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Brain Damage Ravages White House

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As the Middle East deteriorates, the behavior of the Bush Administration brings to mind the lyrics from Brain Damage, the signature Pink Floyd song in Dark Side of the Moon,

The lunatic is on the grass.
The lunatic is on the grass.
Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs
Got to keep the loonies on the path.

The question that vexes many of us is: how do we get the White House loonies on the path to lasting peace in the Middle East? How do we keep them from blundering across the grass, heading for World War III?

Last week saw fresh evidence of irrationality from two of Dubya's closest advisers. First, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld appeared before the Senate Armed Service Committee. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Rumsfeld claimed that the U.S. is making progress in Iraq and denied that there is a civil war there. Newsweek editor Fareed Zakaria observed, "[Rumsfeld] seems literally in a parallel universe and slightly deranged. If you listen to what he said last week about Iraq, he's living in a different world, not a different country."

Next, the perpetually perky Secretary of State Rice announced a ceasefire in Lebanon that wasn't actually a ceasefire. This followed on the heels of her announcement of a forty-eight-hour halt in bombing, where the Israeli's didn't stop their bombing. All the while, Rice greeted the press with a frozen smile and boasted of the excellent diplomatic progress she was making, even though she is now unwelcome in any Middle Eastern capital except Tel Aviv. Her boss, George W, was pleased with this phantom "progress," saw it as another sign that democracy will soon blossom throughout the Middle East.

What are we to make of this behavior? Is it politics as usual from the "Mayberry Machiavellis?" Or is it evidence that the Bush Administration has lost it senses?

Recent polls indicate that while most Americans support the Bush Administration's handling of Israel, the rest of the world feels that it is disastrously wrongheaded. European and Arab countries see the U.S. turning a blind eye to the deaths of civilians and destruction of public infrastructure in Lebanon and Gaza. They interpret this as further evidence that we do not care about international law; that we value Israeli lives more than we do those of Lebanese and Palestinians. The rest of the world views America as Israel's partner and, therefore, unwilling to broker a real peace agreement in the Middle East.

Monday, the U.S. introduced a "ceasefire" resolution in the United Nations. Only America and Israel were satisfied with this. Other nations asked how could there be a ceasefire when there is no requirement for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon? Why must Hezbollah return prisoners and not Israel?

Meanwhile, rumors circulated that the U.S. seeks to widen the Middle East conflict: "Pentagon personnel responsible for selecting targets for cruise missile first strike attacks have been sent to Israel. This indicates that U.S. and Israeli military strategists are now likely meeting to plan a join attack on Syria and/or Iran." Israeli ambassador to the U.N. Dan Gillerman told the BBC, "An attack by Hizbullah on Tel Aviv would be tantamount to an 'act of war' and Hizbullah would not make such an attack without an explicit order from Iran. The implication of his words was that Israel would retaliate by attacking Tehran." The Jerusalem Post reported "[Israel was] receiving indications from the U.S. that America would be interested seeing Israel attack Syria."

It seems deranged for the Bush Administration to condone expansion of the scope of the Israeli-Arab conflict to the entire Middle East. Nonetheless, a year ago, it would have been hard to imagine that the White House would still be doggedly sticking to its plan for "victory" in Iraq, while that nation tumbles into civil war. And it seems insane that the Bush Administration, which a year ago was praising the so-called "Cedar Revolution" in Lebanon-claiming that it indicated a new wave of democratic uprising in the Middle East-has countenanced Israel's destruction of a huge portion of the Lebanese infrastructure, not to mention the deaths of hundreds of civilians.

It's difficult to come to grips with the fact that "the lunatic is on the grass." Various explanations have been proffered for Bush's bad judgment. But observers hesitate to mention the most obvious: Dubya is crazy. And, the madness of King George has infected his closest advisers.

America is in trouble and we have whacko leadership in the White House. Perhaps things will change for the better after the 2008 Presidential election. In the meantime, every American who has any sense should be scared to death. The loonies are steering the good ship United States of America and it's hard to know how to keep them "on the path."

Sadly, this adversity brings to mind another verse from Brain Damage,

And if the dam breaks open many years too soon
And if there is no room upon the hill
And if your head explodes with dark forebodings too
I'll see you on the dark side of the moon.
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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.
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