"What a loss I shall be to the arts!!"
Such were the last words of Roman Emperor Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus as he lay dying by his own hand nearly two thousand years ago. That a man with a wooden stage presence, tone-deaf vocals, and five thumbs on the lyre could fancy himself to be the greatest artist of his generation gives bitter testimony to the delusions of power. His fantasy was, of course, inflated by swarms of sycophants and opportunists who hovered around his court and eagerly fed his ego.
It was thoughts of this comic tragedy that swirled in my mind as I watched President Bush’s press conference last week. His tortuous logic and fractured thinking made we worry more than ever about the direction of our Republic.
As each previous explanation for our Iraqi invasion disintegrates in mid-air, like clay pigeons at a trap shoot, we are left with nothing but a series of elite delusions to validate the continuing debacle of our occupation.
The first delusion rests with the shop-worn slogan that we are "bringing democracy to Iraq." The issue of whether it is our business to determine the form of government for another nation aside…exactly what do our interventionist elites mean by "democracy"? And why do they think that imposing such a system there is possible?
Our leaders have clearly stated that Islamists will not be welcome in the new "democratic" government of Iraq. The occupation forces have closed down newspapers for the crime of printing "lies." The governing blueprint includes American bases on Iraqi soil indefinitely, US control of their budget, and our continued command of their armed forces.
By what twist of logic could this be called "democracy"?
And why should the Iraqi people agree to it?
And what facts about the history and culture of Iraq make our elites think that this transformation will ever be successful?
The second delusion is that of "multiculturalism." Iraq is not really a country at all, in the organic sense of the word. It is an unstable amalgamation of various rival tribes who were patched together in a typically diabolical act of British imperialism. The only possible way that this chimera can exist in any stable form is via the violence of a despot (such as Saddam Hussein).
A rational exit strategy for Iraq would consist of splitting the country into its Kurdish, Sunni, and Shiite portions and allowing each to decide their own form of government…quickly followed by an American withdrawal.
But our elites worship at the altar of multiculturalism. This commandment demands that Iraq conform to our elite’s vision of America…namely, it must be a "proposition nation" bereft of religion, culture, and nationalist identity.
The Empire will never acquiesce to the partition of Iraq, because such an event would undermine the central tenet of their multicultural religion. And since ideologues always demand that reality conform to the dictates of their belief system, no amount of war, terror, and destitution in Iraq will sway them from this delusional vision.
And besides, what would the failure of multiculturalism in Iraq portend for the future of an America wedded to just such a vision?
Our elite’s psyche would just as soon not go there.
The third delusion of Empire is that of "credibility." Specifically, we are now being told that the initial reasons for our invasion no longer matter, since withdrawal at this point would lead to a loss of America’s credibility.
But just what do our elites mean by this term?
The inhabitants of Washington have come to believe that they are the rightful rulers of the globe. They view America’s responsibility to intervene anywhere and everywhere as axiomatic. This is what they assert by making declarations of "benevolent world hegemony."
But whose credibility is really at stake?
Many Americans openly questioned the pre-war claims of WMDs in Iraq. We derided accusations that Iraq was cooperating with bin Laden. And we doubted the feasibility of creating a functioning democracy there.
If anything, a withdrawal would enhance our credibility.
But in order to make an Imperial system work (if it can ever actually work), our leaders must continually make threats directed at foes in the far reaches of the globe. They must be able to intimidate other peoples and nations into obedience to their agenda. It would otherwise be impractical to have to fight a war every time a controversial issue arose.
Thus, the elite’s definition of "credibility" is really just the ability to bully other nations into submission. Such credibility would be useless to a nation which was dedicated to minding its own business (as the America of our Founders once was). But to a nation grasping for world domination, such credibility is vital.
Looking at the current situation in Iraq, it is clear that our mission there is an abject failure. Our troops are dying by the dozen, our allies are looking for the exit, and no rational plan exists to create a stable government.
The only silver lining in this odious cloud lies in the value of debunking the self-delusions of our rulers. The profound shock of an embarrassing retreat from Iraq just might prompt some of our leaders to reassess their ideology. It might also awaken the American people to the dangerous consequences of passive acquiescence to the excesses of our ruling elite.
But as the death of Nero so succinctly demonstrates, this is not a foregone conclusion. Deeply held, megalomaniacal beliefs often die hard.
Steven LaTulippe [send him mail] is a physician currently practicing in Ohio. He was an officer in the United States Air Force for 13 years.