had fled the box, there remained on last energy - Hope. Here alone rested the only antidote for what had been done. Pandora embraced Hope and knew that she must now spend her days using it to heal the wounds caused by her actions, even till the end of time if that’s what it took. That’s why Bush can’t leave.

To leave now would be to open the box, and then head off to Olympus, safe from the day to day carnage. To leave now would be to turn his back on the desperate, damaged Iraqis who are being ravaged by the unconscionable violence and suffering that has been unleashed. He can’t live with that shame. And so he will do the best he can to bring some level of harmony to the tattered and bloody remains of his vision – a vision that held so much promise, was so noble in its pure self. A vision that has been corrupted and butchered by the same voices that pleaded with him to open the box in the first place, and have now moved on.

One of the things I like about W is his cockiness and his sense of bravado. He is an Alpha Male, and he is unashamed about that. And, for good or bad, he doesn’t quit. Even when it makes theoretical sense to quit, he’s not gonna. Under other circumstances, we Americans would applaud that as a high virtue, as we did right after 9/11. But, now it's different. Still, he won’t quit.

At this point, Bush doesn’t give a flip about his popularity or the neo-cons or the Republican prospects for future political triumphs. He only cares about the damage he has done and he now feels he must do what ever he can, with whatever time he has left, to bring Hope to a hopeless situation. He’ll let the politicians and the strategists duke it out, he’ll say what he needs to say to whoever listens. He’ll risk anger and venom from the citizens of his country, the world, and his party. But he won’t leave.

Because he just can’t.

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