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Ninety-nine Percent Delusional

Reality is what BushCo says it is


The Supreme Court's smackdown of Bush's plans to try terrorist suspects before military tribunals was a needed reminder of something we used to take for granted: the president and his hired help can't just make up their own rules as they go along. The justices' decision no doubt came as a shock to Bush & Co. (henceforth called BushCo), whose modus operandi so far has been to do whatever they damned well please -- wiretap Americans, throw people in jail forever without charges, torture prisoners, decide which parts of legislation the president will obey, turn the US into an international pariah, etc. -- regardless of the law, reality or anything else.

More and more, BushCo's strange and un-American notions of unlimited presidential powers -- along with odd statements that fly in the face of reality, e.g., "We do not torture" -- have led me to believe that these guys aren't merely contemptuous of the Constitution. They seem to, at some point, have stepped over the line into the land of the certifiably delusional.

BushCo's bizarre brand of hallucinatory thinking is nowhere better documented and revealed than in Ron Suskind's new book, The One Percent Doctrine. Suskind, who relied heavily on input from former CIA director George Tenet, tells of the time shortly after 9/11 when Tenet informed Cheney and then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice that a Pakistani group had offered Libya help in building a nuclear bomb. On the spot, Cheney made the kind of "forceful decision" that, in retrospect, seems like a cover-up for a state of panic rather than real leadership.

What Cheney decided was this: If there is a 1 percent chance of a terrible event happening, it must be treated as a certainty, and acted upon. As if that wasn't illogical or reckless enough, Cheney "clarified" the decision by adding, "It's not about our analysis, or finding a preponderance of evidence, it's about our response."

As Suskind points out, this new "doctrine ... divided what had largely been indivisible in the conduct of American foreign policy: analysis and action." The author explains, "Fact-based or not, 'our response' is what matters. As to 'evidence,' the bar was set so low, the word itself almost didn't apply." In other words, foreign action by the US government didn't need to be preceded by, let alone be a reaction to, solid information.

How crazy is this policy? Think of how it would apply in everyday life. Let's say that, come the fall, you think there's a 1 in 100 chance that your neighbor Bill will blow some of his leaves into your yard. Using the Cheney doctrine, whether Bill actually blows leaves into your yard or not is irrelevant -- "it's not about evidence, it's about our response." Therefore, in CheneyWorld, it's perfectly OK for you to sneak into Bill's garden shed and destroy his leaf blower before he has a chance to defile your lawn with his renegade leaves.

Does this sound completely ridiculous? Sure it does. But that's the kind of thinking -- you hate to even call it that -- that became the template for BushCo actions in the so-called war on terror, including the disastrous invasion of Iraq.

Regrettably, this brand of delusional thought has been a hallmark of Bush's presidency. Remember the senior White House advisor who in 2004 said that basing actions on facts was a passé notion clung to by "what we call the reality-based community ... We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality." God help us.

It shouldn't be a surprise that Cheney is the drum major for this march away from reality. As William Greider reports in the July 10 issue of The Nation, a class-action investor lawsuit against Halliburton describes Cheney's CEO tenure there as marked by a series of bold but ruinous decisions that cost the company billions of dollars. Cheney reacted with bold assurances that everything was going great, "hiding the losses and pumping up the stock price." A positively Enron-esque performance -- as was Halliburton's strange bookkeeping adopted under Cheney's leadership that somehow converted unpaid bills into revenue. And like his friends at Enron -- honchos Jeff Skilling and the late Ken Lay -- Cheney cashed out to the tune of tens of millions of dollars before the truth got out and Halliburton's stock tanked. As Greider points out, by the time the bottom dropped out at Halliburton, "Bush/Cheney were rolling out another bold venture -- the invasion of Iraq." Now, of course, Halliburton has risen from the ashes due largely to the gargantuan contracts they've garnered from Cheney's biggest mistake of all.

Just as Ken Lay really believed he was innocent, explaining that "We believe that God is in control and he does work all things for good for those who love the Lord," so do Bush and Cheney really think they're heroes for invading Iraq. But believing something doesn't make it real, even for a president who says he speaks to God.

In a way, the Supreme Court decision on terrorist trials was also a reaffirmation that sanity is a prerequisite for running the executive branch. Now we'll see whether BushCo is up to the challenge.

To contact John Grooms, e-mail him at [email protected].

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