The longer the Bush Administration is in office, the clearer it becomes that it has a disordered relationship not just with one aspect of the world or another, such as the war in Iraq or the budget deficit, but with something like the factual world per se. Perhaps the best example is the recent decision to deploy five rockets in silos in Alaska as the first stage of a national missile defense. The problem is that strictly speaking, there is no such thing as NMD. That is, no functioning NMD has yet been invented or tested. Even the chief weapon evaluator in Bush’s Pentagon says that at best the missiles have “20 percent” functionality. A previous Pentagon evaluator, Philip Coyle, now at the Center for Defense Information, goes further, saying their capacity is “nil,” and calling the system “a scarecrow.” Gen. Eugene Habiger, a former chief of the US Strategic Command, states flatly, “A system is being deployed that doesn’t have any credible capability.” And yet George W. Bush has announced to the world, “We say to those tyrants who believe they can blackmail America…you fire, we’re going to shoot it down.”
“That is incorrect,” Coyle has commented.
Misrepresentation of programs, including weapon systems, is an old story. But the installation of a system of proven unworthiness is something new. It requires not just denial–a passive operation–but an active insurgency against facts and the scientific laws that guide them, in a sort of a pre-emptive strike against reality itself.
The disorder appears in many forms. Programs announced for one purpose accomplish the opposite. The Clear Skies program dirties them. The Healthy Forests Initiative clear-cuts forests. The No Child Left Behind program, unfunded, leaves millions of children behind. Social Security “reform” defunds Social Security.
Bad news delivered by the Administration’s own experts prompts attacks upon them and burial of their reports. When Medicare’s chief cost analyst, Richard Foster, charged with computing the price of the President’s drug-benefit legislation, tried to communicate his findings to Congress, he was threatened with retaliation. When the head of the Army, Gen. Eric Shinseki, informed Congress that several hundred thousand troops would be needed to occupy Iraq, his estimate was derided, and he was pushed aside. When the President’s Assistant for Economic Affairs, Lawrence Lindsey, estimated that the Iraq war might cost $200 billion, he was fired.
Even within the Administration’s inner councils, show has superseded substance. In The Price of Loyalty, by Ron Suskind, former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill has written that Cabinet meetings were not true places of decision-making, which was performed instead by an informal “praetorian guard” led by the Vice President.
Each of the lists of examples of each of these symptoms of disorder could be lengthened greatly. We are left with a portrait of a “government” whose principal activity is no longer governance but the creation and manipulation of images for political appearances. All concrete purposes, including the “war on terror,” are subordinate to these ends.
And yet this same Administration is the one that has laid claim, more categorically than any in American history, to direct, often by force of arms, the affairs of the planet. Even as it has increasingly lost its grip on the world cognitively, it has reached out to grab it physically, asserting permanent military hegemony over the earth and claiming the sole validity of the American system, which it calls the “single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy and free enterprise.”