Lately, mainstream media has been filling it’s “news” channels with wonderful success stories of democracy spreading throughout the middle-east and consequently the emergence of a president who was previously misunderstood and now proven to have been right. The image of bully America is giving way to the image of an America who is steering the world in the right direction. Once again, I find my own insights about the Bush administration buried under mainstream stories.
Most people who speak out against the Bush administration are rhetorically categorized as one and the same with the anti-war crowd. Indeed, I have always been critical of the Bush administration and I still am, but a historical look through my blog will reveal that I’ve always been more reserved with my opinions about the war in Iraq. Unlike the vast majority of Americans on both sides of the argument, I actually knew something about the Baath regime back in the 80’s before we ever crossed Saddam Hussein. I was one of those few Americans that actually paid attention to the Amnesty International reports on Saddam Hussein’s atrocities in Iraq while Republican heroes like President Reagan supported him and his activities. Indeed, I have always recognized the value of destroying the Baath regime. But I also recognize that destroying the regime would be the easy part. Now let me get to the part of the Bush policy on Iraq that has always been the basis of my opposition…
First of all, Bush lied to us. He lied about WMD and about Hussein’s links to the 9/11 attacks. As Bill Mahr said, “maybe you have to lie to sell a war.” Perhaps you do. But if America is really a democracy, representative or otherwise, then the leaders will ultimately have to deal with the disappointment of a population that doesn’t want a war. If such wars are truly a function of humanity, then maybe our leaders need to learn that the American people really are good at heart and only need to be educated about the truth, of course it’s hard for a government to appeal to our sense of humanity with the truth on one hand while violating humanity on the other. Maybe what Bill Mahr should have said was that you have to lie to sell a war when you’re a power hungry sack of shit.
Secondly, there was no exit strategy. All there was were the lies used to hurry Americans into a hasty commitment. Of course, you can’t just go into a country, tear it apart and then leave, but this is why an exit strategy is so important. The invasion itself was a no-brainer, Iraq was never big enough to stand up the United States in the first place let alone after it’s military was weakened by a previous encounter with international forces and never allowed to recover while in the vice-grips of military no-fly zones and economic sanctions. Who’s going to deny that marching to Baghdad was like cutting through butter? Indeed the vast majority of casualties have occurred after we got there. So really, the challenge would have been an exit strategy and that should have been something we should have spent some time on and there would have been nothing wrong with letting us know about it.
Third, there didn’t seem to be any dialog with the Iraqi people to see if this is really what they wanted or to invite them in the planning of an exit strategy and subsequent democracy. I mean really, if exchanging Iraqi oppression for Iraqi democracy was the plan, wouldn’t this have been an important step? And there was plenty of capable Iraqis living outside the influence of Saddam Hussein in America and Europe to talk to so, don’t even go there.
Does any of this matter now that we’re committed and the brush-fire of democracy is spreading through the middle-east? I think it does for two reasons.
the first reason is that this is an age of globalization and the pressure has been on since the end of the cold-war for countries to join the global market which wears the friendly mask of democracy to hide the hideous intentions of corporatism. One of the many risks that come with globalization is the loss of indigenous culture and for better or worse, the Islamic world has been a hold-out in this struggle against Freidman’s Lexus* which is exactly what Bush and his neo-conservatives have been pushing for. From this perspective all the “rhyme and reason” that seems to be missing from the “fight for democracy” picture suddenly appears as plain as day. So I think before we celebrate the Bush-led revolution of democracy we really need to assess if it’s social democracy or corporate globalization that’s spreading like a brush-fire, and it’s important to know the difference between them. Another thing to keep in mind is that none of these countries in the middle east have done much to prove an interest in democracy as much as simply showing signs that they don’t like the system they have. It’s just as likely that the people in these nations will be trading one form of oppression for another, perhaps another dictator or now that the cold war with it’s “domino effect” is over then perhaps it’s more likely that the new oppression will be of the corporate variety. Again, this will only make sense for those that can tell the difference between the will of the people and the will of the corporation.
Secondly, I don’t think that the lies and the ill-intentions of a president should be forgotten simply because the consequences of his actions have the appearance of being favorable. We need to remember how Bush lied to us and because of that we need to think about the possibility that his true intentions are nothing like what he is actually telling us, maybe we need to be a little more suspicious and less willing to fall for the snow jobs, wishful thinking and the outward appearance of people demonstrating in the streets of Lebanon.
* Thomas Freidman, in his book The Lexus and the Olive Tree, describes the materialistic attraction of globalization as the Lexus which is often at odds with cultural values represented by the Olive Tree.