Iraq’s False Promises

If you want to understand why the Bush administration invaded Iraq, read Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, not the National Security Strategy of the United States. Only the twisted logic of dreams can explain why the United States thinks that the aggressive pursuit of contradictory goals — promoting democracy, affirming U.S. hegemony, and ensuring stable energy supplies — will produce success. To illustrate the weird logic of dreams, Sigmund Freud used to evoke a story about[ …]

On 9/11, New Yorkers faced the fire in the minds of men

wo Hollywood films mark 9/11’s fifth anniversary: Paul Greengrass’s United 93 and Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center. Both adopt a terse, realistic depiction of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. There is undoubtedly a touch of authenticity to them and most critics have praised their sober styles and avoidance of sensationalism. But it is the touch of authenticity that raises some disturbing questions. The realism means that both films are restrained from taking a political stance[ …]

The Not-So-Quiet American

The Iraqi elections appear to authenticate the statement George W. Bush made in his January inauguration speech: “America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains or that women welcome humiliation and servitude.” It is difficult to disagree with Bush here: He effectively did touch the Achilles’ heel of many Western progressives, who were often disarmed by the one good argument, repeatedly evoked by Christopher Hitchens, for the war against Iraq: The majority of[ …]

Hooray for Bush!

My comments on the paradoxes of US populist conservatism were made just before the US election (LRB, 4 November). The result, it seems to me, poses the basic paradox of democracy itself. In The History of the VKP(b), Stalin (who ghost-wrote the book) describes the outcome of the voting at a party congress in the late 1920s: ‘With a large majority, the delegates unanimously approved the resolution proposed by the Central Committee.’ If the vote[ …]

The Liberal Waterloo

The first reaction of progressives to Bush’s second victory was that of despair, even fear: The last four years were not just a bad dream. The nightmarish coalition of big business and fundamentalist populism will roll on, as Bush pursues his agenda with new gusto, nominating conservative judges to the Supreme Court, invading the next country after Iraq, and pushing liberalism in the United States one step closer to extinction. However, this emotional reaction is[ …]

What Rumsfeld Doesn’t Know That He Knows About Abu Ghraib

Does anyone still remember the unfortunate Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf? As Saddam’s information minister, he heroically would deny the most evident facts and stick to the Iraqi line. Even as U.S. tanks were hundreds of yards from his office, al-Sahaf continued to claim that the television shots of the tanks on Baghdad streets were Hollywood special effects. Once, however, he did strike a strange truth. When told that the U.S. military already controlled parts of Baghdad,[ …]

Catastrophes Real and Imagined

In Minority Report, the Steven Spielberg film based on a Philip K. Dick story, three humans, through monstrous scientific experiments, have acquired the capacity to foresee the future. The police employ these clairvoyants to arrest criminals before they commit their crime. (The “minority report” from the title refers to those rare cases where one of these clairvoyants disagrees with the others about a crime to be committed.) If one transposes this premise to international relations,[ …]