The inability to use his imagination in a nuanced way continues to be a problem for our president. And now, in Iraq, his problem is turning out to be America’s problem.
How ironic it is that, with regard to moving on actionable intelligence on Bin Laden, Mr. Bush seemed to need to be spoon-fed with specific data; whereas, when it came to Saddam Hussein, there was no limit to filling in the blanks with all sorts of paranoid possibilities – none too far-fetched or fanciful not to be included in our case for war.
Perhaps this extreme literalism and lack of nuanced imagination with regard to Bin Laden is what prevented our commander-in-chief from asking the one question that might have spurred our national security apparatus into action before 9/11 – the question “what if …”
In any case, such a mind-set is indicative of the uncreative and literalistic way that many fundamentalists deal with their inner doubts. First, they try to “convert” those who mirror the doubts whose very existence they can barely admit to themselves. Failing this, they then unleash the “attack dogs” to systematically demolish those who would dare to give free reign to these doubts – people, for instance, like Richard Clarke.
Such “doubt-free” leadership may be just what Americans are looking for to relieve them of their own doubts in these uncertain times. Ultimately, however, doubts that are never fully faced have an odd way of creeping back, with a vengeance, as a full-fledged “enemy.”
This enemy, whose persistent belligerence can no longer be ignored, literally brings back the original question we never dared to ask – that nagging sense of doubt we thought would go away once we hitched our fate to the presidential chariot of flaming fundamentalism.
What if the fundamentalism that we are now facing in Iraq happens to be the return, in Islamic form, of the very doubt we thought we had gotten rid of through our faith in President Bush and his war against terrorism? Maybe these doubts we are experiencing in Iraq have to do with something that is even more fundamental than the war against terrorism, and which has to do with the American dream itself – which not only Iraqis, but many Americans have begun to question as a result of this unprovoked and morally dubious war.
Joel Brence, M.D.
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The CMC Aspen Gallery will open the show with a reception Thursday evening and it will be open through Saturday, Dec. 11.