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Saturday, February 12, 2005

George Bush's Moby Dick

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Commentary: George Bush’s Moby Dick

As Captain Ahab obsessively led his crew toward disaster, so George Bush is leading America.
By Gerald Rellick

It is not without good reason that Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick has been used to capture some sense of the madness of George W. Bush and his obsessive war against evil. We see in the legendary White Whale and Captain Ahab the madness that now haunts us all:

The White Whale swam before him as the monomaniac incarnation of all those malicious agencies which some deep men feel eating in them…. All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it...all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby Dick.

The start of Ahab’s fateful journey is described, fittingly for our time, in an insightful article, “Leviathan,” in the New York Review of Books, written in 2003 just prior to the invasion of Iraq. Author Jason Epstein writes:

Captain Ahab of the Nantucket whaler Pequod called his officers and crew together on the afterdeck to announce a change of plans. Instead of filling his hold with oil and returning safely home, he will subordinate the fiscal point of the voyage to a preemptive first strike against evil, embodied, he claimed, in a particular whale of an unusual color which in a previous encounter had torn his leg away.

To a leery and frightened first mate, Mr. Starbuck, Ahab screams, “Death to Moby-Dick. God hunt us all if we do not hunt Moby-Dick to his death!”

And so, George Bush, compelled at first by the obvious, the need to hunt the 9/11 mastermind, Osama bin Laden, did not rest easy with the progress of this “voyage.” The fighting in Afghanistan, with its mountains and circuitous caves, the sluggish going after the initial air bombardment, was simply bad theatre for a president who was untested, unsure of himself, and now suddenly in over his head. George Bush desperately needed a media-age victory.

The villain fit the script well on the surface of things; but the harsh reality was that bin Laden was so clever, so elusive, so enabled by his environs, that this hunt could go on for years without resolve. What George Bush needed now, in the words of Norman Mailer, was to punch out some “bozo in the boondocks” to prove his manhood. And the “hollowed-out Palooka,” just made to order, was Saddam Hussein and Iraq. This was a chance for America to show its ‘stuff,” not in intelligence, wisdom or craft, but in raw military power, America’s hole card -- or so Bush and his Neocon gang believed.

Now, nearly two years into Mad George’s senseless charge into Iraq, and over 1400 American servicemen killed, and possibly as many as 100,00 Iraqis killed, what are we Americans to make of all this?

As the media lavishes attention on the elections in war-torn Iraq, are we to be misled again? Are we to forget that this war was never about democracy in Iraq? Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction, ready to be used against us in America, an imminent threat to our security, and Saddam Hussein’s ties to bin Laden and al Qaeda -- all this has evaporated and been revealed as lies and deception. Do we now accept lying to the American people at the highest levels of government as acceptable policy? Even when it means our young men and women die for these lies? How much more are we to take?

As Seymour Hersh put it recently:

…the amazing thing is we are being taken over basically by a cult. Eight or nine neo-conservatives have somehow grabbed the government. Just how and why and how they did it so efficiently, will have to wait for much later historians and better documentation than we have now, but they managed to overcome the bureaucracy and the Congress, and the press, with the greatest of ease…. You do have to wonder what a Democracy is when it comes down to a few men in the Pentagon and a few men in the White House having their way.

A big part of it is that an unusually virulent strain of moral cowardice has taken over our nation’s capital and much of the “heartland” of America. Fear is the dominant emotion. Fear of authority, fear of speaking out, fear of just about everything. Enemies are everywhere. Whatever happened to the “home of the brave?”

Just as the mad Ahab deceived his crew into believing their expedition was about hunting whales, so mad George Bush, aided by his chief Neocon thugs -- Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice -- lied to the American people about their true mission, until it was too late to turn back. We had to hunt Saddam Hussein or else. And not to worry, said Mr. Cheney, Iraq would be a “cake walk.”

We are now like Ahab’s crew, trapped it seems into doing his insane bidding. Is our fate sealed? Can Ahab be stopped?

Gerald S. Rellick, PhD, worked in the defense sector of the aerospace industry. He now teaches in the California Community College system. To send Jerry your comments, send an email to

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