It's funny in an awful sort of way. The defining events of the last fifty years all centered around the Cold War and the eventual demise of the Soviet system. Toward the end of the Soviet regime, their government was often forced to grossly overstate the size of grain harvests or the preparedness of their military in order to maintain an illusion of strength and order. In other words, intelligence and facts were fixed around the policy. In essence, fixing the facts became the policy.
Self-deception was piled upon self-deception. Rather than address the systemic problems within the nation, the Soviet regime chose instead to massage the illusions until the problems became too huge to overcome. Pretending everything was fine became the chosen course of action, and the state's ability to manufacture a pleasing reality became a perfect circle of inaction and delusion. By the time the tanks rolled and the Wall fell, the deal had already gone down.
Willful blindness is an appropriate phrase. It captures not only the fact that we are manufacturing threats to our security every day we remain in Iraq, but the fact that virtually everything associated with Bush administration policy depends on self-delusion and the manipulation of data to fulfill political desires. Even the most fundamental underpinnings of conservative political philosophy have been ground up in the gears of this grand fantasy.
Truth no longer matters. Ethics no longer matter. Facts are there for the twisting. Decades-old conservative ideals regarding the budget and the size of the Federal government have been thrown under the bus because they are no longer convenient, and get in the way of the manufacture of reality. Soviet self-delusion led that nation into Afghanistan and disaster. The Bush administration’s self-delusion has led us into Iraq. Res ipsa loquitor.
The parallel between this Bush administration and the old, failed Soviet regime can be taken one step further. One of the main reasons the Soviet government was able to stagger on for years making up facts out of whole cloth was that the leaders of that regime were accountable to no one. The Politburo said it, and so it must be true, and if it wasn't true, there was no authority or check to their power that could blow a whistle, throw a flag or demand an investigation. The old Soviet government lived in a bubble, free from the fear that they might be called to the carpet for lying, getting a lot of people killed and putting the State in mortal danger.
Sound familiar? Bush and his people have managed to walk through the raindrops since 2001, managed to pull off more than a few impeachable crimes, for no other reason than that they are accountable to no one in government ... or, more properly, no one in government who has the power to call them to account has done so. Congress is run by Bush allies, the Justice Department is run by his longest-standing hatchet man, and all of them prefer to maintain the pleasant fictions over any attempt to fix what has gone so drastically and demonstrably wrong.
We watched the Soviets smash themselves to pieces because they refused to deal with what ailed them, because lies made life easier on the powerful, because actually attempting to address a problem might expose the powerful to censure or even removal, because no one had the power to stop them.
It is happening again, right before our eyes.
As I mentioned in Consequences, this White House is hell-bent on maintaining its illusions at all costs. Their success in maintaining those illusions centers on maintaining control of the means of political discourse, power, and the means of communication. Indeed, one can make a good case that indeed this is the current sorry state of our nation. At some point, however, the illusions will be shown for what they are. It is only a matter of time. Eventually, the old Soviet politburo had to face the demise of the Berlin Wall and the complete collapse of its hold on power even within Russia's borders. Eventually,in Sartre's No Exit, Garcin meets up with his Ines who tears away his mask of false bravado and reveals a life-long coward. Sooner or later, the same will happen with the White House and its inhabitants and with its enablers. Let's hope for sooner rather than later - and let's continue to work dredge up those inconvenient truths that our own politburo would just as soon not face.