Juan Cole: Is Bush a Narcissist?







Bush said again on Monday that he would keep US troops in Iraq until 2009 and argued that for the US to withdraw would send a bad message to reformers in the region. He said he is concerned about that talk of civil war in Iraq and seemed to admit that he isn't very happy most of the time about the way things are going, but added that he doesn't expect to be joyous in wartime. He admitted again that Saddam Hussein did not"order" 9/11, but went on to again link Baathist Iraq to the threat of terrorism against the US, an unproven charge.

I am not a psychiatrist and don't play one on t.v., so treat what follows as political satire please, and nothing more.

But what strikes me about Bush's Monday appearance is how consistent it is with what I understand of the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder. Let's look at it this way:

'1. An exaggerated sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).'


Bush is not content to be the most powerful man in the world. He thinks he is on a mission from God, and has decided that he is going to"reform" the Middle East, and turn Middle Easterners into something else. He is the Great Transformer of these other peoples' lives. The reason he has to stay in Iraq until the end of his presidency (it is all about him) is that he cannot admit that he did not succeed in being the great Transformer of the Middle East, that in fact he screwed up the Middle East royally. Because such an admission of any slightest mistake, much less a major series of failures, would fatally threaten his sense of grandiosity. Thus, he can't pull troops out of Iraq not because of practical military considerations, but because it would send the wrong signal to regional"reformers," i.e. Bush's mini-me's, the people fulfilling his sense of grandiosity.

Nobody else is in the picture here, just Bush. He doesn't ask any sacrifice from the US public for the war, as Bill Maher and others have noted. The heroics are his alone. The rest of us should go shopping (so as not to interfere with his self-image as Atlas of the Middle East.)



' 2. Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love. '


Bush suffers from T. E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia") syndrome. Lawrence, despite polite denials, clearly thought that he led the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire during World War I and wrote:

' All men dream: but not equally, Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did. I meant to make a new nation, to restore a lost influence, to give twenty millions of Semites the foundations on which to build an inspired dream-palace of their national thoughts. So high an aim called out the inherent nobility of their minds, and made them play a generous part in events: but when we won, it was charged against me that the British petrol royalties in Mesopotamia were become dubious, and French Colonial policy ruined in the Levant. '


Bush, like Lawrence before him, imagines that he is inspiring a people to accomplish things they couldn't do without him. (That is why he can't admit that the Lebanese have been having elections for decades, and has to pretend it all started with him.) And all he gets for his inspired Transformation of others' lives is carping about the expected oil contracts in Iraq not being there. There is even prickliness from the French. Lawrence might have sympathized.


3. Believes he is"special" and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions) 4. Requires excessive admiration 5. Has a sense of entitlement.


He is the Decider. He doesn't need Security Council resolutions to start wars. He doesn't need warrants for wire taps. He is entitled. He is the War President (never mind that he chose to go to war in Iraq and so made himself into the war president, and that the war presidency would be over with by now if he were any good at it.)


' 6. Selfishly takes advantage of others to achieve his own ends. 7. Lacks empathy'


Bush only"worries" that eventually there may be a civil war in Iraq. He doesn't admit that he made a whole country of 25 million people into guinea pigs, and that as a result 3,000 are dying a month in civil war violence of the most brutal kind. '



8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him 9. Shows arrogant, haughty, patronizing, or contemptuous behaviors or attitudes. '


Saying that he can understand that having over 2600 of our troops come home in body bags and over 8,000 come home seriously wounded, with limbs gone or brain or spinal damage, is a cause of"anxiety" to the American"psyche" is patronizing. He knows better about why this has to be. The inferior people are a little upset, but that is because they don't understand that he is the Transformer. What they're upset about is just the side effect of the Transformation. They don't believe. They can't see the Transformation before their eyes. They are inferior.


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