Bush v. Good v. Evil

As my regular readers now, Glen Greenwald has pretty quickly become about my favorite blogger for his insight into George Bush's presidency.  He's got a new book coming out and Salon has excerpted a portion.  I think he has a very compelling central thesis that nicely ties together so much of what is wrong with the Bush presidency.  It is worth excerpting a good bit:

One of the principal dangers of vesting power in a leader who is
convinced of his own righteousness — who believes that, by virtue of
his ascension to political power, he has been called to a crusade
against Evil — is that the moral imperative driving the mission will
justify any and all means used to achieve it. Those who have become
convinced that they are waging an epic and all-consuming existential
war against Evil cannot, by the very premises of their belief system,
accept any limitations — moral, pragmatic, or otherwise — on the
methods adopted to triumph in this battle.

Efforts to impose limits on waging war against Evil will themselves
be seen as impediments to Good, if not as an attempt to aid and abet
Evil. In a Manichean worldview, there is no imperative that can compete
with the mission of defeating Evil. The primacy of that mandate is
unchallengeable. Hence, there are no valid reasons for declaring
off-limits any weapons that can be deployed in service of the war
against Evil.

Equally operative in the Manichean worldview is the principle that
those who are warriors for a universal Good cannot recognize that the
particular means they employ in service of their mission may be immoral
or even misguided. The very fact that the instruments they embrace are
employed in service of their Manichean mission renders any such
objections incoherent. How can an act undertaken in order to strengthen
the side of Good, and to weaken the forces of Evil, ever be anything
other than Good in itself? Thus, any act undertaken by a warrior of
Good in service of the war against Evil is inherently moral for that
reason alone.

It is from these premises that the most amoral or even most
reprehensible outcomes can be — and often are — produced by political
movements and political leaders grounded in universal moral
certainties. Intoxicated by his own righteousness and therefore immune
from doubt, the Manichean warrior becomes capable of acts of moral
monstrousness that would be unthinkable in the absence of such
unquestionable moral conviction. One who believes himself to be leading
a supreme war against Evil on behalf of Good will be incapable of
understanding any claims that he himself is acting immorally.

These principles illuminate a central, and tragic, paradox at the
heart of the Bush presidency. The president who vowed to lead America
in a moral crusade to win hearts and minds around the world has so
inflamed anti-American sentiment that America's moral standing in the
world is at an all-time low. The president who vowed to defend the Good
in the world from the forces of Evil has caused the United States to be
held in deep contempt by large segments of virtually every country on
every continent of the world, including large portions of nations with
which the U.S. has historically been allied. The president who vowed to
undertake a war in defense of American values and freedoms has presided
over such radical departures from the defining values and liberties of
this country that many Americans find their country and its government
unrecognizable. And the president who vowed to lead the war for freedom
and democracy has made torture,
rendition, abductions, lawless detentions of even our own citizens,
secret “black site” prisons, Abu Ghraib dog leashes, and orange
Guantánamo jumpsuits the strange, new symbols of America around the
world.

In sum, the great and tragic irony of the Bush presidency is that
its morally convicted foundations have yielded some of the most morally
grotesque acts and radical departures from American values in our
country's history. The president who insists that he is driven by a
clear and compelling moral framework, in which the forces of Good and
Evil battle toward a decisive resolution, has done more than almost any
American in history to make the world question on which side of that
battle this country is fighting. The more convinced President Bush
and his followers become of the unchallengeable righteousness of their
cause, the fewer limits they recognize. And America's moral standing in
the world, and our national character, continue to erode to previously
unthinkable depths.

And less you think Greenwald is just a “Bush hater” he dedicated his blog yesterday to rebutting critics from the left who just as simplistically insist that “Bush is evil” and than explains everything.  I've yet to read a better argument for all that is wrong with the Bush presidency. 

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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