More than half a million deaths, an army trapped in the largest military debacle since Vietnam, a Middle East policy already buried in the sands of Mesopotamia – and still George W Bush is in denial. How does he do it? How does he persuade himself – as he apparently did in Amman yesterday – that the United States will stay in Iraq “until the job is complete”? The “job” – Washington’s project to reshape the Middle East in its own and Israel’s image – is long dead, its very neoconservative originators disavowing their hopeless political aims and blaming Bush, along with the Iraqis of course, for their disaster.
History’s “deniers” are many – and all subject to the same folly: faced with overwhelming evidence of catastrophe, they take refuge in fantasy, dismissing evidence of collapse as a symptom of some short-term setback, clinging to the idea that as long as their generals promise victory – or because they have themselves so often promised victory – that fate will be kind. George W Bush – or Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara for that matter – need not feel alone. The Middle East has produced these fantasists by the bucketful over past decades.