by Lloyd deMause
Chapter 2–The Gulf War as a Mental Disorder
|“He’s going to get his ass kicked!”|
—- George Bush
Not every American president has been able to resist his nation’s call for war. Studies have shown the main determinant is the kind of childhood the president has experienced.1 Jimmy Carter was unusual in being able to draw upon his having had fairly loving parents, in particular a mother who encouraged his individuality and independence, a very unusual quality for a parent in the 1920s.2 It is no coincidence that when I once collected all the childhood photos I could find of American presidents I noticed that only those of Jimmy Carter and Dwight Eisenhower (another president who resisted being drawn into war) showed their mothers smiling.
Ronald Reagan’s childhood, in contrast, was more like that of most presidents: a nightmare of neglect and abuse, in his case dominated by an obsessively religious mother and a violent, alcoholic father who, he said, used to “kick him with his boot” and “clobber” him and his brother.3 The result, as I have documented in my book, Reagan’s America, was a childhood of phobias and fears “to the point of hysteria,” buried feelings of rage and severe castration anxieties (the title of his autobiography was Where Is The Rest of Me?). As an adult, Reagan took to carrying a loaded pistol, and once considered suicide, only to be saved by the defensive maneuver of taking up politics and becoming an anti-communist warrior, crusading against imaginary “enemies” who were blamed for the feelings he denied in himself.4
THE PRESIDENTIAL STYLE OF GEORGE BUSH
George Bush’s childhood, though not as chaotic as Reagan’s, was also full of fear and punishments. Psychohistorian Suzy Kane, interviewing George’s brother, Prescott, Jr., discovered that Bush’s father often beat him on the buttocks with a belt or a razor strap, the anticipation of which, Prescott, Jr. recalled, made them “quiver” with fear.5 “He took us over his knee and whopped us with his belt,” Prescott said. “He had a strong arm, and boy, did we feel it.”6 As he admitted to Kane, “We were all scared of him. We were scared to death of Dad when we were younger.” Childhood classmates of George described his father as “aloof and distant…formidable and stern…very austere and not a warm person.” “Dad was really scary,” George himself once admitted.7 As a result, a desperate need to please was George’s main trait as a child, and a depressive personality with an overwhelming need to placate became his trademarks as president.
The mood of America as Bush ran for the presidency was also quite depressed, which favored his election over his less depressed opponent. During the Eighties, in what was often misnamed “A Decade of Indulgence,” America had had an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity, the latter based mainly on manic spending binges on the military and on financial speculation, both financed by borrowing.8 As will be shown, manic periods such as these usually climax in wars. In 1989, however, America’s traditional enemy, the Soviet Union, had collapsed, and a period of unprecedented world peace without any real enemies had “broken out all over,” as Newsweek put it.9 Soon after the end of the Evil Empire, both America and Europe were plunged into depression. Beisel summarized the feeling:
The New York Times speaks of “An Empty Feeling…Infecting Eastern Europe.” An authority on Britain finds the British undergoing “self-doubt and self-humiliation…greater now than at any time…over the last thirty years.” The cover of the World Press Review speaks of “Germany’s Reunified Blues”…Europe is depressed. Just three years ago, Germans were “delirious in the days before and after reunification,” said Current History. “A couple of months later, their euphoria had turned to gloom.”10
America, too, felt just terrible after the downfall of the Berlin Wall. “Democracy is winning,” said The New York Times on March 4, 1990. “The arms race is over. Villains are friendly now…the jackpot so long desired was America’s. So then why doesn’t it feel better?”11 Everywhere were predictions of doom, decline and the death of the American dream. The media wondered why, despite the fact that world peace had been achieved and the American economy was expanding, “People are incredibly depressed” (The New York Times), “In the past month, there has been a distinct odor of collapse and doom around the city,” (New York Post), and “There is something catastrophic coming” (Washington Post).12 With no foreign enemy into whom we could project our fears, America had only one choice to end its feelings of depression: have a sacrificial economic recession that would punish ourselves and our families for our peace and prosperity.
One reason for Bush’s election was his oft-stated statement that “we must all sacrifice.”13 With the economy still expanding during 1989 and 1990, he unconsciously realized that he had to do something dramatic to stop this growth by making people feel even more depressed, so they would stop buying goods and making investments and thereby precipitate an economic downturn. His own mood had been affected by the guilty messages the media was repeating daily, as well as by his taking Halcion, a mind-altering drug that could make users so depressed and/or manic they became suicidal.14
Bush’s prescription for America was to make it feel depressed by raising taxes, cutting spending and repeatedly vetoing all the legislation that was needed to keep the economy moving forward. Just as Presidents did before previous recessions, Bush produced an economic downturn by raising taxes and reducing spending, costing jobs and destroying consumer demand. Although he knew that a big tax increase would make him unpopular15 and would violate the promise he made in his “Read my lips: no new taxes” acceptance speech, at a deeper level he was giving the nation the punishment it unconsciously wanted. As it turned out, the real revenue finally produced by the higher tax rates during the recession turned out to be much less than if rates had stayed the same.16 Therefore, it was a recession, not additional tax revenue, that was the unconscious motive for the tax-increase package, a recession needed to “purge the rottenness out of the system,” as one Bush official had put it.17
PEACE, PROSPERITY AND POLLUTION
That personal achievement and prosperity often makes individuals feel sinful and unworthy of their success is a commonplace observation of psychotherapy ever since Freud’s first case studies of people “ruined by success.”18 Yet no one seems to have noticed that feelings of sinfulness are usually prominent in the shared emotional life of nations after long periods of peace, prosperity and social progress, particularly if they are accompanied by more personal and sexual freedom.19 As early as 1988, American political and business leaders had begun to wonder if the Reagan prosperity had not lasted too long, and some called for a cleansing recession. The Federal Reserve, pleased that their interest rate increase in the summer of 1987 had produced the sharpest one-day drop in the stock market in history, tightened rates again in the summer of 1988 in order to get the recession going, under the rationalization they had to “cool the economy down” the usual code for “reduce the guilt for too much success.” As one perceptive reporter described the plan in 1988, “After the election, the leadership of this country will say to the Fed, ‘Go ahead and tighten [the money supply] boys.’ The Federal Reserve tightens, interest rates rise, the economy slows. Then they will tell the next president and Congress to raise taxes…It scares me.”20
2:1 America felt sinful after the peace and prosperity of the 1980s
As my previous studies have shown,21 the image of national sinfulness is usually pictured in political cartoons as pollution. Each time a nation feels too prosperous for its deprived childhood to tolerate, it imagines that it is sinful, and a national “pollution alert” is called, where the media suddenly notices such things as environmental pollution (acid rain), home pollution (dioxin) or blood pollution (AIDS)-all of which existed in reality before, but now suddenly became symbols in a fantasy of inner pollution (sin, guilt). What happens in these emotional “pollution alerts” is that the media stops overlooking real dangers, raises hysterical alarms about how the world has suddenly become unsafe to live in, and then avoids really changing anything-since the pollution that is frightening the nation is actually internal, not external.22
2:2 America felt polluted in 1988
The banking community’s role in 1988-9 in bringing about what the media began calling “the slump we need”23 was to reduce the money supply, raise interest rates and reduce lending. The Fed announced that they would like to push inflation “near zero,” a goal that has never been achieved by any nation in history without a punishing depression. The central bank’s usual role in killing prosperity was revealed earlier by Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, who, trying to make a joke, told a reporter that the secret of central bankers everywhere was that “we have a haunting fear that someone, someplace may be happy.”24
Many reporters recognized the depressive origins of the national mood and even the guilt that engendered it. The Washington Post said that after eight years of optimism, “America is in…an ugly spasm of guilt, dread and nostalgia. Once more, America is depressed.”25 A columnist accurately diagnosed the mood of America in 1990:
America is like a barroom drunk. One minute it brags about its money and muscle, and then for the next hour it bleats into its beer about failure and hopelessness…America’s depression is not brought on by plague, flood, famine or war…We are guilty, guilty, guilty…depression, decline, depravity, dysphoria, deconstruction, desuetude, dog days, distrust, drugs, despair…”26
There was only one way that a lengthy economic recession need not be necessary to cure our national depression: an enemy abroad could be created who could be blamed for our “greediness” and then punished instead of punishing ourselves.
At first blush, the idea of America starting a war for emotional reasons seems blasphemous. Although most people are familiar with the notion that homicidal acts of individuals stem from underlying emotional disorders, it is rare for anyone to inquire into whether wars-homicidal acts of entire nations-might stem from shared mental disorders. Unless they are blamed on the emotional problems of one leader, like Hitler, wars are usually explained by economic motivations. But if this were true, one should be able to find in the words and actions of leaders about to begin wars discussions of the economic benefits of the proposed war, yet this is precisely what is missing in the historical documents. Instead, wars regularly start with images of suicide. For example, when the Japanese leadership was deciding whether to attack Pearl Harbor and begin their war with the United States, several ministers were asked by Tojo to study what would happen if they attacked America. At a meeting, each minister around the table forecast defeat by the U.S., and by the time the last minister gave his assessment, it was obvious that an attack would be suicidal for Japan. Whereupon Tojo told those present, “There are times when we must have the courage to do extraordinary things-like jumping, with eyes closed, off the veranda of the Kiyomizu Temple! [This was the Tokyo temple where people regularly committed suicide.]”27 Hitler, too, spoke in suicidal, not economic, imagery as he went to war,28 promising Germans glorious death on the battlefield and calling himself a “sleepwalker” as he led the German people over the suicidal cliff. This is how real wars begin.
All the historical evidence suggests that there were strong irrational reasons in America’s decision to go to war in the Gulf in 1991. To begin with, the President had earlier floated a trial balloon for the acceptability of a military solution to the nation’s emotional problems by sending 25,000 U.S. troops to Panama, ostensibly to capture Manuel Noriega for his role in drug trade. Although the Panama invasion seemed to the military an embarrassment, calling it ridiculous because “the whole goddam operation depends on finding one guy in a bunker,”29 the American people loved the show, Bush’s polls went up and permission was given for future military action.
Yet preparing for a new sacrificial war first and foremost requires avoiding the guilt for starting it; even Hitler thought it necessary to dress up some of his soldiers in Polish uniforms and have them pretend to attack Germans so he could present an excuse for his invasion of Poland. America, in its own mind, had never attacked another country at any time in its history; it had only defended itself or rescued others who were being attacked. So when the nation’s depressed mood deepened in 1990, Bush’s task was to find someone who was willing to start a war against a weaker country so America could come to their rescue in a liberating war that would make us feel better again.
THE SACRIFICE OF CHILDREN
Meanwhile, American magazine covers and political cartoons in the months before the Middle East crisis began expressing subliminal death wishes toward America’s youth, suggesting that they be sacrificed. Children were shown shot, stabbed, strangled, and led off cliffs as trial fantasies for the coming war.
2:3 Child sacrifice suggestion prior to the Middle East crisis
Money magazine, writing a story on how easy it was toget into college, used as its cover illustration a wholly gratuitous drawing of a youth being stabbed by pennants with the headline: “THE SACRIFICE OF THE CHILDREN,” imagery exactly opposite to the main point of the story but accurately illustrating the main fantasy of the nation. Children were increasingly shown on covers of magazines and newspapers as being killed in “War Zones,” even though homicide had actually decreased in the past decade.30 A United Nations World Summit for Children conference was depicted in a cartoon with Bush saying that America’s children deserved electrocution for being naughty.
2:4 Children were felt to be so naughty they deserved electrocution
That it was mainly the death of our own that was being suggested was made particularly clear early in 1990 by the sudden media focus on a physician who had long advocated assisted suicide and who had built a “suicide machine” to administer a lethal dose of poison. One cartoon even showed Bush himself as the “suicide doctor” suggesting that he was willing to help the nation commit suicide. The nation’s mood had hit bottom. In two decades of collecting visual material, this was the first cartoon out of over 100,000 I had collected that showed a president about to kill the nation’s citizens.
2:5 Bush was seen as a killing doctor
THE SPECTER OF THE TERRIFYING MOMMY
When a patient walks into a psychiatric clinic suffering from severe depression unrelated to life events and reports he has been having dreams of children being hurt and suicidal thoughts, the clinician begins to suspect a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is particularly so if-as with America in 1990-the patient has been experiencing extreme mood swings, frequent panic attacks, exaggerated fears for the future, manic episodes of frantic spending and borrowing, drug abuse, and feelings of unreality and detachment. As these are all symptoms of PTSD, one of the first questions the psychiatrist might ask about is whether the patient has been experiencing “flashbacks” to childhood traumas, in particular if he has had intrusive images of harmful parental figures, particularly of cruel or neglectful mothers. When these fantasies are widespread-as they are prior to most wars-it is an indication of a return to the traumas of infancy, evidence that the nation is going through a PTSD-type crisis, one which can only be defended against by inflicting their fears upon enemies.
2:6 Terrifying women were featured in the media
The cartoon images and media preoccupations in America during these months show frightening female images in quantity. A bitchy, castrating Madonna dominated magazine covers. Ivanna Trump, wife of real estate magnate Donald Trump, was depicted as having castrated her estranged husband. Dozens of Fatal Attraction-type movies were currently popular, featuring cruel women who were both seductive and murderous.31 Political cartoons proliferated feateruing the biting mouths of animals. So prevalent were the media images of terrifying, castrating and engulfing mommies and the subliminal suggestions of a child sacrifice that I published an article entitled “It’s Time to Sacrifice…Our Children,” detailing the evidence for America’s wish to sacrifice their youth and forecasting that a new military venture might be started soon to accomplish this sacrifice.32 The article, written four months before Iraq invaded Kuwait, said:
Subliminal suggestions that children should be sacrificed have been exceptionally prevalent in American media during the past year. At our Institute for Psychohistory, we carefully analyze the kinds of images found in thousands of political cartoons and magazine covers in order to give us clues as to what our shared fantasies are about and what we are up to as a nation. What we have discovered is an upsurge in images of children being shot, stabbed, strangled, pushed off sacrificial cliffs and in general being punished for the sins of their elders.
These media images, we find, are like trial balloons for actions the nation is about to undertake but that are split off and denied because they are so repugnant to our moral sense. In fact, we have found that these images in the media are an extremely important way for the nation to share its most powerful emotional fantasies. They resemble the repetitive dreams an individual may have-for instance, a series of dreams that their spouse might die-in that they represent wishes from deep in the unconscious.
When media images of children being sacrificed proliferate, therefore, we are floating trial balloons on a subliminal level suggesting that it is time for our children to pay for our sinful excesses during our recent Decade of Indulgence.
What I couldn’t figure out at the time was this: since the Evil Empire fantasy had collapsed, who would be our enemy in our next sacrificial war?
SEARCHING FOR AN ENEMY
President Bush soon began to sense that he was being sent unconscious messages that a new war had to be found soon. His masculinity began to be questioned. He began to be pictured by cartoonists wearing a dress and was referred to more often as a “wimp.” Cartoons began showing him being attacked and devoured by monsters.33 He sensed the nation’s distress and rage, and decided he had better act soon. In such a peaceful post-Cold War world, where could he find an enemy crazy enough to be willing to fight the most powerful military force on earth, yet small enough for us to defeat easily?
Since it is the task of a leader to provide enemies when required, Bush was not about to be caught short when his nation asked him to find an enemy. Iraq’s leader, Saddam Hussein, had long been a U.S. satrap. Bush, as Vice President, had personally contacted Saddam in 1986 in a covert mission to get him to escalate the air war with Iran.34 America had been secretly and illegally building up Iraq’s military forces, including their nuclear weapons program, for over a decade, including arranging billion-dollar “loan guarantees” that the U.S. would end up paying off.35 Secret arms transfers to Iraq, money sent to Iraq via Italian banks, official approval of U.S. exports of military equipment, even shipment of weapons from our NATO stockpiles in Germany were all part of the clandestine buildup, all illegal and all covered up by the Reagan administration.36 Iraq, for its part, felt beholden to the U.S. As Kenneth Timmerman put it in his definitive book, The Death Lobby: How the West Armed Iraq,
The arming of Iraq was a 15-year love affair [for America]. Saddam Hussein was our creation, our monster. We built him up and then tried to take him down.37
Saddam Hussein, like so many dictators, had an unbelievably traumatic childhood.38 His mother tried to abort him by hitting her abdomen with her fists and cutting herself with a kitchen knife, yelling, “In my belly I’m carrying a Satan!” She gave the infant Saddam away to his uncle, a violent man who beat the boy regularly, calling him “a son of a cur” and training him to use a gun and steal sheep. Saddam committed his first homicide at eleven. His political career centered on the murder of his fellow countrymen, and he particularly enjoyed watching the torture and execution of officers who had fought with him. Saddam would obviously make an ideal enemy to whom America could delegate the task of starting a new war so that we could remain guiltless.
In early 1990, before the Gulf crisis began, the U.S. military unexpectedly undertook four war games that rehearsed fighting Iraq, premised on their invasion of Kuwait.39 At the same time, Kuwait’s rulers suddenly adopted a provocative stance toward Iraq, refusing to discuss outstanding issues over disputed lands and loans, an attitude that even Jordan’s King Hussein called “puzzling”40 and regarding which one Middle East expert stated that “if the Americans had not pushed, the royal family [of Kuwait] would have never taken the steps that it did to provoke Saddam.”41 In addition, the U. S. provided $3 billion in “agricultural loans” to Saddam, which he promptly used for military equipment.
A special investigative report, based on leaked documents, published by the London Observer and ignored by the rest of the world press, revealed that early in 1990 “Bush sent a secret envoy to meet with one of Hussein’s top officials. According to a summary of this report,42 “the envoy told the dictator’s confidant ‘that Iraq should engineer higher oil prices to get it out of its dire economic fix’…Hussein took the envoy’s advice, and moved his troops to the border of Kuwait…’The evidence suggest that U.S. complicity with Saddam went far beyond miscalculation of the Iraqi leader’s intentions [and included] active U.S. support for the Iraqi President'” in his military threat toward Kuwait. So overwhelming was the evidence that the U.S. financed, provided equipment for and encouraged Saddam’s aggressive military venture that Al Gore, when running for Vice President, said, “Bush wants the American people to see him as the hero who put out a raging fire. But new evidence now shows that he is the one who set the fire. He not only struck the match, he poured gasoline on the flames.”43
Saddam reacted predictably to Bush’s encouragement, publicly threatened to use force against Kuwait and moved his troops to the border. To be certain he had U.S. backing for the invasion, he then summoned U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie to his office and asked her what Washington’s position was on his dispute with Kuwait. Glaspie, acting on Bush’s cable of the previous day, gave Saddam the barely disguised go-ahead by saying that “the President had instructed her to broaden and deepen our relations with Iraq” and to deliver America’s warm sympathy with his problems. She then stated, “We have no opinion on Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait….[Secretary of State] James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction.”44 Senior Pentagon officials had feared Bush’s cabled instructions would send a signal that it was all right with the U.S. if Iraq invaded Kuwait.45 “This stinks,” one said about the cable. But Bush had prevented a Pentagon effort to draft a sterner message that might have shown American opposition to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.
Just in case there was any question about the American signal to Hussein, on July 31, after Iraqi forces had moved fuel and ammunition to front-line Iraqi military units on Kuwait’s border, Assistant Secretary of State Kelly was asked at a public House subcommittee hearing what would happen “if Iraq…charged across the border into Kuwait, for whatever reason, what would our position be with regard to the use of U.S. forces?” Kelly first replied, “I cannot get into the realm of ‘what if’ answers.” Then, when the Congressman asked, “Is it correct to say, however, that we do not have a treaty commitment which would obligate us to engage U.S. forces?” Kelly replied, “That is correct.”46 Yet General Norman Schwarzkopf had been planning and practicing through war games for nearly a year a massive attack by U.S. forces in case of Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.47 Nevertheless, the green light was given to Saddam that an attack on Kuwait would not be countered by the U.S.
On August 2, Iraq invaded Kuwait.
THE GULF WAR AS TRAUMATIC REENACTMENT
Because it takes time for unconscious fantasies to become linked up with reality, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait went almost unnoticed at first. The day of the invasion, The Washington Post reported it in an unemotional article in a single column on the lower half of the page. Bush himself took a while to become conscious of his opportunity to go to war and initially saw no urgency to intervene, saying, “We’re not discussing intervention. I’m not contemplating such action.”48 It was not until Bush met the next day with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Aspen, Colorado that he recognized he must turn the Iraqi invasion into an American war, Thatcher telling him that he was Churchill, Saddam was Hitler, and Kuwait was Czechoslovakia.49 After Mrs. Thatcher told Bush Saddam was “evil,” he reversed his opinion; as one Thatcher adviser put it, “The Prime Minister performed a successful backbone transplant” on Bush.50 Bush abruptly appeared on TV and told Americans they had to “stand up to evil,” proclaimed a policy of “absolutely no negotiations” with Iraq, and ordered American troops and planes into the Middle East.
America felt reinvigorated to once again have an enemy to lift it out of its depression. “We’ve felt bad for months,” said one commentator. “Suddenly we feel like we have a purpose….Americans like action.”51 The New Republic agreed, saying, “Saddam Hussein did the world a favor by invading Kuwait,” since it provided us relief from our depression.52 “Thanks, Saddam. We Needed That” another reporter headlined his column on the Iraqi invasion.53 Our shared emotions in a maelstrom, we would become a “Desert Storm” to live out our fears and rage.
Bush’s rationalizations about his reasons for going to war shifted with the desert sands, first saying it was about “our jobs,” then “our way of life” and then “our freedom.”54 The real reason was a psychological one: we would cure ourselves of our depression and flashbacks of punitive mommies by inflicting the punishment we felt we deserved upon other people’s children.
2:7 Saddam Hussein as Terrifying Mommy
Children were the real emotional focus of the Gulf War from the very start. While the images of terrifying American mommies completely disappeared from cartoons and magazine covers, we instead projected them into Saddam Hussein, and he was pictured as a terrifying parent, a “child abuser” who liked to kill children.
The “child killer” theme was soon spread by the media. Particularly convincing was a wholly invented story told by a 15-year-old girl, who testified before the Security Council and Congress that a surgeon in Kuwait had seen Iraqi soldiers taking hundreds of babies from incubators, “leaving them on the cold floor to die.”55 None of those hearing this testimony and none of the hundreds of reporters who swallowed the story thought to check out any of its details, since it confirmed the nation’s unconscious fantasies that they shared. It wasn’t until after the war ended that it was revealed that the “surgeon” and the girl had used false names and identities, that the girl was really the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S.-a fact known to the organizers of the meeting-and that the story was completely fabricated, as were other stories of mass rape and torture by Iraqis.56 But we needed stories of child abuse. We were about to reenact our childhood traumas, just as Post-Traumatic Stress patients often hurt their children or themselves in order to achieve temporary relief from their inner emotional distress. We therefore had to objectify our fantasies of terrifying mommies and hurt children in order to prepare ourselves for starting the war.
WAR AS RENEWAL THROUGH RITUAL COMBAT
The Gulf War was hardly the first to be started by creating an enemy and then engaging in combat with him. America has a long history of going to war with dictators it has previously armed.57 The goal was national renewal through combat, as in early civilizations, where, when countries felt depressed, “polluted,” they often openly arranged battles in order to “cleanse” themselves and “rebirth” their sinful people.58 The Aztecs, for instance, would periodically decide that they had become polluted and would set up “Flower Wars,” dividing their own armies into two sides and fighting a Cosmic Battle between them in order to revitalize their country. During this ritual combat, they not only slaughtered thousands to assuage their bloodthirsty female goddess an early version of the Terrifying Mommy but they also took victorious warriors from the battle and ripped out their hearts in a ritual blood sacrifice to the goddess.59
War in early civilizations often began by making the leader undergo a ritual humiliation, the purpose of which was to symbolically reenact the humiliation that they had experienced as children. The Babylonian king, for instance, would be slapped on the face, forced to kneel in abasement before a sacred image and made to confess his sinfulness.60 In America, in the months prior to the Gulf war, President Bush was forced to undergo a similar humiliation ritual by being called a “wimp” (the national cartoonist Oliphant pictured Bush in cartoons wearing a woman’s purse on his limp wrist) before he could regain his lost masculinity by going to war. At the end of 1989, Time magazine even showed him on their cover as two George Bushes, one strong and one weak-a device identical to that used by early societies who appointed a “double” of the king before wars in order to represent his weaker half and to emphasize his strong and weak aspects.61
2:8 George Bush as a “double,” both a strong leader and a weak leader
The sacrificial war ritual, then, had three main elements:
(1) A sinful, polluted world, with a leader who is depicted as becoming more and more impotent in containing the nation’s depressed, angry feelings,
(2) Terrifying mommy fantasies, with images of angry goddesses threatening to devour the country unless a ritual sacrificial victim is provided, and
(3) Sacrificial child victims, whose blood will revitalize the country’s emotional life and who ultimately represent the “guilty” child who was the victim of the original traumas.
Elements of these childhood traumas can be seen in the Gulf War. Since George Bush had been beaten on his posterior during childhood, he threatened to “kick the ass” of Saddam Hussein. Many Americans, who had also had their posteriors beaten during childhood,62 multiplied the image: “Kick Ass” T-shirts, flags and belt buckles flooded the country; Americans told reporters they wanted to “whip that guy’s butt” and “get him with his britches down”; and cartoons showed the U.N. building decorated with the words “KICK BUTT.”63
Saddam Hussein, for his part, saw the coming war in terms of the typical childhood traumas he and his countrymen had experienced. For instance, most male Iraqis endured a bloody, terrifying circumcision around the age of six, and Saddam used metaphors that reflected fears of bloody castration, saying that it was Iraq’s mission to “return the branch, Kuwait, to the root, Iraq” and vowing Americans would be made to “swim in their own blood.”64 It was his mission, he said, to return to Iraq “the part that was cut off by English scissors.”65
Both nations saw the war as a sacred combat between Good and Evil. Iraq said that Americans had “desecrated Mecca” and that the war would “purify our souls” in a “showdown… between Good and Evil.”66 U.S. Congressman Stephen Solarz, as he led the pro-war forces in the vote for invasion, said, “There is Evil in the world.” 67 The conflict certainly wasn’t about economics; the U.S. spends $50 billion a year to maintain its military in the Gulf, while only importing $15 billion a year from the area.68 The war and embargo were for purely internal emotional purposes, not economic. Like most modern nations, America had gone to war once every two decades, and it had been two decades since the Vietnam War. Since war was an addiction, an emotional disorder, America had to have a new war to clean out the progress and prosperity of the 1980s, and Saddam had provided a willing enemy to give us the feeling of being cleansed, reborn.
Bush told the country it was fighting for a “New World Order” that would produce a “New Era of Peace” everywhere in the world. Americans interviewed before the invasion told reporters, “The course of history has changed…I don’t know exactly what that means, but I know things are going to be different…The country had crossed a threshold…This [is] one of those events that marks the end of an old era and the start of a new one.”69 Like the ancient societies, America fantasized the world would be reborn through human sacrifice.
Since sacrificial rituals are scripted by God, they have a compulsive quality that make them feel like they are inevitable and out of the hands of those carrying them out. Although some Americans who had had better childhoods-including Jimmy Carter and Chief of Staff General Colin Powell70 thought sanctions should be given a chance before starting the war, Bush rejected proposals from Gorbachev and Saddam agreeing to remove Iraqi troops from Kuwait in exchange for a pledge to leave Saddam in power.71 Even though this was precisely what the war accomplished, a peaceful solution was unacceptable. “There was always an inevitability about this,” Bush said as he gave the order for invasion. On the first night of the war, he was reported as “watching the nation go to war-almost exactly following his script-as he sat in a little study off the Oval Office, clicking his TV remote control…[He] calmly remarked: ‘Just the way it was scheduled.'”72 America began the war by dropping 88,000 tons of bombs on Iraq, seventy percent of them missing their targets and killing civilians.73 One veteran newsman at NBC was fired for trying to report the slaughter of Iraqi civilians.74 Illegal fuel air explosives which before the war the press feared Saddam would use against Americans were exclusively and widely used by American troops on both military and civilian areas.75
2:9 Americans felt reborn by war
Americans watched B-52s carpet bomb whole cities on TV, entranced literally in a trance devouring images of missiles going down air intakes, hospitals blown up, water reservoirs and filtration plants being destroyed and schools being demolished.76 Soldiers said it was like “shooting fish in a barrel.”77 Despite efforts to deny the reality of the killing by calling the carpet bombings “surgical strikes” and tens of thousands of mangled Iraqi civilian bodies “collateral damage,” the Pentagon later admitted it massively targeted civilian structures, in order, they said, “to demoralize the populace.”78 The dissociation in our heads, however, was almost complete. We were killing people, but they weren’t real. One TV reporter told us after the first eight thousand sorties had pulverized Iraqi civilian areas, “Soon we’ll have to stop the air war and start killing human beings,”79 Rivited to our TV sets in our war trance, we found it had “an eerie, remote-control quality…it seemed that we were watching a war about technology…”80 or a scene out of the movie Star Wars, with Luke Skywalker blasting Darth Vader bunkers with high-tech laser bombs that only destroyed machines, not people.
The human carnage revived the nation. Bush’s approval rating soared. Oliphant drew a cartoon of Bush’s woman’s handbag being “retired into the closet” in honor of his role as a potent war leader. Political cartoons were joyful, showing Americans holding hands and dancing while bombs fell on the enemy. Continuing the acting-out of the “kick ass” fantasy, one cartoon on Valentine’s Day showed an American missile about to hit a terrified Saddam Hussein in the rear. Restaging of our childhood traumas with others as victims was very exciting.
The war was vicious, as promised. In 43 days of war plus the years of embargo afterward, America achieved what the U.N. termed “the near apocalyptic destruction” of Iraq. Starting with 42 days of bombing, there were 110,000 aerial sorties, the equivalent of seven Hiroshima bombs. Over 120,000 soldiers were killed plus over 1,000,000 children81 most of whom died of malnutrition and epidemics caused by our systematic targeting of Iraqi irrigation canals and food-proceesing plants and of our continuing embargo, a genocidal violation of the Geneva Convention, which prohibits the starvation of civilians.82 Killing civilians though claimed as something America explicitely avoids doing is actually an American specialty, from the genocide of Native Americans (almost all innocent civilians) to the bombing of Hiroshima (totally civilians).
After 100 billion dollars wasted killing Iraqis, we found we hadn’t killed the “evil” Saddam at all in fact, Bush elected to pull back from pursuing him supposedly to “provide a counterweight” against other countries. We had mainly killed innocent women and children, representatives of the Dangerous Mommies and Bad Children in our own unconscious minds. We had merged with the perpetrators of our childhood traumas, cleaned out the buried violence in our heads, and as a result of our ghastly human sacrifice of the innocent we felt much better about ourselves as a nation.83
Empathy for the innocent dead was totally missing. We didn’t even notice the genocide of children was happening. The civilians who died were, of course, not just “collateral damage,” since, according to one authority, “the Pentagon has admitted it targeted civilian structures both to demoralize the populace and exacerbate the effects of sanctions.”84 As a result, five years later water was polluted, garbage had to be dumped into the streets and hospitals were nearly inoperative. An estimated 1,000,000 to 6,000,000 more Iraqis would eventually die, according to the Atomic Energy Authority again mostly children both from the embargo and from the effects over decades of American use of depleted uranium wastes in the 65,000 uranium-tipped missiles that were fired.85 Those children still alive despite our genocidal efforts were reported by War Watch as being “the most traumatized children of war ever described.”86 The war had accomplished our purpose. America held a massive victory parade, and the President told the American people that “the darker side of human nature” had been defeated more accurately, the darker side of our own psyche had been restaged-assuring us that our nation had entered a New World Order.
The sacrificial ritual had been carried out exactly as planned: by a genocide of women and children. The nation had been cleansed of its emotional pollution. The president’s popularity rating rose to 91 percent, the highest of any American leader in history. The stock market soared. “Bush…restored America’s can-do spirit….It felt good to win.”87 The country had been united by slaughter as it had never been by any positive achievement. Editorials across the country congratulated the President on his having “defeated Evil,” and speculated on what the New World Order would look like and when it might begin. The victors no longer felt depressed. America’s twenty-eighth war-perhaps mankind’s millionth-had again restored our potency. We felt as if we had been reborn.
1. The best single study is Glenn David, Childhood and History in America. New York: Psychohistory Press, 1976. For bibliography of psychobiographical studies, see Henry Lawton, The Psychohistorian’s Handbook. New York: Psychohistory Press, 1988, pp. 161-176.
2. See Paul H. Elovitz, “Three Days in Plains,” and David Beisel, “Toward a Psychohistory of Jimmy Carter,” in Lloyd deMause and Henry Ebel, Eds., Jimmy Carter and American Fantasy: Psychohistorical Explorations. New York: Two Continents, 1977, pp. 33-96.
3. Ronald Reagan, Where’s the Rest of Me? New York: Karz Publishers, 1981, pp. 9 and 11.
4. See extensive psychobiography of Reagan in Lloyd deMause, Reagan’s America. New York: Creative Roots, 1984, pp. 36-50.
5. Suzy T. Kane, “What the Gulf War Reveals About George Bush’s Childhood.” The Journal of Psychohistory 20(1992): 149-166.
6. Barbara T. Toessner, “Obedience, Diligence, and Fun: Bush’s Extraordinary Family Life.” Jacksonville, Florida, Times Union, January 15, 1989, p. A3. See also J. Hyams, Flight of the Avenger: George Bush at War. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1991.
7. Gail Sheehy, Character: America’s Search for Leadership. New York: William Morrow & Co., 1988, p. 160.
8. See deMause, Foundations, pp. 172-243.
9. “Is Peace Really Breaking Out All Over?” Newsweek, August 1, 1988.
10. David R. Beisel, “Europe’s Feelings of Collapse 1990-1993.” The Journal of Psychohistory 21(1993): 133.
11. New York Times, March 3, 1990, p. D1.
12. The New York Times, January 2, 1990, p. D11; New York Post, April 26, 1990, p. 4; Washington Post, October 2, 1990, p. A19.
13. Lloyd deMause, “It’s Time to Sacrifice…Our Children.” The Journal of Psychohistory 18(1990): 135-144.
14. Benjamin J. Stein, “Our Man in Nirvana.” The New York Times, January 22, 1992, p. A21.
15. The Washington Post, October 5, 1992, p. A8.
16. The result of the $165-billion tax increase was to decrease tax receipts and push the deficit in 1991 to the highest level in American history, $385 billion, rather than the projected deficit of $63 billion, an error of $322 billion; see Lewis H. Lapham, “Notebook: Washington Phrase Book. ” Harper’s Magazine, October 1993, p. 9; also see Dean Baker, “Depressing Our Way to Recovery.” The American Prospect, Winter 1994, pp. 108-114.
17. The phrase is from the Federal Reserve in 1929, cited in William Greider, Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987, p. 300. The only economist who recognize the depressive intent of the 1991 budget deal was Robert Eisner, The Mistunderstood Economy: What Counts and How to Count It. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1994, p. 83.
18. Sigmund Freud, “The Interpretation of Dreams,” The Standard Edition of The Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. IV., p. 260.
19. See Lloyd deMause, “‘Heads and Tails'”: Money As a Poison Container.” The Journal of Psychohistory 16(1988): 1-18.
20. William Greider, “The Shadow Debate on the American Economy.” Rolling Stone, July 14-28, p. 85.
21. For evidence, see Chapter 7, “The Poison Builds Up: “There’s a Virus in our Bloodstream,” in deMause, Reagan’s America, pp. 114-135.
23. Paul Blustein, “Squeeze Play: The Slump We Need Has Started,” Washington Post, February 7, 1988, p. C1; Maxwell Newton, “Fed Must Move to Stem Growth in U.S. Economy,” New York Post, January 26, 1988, p. 35; “The Inevitable Tax Hike,” U.S. News & World Report, July 11, 1988, p. 17; Greider, “The Shadow Debate,” Rolling Stone, p. 85.
24. Paul Volcker, cited in Greider, Secrets of the Temple, p. 70.
25. Washington Post, November 26, 1990, p. B1.
26. Henry Allen, “America, the Bummed.” Newsday, December 4, 1990, p. 82.
27. John Toland, The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945. New York: Random House, 1970, p. 112.
28. See David Beisel, The Suicidal Embrace: Hitler, The Allies and The Origins of the Second World War, forthcoming, a book that is the most thoroughly-documented study of the emotional basis of nations going to war.
29. U.S. Army Chief of Staff Carl Vuono, cited in Rick Atkonson, Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1993, p. 273.
30. Christopher Jencks, “Is Violent Crime Increasing?” The American Prospect, Winter, 1994, pp. 98-107; Richard Morin, “Crime Time: The Fear, The Facts.” The Washington Post, January 30, 1994, p. C1.
31. Miles Harvey, “Hollywood’s mega-monster horror hits and misses.” In These Times, March 20-26, 1991, pp. 22-25.
32. Lloyd deMause, “It’s Time to Sacrifice…Our Children.” The Journal of Psychhistory 18(1990): 142.
33. Lloyd deMause, “The Gulf War as a Mental Disorder.” The Journal of Psychohistory 19(1991): 1-22; also see the other articles in this Special Gulf War Issue (Fall 1990) of the Journal.
34. Murray Waas and Craig Unger, “In the Loop: Bush’s Secret Mission.” New Yorker, November 2, 1992, pp. 64-84; Kenneth Timmerman, The Death Lobby: How the West Armed Iraq. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1992; Alan Friedman, Spider’s Web: The Secret History of How the White House Illegally Armed Iraq. New York: Bantam Books, 1993.
35. “Iraqgate.” U.S. News & World Report, May 18, 1992, pp. 42-51; “Did Bush Create This Monster?” Time, June 8, 1992, pp. 41-42; Stephen Pizzo, “Covert Plan.” Mother Jones, July/August, 1992, pp. 20-22.
36. Alan Friedman, “The President Was Very, Very Mad.” The New York Times, November 7, 1993, p. E15; Friedman, Spider’s Web.
38. Anna Aragno, “Master of His Universe.” The Journal of Psychohistory 19(1991): 96-108; Peter Waldman, “A Tale Emerges of Saddam’s Origins That Even He May Not Have Known.” The Wall Street Journal, February 7, 1991, p. A10; Gail Sheehy, “How Saddam Survived.” Vanity Fair, August 1991, pp. 31-53; J. Miller and L. Mylroie, Saddam Hussein and the Crisis in the Gulf. New York: Times Books, Random House, 1990.
39. Ramsey Clark, The Fire This Time: U.S. War Crimes in the Gulf. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1992, pp. 12-16.
40. Ibid., p. 15.
42. Jonathan Vankin, Conspiracies, CoverUps, and Crimes: Political Manipulation and Mind Control in America. New York: Paragon House Publishers, 1991, p. 203.
43. Peter Mantius, “Iraqgate: Shell Game.” In These Times, January 22, 1996, p. 28.
44. Ibid., p. 23; also see Clark’s description of how Glaspie lied to Congress on what she said to Hussein, p. 24.
45. The New York Times, October 25, 1992, p. A1;
46. Ibid;.;The New York Times, September 23, 1990, pp. L18 and L19; The Washington Post, September 19, 1990, p. A19; Paul A. Gigot, “A Great American Screw-Up: The U.S. and Iraq, 1980-1990,” The National Interest, Winter 1990/91, pp. 3-10.
47. Ramsey Clark, War Crimes: A Report on United States War Crimes Against Iraq. Washington, DC: Maisonneuve Press, 1992, p. 67.
48. Jean Edward Smith, George Bush’s War. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1992, p. 64.
49. Robert B. McFarland, “War Hysteria and Group-Fantasy in Colorado.” Journal of Psychohistory 19(1991): 36; Smith, George Bush’s War, pp. 7-8.
50. Jean Edward Smith, George Bush’s War. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1992, p. 68.
51. DeMause, “It’s Time to Sacrifice,” p. 143.
52. The New Republic, September 3, 1990, p. 9.
53. Ben Wattenberg, “Thanks Saddam. We Needed That.” New York Post, January 17, 1991, p. 8.
54. Theodore Draper, “The True History of the Gulf War.” The New York Review of Books, January 30, 1992, p. 41.
55. The entire deception is described in Clark, The Fire This Time, pp. 31-32 and in John R. MacArthur, “Remember Nayirah, Witness for Kuwait?” The New York Times, January 6, 1991, A17.
57. DeMause, “America’s Search for a Fighting Leader,” pp. 122-123.
58. DeMause, “Gulf War,” pp. 12-14; Lloyd deMause, Foundations of Psychohistory, pp. 244-332.
59. Burr C. Brundage, The Fifth Sun: Aztec Gods, Aztec World. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 1979; Patricia R. Anawalt, “Understanding Aztec Human Sacrifice.” Archaeology 35(1982): 38-45; Elizabeth P. Benson and Elizabeth H. Boone, Eds. Ritual Human Sacrifice in MesoAmerica. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library, 1985; Burr C. Brundage, The Jade Steps: A Ritual Life of the Aztecs. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1985.
60. Details of the combat ritual are documented in Theodore H. Gaster, Thespis: Ritual, Myth and Drama in the Ancient Near East. New York: Harper and Row, n.d.; Valerio Valeri, Kingship and Sacrifice: Ritual and Society and Ancient Hawaii. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1985; Brundage, The Jade Steps; deMause, “Gulf War,” pp. 12-14.
61. Valeri, Kingship and Sacrifice, p. 165.
62. DeMause, Foundations of Psychohistory, pp. 1-83.
63. New York Post, June 11, 1991, p. 16; WABC-TV, February 28, 1991; Washington Post, February 24, 1991, p. A26.
64. Rafael Patai, The Arab Mind. New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1983; The Wall Street Journal, Febrauary 7, 1991, p. A1; The New York Times, January 7, 1991, p. A1.
65. The New York Times, October 11, 1994, p. A13.
66. New York Post, August 11, 1990, p. 3; New York Newsday, January 12, 1991, p. 10.
67. New York Post, January 17, 1991, p. 31.
68. Ramsey Clark, The Children Are Dying. Washington, DC: Maisonneuve Press, 1996, p. 113.
69. The New York Times, January 16, 1991, p. A1 and January 18, 1991, p. A1.
70. David Roth, Sacred Honor: The Biography of Colin Powell. Zondervan Books, 1993; Howard Means, Colin Powell: A Biography. Ballantine Books, 1992.
71. Jean Edward Smith, George Bush’s War, p. 8; Rick Atkinson, Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1993, p. 347-348.
72. The Washington Post, January 16, 1991, p. A1; new York Post, January 17, 1991, p. 8.
73. Ramsey Clark, War Crimes: A Report on United States War Crimes Against Iraq. Washington, DC: Maisonneuve Press, 1992, p. 15.
74. Beth Sanders, “Fear and Favor in the Newsroom.” California Newsreel, KTEH, San Jose Public Television.
75. Ibid., p. 17.
76. U.S. bombs hit 28 civilian hospitals, 52 community health centers, 676 schools, and 56 mosques; see Clark, The Fire This Time, pp. 66. On the psychohistorical role of American TV, see Daniel Dervin, “From Oily War to Holy War: Vicissitudes of Group-Fantasy Surrounding the Persian Gulf Crisis.” The Journal of Psychohistory 19(1991): 67-83.
77. Elizabeth Drew, “Letter from Washington.” New Yorker, May 6, 1991, p. 101.
78. Ibid., p. 69.
79. WCBS-TV, January 21, 1991.
80. The New Yorker, January 28, 1991, p. 21.
81. Ramsey Clark, The Children Are Dying. Washington DC: Maisonneuve Press, 1996.
82. Out Now, “Weapons of Mass Destruction.” War Watch, November-December 1991, pp. 1-10; Kane, “What the Gulf War Reveals About George Bush’s Childhood,” pp. 149-140; Robert Reno, “Heck, Let’s Drop a Few More if The Allies Are Buying.” New York Newsday, May 16, 1991, p. 50; William M. Arkin, “The Gulf ‘Hyperwar’–An Interim Tally.” The New York Times, June 22, 1991, p. 23; Nina Burleigh, “Watching Children Starve to Death.” Time, June 10, 1991, p. 56; Ross B. Mirkarimi, “Disease, despair, destruction still plague Iraq.” In These Times, June 10-23, 1992, p. 10; Clark, The Fire This Time, p. 43; Draper, “The True History of the Gulf War.” pp. 36-45.
83. The U.S. government has used illegal blockade sanctions against the civilians populations in Cuba, Panama, Libya, Iran, Vietnam, Nicaragua and Korea as well as Iraq.
84. Clark, The Fire This Time, p. 69.
85. Kemp Houck, “Tank-Plinking in the Gulf.” Z Magazine, July/August, 1994, pp. 70-72.
86. Julia Devin, executive director of the International Commission on Medical Neutrality, November 13, 1991, cited in Draper, “True History of the Gulf War,” p. 40.
87. Ann McFeatters, “The Good Guys Won, and America’s Can-do Spirit Was Restored,” Chicago Tribune, March 1, 1991.