Iraq is not your girlfriend

News & Politics

There was always something disturbingly familiar about the language Bush, Cheney, Rice, and Rumsfeld used to describe our relations to Iraq. But I could never quite figure out what it was until yesterday, when Bush reiterated that we would not "abandon" Iraq. He went on to say, "We will leave Iraq, but when we do, it will be from a position of strength, not weakness."

I worked at a number of battered women's shelters in the 1990s, and at one of them a woman told me the story of how her boyfriend kept saying he wouldn't "abandon" her, despite the fact that she'd told him she didn't want to be with him anymore, moved out, and had two restraining orders against him. He couldn't seem to understand that if she needed help, she'd get it from some qualified neutral party, not a guy who beat her up and constantly accused her of doing things she didn't do. Just as Bush doesn't seem to understand that some kind of help is the kind of help we all can do without. (I have a hunch he wasn't given Free to Be You and Me as a child.)

Bush and the war crew have three key features of the classic batterer profile:

1) A belief, without any evidence, that the other party is doing something "wrong" and "against them" and a sense that it's right to act on that belief.
2) An overwhelming fear of being perceived as weak.
3) A strategy of keeping the other party so battered and without resources that the other party begins to believe that it needs the batterer to survive.

A more comprehensive list of "typical abusive behaviors" from The Yellow Brick Road Project, one of many groups that help women get out of abusive relationships, reads like a summary of our behavior in Iraq, especially if you take into account the ongoing revelations of abuse at Abu Ghraib.

Destructive Criticism/Verbal Abuse
Pressure Tactics
Abusing Authority: Always claiming to be right (insisting statements are "the truth"); telling you what to do
Abusing Trust: Lying: withholding information; cheating on you; being overly jealous
Breaking Promises
Emotional Withholding
Minimizing, Denying & Blaming
Economic Control
Self Destructive Behavior
Acts of Violence and Intimidation
Sexual Violence
Physical Violence

What does the Yellow Brick Road project recommend you do with batterers? Counseling, to be sure. And keeping them out of any positions where they might possibly harm the person, or country, they've abused.

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