Sunday, January 29, 2006

Selling the Snake Oil of Democracy: Victory for Hamas

In Israel or perhaps in the territory formerly known as Israel, Hamas achieved a major victory. It resoundingly won the Palestinian elections and can now form the next Palestinian government. The President responded with his usual moral clarity to the news.

"So the Palestinians had an election yesterday, and the results of which remind me about the power of democracy...And yesterday the turnout was significant, as I understand it. And there was a peaceful process as people went to the polls, and that's positive...I like the competition of ideas. I like people who have to go out and say, vote for me, and here's what I'm going to do. There's something healthy about a system that does that. And so the elections yesterday were very interesting."

When confronted with the reality that a violent terrorist organization with ties to Iran which wants to turn the area into an Islamic state won, all Bush could do was ramble on about the virtues of democracy all the while pretending that the elections were just the Town Hall with Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson in Gaza. Condoleezza Rice's denial of the facts was more succinct.

"Palestinian people have apparently voted for change, but we believe their aspirations for peace and a peaceful life remain unchanged," Rice said.

There is of course no clearer way for a people to show their commitment to peace than by voting for the most violent terrorist organization in region. It is ironic that when Senator Patty Murray said that Osama Bin Laden was popular because he provided social services, she was attacked from all sides by conservatives and Republicans.

Now Bush and Rice have taken the exact same party line with Hamas claiming that the vote only reflected dissatisfaction with the Palestinian Authority's corruption and gratitude for Hamas' social services. The reality that if the Palestinians were voting for social services, the UNRWA would be the most popular organization in the territories, is not something the administration wants to deal with because it has staked everything on the myth of the redemptive power of democracy.

To understand how things have reached they have it is necessary to understand that the roots of present disasters can be found in the misunderstanding and distortion of history. After the hijackings of September 11th, 9/11 was hijacked yet again when the War on Terror became a vague dream of bringing democracy to Muslim countries. From a war of self-defense against terrorists who murdered thousands of American citizens, the Bush administration switched to a nebulous campaign to democratize the Middle East.

Where the War in Afghanistan was carefully planned out and allies chosen with a well defined target and succeeded with ease, the War in Iraq was poorly planned out, rushed and ultimately disastrous. Afghanistan was fought as a smart and fast campaign by well motivated troops, Iraq was a messianic campaign premised on the notion that once we overthrew Saddam Hussein, we would quickly inaugurate a new era of peace and love in Iraq as joyous Iraqis thrilled that Saddam was gone would soon create a democracy just like us.

And is it the snake oil of Democracy that is at the root of the disaster. As vividly as 19th century Christian missionaries believed in the civilizing effects of Christianity, the neo-conservatives of the Bush administration believed in the civilizing effects of Democracy. What they and Bush failed to understand is that Democracy is not a creed, it is a political system. An adversarial political system in which the popular and the ruthless campaigner thrive.

In a society in which 70 percent of the population supports Cannibalism, the Cannibal party will win. In a society in which 70 percent of the population supports murdering Jews, the Nazi party or Hamas will win. Democracy is only as good as the nation itself. A government cannot be better than the people who vote for it.

The credo of the snake oil salesmen has been that this couldn't possibly happen because all people are basically good, anywhere in the world and all want the same things. Boiled down this theory can be defined as Original Goodness. It states that all nations are full of good people who are prevented from being good by evil Tyrants. If we rid them of the Tyrants, they will then be good.

In this understanding of history the German people were good, it was Hitler who was bad. The Japanese people were good, it was their government that was bad. The reality that no government, no matter how brutal, can survive without popular support or that the war crimes committed by Germany and Japan involved millions of ordinary Germans and Japanese is something that was blotted out in the collective amnesia of the aftermath of WW2 when to rally support against the Soviet threat we pardoned thousands of convicted Nazi war criminals and built relations with their new governments, which more often than not consisted of the same people who had been shooting at us a few years earlier.

Now bearing this foolish myth to Iraq like a village idiot's burden we "set the Iraqi people free" and sent them instructional packets on the founding of America to get them to build a Democracy only to discover that there was no Iraq. There were three violent powerful dangerous factions with little in common except that they hated each other and us as well. And now thousands of our troops have died as we continue laboriously pushing representatives of those factions into acting out a charade of Democracy for our benefit, as if we believe that forcing them to engage in this theater will at some point civilize them.

But before there was the myth of Democracy currently dying a bloody death in the streets of Baghdad and Basra, there was the myth of Palestine. A mythical country and a mythical people that the United States and Israel decided would be appeased by getting their own country. For over a decade we funded and promoted the leading terrorist in the world pumping hundreds of millions of dollars even as he used the money to pad private bank accounts, enrich his cronies and continue a war on Israel, this time equipped with the weapons and training we had provided him.

Rather than end the support of terrorism we increased it under the Bush administration which welcomed Abbas to the White House where Bush lavished praise on him fit for a Churchill. When election time came around we campaigned for his Fatah party and now that Fatah has lost the election in a fit of deranged Chutzpah, the Bush Administration suddenly declares they only lost the election because they were corrupt all the while asking Abbas to stay on in office.

This is how the distortion of history became a distortion of truth. Our myth of democratizing Germany and Japan became the myth that drove us to believe we could turn undemocratic nations into democracies, forgetting the reality that Germany and Japan were wealthy industrial powers that had once been democratic before embracing extreme nationalism.

That same myth of democracy has blinded us with the delusion that we have a god-given mission to bring Democracy to the world, even at the cost of embracing terrorism. Out of a response to a horrific act of terrorism we have now come to support terrorists. As Hamas waves its green banners, the Bush administration encourages Hamas to issue some platitudes about respecting Israel's right to exist before we begin to shower aid and support onto them. Already the Administration does not refer to Hamas as a terrorist group but mentions them having an "armed wing." From a terrorist group in the adminstration's view, Hamas has become merely a political organization which happens to have a militia attached to it rather than an Islamic terrorist group whose only difference with Al Queda is on questions of theology.

Out of the ashes of 9/11 this administration which vowed to fight terror extends its hands to terrorists, its moral legacy built on a lie, shattered into debris on the altar of pragmatism. As with all things, nothing built on a lie will stand.


Keliata said...

And to think people ridiculed Rodney King after the Los Angeles riots with his childlike admonition, "Can't we all just get along?" Now in the face of terrorism world leaders are trying to con us and get us to just try and get along with terrorists.

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