Robert Fisk: Like Hitler and Brezhnev, Bush is in denial

Share

More than half a million deaths, an army trapped in the largest military debacle since Vietnam, a Middle East policy already buried in the sands of Mesopotamia - and still George W Bush is in denial. How does he do it? How does he persuade himself - as he apparently did in Amman yesterday - that the United States will stay in Iraq "until the job is complete"? The "job" - Washington's project to reshape the Middle East in its own and Israel's image - is long dead, its very neoconservative originators disavowing their hopeless political aims and blaming Bush, along with the Iraqis of course, for their disaster.

History's "deniers" are many - and all subject to the same folly: faced with overwhelming evidence of catastrophe, they take refuge in fantasy, dismissing evidence of collapse as a symptom of some short-term setback, clinging to the idea that as long as their generals promise victory - or because they have themselves so often promised victory - that fate will be kind. George W Bush - or Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara for that matter - need not feel alone. The Middle East has produced these fantasists by the bucketful over past decades.

In 1967, Egyptian president Gamel Abdul Nasser insisted his country was winning the Six Day War hours after the Israelis had destroyed the entire Egyptian air force on the ground. President Carter was extolling the Shah's Iran as "an island of stability in the region" only days before Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic revolution brought down his regime. President Leonid Brezhnev declared a Soviet victory in Afghanistan when Russian troops were being driven from their fire bases in Nangahar and Kandahar provinces by Osama bin Laden and his fighters.

And was it not Saddam Hussein who promised the "mother of all battles" for Kuwait before the great Iraqi retreat in 1991? And was it not Saddam again who predicted a US defeat in the sands of Iraq in 2003? Saddam's loyal acolyte, Mohamed el-Sahaf, would fantasise about the number of American soldiers who would die in the desert; George W Bush let it be known that he sometimes slipped out of White House staff meetings to watch Sahaf's preposterous performance and laugh at the fantasies of Iraq's minister of information.

So who is laughing at Bush now? Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, almost as loyal a retainer to Bush as Sahaf was to Saddam, receives the same false praise from the American president that Nasser and Brezhnev once lavished upon their generals. "I appreciate the courage you show during these difficult times as you lead your country," Bush tells Maliki. "He's the right guy for Iraq," he tells us. And the Iraqi Prime Minister who hides in the US-fortified "Green Zone" - was ever a crusader fortress so aptly named? - announces that "there is no problem". Power must be more quickly transferred to Maliki, we were informed yesterday. Why? Because that will save Iraq? Or because this will allow America to claim, as it did when it decided to allow the South Vietnamese army to fight on its own against Hanoi, that Washington is not to blame for the debacle that follows? "One of his frustrations with me is that he believes that we've been slow about giving him the tools necessary to protect the Iraqi people." Or so Bush says. "He doesn't have the capacity to respond. So we want to accelerate that capacity." But how can Maliki have any "capacity" at all when he rules only a few square miles of central Baghdad and a clutch of rotting ex-Baathist palaces?

About the only truthful statement uttered in Amman yesterday was Bush's remark that "there's a lot of speculation that these reports in Washington mean there's going to be some kind of graceful exit out of Iraq [but] this business about a graceful exit just simply has no realism to it at all." Indeed, it has not. There can be no graceful exit from Iraq, only a terrifying, bloody collapse of military power. The withdrawal of Shia ministers from Maliki's cabinet mirror the withdrawal of Shia ministers from another American-supported administration in Beirut - where the Lebanese fear an equally appalling conflict over which Washington has, in reality, no military or political control.

Bush even appeared oblivious of the current sectarian map of Iraq. "The Prime Minister made clear that splitting his country into parts, as some have suggested, is not what the Iraqi people want, and that any partition of Iraq would only lead to an increase in sectarian violence," he said. "I agree." But Iraq is already "split into parts". The fracture of Iraq is virtually complete, its chasms sucking in corpses at the rate of up to a thousand a day.

Even Hitler must chuckle at this bloodbath, he who claimed in April 1945 that Germany would still win the Second World War, boasting that his enemy, Roosevelt, had died - much as Bush boasted of Zarqawi's killing - while demanding to know when General Wenck's mythical army would rescue the people of Berlin. How many "Wencks" are going to be summoned from the 82nd Airborne or the Marine Corps to save Bush from Iraq in the coming weeks? No, Bush is not Hitler. Like Blair, he once thought he was Winston Churchill, a man who never - ever - lied to his people about Britain's defeats in war. But fantasy knows no bounds.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Solution Architect - Contract

£500 - £600 per day: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Solution Architect is requir...

360 Resourcing Solutions: Export Sales Coordinator

£18k - 20k per year: 360 Resourcing Solutions: ROLE: Export Sales Coordinato...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Telesales Executive - OTE £35,000+

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest developer of mobile...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The old 1,000 Greek drachma notes and current 20 euros  

Greece debt crisis: History shows 'new drachma' is nothing to fear

Ben Chu
David Cameron leaves Number 10 to speak at Parliament  

Tunisia attack: To prevent more bloodshed we must accept that containment has not worked

Patrick Cockburn
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue