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I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Friday, April 14, 2006

A Resolute Fantasy World

One virtually never sees any disagreement among Bush supporters with regard to Iraq or terrorism policies, but Powerline has a very brave and surprising post -- to which all three of its luminaries contributed -- which expresses disagreement with yesterday's essay from world-renowned and esteemed military historian Dr. Victor Davis Hanson, who smeared the motives of the retired American Generals who are criticizing the administration's war effort, by claiming that the Generals are only saying these things to sell books and enrich themselves. Powerline is having none of it.

According to Powerline, Dr. Hanson is wildly off-base. From them we learn that "those griping ex-Generals" are not motivated by a desire to sell books. Rather, they are voicing these criticisms because they are "mostly, in effect, Clinton appointees," because they are simply "'old school' generals who object to Rumsfeld's pet theories" of military transformation, and because these are the rejects who got forced out of their jobs because they "didn't fit with the new program." Hanson was right, of course, that these Generals were operating from base and venal motives; he just got the specific smear wrong.

What is so notable (but unsurprising) here is the reaction of Bush followers to the extremely unusual and extraordinary event of seeing retired Generals criticize not just specific strategic decisions, but the overall mismanagement of the war, and in some cases, the wisdom of the war itself. As I pointed out yesterday, the fact that a bunch of generals hold a certain view does not, by itself, mean that the view is correct, including on military matters. But contrary to the deceitful attempt of Bush followers to pretend that this is some sort of commonplace event ("Generals are always griping about something"), it is remarkable, and significant on at least some level, for this many Generals to make these types of overarching and very public criticisms while a war is still ongoing.

In response, Bush followers have publicly speculated about every defamatory motive which could be fueling these Generals -- they have embraced every possible explanation except for the possibility that these Generals might actually hold these views sincerely. This behavior really illustrates, more than anything else, exactly how we were led into a war that has been a disaster on every front, and how we have stubbornly remained on the same course well past the time it became objectively apparent that this course was leading to nothing but abject failure.

The first objective -- which worked very well for a good couple of years -- was to prevent all dissenting views by labeling those who questioned the war or who opposed it as subversives, traitors, Friends of the Terrorists, America-haters, and crazed radicals. That took care of dissenting views for awhile, ensuring an echo chamber where the President's views on the war were basically unchallenged. But the profound error of their judgments and the rank falseness of their claims could not be obscured forever, because the reality of the war slowly exposed the truth. But amazingly, facts do not deter them either.

Every fact that contradicts their initial premises is discarded as fiction or the by-product of malice. Every opinion that undermines their position can be explained only by venal and corrupt motives. Every event that transpires which deviates from what they predicted ends up being the fault of others. And any individual who questions their grand plan for epic and glorious triumph in a never-ending, all-consuming War of Civilizations is someone who is either weak-willed, weak-minded, or just plain subversive -- whether that be life-long public servants like Richard Clarke and Joe Wilson (both of whom were smeared by Powerline in a separate post yesterday, which quoted RealClearPolitics calling them "Political hacks" and "fools" who "espouse positions publicly that they know to be untrue"); life-long conservatives like William Buckley or George Will, and even American military generals, including those who actually led ground troops in Iraq as recently as 2004.

The number of people left who are sufficiently noble and brave to wage this Great and Glorious Battle is dwindling every day. There is no fact which can't be dismissed away, no source whose motives are beyond reproach, no event which can't be blamed on others. I wrote a post on C&L a couple months ago about this dynamic, when - in that one week alone -- there were multiple independent polls, events, and facts that all contradicted their world view, and each was just casually waved away as biased, fictitious lies. The war in Iraq was the Good and Right thing to do, and nothing will or can ever change that fact -- not the non-existence of the WMDs that primarily justified it, nor the emergence of a civil war, nor the installation of an Iran-controlled Shiite theocracy, nor the opinion of military generals. Their beliefs are in place forever and are to be defended against any fact.

Every possibility is in play except for an acknowledgment that they might have been wrong about something. It is a resolute fantasy world that they cling to for dear life, because everything that matters to them resides in that world. And the most significant aspect of all is that the person most afflicted with this fact-immune syndrome is the person who resides in the White House and controls our Government, and will for the next 2 1/2 years. There are few situations more destructive and dangerous than for a volatile situation to be controlled by people for whom faith in one's own rightness is infinitely more persuasive, and more sacred, than facts and reality.

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