I can’t believe it is Thanksgiving already and that Christmas is just around the corner! That means that 2008 is about to come to a close and with it the end of the Bush presidency and the start of the Obama presidency. The end of the Bush era raises some important political questions that no one seems willing to ask, except for me. Over the next few weeks I want to ask those questions and offer some possible answers.
The first question I want to ask is where in the world is Osama bin Lad’n and why have we not captured him? After all, Osama and al-Qaida have been the focus of Bush’s sever year war on terror. All that the war on terror has accomplished is the loss of too many American lives, the deposing and execution of a petty tyrant in Iraq, the further destabilization of the Middle East [if such a thing is even possible], the dragging of America’s goo name through not just the mud, but through the stuff you find in septic tanks and waste treatment plants, and most disturbing of all, the trampling of the US Constitution and our inalienable rights as citizens and humans in the name of national security, a propaganda campaign that would make Joseph Goebbels proud.
I sometimes wonder whether Osama bin Lad’n even exists, at least in the form in which he is portrayed by Bush’s anti-terrorism propaganda machine. I wonder if this “evil empire of terrorism” that we have targeted in our war on terror is the great international conspiracy it is painted to be. After all, aren’t the Taliban we are now fighting in Afghanistan the same mujaheddin we supported against the Soviet occupation? Why were we providing them with arms 2twenty some years ago but now we want to wipe them off the face of the earth?
We managed to get rid of Saddam Hussein and his cronies in Iraq. That may or may not have been such a good idea. As far as I can tell, we have replaced the rule of one small-time tyrant with factional infighting, something Saddam was able to control. I don’t think there is much change in the death toll, other than who is doing the dying. Shi’ites are still killing Sunnis. Sunnis are still killing Shi’ites. And the Arabs are killing the Kurds and the Kurds are killing them. Business as usual,and this has been the situation for a thousand years or more. Did we really think these internecine wars would stop because we want them to stop? Hell, we have, over the past fifty years, tried to stop the Israeli-Arab conflict with little success, and we, at least, used to have some real influence with the Israelis. We have never had much influence with either the Sunnis, Shi’ites or Kurds. They have never trusted us, with good cause, and now have even less reason.
The excuse for invading Iraq and deposing Saddam was some rather spurious claims that Iraq was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction (WMD), whatever that means. The last time I checked, we still have not found any such weapons. Either Osama bin Lad’n or the Taliban – after all, weren’t they fellow members of this international terrorism conspiracy with Saddam – spirited these WMD out of Iraq before US forces could find them. Maybe al-Qaida and the Taliban hijacked the space shuttle and have taken over the international space station, where they are storing these WMD until the right moment to unleash them on us infidels. I know that sounded ludicrous, but no more so than some of the stuff our own government wants us to believe.
On the subject of WMD, what about North Korea? We have as much “proof” of their nuclear arms capabilities as we did for Saddam’s WMD. Are not nuclear weapons the ultimate WMD? yet, the Bush administration has not said a whole lot about the North Korean situation and he certainly has not talked about invading North Korea or making them any sort of military target for his war on terrorism.
Why is that? Does the fact that there are eight billion Chinese poised to come swarming over the border like they did in the 1950s? But, if you are truly committed to the principles Bush invoked for our invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, for our violation of the wishes of the Pakistani government – missile attacks across their border , and political assassinations like the one in Syria, then the probable retaliation by China should not be a deterrent. Only a bully backs down when someone his own size threatens to intervene. bullies only pick on those smaller and weaker, or so they think, than themselves.
Please o not misunderstand me. I am not condoning any of the actions of any of the parties in the Middle East, not any of the Iraqi factions, not Saddam, not bin Lad’n, not al-Qaida, not the Taliban, not even the Israelis. What I am doing is condemning our government – the Bush administration – for its stupidity and its incompetence and for its flagrant violation and distortion of everything that made America the beacon of hope in the world for two hundred and thirty years. All in the name of a distorted sense of democracy.
Democracy is not something enforced by a third-party nation as we are trying to do in Iraq. Democracy springs up when a people, the Poles, the Czechs, the Germans [East and West] want democracy badly enough to take their destiny into their own hands, much as the American colonists did in 1776 and the French did in 1789. Democracy may indeed come from the barrel of a gun, but that gun has to be fired by the people seeking democracy not by some foreign power trying to force democracy down their throats. That only replaces one tyranny with another.
I hope that the new administration of President Barack Obama understands this better than the current administration. Although the hatred towards the USA is couched often in religious rhetoric, I believe that the real sourse for that hatred is our arrogance in trying to tell these people how to run their own affairs. Whether we agree with how they do things, we need to remember that it is their country. We would no more appreciate them telling us how to run our country than they appreciate us telling them how to run theirs.
The way to spread the message of democracy is not by heating people up side the head. It is by being that beacon of hope that prompted the French people over a hundred years ago to give us what has become the world-wide symbol of that hope, the Statue of Liberty. We all need to re-read the words written by Emma Lazarus and inscribed on Lady Liberty’s pedestal. That is what American democracy is about and we need to re-dedicate ourselves and this country to those words.