Cult Figure: Mad Dog Time in America

Your correspondent is still on the road. So below is another revenant offered for your diversion. This piece was published by the Moscow Times in the heady days just before the Bush Machine stole its second presidential election in 2004, and was based on Ron Suskind's revelatory article about the Bushists' scorn for the "reality-based community" and their open embrace of empire. Again, the revelance of this glimpse behind the scenes at the maniacal, messianical fervor that drives the Regime is still all too relevent, as Glenn Greenwald and John Gray have recently pointed out. Greenwald's point on the relevance of this mindset to the looming war with Iran is particularly apt:

Everything we do in the Middle East has religious and theological overtones. Whatever else is true, we are sending a largely Christian army into Muslim land to wage war against devotees of Islam. Many of the President's evangelical supporters are explicitly supportive of this militarism because of a generalized belief in the need to wage religious war (the Gen. Boykin view) or the specific doctrinal belief in the need to re-make the Middle East in preparation for apocalyptic events. That applies not only to Iraq, but to Iran and the broader Middle East.

This is something Establishment Washington and the media simply refuses to digest... Instead, these Wise Elite Opinion-makers continue to believe -- long after any rational person could -- that Bush is susceptible to Washington Wise Man persuasion, or to political pressure, or to the constraints of resources. That simply is not how Bush works. He believes he is supported by a much higher authority and as long as he acts in accordance with that, nothing can or should stop him.

That is why -- even in the aftermath of a shattering midterm election defeat for his party and the wrist-slapping of the Wise, Bipartisan Consensus Baker-Hamilton Report -- Bush not only stayed in Iraq but announced we would escalate. And nothing stopped him. He could not have cared any less about those standard Washington influences or even the limits of reality.

And if Bush believes -- as he almost certainly does -- that a military confrontation with Iran is necessary, nothing will stop him there either, no matter how many solemn David Broder columns and Fred Hiatt editorials or public opinion polls oppose it.

Heart of Darkness: The Bush Cult and American Madness (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? A typical bout of "liberal paranoia"? 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 in the all-devouring Great Leap Forward, "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 reality-twisting assertions of Bush's ideologues: 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. Corruption and cronyism lead 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, imprisonment without charges or trial, 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 mindset 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, we're God's special nation!"), comforting, complete – so unlike the harsh, bewildering, splintered shards of real life.

This closed mindset is constantly reinforced by the ubiquitous rightwing media – evoking the threat of demonic enemies on every side, relentlessly manufacturing righteous outrage with distortion and deceit – 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. And it's clear that the very idea of "civil liberties" is now a dangerous blasphemy in the divinvely-sanctioned Empire.

The dogma of Bush's godliness is no mere rhetorical flourish; it's being forged with blood and iron. Consider General Jerry Boykin, who, in uniform, toured churches across America, 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 Salon.com 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 own 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 come again, an old heresy in new form, another outbreak of the fever, the deep soul-sickness that devoured so many nations in the last century. Now it's come to America. After decades of sliding toward the abyss – blithely, blindly, drunk with corruption, letting democracy and justice wither on the vine – now we are here at last, in the heart of darkness.
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