LXXI – Democracy By Fiat

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Hardly
a day passes without George Bush, congressmen or cabinet members,
or their media lickspittles, smuggling into their chatter references
to "democracy in Iraq." The words flow as a well-rehearsed
mantra, so subtly as to draw no attention to an undiscerning mind.
Like any cliché, its repeated offering is intended to be
the validation of its content, such that only a wastrel of time
could be expected to challenge its veracity.

"Democracy,"
said H.L. Mencken, "is the belief that the common man knows
what he wants and deserves to get it good and hard." The people
of Iraq are about to get "democracy," American-style,
but without any regard to whether they actually want it. A Bolshevik
speaker promised his audience "come the revolution, we will
all eat strawberries and cream." "But I don't like
strawberries and cream," responded a listener. "Come
the revolution we will all eat strawberries and cream!,"
the Bolshevik intoned. Such are the parameters of "freedom
and democracy" now being put together by neocon planners in
Washington.

An
early tip-off to the nature of the "Iraqi democracy" sham
was the creation of the "Iraqi Governing Council," an
American-run front that has about as much to do with the democratic
process as the Bonn Conference's appointment, in November, 2001,
of Hamid Karzai to be president of Afghanistan. Allusions to the
"Jewish councils" and "kapos" established by
the German government in ghettoes and concentration camps to help
govern Jews — under German direction – come to mind. Should
the Iraqi Governing Council get any ideas about becoming independent
of American authority, they will quickly discover the restraints
that every government places on democratic rule.

Taking
the democracy hoax to its next level, the United States — with the
help of its appointed local puppets — began putting together a "constitution"
for the Iraqi people. Not wanting to incur the transaction costs
implicit in securing the consent of even a majority of Iraqis —
a step one would have expected with any constitution grounded in
the "social contract" myth — the details began to be fleshed
out. Jay Leno — perhaps the closest to a real journalist on network
television — suggested that America send the Iraqis ours.
"It served us well for over two hundred years, and we're not
using it anymore," Leno quipped. Will National Review
be designated The Federalist Papers for the "new Iraq?"
Will Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bremer, Powell, Wolfowitz, et al.,
be decreed the "founding fathers" of a people whose cultural
roots extend backwards for millennia?

Cranking
out constitutions under which other nations will be forced to live
is nothing new to the United States. Following the Spanish-American
War, the U.S. pledged that "Cuba should be free and independent,"
but that the American Congress should have final approval of the
Cuban Constitution. Under the final draft, the US was given "the
right to intervene," militarily, in Cuban affairs. Such is
the nature of the "independence" Washington is prepared
to acknowledge for subjugated nations.

The
Iraqis are in the process of learning what early 20th
century Cubans learned: the counterfeit meaning that the United
States ascribes to "independence" when applying it to
foreign nations. The Bush administration continues to speak of the
Iraqis assuming control of "their" government on June
30th, but when the details are examined, such control
is as vacuous of meaning as George Bush's continued use of the word
"freedom." The Iraqis will have no control over the police
or military, and no power to legislate laws or establish budgets.

Even
the United States acknowledges that the true sovereign authority
in Iraq will be the American ambassador. In words reflective of
the Orwellian "double-speak" that has become the style
in this administration, Secretary of State Colin Powell declared
that while Iraq would have "sovereignty," some of "that
sovereignty they are going to allow us to exercise on their behalf
and with their permission." Mr. Powell should have learned
from his own ancestral history in slavery that one is not "sovereign"
if permission to act resides in another; if others retain lawful
authority over your life.

So
far-reaching has the American government gone in defining and enforcing
the "new Iraq," that even the Iraqi flag has been
created under Washington direction! I wonder in what public relations
office or commercial arts studio in New York City this banner was
designed? After months of having the American flag shoved
down their throats, many Iraqis – incensed at what they saw
as similarities with the Israeli flag – publicly burned the
new model. Hollywood music writers may even be busy, as I write,
composing a new national anthem for Iraqi school children to learn
in their American-run schools!

Perhaps
the silliest illustration of Washington efforts to foist "democracy"
on the Iraqis arose upon Donald Rumsfeld's arrival in Iraq following
revelations of the atrocities at the Abu Ghraib prison. According
to a cable television news report, Mr. Rumsfeld would be holding
a "town hall meeting" in Baghdad to discuss the problems.
For those who, unlike myself, believe in political systems, the
idea of a "town hall meeting" comes about as close to
a genuine democracy as one finds. But it has relevance only within
a town small enough to allow for a genuine exchange of ideas and
proposals leading, ultimately, not just to a majority-supported
result, but one in which a genuine consensus might be reached
among all.

The
idea of a "town hall meeting" has been appropriated by
the major political parties in America, and twisted into nothing
that comes close to resembling any coherent community of individuals.
A hall is hired and filled with pre-selected audience members, a
number of whom have been given prepared questions to ask the candidate.
That you or I could show up, uninvited, to take a seat and ask the
sorts of questions of interest to us, is as unlikely in modern
American politics as in Baghdad. Does the American government really
expect this "town hall" gathering to be open to the insurgents
now fighting U.S. soldiers, or to the followers of Muqtada al-Sadr?
This "town hall" charade in Iraq is such an absurdity
that I suspect a few members of political science faculties across
America would even see through it.

One
of many as yet unanswered questions has to do with the election
processes to be employed in Iraq. It is difficult to pull off the
"democracy" scam without having elections, no matter how
carefully rigged they might be. Which parties and candidates will
be "permitted" — doubtless by the US ambassador's counseled
generosity — to seek office? What platforms and other promises must
be adhered to in order to qualify for certification? Will an "Iraqi
League of Women Voters" conduct carefully staged debates among
the candidates who have earned White House approval? What if Saddam
Hussein should win the presidency as a write-in candidate? Who will
count the votes, and will we, as per the 2000 American elections,
see the United States Supreme Court declaring the victor?

One
of the unintended consequences of the effort to establish democracy
by fiat may be to reveal, to Americans, the chimerical nature of
their own system. Perhaps more of our neighbors will, like
Iraqi skeptics, begin to look behind the façade of the supposedly
democratic processes under which they live, and discover the real
sovereign powers who put their puppets in place to perform according
to scripts written by those who pull their strings. Just as the
Iraqis will realize that whether they are ruled by Paul Bremer or
a future US ambassador carries no meaningful distinction, Americans
may understand that George W. Bush and John Kerry are only fungible
stand-ins for those who look on from the wings.

I
was recently in Prague, and had the opportunity to visit the royal
palace. Outside the main entrance to the grounds stood two giant
statues: one of a man holding another man to the ground, about to
slay him with a long knife; the other a statue of a man with a giant
club, who was in the process of pounding his victim into submission.
I commented to my wife that at least there was a time when political
systems were more open about their purposes and methods. No pretenses
about the "consent of the governed" in these forms; no
latent sentiments about constitutions with their allegedly "limited
powers." Here was the state portrayed in its very essence:
the exercise of deadly, brute force upon all who will not submit
to state authority.

Even
though Hussein has been removed from power — the alleged purpose
of this war — American troops continue to kill Iraqi men, women,
and children in the name of bringing "freedom" to their
country. American soldiers have taken over the torture of Iraqi
civilians in the very prison in which such atrocities were carried
out by Hussein's henchmen. As a result of such efforts, the Bush
administration has succeeded in uniting disparate Iraqi groups in
opposition to Washington's occupying forces. Had America been invaded
by the Chinese army, those who sought to defend their homeland from
the attackers would be revered as patriots, as were French and Polish
resistance fighters who opposed Nazi subjugation. But when Iraqis
take up arms against an American invader, only the image of the
al-Qaeda terrorist is offered by the United States and its media
as an explanation.

The
contrast between the fantasies and the realities of
politics may have best been described by Hollywood. One of the most
popular series of films ever produced was The Godfather trilogy.
While I have no abiding interest in organized crime — apart from
keeping an eye on political systems — I found this series enjoyable.
I suspect that my interest arose from the fact that the characters
exhibited a kind of integrity (i.e., a consistent adherence to a
code of conduct or values). The "families" were up front
about their purposes: they had business interests they sought to
expand, geographic territories to defend, and a firm commitment
to remove by any means — lying and deceit, if possible, or killing,
if necessary — anyone who got in their way.

The
family leaders engaged in no self-righteous posturing regarding
their motivations. If the Corleone family wanted to move into a
territory in which Tartaglia family interests were established,
they simply did so, usually with staccato orchestration provided
by machine guns. There was no pretense that the move was designed
to "bring democracy" to the people of Jersey City, or
to "liberate" Brooklyn from the tyrannical clutches of
the Tartaglias. Like a street mugger who takes your money at gunpoint
without feeling the need to mouth Keynesian doctrines about the
"multiplier effect," these crime organizations operated
from no higher principle than a superior force of arms.

Would
that governments were as unabashed in their purposes as this; that
their pursuits of despoliation and power over others were not embroidered
with the kind of unctuous sentimentality that President Alfred E.
Neumann regularly gushes. What if the Capitol building, the White
House, and the Supreme Court building, each had at their entrances
the kind of statuary I observed in Prague? Perhaps the American
people would then learn the lesson now being forcibly thrust upon
the people of Iraq: that "democracy" is to "liberty"
as "war" is to "peace."

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