Don’t know? Doesn’t ring a bell? Well, he’s the current President of Iraq.
I yearn for the day when the world doesn’t immediately recognize the name of the American President. I’d settle for a day when the world doesn’t immediately loathe it.
President of Iraq, Sheik Ghazi al-Yawar, is Sunni, close to the former royal family of Iraq, and educated in Saudi Arabia. He is under fifty years of age, and his appointed position of President is largely ceremonial.
Iraq’s top sheik and our own met in Washington this week. President Bush told him he did a "good job" during the press conference. He probably says that all the time to the Saudi royal family, too. I hate to say it, but they all look alike to me. One more reason we shouldn’t be over there telling them how to live their lives or sell their oil or raise their kids.
It occurs to the casual viewer that in an age where everything we are doing wrong in Iraq is being held up as a grand success by the U.S. government (except by a few contrarians in the CIA, State Department, FBI and Pentagon), there are some things we are doing right but no one is noticing. Having a real ceremonial president is one of them.
In Iraq, we have created a 21st century Orwellian vision, minus the Arabic prolefeed and so far, without joycamps. Perhaps George W. Bush is following in the footsteps of the incomparable Joe Stalin as portrayed in Solzhenitsyn’s The First Circle, embracing totalitarianism and spawning destruction, inhumanity and despair.
Fallujah is now a "model city." I wonder if the administration means for Iraq, or the rest of the region, or dare I say, for some future Chicago or Los Angeles? The idea of retinal scans, government databases and alien enforced martial law turns as many Iraqi stomachs as it does American. When it is all over, we may indeed commiserate with our Iraqi brothers and sisters, albeit sotto voce.
We worry that Iraqis listen to too many insurgent voices and see too many ugly pictures on the Internet. George Tenet, recently of the CIA, gave a speech last week where he worried that "access to networks like the World Wide Web might need to be limited to those who can show they take security seriously." With free access to information, you see, people might decide that they don’t really like their government, or God forbid, want to change something. Where is Saddam Hussein when you need him!
The second Bush administration seems increasingly inspired by the big man of Tikrit. The watchword for the new cabinet is loyalty. The top diplomat will be the dedicated Condoleeza Rice, former Sovietologist and National Security Advisor. The top cop will be Alberto Gonzales, who earned the President’s trust in Texas with death penalty appeals and stay requests in much the same way as he justified torture of suspected foreigners held incommunicado in the legal no-man’s land of Guantanamo. The Homeland Security czar will be Bernard Kerik, Gotham City’s police commissioner and considered "fiercely loyal" to Mayor Guiliani and presumably to George W. Bush. Rock solid Rummy remains in charge of offense.
There will be other changes, of course, but once you have State, Defense, Homeland Security and Attorney General, you’re set. Naturally, people are curious as to the Judiciary appointments and the next Alan Greenspan, but the go-bots named above are the ones that matter. Could the next Supreme Court be any more docile, or the next Fed Chairman more dull? I didn’t think so.
America had, at one time, a largely ceremonial President. There was a day when actions taken by the Congress and the President were safe, legal and rare. There ought to be a law, we say. The Founders thought so too, but it was all so long ago.
Meanwhile, we criticize the Ukrainian elections and complain about Iraqis who say they might not show up and do their American civic duty on January 30th. If the United States were a person, she’d be the gnarly spinster full of advice on how to get a husband, bubbling over with information about what eligible bachelors want.
But back to the sheiks. Ghazi al-Yawar may be ceremonial president of Iraq for only another month or so. Based on the "lists" that Iraqis will be selecting in their upcoming elections, new people will be moving into the governmental offices in Baghdad, proportionally representing the voters. Over 200 political parties will be represented, and the country of Iraq will be treated, for this election only, as a single electoral district.
There’s an idea. Make it easy for third, fourth, and hundredth parties to be represented for national office, and instead of spending all that time demonizing the actual candidates, let the thousand points of light put forth their picks. Just for one time, why not try it here in America. Democracy like a Dyson vacuum, a new design that doesn’t lose suction due to dusty old bags. Might be worth a try.
The Washington democratic imperialists who invaded Iraq, for all the death and destruction, injustice and sheer waste visited on that poor country, may have discovered a few good ideas about democracy. A ceremonial Presidency and a system that actively promotes representation for more than one political party would be just wonderful about now.
The neoconservative list of countries to be invaded is long, and the military occupations seem to take far more time than one would like. But some of these good ideas are worth waiting for. Where do we sign up?
Karen Kwiatkowski [send her mail] is a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, who spent her final four and a half years in uniform working at the Pentagon. She now lives with her freedom-loving family in the Shenandoah Valley, and writes a bi-weekly column on defense issues with a libertarian perspective for militaryweek.com.