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Madness in High Places

by GARY LEUPP

“Madness in great ones must not unwatch’d go.”

Hamlet, Act III, Scene 1

All during the Bush administration’s fear-mongering propaganda effort to convince Americans that Saddam and his WMDs were a threat, some of us pointed out that if Iraq’s leader actually had such weapons, he’d be crazy to use them against this country.

“But that’s just it,” we were told, “he’s mad.”

Nowadays, a former intelligence official tells Seymour Hersh, “Everyone is saying, ‘You can’t be serious about targeting Iran. Look at Iraq.'” He implies that some people in intelligence, currently in the government, think an attack on yet another nation would be crazy.

But, the above-quoted former spook told Hersh, the war advocates declare: “‘We’ve got some lessons learned-not militarily, but how we did it politically. We’re not going to rely on agency pissants.’ No loose ends, and that’s why the CIA. is out of there.” The CIA, you see, like irritating, stinky household insects, posed a political problem for the Iraq campaign. The CIA didn’t produce the desired evidence for Saddam-al Qaeda ties or a genuine Iraqi security threat to the U.S., thus obliging the chickenhawks to devise their Office of Special Plans headed by Abram Shulsky, William Luti, and Douglas Feith. (Recall that General Tommy Franks famously labels Feith the “fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth”). The CIA, distrusting Ahmad Chalabi, helped foil plans to coronate the neocon favorite as Iraq’s puppet leader immediately following the fall of Baghdad. CIA agents, in consternation at neocon influence, appear to have repeatedly leaked information about warmongering disinformation to the press. That’s why some folks vented on the pissants by outing Joseph Wilson’s CIA wife.

With the CIA purged and humiliated, “intelligence” grovels defeated before superlative stupidity. Or perhaps Gen. Franks misdiagnosed, and the problem is not in fact stupidity but genuine lunacy. You can tell the victim of delusions, “You can’t be serious” about hearing those divine voices, but no, the deluded really do hear them. If the victim gets scared, he or she may get violent. Perhaps some officials, their apparent bravado notwithstanding, feel the men in white coats might be on their way. So it’s especially important to get the job done, now, before those who don’t understand, and who hate God, thwart his will.

The crazies are confident that the lessons they’ve learned politically (i.e., how to use Christian fundamentalism to gain “political capital” to promote a program of indefinite war throughout Muslim Southwest Asia) will produce smoother regime-change in Syria and Iran. And even if we don’t, they may ask themselves, what’s wrong with the worst-case scenario?

Say in 2008 there are 300,000 US troops deployed from Afghanistan and Iran to Syria and Lebanon, holding some key cities, losing 20 KIA every day. That’s a small price to pay for US strategic control over the region, which can in fact occur in a climate of what “Dr. Strangelove” Rumsfeld calls “creative chaos.” It will take a generation to reform the Arabs and prepare them embrace an American-style political setup (“democracy”). Maybe the world will turn on us completely, and accuse us of Nazi-like aggression. Maybe we’ll have to pull out of the UN to display our contempt for those foreign pissants. So what? So think the madmen.

Madness. Recall the fine scene in The Lord of the Rings, in which Gollum’s tortured schizoid self debates whether or not to work with the stinky, nasty hobbitses. Ultimately his need for the Precious resolves that internal dispute: he is stark-raving mad when he grasps the Ring of Power, only to fall into the abyss. Earlier the Ring had so tempted Boromir, who thought he could use it “for good,” that the man of Gondor strove to seize it by force. Had he succeeded, as his brother Faramir later tells their father, “It would have driven him mad.”

In their own wacko scenario, today’s “stupidest,” remaining entrenched in power, relentlessly pursue the Ring of global domination. It makes no sense, of course, as the more level headed officials being purged from government, to say nothing of those in the antiwar movement, attest. But in the clouded minds of some of those in Washington, who are more confused and deluded than Saddam ever was, a widening of the present war is eminently practical and reasonable.

So we read today that the architects of the Iraq War are in decline, the “realists” reemerging, perhaps led by nominated Rice deputy Robert Zoellick. And tomorrow that plans for war on Syria and Iran proceed apace. We must not assume those who scorn the “reality-based community” are gone where the goblins go. They are still busily struggling to create their imaginary alternative.

“Madness in great ones must not unwatch’d go,” wrote Shakespeare. One might add, especially when “there is a method in it” as there surely is in the painstaking war preparations, reflecting what the warmongers have learned about “politically” rationalizing their military agenda. A “document of madness” as nuts as Ophelia’s ravings remains the game plan for the great ones’ Greater Middle East transformation project. One must monitor these lunatics, examine and expose their methods and documents, countering them politically with the weapons of the sane.

And when they are finally on trial for their crimes, and plead insanity, we should take our cue from the Texas courts and say, “That’s no excuse.”

GARY LEUPP is Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch’s merciless chronicle of the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, Imperial Crusades.

He can be reached at: gleupp@granite.tufts.edu

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Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu

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