The idea that America is poised to ride into Iraq on a white charger, spreading democracy like fairy dust, is the popular conservative version of the oncoming war in Iraq. But in American politics, “democracy” ceased long ago to be a genuine political ideal and became instead an image without substance or integrity, used to mask, justify and sell the naked exercise of power.
“Democracy” under the Bush regime does not mean that the will of the majority of the people or their representatives rules. If it did, the U.S. government would have celebrated when Turkey voted that American troops could not use Turkey as a strategic military base. After all, this was a truly democratic decision that expressed the will of what one Turkish politician calculated as, “100% of the Turkish people”. Instead, the U.S. government expressed shock and anger at the vote, and immediately began putting the screws on the Turkish parliament to reverse it. Who cares what the Turks want? The will of the Bush administration must be imposed on Turkey by the usual democratic means: bribery, arm-twisting, and threats. What the Bush administration has demanded in Turkey is not another free vote, but a vote that will produce the “right” results. It is to this end, that Recep Tayyip Erdogan, spent the day of his election in conference, not with his parliament, but with W. Robert Pearson, the American ambassador. The first order of business for the newly elected Mr. Erdogan is to fire those members of his party who voted against the American proposal: democracy in action, American style.
The National Security Agency’s surveillance of email and bugging of telephones at the UN Security Council to provide the Bush regime with advance notice of decisions that could help the U.S. government to manipulate the vote is another example of the democratic methods that America will soon be exporting to Iraq. A memo sent to members of the NSA by Frank Koza, stated that, “the Agency is mounting a surge particularly directed at the UN Security Council members (minus US and GBR of course) for insights as to how to (sic) membership is reacting to the ongoing debate RE: Iraq, plans to vote on any related resolutions, what related policies/negotiating positions they may be considering, alliances/dependencies, etc - the whole gamut of information that could give American policymakers an edge in obtaining results favorable to US goals or to head off surprises”. The elimination of all “surprises”—like the Turkey vote—is the Bush regime’s ultimate goal; a goal absolutely opposed to all the principles of democracy. Bush wants to remove the wild card of free choice from every negotiation and stack every deck in favor of a pre-determined outcome. This is not democracy. It is preserving the image of free choice without the substance. As Ari Fleischer put it, “the president is still committed to staging a UN vote”.
Staged democracy extends to the un-freedom of the American news media. A comparison of the British and American press’s reporting on Iraq is instructive in terms of understanding just how much public political debate is permitted in America. Britain and America are allies in the Iraq conflict. Both are, at least in name, democracies, both are in favor of war with Iraq, and both have powerful news media. However, Britain has a much more diverse and argumentative press than America, whose national newspapers, The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today demonstrate little deviation from one another and from a bland, centrist worldview, highly supportive of the Bush regime. Britain’s Mirror has collected 224,500 signatures for its “Not In Our Name” campaign against war with Iraq, and regularly runs anti-Blair, anti-Bush and anti-war editorials. Yet the Mirror is the traditional Labour party (Blair’s party) newspaper, not an anti-establishment or minority opinion newspaper.
What distinguishes the U.S. press from the British press, is the lack of distance the former places between the U.S. government and American society as a whole. In headlines like the New York Times’ “Urgent Diplomacy Fails to gain U.S. 9 Votes in the U.N.”, there is no attempt to differentiate between the U.S. and the Bush administration. America is not represented here as a diverse culture, with a highly differentiated population that includes millions who oppose a war with Iraq. Instead, the “U.S.” is the Bush administration. Consider John Pilger’s editorial from a recent Mirror, in which Pilger argues that the American and British governments are suppressing evidence that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were all destroyed following the Gulf War.
Information like this is simply not made available to the U.S. public by the mainstream U.S. media. Americans who support the war in Iraq do so based on false information provided to them by the U.S. government—such as that Iraq has nuclear weapons and that there is a clear connection between Saddam and al Queda—promoted without any rebuttal by the U.S. press. Of course Americans can seek out alternative interpretations of the news at www.truthout.org and www.takebackthemedia.com, but, valuable as they are, these are fringe sites that preach to a small, converted, liberal audience and are not seen by the vast majority of Americans. There are no major popular newspapers or news sites in America like Britain’s www.guardian.co.uk or www.mirror.co.uk that regularly present alternative viewpoints and stories and editorials that argue with the government’s version of things. For information to be of any use, it must be widely and freely available. Americans are criminally under-informed about the facts behind their government’s decisions. There is no democracy when people are purposefully and repeatedly lied to by their government and by corporate news services that monopolize the media channels and purposefully prevent the free circulation of information.
Recently the British press reported that George Bush had refused to address the European Union because they would not guarantee him a standing ovation and a room free of hecklers. President Bush will only agree to public appearances and press conferences where everything is controlled and cleansed of even the smallest hint of dissent. Tony Blair is willing to go on MTV Europe and face attacks from women opposed to war in Iraq, but Bush doesn’t have the courage or the wit to meet intelligent opposition. Isn’t this highly reminiscent of his counterpart in Iraq?
Since 9/11, America seems to feel that it is entitled to an infinite resentment against the world. Torture in the interrogation of prisoners, prisoners beaten to death in Afghanistan, it’s all good because look what “they” did to 3000 Americans at the World Trade Towers. The Bush regime has legalized imprisonment without due process. There are almost daily suicide attempts by the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. These people have been held in isolation, under 24-hour spotlights, without trial and without hope of legal intervention for over a year now. The U.S. administration admits that at least 10% of the 650 people interned at Guantanamo Bay are innocent, yet since no legal process is available to any of the prisoners, innocent and guilty alike remain subject to an irrational and indefinite denial of their human rights that amounts to intense psychological and emotional torture. Who in America cares about the fate of these people? Certainly no one in the Bush administration seems concerned. They are foreigners after all, and not worthy of the human and civil rights that Americans take for granted. Yet, with a straight face, the Bush administration speaks of bringing democracy to the Iraqi people.
The Bush administration daily strips people of their human and civil rights. The Bush administration subverts and undermines the democratic process in America and globally by illegal surveillance, bribery, violence and coercion. The Bush administration defies international law, lies to the public and suppresses the truth. The Bush administration will soon sacrifice American soldiers for the profit of multinational companies and rain death on helpless Iraqi children—to “liberate” them, of course, from the “tyranny” of their own government.