Readers in numbers beyond my ability to reply individually have challenged me whether President Bush’s inaugural speech is a statement of his intentions or merely a celebration of himself and American democracy. Surely Bush doesn’t believe America has the power to remake the world in its own image other than by being an example for others to follow?

The answer is that it doesn’t matter whether Bush believes, or even understands, what he said. The neoconservatives believe it, and they control the Bush administration.

The Bush administration is not establishing any democracies. It is starting a war that will last a generation. That is the neocon plan. They have put their intentions in writing just as Hitler did. It is no protection that their plan is detached from reality. Robespierre was detached from reality, and that did not stop him. So were Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot. People with power in their hands who are detached from reality are the most dangerous people of all. The delusional quality of their rantings disarms people from taking them seriously: “Oh, they couldn’t mean that.” But they do. ~Paul Craig Roberts

Mr. Roberts has said it so well that there isn’t much to add. I remember that some people regarded the “axis of evil” speech as ‘mere’ rhetoric or a declaration of principles, rather than what it was: a hit-list of regimes to be destroyed by war. The frequent comparisons by the neocons of that speech to Mr. Reagan’s “evil empire” remark were, as usual, completely misleading, as the substance of Mr. Reagan’s policy was largely one of furthering the thaw in U.S.-Soviet relations. He was willing to combat communism, but not recklessly and not aggressively. To acknowledge the Soviet Union as an “evil empire,” which it was, was very different to specifically targeting countries as supposedly mortal dangers to the United States.

Those who imagined that the Iraq war was ever optional after the State of the Union of 2002 are on the same ship of fools who believe Mr. Bush was just talking about some nice, general ideas. On the contrary, he will inaugurate a global pyre of revolution and chaos for his precious goddess, freedom, and offer up untold numbers of dead on the altar to democracy. (Incidentally, the sheer impiety of the speech, on which more later, ought to have shocked a great many more people than it did, but they have been too well-conditioned in singing ‘Nur der Freiheit gehoert unser Leben’ to comprehend the perversity of Mr. Bush’s description of political freedom as if it were itself divine.)

The comparisons that Mr. Bush’s inaugural address have conjured tend to come from Wilson’s call for war against Germany (“make the world safe for democracy”), resulting ultimately in all the horrors of the twentieth century, and Kennedy’s claim that we would “pay any price,” and some 50,000 Americans and a million Vietnamese paid that price for him. We can expect much the same result from the policies that will follow from this speech.