THE LONELY HERO
Obsession Blind to Risk. America and the Legend of the Holy Knight George who saves the world from the fire-eating dragon
By Horst-Eberhard Richter
[This article originally published in: Freitag 23, May 28, 2004 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.freitag.de/2004/23/04230301.php.]
Colin Powell and the former French foreign minister met just before the Iraq war. The American insisted on the necessity of attacking Iraq militarily. The Frenchman disagreed and refused French support. Powell let it all out in a circle of friends and called his French counterpart a "soft effeminate man". How amazing! At first one could be surprised that Powe3ll vented his annoyance with this derogatory judgment about the allegedly unmanly Frenchman. Apparently he felt personally attacked and had to defend his own manliness. One recalls certain adolescent youths who are persecuted by secret doubts of their masculine full power and measure their strengths in adventurous tests of courage with each other. The James Dean film "Because They Don't Know What They Do" comes to mind.
Powell felt caught in this reaction since he made a test of masculinity out of the decision for war. He thought he had to outdo his rivals and gain recognition with his denunciatory remark. What politicians do is connected with what they are. In the case of the Iraq war, such psychological backgrounds of the actors should be considered since the resulting bankruptcy implies an irrational blindness to risks.
Those responsible in the US misled the world about their true reasons for war and the feasibility of their real intentions. That nothing has come out of Iraq's expected bridgehead for colonizing the Middle East, that terrorism worsened enormously instead of being defeated, refers to blindness to reality that suggests a psychological neurosis. In other words, the decision for war was made out of an emotional pressure that muddied a deliberate intellectual weighing of the pros and cons.
THE FEAR OF LOSING INNER BALANCE AND LOSING TO EVIL
The delusion of president Bush is clear. His conviction that terrorism can be stifled with military force dominated immediately after September 11, 2001. He could have known that this is an illusion from the uninterrupted chain of violence in Israel-Palestine. Militarily superior Israel can demolish whole Palestinian settlements with fighter-bombers and tanks and kill Hamas-leaders with missiles. Still Israel cannot prevent the counter-force of the Palestinians.
Nevertheless Bush is obsessed with the idea of rooting out terrorism militarily. He said in one discussion: "Our war begins with Al-Qaida but doesn't end until every worldwide terrorist group is discovered, isolated and defeated." Thereupon Eric Alterman in "The Nation" asked him: "What if America perishes with the whole world?" Bush's answer was: "We could be the only ones who are left. That doesn't bother me. We are America." Norman Mailer's "Holy War. America's Crusade" underscores this religion called America.
Bush's words are words of a possessed person. Evil should be eradicated root and branch. His language is similar to the medieval inquisition when heretics were to be wiped out altogether like weeds from the garden of the Lord. The vision is psychologically remarkable: America as the warrior against evil deserted by the whole world community. This does not disturb Bush. We are America. This is Powell's manliness carried too far: the lonely hero. Only Gary Cooper was left with the three gangsters in High Noon. This also reflects the Oedipal dreams of teenagers: the holy knight George who liberates the world from the fire-eating dragon.
Bush once had such a fire-eating dragon in his own interior, the demon alcohol. James H. Hatfield tells the story how Bush had an awakening experience during a walk with the famous missionary preacher Billy Graham. He admitted to Graham that he felt like a failure. He drank excessively instead of turning to God and asking for strength. Graham's answer was "God loves you, George. To surrender your life into the hands of Jesus Christ, you must give up this last demon so you can become a new person." Bush actually stopped drinking all of a sudden after a wild party. He found God as he explained. He defeated the demon. But did he really conquer the demon? Or has he continuously waged a battle with evil? Is the obsession of an outward enemy a surrogate for the inner demon addiction?
The radicalism of the division of the world in the soul of George W. Bush and the obsessive idea of not resting until the elimination of the last terrorists anywhere in the world are striking. The fear of losing to the evil, a component of inner balance, underlies Bush's radicalism. As reported again and again from Bush's milieu, he honestly believes he is called by the Almighty to save the good. While this can be read in the New York Times, only a few were alarmed. Many regarded it as right or were sympathetic. The discovery of the war lies, the post-war chaos in Iraq, the American losses and now the torture scandal first transform respect into suspicion.
A MENTAL FIXATION PERVADING THE WORLD FROM THE WEST
Didn't Americans know whom they elected - even if by a doubtful majority? Didn't he enflame their hearts when he called them to the crusade against the axis of evil after September 11, 2001? Did they criticize his gigantic increases of the arms budget blessed by Congress including the project of modernizing and expanding nuclear weapons? Were there loud objections against the Pentagon's new "defensive strategy" of threatening critics of US nuclear hegemony with preventive offensive war? Who protested when Bush declared war without reliable evidence?
In other words, Bush's war spirit and his nuclear threat policy can be understood in his personal psychology and in a widespread American psychology. If the secret international acceptance of nuclear armament is regarded as an element of a security policy, the question is raised whether we face an irrational mental fixation pervading large parts of the world from the West. This fixation is irrational because basing security policy on a weapon able to destroy millions of lives is a clear paradox. A nation attempts to gain a kind of personal security against its own incapacity for peace by hoarding this genocidal weapon. If this nation trusted itself and its generation living in common peace, this genocidal weapon would never be equated with security.
Now one explains to the child that the weapons could intimidate evil people so their attack need not be feared. This explanation breaks down in remembering the Palestinian terrorists who were not deterred by Israeli nuclear bombs from counter-blows against Israeli tank attacks. In America, a few, nearly unarmed assassins gravely injured the strongest nuclear power of the earth on September 11.
Hardly anyone may recall that the American Secretary of State John Foster Dulles once wrote in a memorandum that the destructive power of nuclear weapons is so enormous that this power can only be given to the Security Council and not to an individual nation. The discretionary power of the Security Power may not be restricted by any veto. This was the middle of the fifties when the plan of outfitting the UN with its own independent security force still existed. When this Dulles proposal was rejected as illusory, the Nuclear Test Ban treaty ratified in 1970 included the self-obligation of nuclear powers in section VI to support the goal of a complete definitive nuclear disarmament.
WITHOUT FAITH IN GOD, THE PERSON WANTS TO BE GOD
In 1930 when the nuclear weapon was not yet invented, Sigmund Freud believed that people suffered under the fear of completely wiping out one another through the natural forces that they controlled. This fear alarmed them and made them unhappy. Then the nuclear bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Over 200,000 persons died instantly; many others died later of radiation sickness. These were only abstract numbers in the West. While unimaginable, the extent of suffering was easily repressed. However president Truman was told of a grandiose spectacle according to eyewitness General Thomas Farrel. "The effect could be called unparalleled, sublime, beautiful, powerful and dreadful... a signal of the Last Judgment in which we midgets felt it was a blasphemy that we dared to release those forces that until then were reserved to the Almighty."
For this aberration, I have chosen the term egomania derived from psychiatry. This is mania because this inhuman arrogance comes very close to a genuine manic delusion. This is not a fateful process but a reaction over many generations that has advanced since the Renaissance and is manifest in genetic engineering and nuclear technology. This development has led from the medieval surrender to God to an internalization of the attribute of the masculine idea of God of omnipotence and omniscience. On every stage, the gradual loss of trust in God increases the effort to seize the causes of suffering oneself. One is no longer delivered up to God's incalculable control. Rather one controls where one was previously controlled. One wants to be God where one no longer accepts God. This over-compensating reaction against powerlessness in a gradual striving for omnipotence is what I described elsewhere as a God-complex.
Thus a fear of weakness knows no other prescription than combating threats with an automatic and authorized pressure. When one fears the weapons of another, one must produce even more powerful and dreadful weapons, more than the other. In other words, one falls to the pressure to overpower fear with the same means that caused fear. If one feels pursued by a hostile destr4uctive technology, one must strengthen and multiply one's own technology. This God-complex blocks the only real way of sanctification, namely to seek security in communication and reconciliation instead of projecting infinite strength.
There is no great power projection that makes a person independent. The view of the person arising in the Renaissance as a complete self-contained individual who carries around a soul as in a capsule is a fiction. In truth, we are set in a mutuality and solidarity from the first days. We always have the chance of constructive and cooperative dependence on one another or paying for the disintegration of positive exchange with suffering on both sides. Only when Israel sees its own suffering in the suffering inflicted on the Palestinians and Palestinians learn to see their own violence in the Israeli victims will both have a chance in building a common security.
Those blinded ones who still believe in a world order based on nuclear weapons should be convinced that they stagger blind to risk and are in danger every moment of falling into the dreadful abyss together with millions of innocent ones.