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George's Toll On my Psyche

Don’t know about you, but I’m hanging with George W. Bush when he says that the war in Iraq just might be “straining the psyche” of Americans. How could it not be stretched, if not twisted, when a recent CNN poll tells us that opposition to the war has reached a new high with only about a third of Americans favoring it, while Bush is vowing that as long as he’s president he will not withdraw from Iraq? Sixty-one percent of Americans say they’ve had enough of the war. The president, meanwhile, says we’re not leaving until the mission is over. Whatever that mission might be.

Listening to his hourlong Monday press conference certainly strained the heck out of my psyche. I don’t fault the guy for being inarticulate. But being irrational — and mendacious — well, those are two other matters. That same CNN poll revealed that 54 percent of Americans don’t believe Bush is honest or trustworthy. You can count me among those who think the president and his advisers are so simultaneously deluded and so deeply politically invested in Iraq, Bush doesn’t even know if he’s lying to himself about the war.

During his ramble with the press, The Prez just couldn’t manage to keep his story straight. He wasn’t happy about the news from Iraq, he said, except for the times he was, though he wouldn’t call himself exactly “joyous.” He was often “frustrated” by the news but not “surprised” (except for maybe that time when he found out on the eve of the invasion that Iraq was actually split between Sunnis and Shiah). Saddam didn’t have any WMDs but maybe he sorta did. The 9/11 attacks weren’t “ordered” by Iraq, he said, but the killing of 3,000 Americans on that day had something or other to do with why we invaded. Americans who dissent from the government’s war policies aren’t precisely disloyal but they are aiding and abetting Osama bin Laden — or Ned Lamont, or one of the other bogeymen haunting our traumatized national psyche.

If the lives of so many people weren’t in play, the president’s whole sorry performance would have been a hoot, a biting self-caricature, an off-the-shelf, ready-to-play video vignette for The Daily Show. In reality, however, it was just one more grimly tragic day in this now-bottomless adventure known as the war in Iraq.

“If you think it’s bad now,” the president told the reporters, referring to the situation on the ground, “imagine what Iraq would look like if the United States leaves before this government can defend and sustain itself, ah . . . you know, chaos in Iraq would be very unsettling in the region.” What a doozy of a line. To quote back the president, “Ah,” just exactly what is there left to imagine when it comes to chaos in Iraq?

More than 3,500 Iraqi civilians were killed last month, the highest monthly toll in the history of the war. The Guardian reports that the number of bomb attacks carried out or attempted by the insurgency in July — more than 2,600 — is also the highest monthly total of the war, and the average number of attacks against U.S. forces has doubled since January to more than 500 a day. The much-touted U.S. plan announced in June to flood and subdue Baghdad with security forces has collapsed into a death-squad orgy costing an average of 100 lives per day. And Prime Minister Maliki’s supposed national-unity government is rapidly deflating, the last remaining Sunnis threatening to desert.

This week’s televised performance by Bush, in reality, had nothing to do with the war or its future course. It was merely one more rather desperate and transparent campaign ploy by the country’s top Republican, once again playing his last, tattered face card. Only the fearless leadership of the resolute George Bush (and his closest friends and advisers) can get us safely through this ever more treacherous world.

But the cold facts are that under the Bush administration we continue to spin recklessly toward endless and even boundless war. Bush’s single greatest achievement has been to unite our enemies and divide our allies. Not a great place to be when the palpable threat that is fundamentalist fascism is on the rise.

It’s been noted that the time between the attack on Pearl Harbor and VJ Day was 1,347 days. When the war in Iraq passes November 27 — as President Bush now vows that it will — this conflict will have lasted one day longer than World War II. That fact alone is about enough to snap the psyche.