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Democracy and the Iraq War
Democratic countries can't base policy on lies
Ronda Hauben (netizen2)     Print Article 
Published 2006-03-21 14:18 (KST)   
It is three years since the U.S. government invaded Iraq. The U.S. occupation of Iraq continues, along with the resistance in Iraq to the occupation. Life in Iraq is reported to be increasingly difficult. Internally within the U.S. and around the world there is much opposition to the continuing occupation of Iraq. Is there any way for this opposition to make an impact on U.S. policy?

A striking aspect of the events leading up to the invasion was the way that George Bush and his administration claimed that the reason for the war was that Iraq possessed "Weapons of Mass Destruction" (WMD). Though the fraudulent nature of this claim was exposed prior to the invasion, the invasion went ahead anyway. A new pretext is that the U.S. is bringing "democracy" to Iraq, and ultimately to the whole region in the Middle East, via the U.S. actions in Iraq.

In considering the U.S. government's claim that it is bringing "democracy" to a part of the world, it is helpful to look at the way the U.S. government practices "democracy" within the U.S.

The essence of political democracy is that citizens have a means to participate in and to have major influence on the decision making process of their governments. Public participation requires public knowledge and discussion. Such public knowledge and discussion is difficult, however, in an environment where the information made available to the public is false or deceptive.

Another aspect of democracy is that there is toleration and consideration of opposing views and of dissent. There was much dissent in the U.S. before the invasion of Iraq. Instead of the U.S. government encouraging the dissent and considering the reasons for the protest toward reevaluating its plans to invade Iraq, the dissent was treated with contempt by the government and every means was used to try to discredit it.

Perhaps the most well known incident is the public disclosure of the undercover identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame by the Bush White House. Her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, went to the African country of Niger to investigate the White House's claim that Iraq was seeking to purchase uranium ore from them. He found that the claim was erroneous. Wilson returned to the U.S. and tried to report his findings, first to the Bush administration and then to the press. Instead of the White House reconsidering its plans based on Wilson's report, it set out to discredit him and divert public attention from the lack of evidence to justify the pretext it had created for the invasion of Iraq.

There are many other examples of official intolerance for dissent that are less well known. For example, when anti-war organizations requested a permit to march past the U.N. on Feb. 15, 2003 to protest plans for a war against Iraq, they were denied the permit. The Bush administration sent representatives from the federal government to New York to support the city's denial in a court case brought by the anti-war groups. A permit was issued for a rally several blocks from the U.N. and out of sight of the U.N. Most of the 500,000 to 1 million demonstrators who tried to attend the rally found access blocked by the police. Some of the protestors trying to get to the rally were attacked by police on horseback.

Not only did the U.S. government act to repress or punish those who expressed opposition to the planned invasion, but even more importantly, every effort was made by the government to create and spread a set of fraudulent reasons to justify the invasion. The fraudulent reasons were presented in a deliberate and active way to the U.S. Congress, to the U.N., and to the American people.

The mainstream press in the U.S. carried articles that echoed the false information they were given by the White House or the Pentagon that Iraq had WMD. Rather than providing a critique of this information, journalists like Judith Miller claimed their role as journalists was to report what they were told. Thus they acted as a mouthpiece for a propaganda campaign instead of as journalists fulfilling their obligation to critique the actions of government officials.

The U.S. Congress was also given the false information that Iraq possessed WMD as the rationale to convince them to support the Bush regime's request for authorization for the invasion of Iraq. Even after an overwhelming accumulation of information documenting that the reasons they were given to support the war were fraudulent, there has been no Congressional condemnation and retraction of the vote.

Similarly, the Bush Administration presented false information to the U.N. and to the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Even when the documents they gave as proof were again shown to be forgeries, the U.S. continued with its plans to invade Iraq.

More significantly, however, the U.S. government misrepresented the reasons it was planning to invade Iraq in its presentations to the American people. Despite the fraudulent information, the majority of the American public was not in favor of the invasion. Bush's response to the public's sentiments and opposition was that, "The U.S. government doesn't make policy based on focus groups." Bush was dismissing the ideas and concerns of the public instead of treating them with the seriousness and high regard that is the obligation of a public official in a democracy.

In the days leading up to the invasion, the Times of India carried an editorial which set out the actual issues. The editors wrote:
America's threatened war against Iraq has divided the world. First between the few friendly governments that support its unilateral action and the many that don't. And second between officialdom on the one hand and the people on the other.
They called for an online discussion of the role that India should plan in any invasion. There were over a thousand comments in the discussion posted online at the Times of India's web site. The responses included discussion between people who supported the U.S. invasion and those who were opposed. The great majority of the posts, however, were opposed to India supporting the U.S. in the invasion. The editorial also raised the question of how a less powerful or smaller country can resist the pressure to do what the U.S. government desires.

The article in the Times of India demonstrates that the press can play a role in support democratic processes. Similarly, in the period leading up to the war, large numbers of French and German people were able to let their governments know that they opposed participation in the invasion. The French and German governments opposed the US invasion despite the abuse they received from the U.S. government.

The U.S. government has demonstrated that it has little interest or experience in supporting the practice of "democracy" at home. It is, therefore, not prepared to understand the desires of the Iraqi people, nor to understand the reality they are facing.

While the U.S. government is not a champion of "democracy", there is a desire among many of the American people to support the struggle of the Iraqi people for self-determination and to end the U.S. occupation. There is also a desire among the American people to have "democracy" at home in the U.S.

Uncovering the real reasons why the U.S. government invaded Iraq is part of the struggle for democracy in the U.S. Commenting on the ever-changing forms of the pretext used to justify the first Iraq war to the American people, an article about the 1991 War against Iraq explains
The American administration continually changed the reasons given to justify a war against Iraq. Such a changing string of explanations clarifies that there wasn't a good or honorable reason in the first place to justify sending massive amounts of American troops to the Gulf region. The reasons also contradicted each other.
A recent
article in the London Review of Books describes how a small group in the U.S. government, a group that considers itself to be neo-conservative, was very influential in the actions and events that led up to the Iraq invasion. The article also describes how this group within the U.S. government is hostile to public discussion. It is supported by pressure groups that lobby the U.S. government and who are allied with right-wing interests in the Israeli government. The article documents how this neo-conservative group sought to have the U.S. government remove Saddam Hussein even before the attack on the U.S. on 9-11. According to the authors of the article, the aim of the neo-conservatives, and their allies who are lobbying the U.S. government, is to change the Middle East so that the countries there are governed by leaders who support Israel and its desire to annex the West Bank.

While the explanation provided for 2003 invasion of Iraq in the article in the London Review of Books may be part of the motivation that led to the Iraq war, a broader public investigation is needed to determine the forces and motives behind the actual decision-making process to invade Iraq.

Democracy cannot be built on lies. Democracy is a political process that requires broad discussion and support for dissent. An actual exposure of what interests and people are behind the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, and a broad-ranging public discussion, like that supported by the Times of India in the period leading up to the invasion would be elements of more democratic processes that could help support the desire of the Iraqi people to end the U.S. occupation and to determine the future of their country. This is also what is needed to support the struggle for democracy in the U.S. Only more democracy can save democracy.
Three years after the start of the War in Iraq, do you think the Iraqi people are better off?  (2006-03-19 ~ 2006-03-26)
I don't know
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Ronda Hauben

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