Hooray for America!
We are the great liberators, harbingers of freedom, steadfast in our resolve, ever fighting for justice and democracy worldwide… if the price is right.
Let’s recap the last three weeks: The generals got to use all their new toys (much to the chagrin of Iraqi soldiers and civilians). The U.S. armed forces are the heroes and liberators they’ve always dreamed of being. The president has a high approval rating (everyone loves a winner). The corporate media (FOX, CNN, ABC, CBS) got to realize their current dream of producing the most disturbing spectacle of “reality” TV to date. “Operation Iraqi Freedom” airs non-stop all day, every day! As for the anti-war movement, let’s just say that the brainwashing power of corporate media was, for once, truly demonstrated to a higher and more obvious degree than ever before. Whew! What a ride that was.
With all this now apparently behind us, the most important and most avoided question of this entire debacle is begging to be answered. What now? How do we shepherd in a legitimate democracy in a country that is split into many opposing ethnic factions, most of whom hold the American system of “democratic capitalism” as conducive to greed and selfish and immoral behavior. Upwards of 40 percent of the Iraqi population are illiterate and undereducated. Our bombs and artillery have decimated the physical infrastructure of Iraq in the last three weeks. They have oil. We need oil. None of the aforementioned conditions present the possibility of a fertile landscape in which to sow the seeds of a true democracy. In fact, they are the exact conditions required to erect a policed, totalitarian client state.
History has proved that it is extremely difficult to impose and police foreign democracy upon local factions possessing thousand-year-old ideological and religious grudges (Israel, Northern Ireland, Former Yugoslavia, Somalia, etc). I find it hard to believe that the Bush administration, for which multi-lateral diplomacy and patience failed, can now somehow muster the patience and diplomacy required of them to restore and build a new, free Iraq. I mean this not in the sense of erecting buildings, oil wells and other elements essential to the economic future of Iraq (leave that to the Bush administration’s private oil and construction interests). The Iraqi people should be afforded the chance to choose their leaders based on what is best for Iraq, not for the United States.
We must try to delicately integrate the notions of democratic/parliamentary rule into all the separated factions of Iraq. We must show them that we respect their sovereignty as a nation and their right to exist free of foreign rule. If we are going to sink billions of U.S. tax dollars into this project, we must hold our government accountable to the highest standards of practice. Instead of rebuilding our educational system, the joke that is health care and the joke-in-progress that is our economy, our hard earned tax dollars are going to be used to rebuild Iraq. Our money should be used to create a new Iraq that is not only free from Saddam and the Baath Party but also free from intrusive and disrespectful U.S. foreign policy and economic bullying. We as a nation must forgo our history of hypocrisy and, for once, follow through with what we say. If our aim is to provide Iraqis with peace and the freedom of self-determination without interference, then let’s do it right from day one.
Adam Rich is a UCSB alumni.