The conventional wisdom is this: With the economy improving, President Bush's political fate will depend on Iraq.
For an administration of control freaks, this is bad news, because they do not and cannot control Iraq. What happens in Iraq between now and the election depends on the Iraqis and on whoever else is dipping oars in these troubled waters.
The conventional wisdom is also bad news for Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry. He had clearly planned to base his campaign on a bad economy. If the economy continues to improve, then his hopes, too, will ride on Iraq — where, like Bush, he has no control over the outcome.
It speaks to the ideological blindness of the neoconservatives who orchestrated this war that they thought their scheme would be easily implemented. They had in mind a quick victory, dancing in the streets and a grateful populace accepting democracy as a gift from the Great Benefactor across the seas.
The reality is that Iraqis are a rebellious and nationalistic people. Much is always being said about Saddam Hussein's brutality, but the very fact that he had to kill so many and imprison so many tells you that even with all his power, Iraqis were constantly challenging his rule. That rebellious spirit does not bode well for any elected government in the future.
One of the not-thought-about-but-essential characteristics of the Western democracies is the ability to lose gracefully. Whether in Great Britain or the United States, when one or the other of the major parties loses an election, the losing side accepts the results graciously if begrudgingly. It is a tradition.
There is no such tradition in Iraq — or, for that matter, in most parts of the world. To lose an election or power in many countries is to lose everything, including one's life and property. There is a tendency in those countries for the losers to challenge the election results with gunfire.
It's always been my belief that eventually even the blockheads in Washington will realize that democracy is not going to take root in Iraq. Then they will look around for a strongman to impose order by force. It will take some skillful lying to hide the fact that in the end we just replaced one dictator with another. But lying is a fine art in Washington. After all, the only allies we have in the Arab world are dictators of one shape or form. In the past 50 years, many a dictator owed his job to the United States.
It is even fair to say that the United States has spent more in subsidizing dictators than in propping up democracies.
The problem with democracy, as far as Washington is concerned, is that a truly free people might make decisions Washington doesn't like. The Iranians had chosen a leader in the 1950s that Washington definitely didn't like (the leader, Dr. Muhammad Mossadegh, had the strange thought that Iranians should be the primary beneficiaries of Iranian oil, at the time controlled by the British).
The CIA engineered a coup that deposed him and put the Shah in power. By the way, an important player in arranging that coup was H. Norman Schwarzkopf, former head of the New Jersey State Police. He was given a $10 million slush fund by the CIA to bribe people and undermine Mossadegh. If the name sounds familiar, he was the father of Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, who led coalition forces in the first Gulf War. If you wonder why the Iranians hate us, this is the reason. For a more detailed account, read Tragedy and Hope, an excellent history by Dr. Carroll Quigley.
While the United States sought no colonies in the Middle East, the oil cartel consisting of American, British and Dutch companies cheated the Arabs for decades out of a fair share of the profits on their oil. Even when this cartel was charging Americans $3.50 to $3.75 a barrel, the Arabs were getting about a dime per barrel.
The Middle East is much more complex than you will ever learn by watching Fox television.
June 5, 2004
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on LewRockwell.com. Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.
© 2004 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.