American Pathocracy: Case study Iraq.

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The Ruling Borg of Psychopaths  

“What is missing [in psychopaths], in other words, are the very qualities that allow a human being to live in social harmony.”[  

—  Robert Hare

America’s ruling elite have become extremely and increasingly destructive to social values both at home and abroad, to a degree one must recognize as both criminal and pathological.  

The political system is not simply “unresponsive” to the public good, but is actively hostile to it, frequently inviting social hardship and unnecessary strife with reckless disregard.  The hyper-aggressive military garrisons the planet and continually wreaks mindless havoc, death, and destruction on entire civilizations abroad.  The media are dysfunctional, pathological liars and propagandists.  Corporations and financial systems evince an insatiable, cannibalistic greed, such that the economy is devastated for all but a few predators at the top of the food chain, and governments at all levels are rapidly losing the ability to provide the most basic essential services.  

As just one of many examples of the growing losses of essential services such as police, fire fighters, and school teachers across the country, the city of Oakland, CA has just laid off around 80 police officers due to the severe budget crisis ensuing from endless wars of choice, tax cuts for the rich, and Wall Street’s criminally reckless financial meltdown.  Here’s a partial list of “situations” the Oakland police department will no longer respond to:




grand theft

grand theft:dog

identity theft

false information to peace officer

required to register as sex or arson offender

dump waste or offensive matter

discard appliance with lock

loud music

possess forged notes

pass fictitious check

obtain money by false voucher

fraudulent use of access cards

stolen license plate

embezzlement by an employee (over $ 400)


attempted extortion

false personification of other

injure telephone/ power line

interfere with power line

unauthorized cable tv connection


administer/expose poison to another

That is truly an impressive list of criminality, social deviance and potential mayhem to which the Oakland police will no longer respond, virtually encouraging and guaranteeing further social breakdown.  Such pathological outcomes are the direct result of policies lobbied for and embraced by the ruling elite, e.g., tax cuts for the rich, endless wars, and financial de-regulation.

Outrageous budget cuts to essential services are but one of the many ways in which the social fabric of society, indeed the very social contract on which civilized society depends, is torn apart by positive (self-reinforcing) pathological feedback loops between the social deviants within our ruling elite, and between the outcomes these deviants use for the purposes of legitimizing their deviancy:

state-sponsored violence –> terrorist blowback –> civil liberties crackdowns

financial de-regulation –> financial meltdown –> bail-outs for the rich –> cuts in essential services & social safety net).

As the financial crisis worsens, completely unmitigated by faux reform, sewer, water, and power outages are likely to follow.  Soon enough, the average American will no longer even bother taking their broken dreams to the curb, as garbage collection will have ceased, which finally brings me to my thesis.

The ruling class is chock-a-block with psychopaths

Because the ruling class behaves as if it were chock-a-block with morally insane social deviants, it’s worth exploring the possibility that this is literally true by testing the fit between DSM axis II psychiatric disorders (e.g., sociopathy, aka psychopathy aka anti-social personality disorder, malignant narcissism), and exploring how our hyper-dominant capitalist ideology has contributed to so many pathological outcomes.

You can skip these caveats

Caveats to this exercise are in order.  While I do have Ph.D. in psychology, I studied mostly normative behavior in experimental psychology in animal models (animal behavior, neuroscience, physiology), not clinical psych, so I am medically unlicensed, and qualified to diagnose exactly squat.  

Second, the DSM itself is clearly a work in progress, as construct validity, diagnostic criteria and reliable diagnoses between observers continue to evolve.  

Third, that DSM refers to something as a disorder does not make it so, as it once included homosexuality as a disorder, but no longer does.  As another example, post-traumatic stress is referred to as a disorder, but could legitimately be recognized as an expected outcome of chronic or extreme trauma, a phenotypic adaptation of the stress system to extreme circumstances, one that rather permanently and legitimately memorializes the world as a dangerous place.  Further, what may be referred to as a disorder may not only be adaptive, but it may be an evolutionarily stable strategy, a genotype that is maintained in the population because it works.  

Fourth, anti-social behaviors occur in a spectrum of types and severity.  

Fifth, anti-social behavioral strategies are not restricted to clinical or sub-clinical psychopaths in the anti-social spectrum.  It would be difficult to find a person who never engaged in some anti-social strategies, e.g., vandals at peace rallies.  The present essay concerns serial and grave and often ideologically motivated anti-social behavior, typically conducted for selfish ends.  

Sixth, DSM-like diagnostic criteria pertain to individuals, whereas I will be as much applying diagnostic criteria liberally to entire social structures and ideological underpinnings, as well.  

For these reasons, let’s just call this series on institutional psychopathy a personal, idiosyncratic rumination of my working hypothesis that the ruling class is just chockers with social deviants, a condition exacerbated by a hyper-trophic and triumphalist capitalist ideology that is ideally conducive to sociopathy and sociopathic outcomes, and all the normal people in our society and elsewhere are suffering victims of psychopathic excesses.

For an intro to my general line of thinking and to see a brief portrait of what true, or primary psychopathy looks like (psychopathy that one can only view as a legitimate and mind-boggling psychiatric disorder), see Capitalism and pathocracy: rule of, by, and for the morally insane.

Diagnostic criteria for psychopathy.

Here are the relevant parts of  the wiki on anti-social personality disorder.

Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD or APD) is defined by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual as “…a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood.”

To be diagnosed, an individual must be age 18 or older, as well as have a documented history of a conduct disorder before the age of 15.[1] People having antisocial personality disorder are sometimes referred to as “sociopaths” and “psychopaths.”

A) There is a pervasive pattern of disregard for and the rights of others occurring since the age of 15, as indicated by three (or more) of the following:

1. failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest;

2. deceitfulness, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure;

3. impulsivity or failure to plan ahead;

4. irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults;

5. reckless disregard for safety of self or others;

6. consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations;

7. lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.

B) The individual is at least 18 years of age.

C) There is evidence of Conduct disorder with onset before age 15.

D) The occurrence of antisocial behavior is not exclusively during the course of schizophrenia or a manic episode.

Note that the DSM criteria focus on objective criteria rather easily agreed upon by independent observers.  Robert Hare’s psychopathy check-list (revised) is possibly the most widely used diagnostic test by clinicians, and while largely overlapping the DSM, perhaps contains one or two more subjective (harder to “operationalize”) clinical judgments:

Factor1: Personality “Aggressive narcissism”

• Glibness/superficial charm

• Grandiose sense of self-worth

• Pathological lying

• Cunning/manipulative

• Lack of remorse or guilt

• Shallow affect

• Callous/lack of empathy

• Failure to accept responsibility for own actions

Factor2: Case history “Socially deviant lifestyle”.

• Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom

• Parasitic lifestyle

• Poor behavioral control

• Promiscuous sexual behavior

• Lack of realistic long-term goals

• Impulsivity

• Irresponsibility

• Juvenile delinquency

• Early behavior problems

• Revocation of conditional release

For my purposes, I am adding the experimental category of malignant narcissism, which has a number of overlapping diagnostic criteria, to catch any of the ruling elite who may fall through the sieve of outright psychopathy.

By the DSM criteria, criminality, lying, aggressiveness, impulsiveness, recklessness, irresponsibility, and lack of remorse are all indicators of psychopathy.  These traits correspond roughly to Hare’s more intuitive checklist, which also importantly adds “glibness/superficial charm.”  

At least two things are notable about these criteria.  First, while not explicitly mentioned, the cumulative effect of having such traits implies that one of the most salient aspects of psychopaths is the vast trail of destruction left in their wakes.  Thus, pathological outcomes, i.e., wakes of destruction, are a strong general indicator of psychopathy.  

Second, these psychopathic traits were intended to apply to individual subjects, the Pretty Boy Floyds repeatedly touching down like tornadoes across the Midwestern plains leaving wakes of death and financial ruin.  Nevertheless, it’s hard not to notice that  the entire list of psychopathic traits would seem to apply to the increasingly and now hyper-dominant socially deviant character of our ruling class and their dominant ideologies as a whole, based solely on examining them as policy outcomes.  

As a mere indicator of the extent of criminal and pathological behavior by the ruling elite, here’s an incomplete but informative 400-item list of significant criminality, lying, aggressiveness, impulsiveness, recklessness, irresponsibility, and lack of remorse exhibited by the Bush administration during its eight-year reign of terror.  

While the most recent Bush administration may have been one of the most brazen examples of psychopathic leadership in recent memory, many previous administrations also blazed large swathes of social destruction that Bush and his successor have continued widening.

The Iraq War as a case study in institutional psychopathy

The extreme social deviance exemplified by the Iraq war alone — war crimes, torture (criminality), stove-piping false intelligence (lying, deceit), millions of innocent dead (aggressiveness), failing to wait for weapons inspectors or the UN (impulsiveness), having no post-occupation strategy (recklessness), blaming Iraqis for the lack of success (irresponsibility), and admissions from the war criminals, including lawyers who green-lighted torture, that they did nothing wrong or would gladly do it again (lack of remorse) —  would suffice as diagnostic criteria for a nearly “perfect score” in psychopathy using the DSM.  (I say “nearly” only because it’s unknown whether these sociopathic behaviors occured during psychotic or manic episodes, and we don’t know the developmental trajectories of these alleged sociopaths.  For my purposes, I’d dismiss these criteria as inapplicable to institutional psychopathy, in any case.)

One can easily expand into Hare’s checklist to increase “goodness-of-fit” by adding the trait of glib/superficiality:  

Remember Rumsfeld’s cocky “shock and awe” approach to invasion, his breezy responses to the press about “going to war with the army you have, not the one you wish you had,” and his impudent comments on the “fungibility” of soldiers, as if soldiers were merely capital assets like jeeps or other substitutable commodities.  Also recall Dick Cheney’s smug insolence that Iraqis will “greet us as liberators with flowers,” and that years later, and quite prematurely, that the insurgents were “in their last throes.”  Further recall that, after wreaking untold havoc in Iraq, Bush’s gruesomely and inappropriately joked at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner about failing to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  Such awkward moments of recognition of psychopathy were consistently and actively ignored, even laughed at by the media.

The method of substituting faux reverence, concern, and gravitas for actual seriousness was raised to a high art of creating facile and flippant orthodoxies for the express purposes of evading reasoned critiques and shifting responsibility for endless carnage and destruction to others, as Karl Rove did in accusing liberals of wanting to give terrorists therapy. Rove was not merely remorseless but even relished his deceitfulness.

These individuals were institutionally representative of the ease, informality, lack of forethought or preparation, depth or substance, and insincerity to the point of deceitfulness that point to a pathological lack of seriousness emblematic of the Bush administration and their enablers.  This “glibness” brings our goodness-of-fit even closer to perfection.

Perfecting the portrait: The profit motive

While it’s true that not all morally insane social deviants always have tangible self-interested profit-making in mind when creating ruin all around them, e.g., some are motivated by their “curiosity” about death of destruction, it is more frequently the case that self-interest combined with a complete lack of regard for others does motivate their mayhem.   As Chris Floyd points out, the psychopathic trail of death, destruction, and financial ruin that is the war on terror was not pure bloodwork for bloodwork’s sake, but rather highly profitable to many of these sociopaths:

The avowed intentions and the public outcomes of our imperial wars don’t really matter — because these churnings of blood and corruption are really about something else altogether. I was writing about this back in 2004, in a piece that was necessarily Bush-centric in language, given his ascendancy at the time, but still applies to our entire bipartisan imperial system, even — or rather, especially — under the progressive Peace-Prizer temporarily wearing the Potomac purple:

The whole [Iraq] adventure has been a win-win scenario for the Bushists from the start, no matter how it ends up. This is what many of the opponents of the war – and even most of its now-fretful supporters – have failed to grasp, because they don’t understand what the Bush Family is about.

Put simply, the Bushes represent the confluence of three long-established power factions in the American elite: oil, arms and investments. These groups equate their own interests, their own wealth and privilege, with the interests of the nation – indeed, the world – as a whole. And they pursue these interests with every weapon at their command, including war, torture, deceit and corruption. Democracy means nothing to them – not even in their own country, as we saw in the 2000 election. Laws are just whips to keep the common herd in line; they don’t apply to the elite, as Bush’s own lawyers have openly asserted in the now-famous memos establishing his “inherent power” as Commander-in-Chief to “set aside the law” and order any crime in the name of his self-proclaimed “war on terror.”

The Iraq war has been immensely profitable for these Bushist power factions (and their tributary industries, such as construction); billions of dollars in public money have already poured into their coffers. Halliburton has been catapulted from the edge of bankruptcy to the heights of no-bid, open-ended, guaranteed profit. The Carlyle Group is gorging on war contracts. Individual Bush family members are making out like bandits from war-related investments, while dozens of Bushist minions – like Richard Perle, James Woolsey, and Joe Allbaugh — have cashed in their insider chips for blood money.

The aftermath of the war promises equal if not greater riches. Even if the new Iraqi government maintains state control of its oil industry, there are still billions to be made in refining, distribution, servicing and security for oilfields and pipelines, as in Saudi Arabia. Likewise, the new Iraqi military and police forces will require billions more in weapons, equipment and training, bought from the U.S. arms industry – and from the fast-expanding “private security” industry, the politically hard-wired mercenary forces that are the power elite’s latest lucrative spin-off. And as with Saudi Arabia, oil money from the new Iraq will pump untold billions into American banks and investment houses.

But that’s not all. For even in the worst-case scenario, if the Americans had to pull out tomorrow, abandoning everything – their bases, their “commissioners,” their contracts, their collaborators – the Bushist factions would still come out ahead. For not only has their already-incalculable wealth been vastly augmented (with any potential losses indemnified by U.S. taxpayers), but their deeply-entrenched sway over American society has also increased by several magnitudes. No matter which party controls the government, the militarization of America is so far gone now it’s impossible to imagine any major rollback in the gargantuan U.S. war machine – 725 bases in 132 countries, annual military budgets nearing $500 billion, a planned $1 trillion in new weapons systems already moving through the pipeline. Indeed, Democrat John Kerry promises even bigger war budgets and more troops if elected.

Nor will either party conceivably challenge the dominance of the energy behemoths – or stand against the American public’s demand for cheap gas, big vehicles and unlimited consumption of a vast disproportion of the world’s oil. As for Wall Street – both parties have long been the eager courtesans of the investment elite, dispatching armies all over the world to protect their financial interests. The power factions whose influence has been so magnified by Bush’s war will maintain their supremacy regardless of the electoral outcome. …

So has Bush’s war brought democracy to Iraq? Has it dealt a blow to terrorism? Has it made America – or Israel, or the world – any safer? No. But it was never intended to do those things. All this death and chaos – this mass murder – has had but one aim: enhancing the power of a handful of elites. This criminal mission has been accomplished. And there is not the slightest chance that any of the chief perpetrators will ever face justice.

Now that, my friends, is victory.

The profit motive in Iraq is relevant on several levels of “goodness-of-fit” with psychopathy.  At the most basic and direct micro-level are the profits that accrue directly to psychopathic individuals and institutions engaged in mercenary activity and war-profiteering, e.g., Dick Cheney’s roaring stock in Halliburton.  At a more macro-level perspective is “The American Way of Life” itself, the uninhibited, yet credit-based, gung-ho capitalist society that absolutely relies on and even religiously worships growth, access to new markets, and cheap energy to maintain its profits, dominance, and “freedom” to do whatever it pleases, at whatever costs to others.  In this way, non-negotiable “The American Way of Life” provides a persistent motive for psychopathy in our ruling elites and even more generally in the public appetite for imperial psychopathy.  Similar considerations obtain, if perhaps with more idiosyncratic specific motives, to our psychopathic allies in the war on terror, e.g., Great Britain and Israel, and their respective “Ways of Life.”

The war in Iraq is hardly unique in providing an extremely graphic case of individual and institutional moral insanity and “goodness-of-fit” with the two most widely used diagnostic checklists for psychopathy.  This valuable lodestone in the war on terror is only unusual in that it openly surfaced from the dark, dense historical vein of virtually solid odium available for psychiatric mining.  

Going forward, “hope” and “change” and “we can do better” are decidedly not in our prognosis for the future, as incorrigibility and continuity of socially deviant motifs become the glaringly obvious theme, as the various wars on terror and financial crises continue unabated.


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  1. and probably unproductive, but I can’t help beating this dead horse.

    • Edger on July 17, 2010 at 15:13

    Norman Liverpool, July 2006,

    The depraved international cabal that has a stranglehold on American political and financial power constitutes a new type of totalitarianism, pillaging the world through barbaric annihilation and creating a World Police State.

    American and world citizens have not fully awakened to the monstrous, diabolical nature of this totalitarian regime; they assume it must have some modicum of concern for its people, its nation, and human decency. Wrong! Unless we arouse ourselves from this deadly self-imposed stupor of ignorance, these homicidal maniacs will destroy us and the world.

    Previously, imperialism had been the underlying policy of the cabal when it seized Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Cuba, Philippines, and the Mariana Islands and set up the German empires that led to World War I and World War II. But British and American imperialism involved a certain amount of concern for the possessed territory and the people, if no more than pride in having control over the holdings of the empire.

    The new totalitarianism has absolutely no such concern; its only interest is imposing the diabolic policy of barabaric annihilation on the world, thereby reaping huge profits from its energy, financial, and “defense” industries and turning all countries into militarized police states whose peoples will be forced to become their “cannon fodder.”

    “Although war is ‘used’ as an instrument of national and social policy, the fact that a society is organized for any degree of readiness for war supersedes its political and economic structure. War itself is the basic social system, within which other secondary modes of social organization conflict or conspire. It is the system which has governed most human societies of record, as it is today.” Leonard Lewin, Report From Iron Mountain on the Possibility and Desirability of Peace, 1967

    People throughout the world must become aware that this new totalitarianism is completely unlike any previous geopolitical power structure. Its very essence is annihilation; it possesses no redeeming or mitigating feature.

    To allow yourself to think of these people as foolish, incompetent, irrational, or wrong-headed is as mistaken and misinformed as thinking that Hitler was merely a well-meaning but mistaken fearless leader of his people.

    Uninformed people will say:

    “The Bush administration surely doesn’t want to let the United States go to ruin, they have too much at stake. They must realize they’re not winning in Iraq.”

    They don’t care a straw for what happens to American workers or the U.S. infrastructure; they gain power and wealth through annihilation–we must get that fixed in our minds! The more America becomes a drug-ridden war zone with a blasted economy, the more young people are forced to become “cannon fodder” for the cabal wars; they have no other jobs to go to.

    The cabal is not losing the war in Iraq, it’s winning! The cabal junta’s invasion of Iraq involved much more than most people are aware of. Among the more obvious purposes were:

    – The theft of Iraqi oil through privatization (piratization)

    – The funneling of oil and no-bid contracts into Halliburton’s maw

    – The installation of multiple U.S military bases in the region

    – The installation of a cabal puppet in control of Iraq (as in Afghanistan)

    Spokesmen for the criminal cabal have been blatantly outspoken about their primary goals; it’s just that American and world citizens have found it difficult to believe that a group of people could be so ruthless, unjust, and cruel–so sub-human. It’s time we took them at their word: “We are an awesome revolutionary force. Creative destruction is our middle name. We tear down the old order every day… Seeing America undo old conventions, they [our enemies] fear us, for they do not wish to be undone. . . We wage total war because we fight in the name of an idea. . . Stability is for those older, burnt-out countries, not for the American dynamo.” Michael A. Ledeen, Freedom Chair holder at the American Enterprise Institute

  2. … of the pathocracy (psycho- and socio-) with great interest.  Inmho, you are spot on; and this is not an exercise in Borgean futility.  On the contrary, I feel it is fundamentally essential to recognize the sickness of this society.

    Although I have a background of education which taught me to value research and documentation, I’m too old for that now.  I prefer to make statements from my long life with virtually no back up whatsoever.  That said, I offer a few unsubstantiated opinions:

    1) Mental health (or illness) is highly contageous.  It is a communicable condition, and can be quite virulent.

    2) Many of the conditions (strange behaviors) which lead to psychiatric diagnoses are the valid need of the soul crying out for either greater manifestation of being or for the possibility of a more authentic manifestation and expression of being.  (ie: The society in which we live is toxic, socio-psychopathic, and therefore damaging to our mental health.)

    3) An adjustment disorder can be a sign of a larger mental health, a deep seated, instinctual refusal to join in with the crazies.

    4)  As Henry Miller asked in “Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch, “Is there any salvation in adjusting to a society which is insane?”

    Ergo:  Don’t adjust to it.  Change it!


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