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Now that the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has been publicly humiliated and incarcerated, the question of the day is: will the Bush administration fulfill its promise of bringing democracy to the Iraqi people? After all, wasn't Saddam supposed to have been leading the insurgents? Naturally one wonders how this was managed from the point of view of logistics, since not only did he not have a mobile phone or a short-wave radio in his possession, but also there were no carrier pigeon or two in sight. With Saddam and his sons out of the scene, there should be a clear road ahead... right?

Since we ordinary mortals are not privy to the machinations of George W Bush and his "New American Century" cabal, when it comes to Iraq's future status your guess is as good as mine. However, we do know that if a true democratic system was introduced into Iraq, with one person, one vote, then the resultant government may not be to the Bush administration's liking.

It would prefer the new rulers of Iraq to be on the same page with it, sharing a similar capitalist ideology and even putting America's interests before its country's own. From its point of view Ahmed Chalabi, who would like nothing better than to privatise Iraq's oil and other state industries, would be an ideal leader - an Iraqi version of Afghanistan's Hamid Kharzai.

Let's suppose for the sake of argument that all runs smoothly and a duly elected Iraqi leadership is in place, one which is prepared to put Iraq's wellbeing first at all costs. What kind of a democracy would Iraq be as long as there are foreign troops based on its soil? Wouldn't this be one with the name but not the game?

Would, for example, the newly elected Iraqi government be "allowed" to switch from Petrodollars to Euros, or some other currency? Would it be able to cancel the reconstruction contracts picked up by U.S. corporations, some of which have been discovered grossly overcharging, and award them to, say, French or German companies instead? A date for elections may have been set for next year, but the word is that U.S. bases will remain in Iraq for many years, if not decades, to come.

Democratising the Middle East

The Bush team has also taken on the challenge of democratising the Middle East. What does this mean?

One individual calling himself "Colonel, Military Intelligence US Army, Retired", believes he has the answer and was "kind" enough to write to me, saying: "Our next target is Syria and then Iran. We are going to democratise the entire region. Then we are going after North Korea."

Claiming that he aided in the pre-planning of "operations in Iraq," the writer, went on to say: "You Brits had your chance at hegemony for over 200 years. Now it shall be our turn, but with a different twist.

"We won't control the oil. We will control the people who control the oil. People who get behind us will reap the benefits of Pax Americana. Those who stand in our way will reap the wrath of our armed forces. It's gonna be a great future."

Given the anonymity of email, my correspondent could, of course, be someone called Elvis who flips burgers at his local diner but that's beside the point. In his own crude fashion he has encapsulated in a few short paragraphs the ideology behind America's serial wars.

Those of us who were naive enough to believe that the Iraqi was about disarming Saddam Hussein or that George Bush wanted to avenge an assassination attempt on his father have got it all wrong.

On the other hand, Elvis - I shall call him that since I have no way of knowing his real identity - has summed it up neatly: "We will control the people who control the oil."

The Bush administration is, of course, well on the way to doing this. Not only those who control the oil but those who control the pipelines too. The September 2001 attack on its symbols of power afforded the U.S. the perfect opportunity to capitalize on the sympathy of the world's leaders. It wasted little time in putting forward the policy of "you are either with the United States or.... "

Firstly, the one Islamic nuclear power - as far as we know - had to be tamed. Pakistan was given a clear choice: respectability, the lifting of sanctions, the waiving of debts and new trade agreements or pariah-ship? It chose the former, which meant acquiescing to having American bases on its soil as part of its contribution to the "war on terrorism."

Russia was won over too and had little hesitation in rubber-stamping a U.S. military presence in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, traditionally under the sphere of Russian influence. When the US unilaterally pulled out of the ABM Treaty, only half-hearted objections were heard out of Moscow, as, after all, America had been attacked and rightly needed to protect itself (Russia has since wizened-up to the game but too late).

The Arab world was made to feel guilty that it had seemingly spawned the 19 terrorists mentored by Osama bin Laden and it naturally rushed to show its support in eradicating the scourge of terrorism. One is left to wonder if the terrorists had happened to be Christian, would the Christian world have indulged in such self-flagellation? Ok. Silly question.

Then came the war with Afghanistan. But before that could kick off the public had to be brought on board. What better way than portraying Osama bin Laden as the face of evil incarnate. Still, killing thousands just to get one man doesn't sound quite the thing, so we suddenly heard lurid tales about the Taliban and its repressive regime. They were told to hand over Bin Laden or else, a strategy later replicated when Iraq was ordered to hand over its WMD or face invasion.

The fact that today's Afghanistan is a hotbed of tribal warfare, attacks on American troops have increased, opium production is up and poverty just as widespread has escaped most Bush supporters now that the media has packed up and gone home, or rather is camping out in Iraq. If the U.S. administration is so keen on exporting democracy, why didn't it begin with Afghanistan?

Finding a pretext to invade Iraq took a little more ingenuity on behalf of the Pentagon hawks. The Iraqi leader had kept a fairly low profile since the Gulf War. They tried their best to link him with Al Queda and while they met with success at home, failed in an international context. And so they were left with the pretext of disarming Saddam Hussein from his weapons of mass destruction. We are sure that he has them, they said, and he just may give them to terrorist groups in the future. The policy of pre-emption was born.

The world didn't immediately fall for this, with the exception of a few of America's lackeys, and so, once again, the American public had to be convinced of the righteousness of its leadership. Saddam Hussein became the new face of evil, the personification of repression and cruelty. He had to go so that the Iraqi people could be freed from his tyranny.

The sad part is the majority of Americans have succumbed to this psychological onslaught. More than 50 per cent still believe that Saddam Hussein had something to do with September 11 thanks to Bush's constant linkage, never mind that Bin Laden considered Saddam an "apostate". Another poll shows that even if no chemical or biological weapons are ever found - as they probably won't be since all Iraqi scientists insist they were destroyed in 1991 - most Americans believe that the war with Iraq was just. They have bought the lies hook, line and sinker.

If it is proved that the former Iraqi leadership was not hiding WMD and had, therefore, complied with UN Resolution 1442, then the invasion was not only unjust but also illegal. The ousting of a cruel dictator has been a positive spin-off from an illegal, and continuing, invasion but this does not vindicate the coalition, or shouldn't. If we pat them on the back now, they'll feel free to do it again.

By the people, for the people?

Those members of the Coalition's publics who are feigning amnesia concerning Iraq's missing WMD and, instead, celebrating a future democratic Iraq may like to ponder on this. How can anything be exported, including "democracy" when the would-be exporters lack the goods themselves?

The days when "democracy" really meant "for the people, by the people" are long gone in countries, which expound this ancient method of governance. In its place comes a system which spies on, categorises, labels and restricts the people for the benefit of governments.

The changeover didn't happen overnight. Far from it! Since September 11 2001, the U.S. and Britain have witnessed an erosion of civil liberties here; an attack on human rights there, with the individual being reduced to the contents of a know-all, tell-all computer chip just about everywhere.

The American and British publics believe they can choose their leaders but as we saw when Bush gained office, the man who received most of the votes, Al Gore, lost the race. The British voted for a Labour Party leader, who has turned out to be a right-winger in Labour's clothing.

Those same publics had little say in whether their countries went to war with Iraq either. Before the invasion more than 80 per cent of Britons were anti-war with over a million protestors clogging Britain's streets last February 15. The government went ahead anyway on the basis that Saddam posed an imminent threat to his neighbours - a charge later found to be a gross exaggeration, if not a fabrication.

The "War on Terror", which many now believe is a recipe for terrorists of mass production - since there are far more murderers of innocents around nowadays than ever before - triggered the Patriot Act in the U.S. This rushed-through piece of legislation was responsible for the detention of hundreds - mostly Moslems - and the denial of their access to both legal representation and their families.

At the same time, the FBI has received new powers of search and surveillance, and, according to an article in the New York Times dated November 23 is now collecting "extensive information on the tactics, training and organisation of anti-war demonstrators."

Further, the report states local law enforcement officials have been advised by the FBI to report any suspicious activity at protests to its counter-terrorism squads. So much for free speech and the right to peaceful protest, enshrined in any democratic constitution.

Britain is also poised to introduce new anti-terrorist measures, which, according to Andy McSmith, the Independent's political editor, will give the government "power to over-ride civil liberties in times of crises, and evacuate threatened areas, restrict people's movement and confiscate property."

Under these draconian measures, once a state of emergency "due to war, flood, breakdown of power supplies, outbreaks of disease or any situation that causes or may cause disruption of the activities of Her Majesty's Government" has been declared, 'the people" can be banned from travelling and prohibited from assembling. It's the "may cause disruption of the activities of her Majesty's Government", which is troubling. This broad definition could cover just about everything and anything.

The way things are going, the Bush-Blair "enemies of freedom" must be having a field day. The concept of freedom for the individual, in both the U.S. and Britain, is being trashed.

Those who live in those bastions of Western values can still watch their favourite soaps, take out a 25-year mortgage, visit Disneyland and even leap semi-clothed into fountains if such is their wont, but isn't real democracy about being able to take part in the decision process, one which shapes not only the voters' futures but also their descendants?

With the dollar at a precarious low, the U.S. economy in a sorry shape while defence budgets grow at an unprecedented rate, the American people are slowly beginning to question why their government is putting so much cash, effort, not to mention blood, into forcibly "democratizing" countries half-way around the world while their own problems are left unattended.

True democracy is an excellent system but it should first be reintroduced into the U.S. and Britain before those nations seek to impose it anywhere else. In any event, democracy cannot be forced. It must evolve on its own over time. The leaders of the U.S. and Britain know this only too well and they are aware that democracy and tribal societies are like oil and water. They don't mix. Members of tribal societies with family ties will not vote as individuals. For them blood is thicker than water and they will simply back their own.

It's clear that the Bush-Blair coalition is wrapping themselves with democracy's flag to cover its real agenda - global power and control. "Democracy" is a noble word. Let's all of us endeavour to keep it that way.



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