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Iraq as an American Projection

Psychologists have learned to recognize projection, placing on another impulses one denies in oneself. Understanding projections requires openness, even modesty. A self-effacing attitude is the only way one can understand that what we are accusing another person of feeling or doing dialectically represents unacceptable feelings we ourselves have but can’t seem to look at or accept. So with a spirit of modesty, let us look at the possibility that the war which the United States is about to enter may constellate around projective elements which divert our attention away from far more basic truths.

When President Bush said Saddam Hussein ‘tried to kill my Dad,’ what is projected in that remark is that George Bush senior attempted to kill Saddam Hussein first. He made numerous attempts, and in his zeal he killed 186,000 Iraqis in Operation Desert Storm, but he missed Saddam.

When Bush accuses Iraq of building weapons of mass destruction, the force of that projection takes consciousness away from the entirely undiscussed issue that Israel already possesses weapons of mass destruction and may be the only power in the Middle East which has them. It is estimated by most military experts that Israel has between 100-200 nuclear weapons.

As President Bush attacks Iraq for not allowing inspections, we are mysteriously lulled into somnolence forgetting that Israel has disallowed any and every effort to permit inspections of its nuclear facilities.

Bush accuses Iraq of lying to the world about its weapons of mass destruction, yet, like Hussein, Israel’s Shimon Peres flatly denied Israel had the bomb. Either that statement is true, and the world’s military experts, including our own, are deluded, or Nobel laureate, Shimon Peres, is lying too.

In Bush’s recent speech to the UN, he cited nine UN resolutions that Iraq disregarded and failed to honor. But American vigilance on this matter seems to completely disregard the number of UN resolutions Israel has ignored and breached, most recently the Security Council resolution in late September.

When Bush calls Iraq a pariah state outside the mainstream of world opinion and consensus, consciousness is diverted from recognizing the number of times Israel and the US have been the only nations on one side of a general assembly vote and 154 nations on the other. . . at least five such incidents since 1998.

When Bush assails Iraq for developing chemical and biological weapons, attentions shift towards Iraq and away from Israel’s programs in these areas. When Bush condemns Iraq for killing its own citizens, we seem to forget that Israel has been fighting its own residents for years with 1800 Palestinians killed in only the last few years, including 250 children. When Bush attacks Hussein for suppressing his own people, few recognize that Israel has held 3 million of its residents under military occupation for almost 30 years. When the President points out how Iraqi children are starving and the standard of living of normal Iraqis depleted, consciousness seems to be deflected away from any awareness that the unemployment rate in the Palestinian territories is close to 70%, and 30% of Palestinian children are malnourished.

Clearly there are projective parallels to address. There is still reality to deal with too, however: Israel has been attacked. It has legitimate needs to defend itself, not only with respect to the recent intifada but longer term too. Just as we wince when we hear Ariel Sharon’s troops slaughtered another fifth grade girl in her school uniform, so too do bristle at hearing of a 92 year old Auschwitz survivor who died in another Hamas suicide bombing.

Projections do not tell the entire story, but the value of looking through these lenses can help us all see a bigger picture. The United States is prepared to embark upon another of its all-too-many wars. This one could cost $200 billion in national resources and expose the economy, agriculture, and America’s children to lethal consequences. As the media ruminatively discusses biological warfare, inoculating the population against small pox, Al Queda, terrorism, anthrax, ebola, and obsessive alerts from the office of Homeland security, it is important to see what is not being talked about, what is not found in newspapers, and what is not seen on television. That is where awareness of projection is critical.

Diane Sawyer is quite astute in grilling Tarik Aziz about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, but she isn’t asking any questions about Israel’s hydrogen bombs. Mike Wallace is sharp as a tack in finding inconsistencies in Iraqi statements about surreptitious attempts to purchase fissionable material on the black market, but he is not probing into how Israel obtained centrifuges, critical switches, or plutonium for its weapons. There is little discussion of these issues in the media, even less on Capitol Hill. While much press is devoted to Russian scientists who have been recruited to work on Iraq’s secret weapons, there is none looking at Russian experts who are now immigrants into Israel’s vast weapons programs.

It is as if American foreign policy and its consequent war footing is determined by a policy that Israel shall be the only country in the Middle East which has weapons of mass destruction, and any nation attempting to counterbalance this power shall be crushed. I wonder how many Americans would truly vote to send their children to die in a war halfway round the world to defend such a policy.

Expanding consciousness when on the precipice of war was Carl Jung’s only prescription to avoid collective bloodshed and catastrophe. Under George Bush senior, we sent American women into battle—and to their deaths—to liberate Kuwait, a non-democratic country which didn’t allow women to vote. . . and still doesn’t. No one seemed to notice for what cause American parents sacrificed their daughters then, just as so much is going unnoticed today.

Lack of consciousness is akin to stupidity and ignorance. Indeed a major war may ignite over what seems to be an axis of infantilism: whether we can inspect the home of the man ‘who tried to kill my dad.’ We insist on going into his house to have a look, and if he doesn’t let us in, we’ll kill him. That is what this seems to be coming down to.

Projections teach us that if we are prepared to go to war demanding to look in the house of our enemy, then the fuller truth to be discovered is what is hidden inside our own.

JERRY KROTH is an associate professor of counseling psychology in the graduate division of Santa Clara University in California. His most recent book is Psychology Underground: from politically correct orthodoxies to a new century of inquiry. ARP Press, 2001. He can be reached at: anya@znet.com

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Jerry Kroth, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor Emeritus from the graduate division of psychology at Santa Clara University. He may be contacted at his website, collectivepsych.com.

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