Saturday, October 3, 2009

Dictating Democracy

The logic behind American foreign policy becomes more difficult to fathom each day. Last night’s news, for example, informed us that the State Department was exploring new initiatives to open diplomatic contacts with the Generals who rule Burma. Now this is a lovely regime made up of those geriatric thugs who came to power by overturning a peaceful election which should have brought Aung San Suu Kyi to power, and who have since employed the most brutal methods to eliminate protestors, including the beating and jailing of Buddhist monks. After that, they ripped off much of the international aid sent to that benighted country by America and others to relieve the suffering population after the monsoon floods in May 2008. And the American State Department now thinks it’s a good idea to open negotiations with these creeps. On what grounds exactly? On their notable commitment to democracy and the rule of law?

Similarly, in late June, reactionary forces in Honduras overthrew the democratically-elected president of that country, Manuel Zelaya, by arresting him in the middle of the night and hustling him out of the country. This wholly illegal maneuver, reminiscent of a Woody Allen movie, was initially greeted by the United States with temperance and patience and hemming and hawing calls for both parties to negotiate. Negotiate? This was a wholly illegal coup, engineered by thugs who have consistently employed the U.S.-trained military to put down the populace protesting such blatant disregard for international law. Virtually every Latin-American nation and the Organization of American States have all condemned the coup in no uncertain terms—all, that is, except our Clintonesque State Department, which continued to resist calling the overthrow a “coup,” and which took its sweet time cutting off aid as its statutes required it to do. What is going on here? Is it that the United States, even under Obama, really hoped (schemed?) to see another episode of the sick drama that played out in Haiti, where leftist President Aristide was also spirited out of his country and has remained in exile ever since? Can it be that there’s a little pattern here, a pattern that, regardless of the administration’s color, blue or red, Republican or Democrat, pays lip service to the glories of democracy, but in reality makes certain that only certain democracies—those that toe the imperial line—receive U.S. support?

What else can one conclude? Recent so-called elections in Afghanistan have been routinely condemned by most observers, including Peter Galbraith, as not only flawed, but outright fraudulent. Ah, but our man in Kabul, the drug-dealing Hamid Karzai, is allegedly, and necessarily for us, the winner. Because we’ve sacrificed hundreds of American lives and billions upon billions in treasure to defeat the terrorists we say have a home there. So admitting that we’re sacrificing so much to maintain a crook in power just wouldn’t do: imperial interests are one thing, but theft requires a deodorant. By contrast, when the 2006 elections in Palestine, internationally validated, produced an outcome that displeased us—the victory of Hamas, otherwise known in the western press as muslim devils incarnate, with the gall to advocate resistance to Israeli oppression—why then it was a different story. Then, we, with our “democratic” ally Israel, decried the stench and cranked up the propaganda and strong-arming to the point where an international boycott was imposed, a boycott so cruel and crippling that it has left over a million people in Gaza bereft of even the most basic human elements—food, fuel, shelter, medical supplies—even before Israel invaded last year and destroyed most of what was left.

And then, of course, there’s Iran. When recent elections there produced street demonstrations, the American media covered the protesters night and day. For a few days it appeared that yet another “orange” revolution similar to that in the Ukraine, fomented and financed by the CIA, was about to take place. But no, the Ayatollahs clamped down on the demonstrators, and the American press duly condemned those in power as illegitimate, the result as undemocratic. Because, after all, Iran might some day threaten the “middle east peace” we’ve done so much to preserve. Because, after all, Iran has centrifuges and is producing fissile material. And that material, we are sure, is meant for nuclear weapons. And if Iran were to obtain a nuclear weapon, why it would upset the entire balance (i.e. Israel’s death grip) in the region because now muslim devils would possess the bomb. But what about the devils who already have the bomb, and not just one puny nuke but hundreds! Israel, that is, not only has a stockpile of nuclear weapons that numbers at least two hundred, but that includes not just your puny atomic bomb but thermonuclear ones as well, complete with the most sophisticated delivery systems outside the U.S. And has threatened to use them on Iran, and Egypt and Russia, among others. Furthermore, it has never even signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which we so dramatically accuse Iran of violating (which it has not; the treaty gives every nation the right to produce nuclear power, which is what Iran appears to have done so far); nor has Pakistan, also equipped with numerous nukes, signed the NPT, nor India, which also possesses an unknown but considerable number, aided and abetted recently by the Bush administration which generously gave the Indians more technology to build still more.

So what is going on here? What is this rhetoric about democracy? What is this hysteria about rogue states, and nuclear proliferation when, in fact, the United States now and in the past has supported and colluded with some of the most vicious dictators on the planet? Including the late and not lamented General Musharraf of Pakistan, who also took over in a coup and who also had his rogue nuclear program, but whom we coddled and cuddled until the stench and incompetence and unpopularity of his regime demanded that he be scuttled. Nor can we forget that it was the United States, in the person of Kermit Roosevelt, who, in 1954, engineered the unrest that forced the democratically-elected Mohammed Mossadegh from power in Iran, and replaced him with the Savak-wielding Shah—thus necessitating the rise of the Ayatollahs.

In which regard, some statistics put together by Anthony DiMaggio are revealing:
NUMBER OF MAJOR U.S. INVASIONS SINCE WWII: 13—including attacks on North Korea (1950 and 1951), Cuba (1961), South Vietnam (1962), The Dominican Republic (1965), Cambodia (1970), Lebanon (1982), Grenada (1983), Panama (1989), Iraq (1991), Haiti (1994), Afghanistan (2001), and Iraq again (2003). And that doesn’t count covert invasions and attempted overthrows and crushings of populist-nationalist movements.
NUMBER OF IRANIAN INVASIONS: 0 (Iraq invaded Iran to initiate the 1981 war)

So what is this nonsense demanding that Iran show its “peaceful intentions”? What about the thugs in Burma—have they ever shown even a hint of “peaceful intentions”? Have the Honduran coup leaders? Indeed, has the United States? (check the stats).

Perhaps a little less invading and a little more withdrawing might be in order. Perhaps a little less dictating to others might be in order. Because dictating democracy, not to mention dictatorial democracy, is an oxymoron. A contradiction in terms. A beast with two heads—or two asses; can’t be. There can’t be a dictated democracy, or a partial democracy, or a democracy with rights for only certain religious or ethnic groups. In which regard we might ask if the United States itself has ever been a real democracy—i.e. a democracy governed by all its people rather than a small elite serving wealthy or propertied or corporate interests. But that is a question for another blog. For now, it is enough to observe that the United States would do well to look to itself, rather than seeking to dictate democracy elsewhere.

Lawrence DiStasi

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