Democracy in Iraq? American style?

By Kollengode S Venkataraman (October 2006)

Agreed. With so much at stake, in politics, as in wars, the emphasis has always been on winning. So, all tactics are fair in politics as long as one doesn’t get caught. And nowhere is this more true than in US presidential elections, where winner takes all and the loser instantaneously becomes a small-font footnote in history.

In the US presidential race, it is rare that a candidate, after losing in the quadrennial jamboree, has the stomach and the resources to come back to seek nomination for the second time, not to speak of getting the party’s nomination. The political establishments have no patience in giving second chance to any candidate.

Naturally, the stakes are high for the candidate personally, and also for the parties collectively. That the president can also shape the character of the judicial system for decades by appointing ideological soulmates for lifetime federal courts is yet another huge incentive for winning.

In the parliamentary system, members of parliaments stay for decades, and can have more than one chance for getting elected as prime minister. But in the US-type presidential race, if you don’t hit a homerun in your first strike, you are out for good.
So, deceptions, distortions, evasions, and obfuscation are integral to political campaigns in US presidential elections—as in wars. Manipulating people’s raw emotions and fear, so pervasively used during wars, is also common in politics, sometimes used brazenly.

In this presidential campaign, vice president Dick Cheney stoked people’s fears alluding that if Kerry wins the election, there could be one more terrorist attack. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, the third in line of succession to occupy the White House, reinforced that fear by saying on camera that he believed that al Qaeda might be indirectly supporting the Democrats. Dick Cheney’s and J. Dennis Hastert’s comments will be joining the annals of worst moments in US presidential elections — Lyndon Johnson’s mushroom clouds TV ad, and Herbert Walker Bush’s Willie Horton ad appealing to the racial fears of White America.

This year’s election campaign is one of the most vicious ones, with neither party wanting to address the issues people are confronting in their daily life—unemployment and the fear of losing jobs, escalating costs for healthcare and higher education, and people in the lower incomes looking at uncertain times in their retirements.

This is the reality of this year’s election campaigns in the most powerful and the “sole super power” democracy of the world.
If this is the state of affairs in the US with its 210-plus years of democratic traditions, one shudders at imagining the final shape of the Iraqi version of democracy that President Bush is trying to impose on Iraq.

US is trying—with daisy cutters, 5000-lb bombs penetrating hundreds of feet into the ground before exploding, and high-precision missiles, and at a cost of thousands of deaths and billions of dollars—to forcibly impose democracy at short notice on an Iraq unused to the restraints that democracy demands of citizens and more to the point, the rulers.

In all likelihood, like the Gresham’s Law in numismatics, the noble ideas of freedom, democracy, representative government, and minority rights under majority rule will be quickly displaced in Iraq by bad electioneering, demagoguery, threats and fear mongering, and the brutality of majority rule.

On this if you also superimpose the intra-religious strife and ethnic hatred and insecurities among the Shias, Sunnis and Kurds, you get a hell of a recipe for trouble for many years ahead. Iraq might even disappear from the map (a la Yugoslavia), breaking into pieces as Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish states.

To make matters worse, with Shias in eastern Iraq having spiritual affinity with the neighboring soon-to-be nuclear Shia-ruled Iran, US would have sown the seeds for a Greater—and Nuclear—Iran down the road. After Iraq, one wonders if US will have the stomach to contain a Nuclear Iran using strong-arm tactics. Independent Kurdistan is another story.

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and their Neo-Con associates would then wish that Saddam and his Baath Party, castrated by UN sanctions, be in control in Iraq. — END


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