Confessions of a Despairing Voter

by TARIF ABBOUSHI

Until last Monday, I was an undecided voter. I agreed with friends, Republicans and Democrats alike, that Iraq is the central issue of this election. But I teetered nonetheless, as put off by the Bush administration’s determination to stay the course when the course has proven so disastrous, as I was suspicious that the Democrats lacked a credible alternate plan to stem the hemorrhage.

Republican friends tried to convince me–albeit in hushed tones–that I should vote for President Bush because although he won’t say so, he knows his trusted circle of advisors have let him down on Iraq. He knows they were wrong when they told him we would find weapons of mass destruction. He knows, as the bipartisan 9-11 commission report has confirmed, there is ‘no credible evidence’ that Saddam Hussein helped al-Qaeda to target the United States. And as the costs continue to escalate beyond 1,000 Americans dead, 7,000 Americans maimed (no need to mention Iraqi casualties, we don’t count them) and $200 Billion evaporated, he knows that Iraq wasn’t the slam-dunk rice-and-petals cakewalk they assured him it would be. He knows, the wisdom goes, but he won’t hold them accountable until after the election, because admitting egregious judgment now would be bad politics. (I think not admitting it now is worse). It’s a timing thing, I’m told: A second-term president free of re-election concerns is beholden to none. I don’t agree, because the party isn’t. I don’t believe this leopard will shed his spots; instead I picture a leopard’s fate amid a pack of hyenas.

My Democrat friends didn’t know what to tell me because their party hadn’t told them. They were rudderless, certain only of turbulence on the right, but unnerved by wind shifts on the left. I’m thinking: if you can’t dazzle them, baffle them.

It all ended on Monday, when John Kerry articulated his grand strategy du jour for Iraq: Convince other nations to get more involved, do a better job of training Iraqi security forces, provide benefits to the Iraqi people and ensure democratic elections will be held next year. Sounds to me he wants to do what Bush wants to do, only better.

Facing a decaying forest, our two candidates focus on reviving a select few trees; they only differ on how much water to use. They both appear to realize we cannot re-invent Iraq in our image without first winning the battle for hearts and minds. But neither seems to understand that the hearts and minds do not divorce our behavior in Iraq from our policy in the region as a whole. Bush and Kerry have yet to grasp that in the Middle East, selective democratization by American force is a doomed enterprise for a simple reason: the widespread universal belief that a person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter is not a nice person. Set aside the question of just how ‘nice’ America has been to Iraq. As long as we defer to Israel, as long as we sanction Syria for not withdrawing its troops from Lebanon even as we bankroll Israeli troops occupying Syrian land, as long as we befriend authoritarian Arab dictators who bow to our will, our peals for democracy in Iraq ring hollow. It would be hard enough selling democracy to our friends, let alone imposing it on our enemies. Imagine trying to convince the Israelis and Saudis to abolish their state-sanctioned laws and practices that discriminate on the basis of religion or sex!

We can waste thousands more American and Iraqi lives and untold additional hundreds of billions of dollars, but given the track record, how many of us really believe Iraq will be a stable pro-American democracy by, say, the election of 2008?

Of more immediate concern is the race of 2004. The strategic Middle East policy tilt of the Republican party will continue to cater to its base of fundamentalist right-wing Christian Zionists (no small irony that the word ‘Qaeda’ means ‘base’), its tactics charted under the corrosive influence of pro-Likud neoconservative ideologues. As for the Democrats, I might have been tempted by a paradigm shift toward an American-centric foreign policy in the Middle East.

Given what is at stake for our nation, it is not Iraq per se, but our Mid-East foreign policy that is the central issue of this election. Until last Monday, I was an undecided voter. Now I’m a despairing one.

TARIF ABBOUSHI lives in Houston. He can be reached at: TAbboushi@aol.com




Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
September 01, 2015
Mike Whitney
Return to Crisis: Things Keep Getting Worse
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
George Wuerthner
Myths of the Anthropocene Boosters: Truthout’s Misguided Attack on Wilderness and National Park Ideals
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
Jesse Jackson
Season of the Insurgents: From Trump to Sanders
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal