The Bushite regime shows a pattern common to evil rulers: that they destroy what they claim to love– Part I
The Bushite record
It is only recently that I’ve noticed that this Bushite regime displays a pattern I’ve seen before in other evil regimes.
The first piece of the picture I noticed wasn’t enough to remind me of the pattern. It was almost two years ago that I wrote a piece called “How Bush Has Played into Our Enemies’ Hands.” After going through a series of points to show how misguided a way of waging the war on terror the Bush war-of-choice in Iraq was, I concluded the piece with the statement: “So it seems that just as al-Qaeda used our own planes to destroy the World Trade Center, so also has it been able to use our own leadership —with its command of the world’s most mighty military force, but also with its ideological blinders, its arrogance, its failure to grasp the nature of this war as well as our enemies do—to transform the world in ways that damage our interests.”
And so it is, still more clearly today, that this group that seized the helm of American power with the declared aim of enhancing “national greatness” has achieved just the opposite. Far from increasing American “greatness,” it seems clear that they will leave the American stature in the world greatly diminished.
And so also –despite all its rhetoric about its compassion and responsibility and taking care of the business of the American people– we see that this regime is undermining the foundations of our society at home. One of America’s special cities is in ruins, in large measure because of this administration’s indifference and incompetence. And then there’s the current TIME magazine cover story on how the collusion of corporate and government powers has led to the plunder of pension programs, leaving millions of Americans facing penurious “golden years.” And this list could be multiplied.
While it is too soon to say that conservatism –that ideological system and set of values so proudly acclaimed by these rulers– will also be left in shambles, it seems entirely possible. The “tax and spend” liberals will look so much more responsible than the “tax-cut and spend wantonly” conservatives, who have the distinction of being the only American government to wage war and cut taxes (for the very rich) at the same time, and who seem never to have met a pork measure (like $200 billion bridges to nowhere) they didn’t like. Then there’s the coming round of perp walks, which will dramatize so vividly the lawlessness, the unscrupulousness, and the corruption of this group of leaders –leaders whom American conservatives so fervently embraced as God’s anointed. How quickly can a movement –or an ideology–recover from such a display of say-one-thing and do-another?
And then there’s the matter of the American economy. I don’t generally pretend to know more than the markets do, having learned my humility on such matters, over the years, the hard way. But with all this red ink in the federal budget, with our utter dependency on foreign governments buying up our debt, with massive imbalances in our balance of trade, and with the engine of growth having relied so profoundly on Americans spending away a “wealth effect” from increased home-prices granted them by what looks to many like a market bubble that can deflate as powerfully as it inflated– well, I’ll just say that I have moved my own nest-egg out of American equities. This outfit might well do to the American economic colossus what they’ve already managed to do to our “national greatness.”
It is surely too soon to deliver the eulogy –or malogy– for these rulers. Far from dead and buried, they remain the most powerful people on earth. But it is not too soon to discern the pattern: that these rulers have been destroying, or undermining, the very things they most loudly proclaim they love.
Where have I seen this before?
Years ago, when I was writing my book Out of Weakness: Healing the Wounds That Drive Us To War, I spent a good deal of time studying the likes of Hitler and Stalin– people who, I thought, might offer clues about the roots and dynamics of the destructiveness that had made the twentieth century so bloody.
In terms of destructive passion, these Bushites may not be in their league. But it seems that the forces of evil show similar dynamics, wherever they manifest themselves.
Hitler was of course an extreme German nationalist–Master Race, and all that. “National greatness” was a concept he could relate to without difficulty. Listening to his speeches, who could doubt his love for the German people and the German nation. Yet, while his war-of-choice was coming to its concluding chapter with Allied forces coming at him from the west and Soviet forces closing fast from the east, Hitler gave to his main man, Albert Speer, an order most peculiar coming from a supposed lover of Germany. After having brought down upon his nation such terrible destruction, after having initiated a war that had left millions of German soldiers dead on the battlefields of Europe and north Africa, Hitler told Speer to unleash a campaign of demolition that would leave no stone on top of another in Germany– the virtual annihilation of Germany.
Stalin, meanwhile, presented himself as the “father of the Russians”– cultivating an image of benevolence, and dedication to “the people.” Russia has had, of course, a terrible history. (Ivan was not the only Terrible.) But in all of the tragic history of the Russian people no one has killed so many Russians as Stalin did. Interestingly, Stalin was not a Russian, but rather a Georgian– i.e. a member of a nationality whose rage at the Russians for generations of domination and persecution was part of the young Stalin’s heritage.
When evil rulers declare their love for something, history seems to suggest, that “something” is in profound peril.
What’s the meaning of this perverse pattern?
So why is that a certain set of rulers are marked by this pattern– a pattern in which, on the one hand, they proclaim most emphatically their deep valuing of certain things, and then, on the other hand, they bring about the destruction of those same things?
Is it to be understood simply in terms of a general destructiveness?
Is it about the over-reaching of overweening ambition?
Is it some kind of poetic justice?
In some ways, it is all of these. But there is another level to the answer, one that illuminates all these other “explanations,” but that goes to the heart of the nature of evil– and how the wounding of human beings makes them effective channels for the entry of destructive forces into the world.
In the second part of this essay –to appear here soon– I will attempt to present that deeper answer.