SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
George W. Bush seems to have fits of divine inspiration whenever he gets into the vicinity of the Middle East. Back in 2003, shortly after the invasion of Iraq, he met with a delegation of Palestinians in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. One participant told the Guardian:
“President Bush said to all of us: ‘I am driven with a mission from God’. God would tell me, ‘George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan’. And I did. And then God would tell me ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq’. And I did.”
Mr Bush went on: “And now, again, I feel God’s words coming to me, ‘Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East’. And, by God, I’m gonna do it.”
Of course, looking back on Bush’s divinely inspired works, one wonders about the identity of the deity with whom Bush is conversing. That he was the God of Abraham seems highly improbable. Cartoonists in the United States have regularly given Bush’s God the bodily manifestation and voice of a Yale dropout and retired corporate executive named Dick Cheney. But this lacks imagination. No one doubts the involvement of Dick Cheney in this orgy of blood and destruction, but he himself is merely a mortal vessel serving the god of war and destruction. I’m zeroing in on the Godhead in question, and I’m increasingly convinced that he’s a denizen of the South Asian subcontinent, and in particular the Lord Shiva. He’s famous for a dance of destruction, creating the way for Lord Brahma, the creator. But no doubt about it, Bush is in the gallery of presidents a tremendously potent destructive force. Lord Brahma may, of course, follow in his wake. But I wouldn’t count on it.
And now that he’s back on the last Middle Eastern junket of his presidency, the Lord of Darkness and Destruction once again has the president’s ear. Michael Hirsh writes in Newsweek of a president full of Kriegslust who repudiates the calming tones of the latest National Intelligence Estimate and its downplaying of the nuclear threat from Iran:
in private conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last week, the president all but disowned the document, said a senior administration official who accompanied Bush on his six-nation trip to the Mideast. ‘He told the Israelis that he can’t control what the intelligence community says, but that [the NIE's] conclusions don’t reflect his own views’ about Iran’s nuclear-weapons program, said the official, who would discuss intelligence matters only on the condition of anonymity. . . .
A source close to the Israeli leader said Bush first briefed Olmert about the intelligence estimate a week before it was published, during talks in Washington that preceded the Annapolis peace conference in November. According to the source, who also refused to be named discussing the issue, Bush told Olmert he was uncomfortable with the findings and seemed almost apologetic.
And there is a certain thematic continuity that joins Bush’s dialogue with Israeli leaders and with the Arabs. He’s obsessed with one topic, and that is making war on Iran. Consider for instance this Washington Post report from his meetings with Gulf state leaders by Michael Abramowitz:
President Bush on Sunday accused Iran of undermining peace in Lebanon, funding terrorist groups, trying to intimidate its neighbors and refusing to be open about its nuclear program and ambitions. In a speech described by the White House as the centerpiece of his eight-day trip to the Middle East, Bush urged other countries to help the United States ‘confront this danger before it is too late.’. . .
Bush is trying to persuade Arab countries to join U.S. efforts to pressure Iran, though many appear ambivalent about the administration’s campaign following a new U.S. intelligence report that concluded Iran stopped a nuclear weapons program in 2003.
Funny, isn’t it, how the inspired Leader’s visit to the Middle East was immediately preceded by an Iranian act of provocation which was promptly touted as a casus belli by the Neocon war party. Then it turns out that the nation’s military leadership was itself hardly convinced that the dramatic incidents widely spread in the media had occurred as reported. And then we learn that the acts of provocation were, most likely, the pranks of a Filipino hacker.
Americans can feel secure. The Maker of Empires and Creator of Separate Realities is out making the world safe from its greatest threat, namely Iranian speedboats not build to code and Filipino pranksters. Why should he be troubled about trivia like the collapsing political situation in Iraq, the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, or the rapidly approaching implosion of Pakistan, a nation with nuclear weapons and delivery systems that is the undisputed epicenter of radicalized political Islam? Why that figures nowhere on the agenda. Now back to the dance.
In a dense forest there dwelt multitudes of heretical sages. Thither proceeded Lord Shiva to confute them, accompanied by Lord Vishnu disguised as a beautiful woman. The sages were at first led to violent dispute amongst themselves, but their anger was soon directed against Shiva, and they endeavored to destroy him by means of incantations. A fierce tiger was created in sacrificial fires, and rushed upon him; but smiling gently, he seized it and, with the nail of his little finger, stripped off its skin, and wrapped it about himself like a silken cloth. Undiscouraged by failure, the sages renewed their offerings, and produced a monstrous serpent, which however Shiva seized and wreathed about his neck like a garland. Then he began to dance; but a last monster in the shape of a malignant dwarf rushed upon him. Upon him the God pressed the tip of his foot, and broke the creature’s back, so that it writhed upon the ground; and so, his last foe prostrate, Shiva resumed the dance.
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp
From the June 2014 issue
For the past three years my dosimeter had sat silently on a narrow shelf just inside the door of a house in Tokyo, upticking its final digit every twenty-four hours by one or two, the increase never failing — for radiation is the ruthless companion of time. Wherever we are, radiation finds and damages us, at best imperceptibly. During those three years, my American neighbors had lost sight of the accident at Fukushima. In March 2011, a tsunami had killed hundreds, or thousands; yes, they remembered that. Several also recollected the earthquake that caused it, but as for the hydrogen explosion and containment breach at Nuclear Plant No. 1, that must have been fixed by now — for its effluents no longer shone forth from our national news. Meanwhile, my dosimeter increased its figure, one or two digits per day, more or less as it would have in San Francisco — well, a trifle more, actually. And in Tokyo, as in San Francisco, people went about their business, except on Friday nights, when the stretch between the Kasumigaseki and Kokkai-Gijido-mae subway stations — half a dozen blocks of sidewalk, which commenced at an antinuclear tent that had already been on this spot for more than 900 days and ended at the prime minister’s lair — became a dim and feeble carnival of pamphleteers and Fukushima refugees peddling handicrafts.
One Friday evening, the refugees’ half of the sidewalk was demarcated by police barriers, and a line of officers slouched at ease in the street, some with yellow bullhorns hanging from their necks. At the very end of the street, where the National Diet glowed white and strange behind other buildings, a policeman set up a microphone, then deployed a small video camera in the direction of the muscular young people in drums against fascists jackets who now, at six-thirty sharp, began chanting: “We don’t need nuclear energy! Stop nuclear power plants! Stop them, stop them, stop them! No restart! No restart!” The police assumed a stiffer stance; the drumming and chanting were almost uncomfortably loud. Commuters hurried past along the open space between the police and the protesters, staring straight ahead, covering their ears. Finally, a fellow in a shabby sweater appeared, and murmured along with the chants as he rounded the corner. He was the only one who seemed to sympathize; few others reacted at all.
Number of U.S. congressional districts in which trade with China has produced more jobs than it has cost:
Young bilingual children who learned one language first are likelier than monolingual children and bilingual children who learned languages simultaneously to say that a dog adopted by owls will hoot.
An Oklahoma legislative committee voted to defund Advanced Placement U.S. History courses, accusing the curriculum of portraying the United States as “a nation of oppressors and exploiters.”
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
“He could be one of a million beach-bound, black-socked Florida retirees, not the man who, by some odd happenstance of life, possesses the brain of Albert Einstein — literally cut it out of the dead scientist's head.”