America's Habit of Self-Deception

Article excerpt

No weapons of mass destruction? It's the fault of the "intelligence community." Widespread abuse of Iraqi prisoners? It's the "wrongdoing of a few." Iraqis want the Americans to go home? It's because they "fail to understand our motives." For President Bush and his advisers, failure is always to be laid at someone else's door, This attitude flows from a worldview so ideologically proscribed (Christian fundamentalist elements in government see themselves on a mission from God) that it filters out discordant aspects of reality. You just hide yourself from unwanted facts with the tenacity of cult devotees and use an old tactic to maintain the resulting fantasy--evidence that does not fit your paradigm is rejected, and those who offer it lack patriotism.

Take the case of weapons of mass destruction. The CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the State Department did gather intelligence that raised doubt about weapons programs in Iraq. However, such a conclusion did not meet the needs of the administration. Their worldview demanded an invasion, and that required the existence of such weapons and a connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. Therefore, major pressure was put on the analysts to come up with conclusions the data did not support, and Vice President Dick Cheney created his own "intelligence office" within the Pentagon, the Office of Special Plans. Its job was to "data mine" the intelligence so it would fit the administration's worldview. When Bruce Hardcastle, the Defense Intelligence Agency's senior officer for the Middle East, told the White House that their "handling of the evidence was wrong," the response was to "do away with his job," according to Sidney Blumenthal in The Guardian Feb. 5. There was no failure of the intelligence community. They were simply censored.

In a similar effort, outriders of the administration, in the persons of Daniel Pipes and Martin Kramer, are now attacking American Middle East scholars because most of them challenge the neo-conservative worldview. Pipes and Kramer claim that these scholars have failed to serve U.S. government interests because they do not make acceptable predictions of events in the Middle East, as Kramer wrote in Ivory Towers on Sand. As punishment, those who come up with such "wrong assessments" should lose federal funding for their research until they cease to be "intellectually corrupt."

In truth, American academics studying the Middle East have been remarkably prescient. Most warned that American policies in the region were and are bad ones. U.S. support for dictatorships, the overthrow of popular governments and support for Israel's systematic destruction of the Palestinian society were all bound to arouse violent anti-Americanism. But pointing this out contradicts an administration worldview that is blindly pro-Israel, determined to control the Middle East by force and incapable of admitting that American practices are self-defeating. …