Thursday, October 18, 2007

Echoes of the past

From The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt

The chief qualification of a mass leader has become unending infallibility; he can never admit an error. The assumption of infallibility, moreover, is based not so much on superior intelligence as on the correct interpretation of the essentially reliable forces in history or nature, forces which neither defeat nor ruin can prove wrong because they are bound to assert themselves in the long run. Mass leaders in power have one concern which overrules all utilitarian considerations: to make their predictions come true ...

... The propaganda effect of infallibility, the striking success of posing as a mere interpreting agent of predictable forces, has encouraged in totalitarian dictators the habit of announcing their political intentions in the form of prophesy. The most famous example is Hitler's announcement to the German Reichstag in January, 1939: "I want today once again to make a prophesy: In case the Jewish financiers ... succeed once more in hurling the peoples into a world war, the result will be ... the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe." Translated into nontotalitarian language, this meant: I intend to make war and I intend to kill the Jews of Europe.
From President Bush during an Oct. 17, 2007 press conference:

I believe that the Iranian -- if Iran had a nuclear weapon, it would be a dangerous threat to world peace.

But this -- we got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel. So I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.
Translated from the President's totalitarian logic this can be taken to mean: The possibility that Iran could have a nuclear weapon is a dangerous threat to world peace. Since I'm interested in Iran not having a nuclear weapon, I am going to start World War III.

The reasoning, much like with Iraq, is circular. Starting a war proves that Iran was a danger to world peace (because a war with Iran is dangerous to world peace). If World War III starts because the US went to war with Iran, it proves that Iran having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon started World War III.

A caveat: Unlike Bill O'Reilly, I am not a mind-reader. I do not know that this is exactly how Bush is thinking. It could just be that the most generous interpretation of his statement - that if Iran gets a nuclear weapon it may start a nuclear war with Israel - is all he's thinking. But even that is a dangerous line of thought, given that hardly anyone besides neoconservatives holds the view that a nuclear armed Iran would start a nuclear war (although it is believed that it would spark a completely nuclear proliferated Middle East.)* But it is difficult to give President Bush the benefit of the doubt when we've already seen what his administration employ such circular logic to Iraq.

We have a President that has misled the nation on virtually every occasion that he has spoken to it. Our trust has been broken. I do not trust this President.

We have a President who believes there is no law in this nation that can preventing him from doing whatever he designates in the interest of national security. We have a Vice President who has plotted for at least 30 years on how to give president the powers of a monarch.

They must be impeached.

*Even here the President's totalitarian logic has become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Iran offered to negotiate every issue on the table in 2003 - including a peaceful nuclear energy progam and a two-state solution in Israel - and the Bush administration refused to even consider it. Bush had branded Iran as part of the Axis of Evil, and Evil can not be negotiated with (unless it already has nuclear weapons). The President Of Good can not give quarter to Evil. Which is why, I would guess, our "diplomacy" has amounted to do what we say or we're going to bomb you. If you are Iran and you see the other two members of the "Axis of Evil": the one that doesn't have nuclear weapons gets invaded and the one that does, does not - and your efforts at negotiation are rebuked; what conclusion would you draw? Might it be that the only way to prevent being attacked is to have nuclear weapons?

1 comment:

Mumphrey Bibblesnæð said...

You're right about everything but one: Bush hasn't been "misleading" us for the last 7 years, he's been "lying" to us. It might seem nitpicky, but I think it's a distinction we need to make.