Building Democracy in Iraq and Other Absurdities

Who believes the following?

Foreign troops should leave Iraq immediately.

The US occupation authority, and the Iraqi Governing Council, should be disbanded just as quickly.

An interim government should be appointed, not by the UN, not by the US, not by the occupation authority, and not by the Iraqi Governing Council, but by Iraqis themselves.

Elections should follow, to be organized, run and supervised by Iraqis, not the UN, and definitely not the US.

The rebellion led by Moqtada Sadr against occupation forces is justifiable and worthy of support.

Answer: A majority of Iraqis, according to a recent poll conducted for the US occupation authority [1].

What’s the chance Washington will listen?

Answer: Absolutely none.

Why not?

Answer: Because quitting the country, and leaving Iraqis to run the place themselves, would interfere with the US project of…building democracy in Iraq.

Absurd? So what else is new?

According to the poll:

Over 80 percent of Iraqis want foreign militaries out of their country.

Eight of 10 have no confidence in the Coalition Provisional Authority.

More than four of five say that Iraqis alone should supervise the 2005 elections.

Two-thirds in Basra support the insurgency.

And less than one-tenth of one percent say the Iraqi Governing Council should appoint the interim government — a whole lot higher than the number who think the US should, which is none.

To make matters worse, the poll was taken before photos of cocky US guards striking thumbs up poses as they humiliated Iraqi prisoners dribbled out of the notorious Abu Ghraib prison. One can only imagine how much more dead set Iraqis are now against a continued US presence.

To say the US occupation has no legitimacy in the eyes of Iraqis is to say too little. Think of the Nazis occupying France.

Too harsh?

Most Americans will say so.

Oh sure, some will admit that under the Bush administration the US has hardly followed Dale Carnegie’s advice on winning friends and influencing people, but this is an anomaly, surely.

Well, yes and no. The Democrats foreign policy would stick closely to Carnegie’s text, while still screwing over other people with as much zeal as the Bush administration has. The difference would be skin deep, which, in the run-up to Election ’04, has become all the difference in the world, according to those who loathe Bush with a fury and are looking for a peg to hang a vote for Kerry on.

Not that Bush isn’t loathsome. When he settled into Washington I had a good deal of fun ridiculing his pack of velociraptors as they set out to “shape the international security situation in line with US interests and objectives.” It was cathartic.

But I soon realized that calling the Bush cabinet a pack of velociraptors, as vicious as its members are, was a mistake. It made it seem that it was the attributes of the people in power that made US foreign policy warlike and expansionist.

If you believed this, the solution was clear: Get rid of the velociraptors, and you get rid of a bloody, vicious, imperialist foreign policy.

But US foreign policy has always been this way, no matter who was in charge, velociraptors or pacific apatosauruses. And it has never been particularly concerned with the opinions — or fate — of the foreign. ers who’ve been its victims. Iraqis are simply the last in a long line.

Starting from the Revolutionary War, the US has engaged in warlike activity somewhere in the world in three of every four years of its existence [2]. And the prizes, for that part of the population that owns and controls the economy, have been rich indeed: land, mines, plantations, oil and energy rights, export markets, low-wage labor, and military bases — hundreds of them in scores of countries, outposts to guarantee that more and more of the world is open to US exports and investment, whether the indigenous population likes it or not.

And how many aggressions has the US been involved in since 1999, a mere half-decade? Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iraq again.

US militarism hardly looks like a policy of a group of people in power. It looks more like something that is built in — systemic and hoary and bound to carry on in the usual fashion no matter whose name plate sits on the desk in the Oval Office.

Which says that getting rid of the group now in power, and replacing it with another group — as has been done time and time again in US history — isn’t going to change what makes the US go to war, or outrage the sovereignty of others.

That’s all the more true, given that the presumptive Democrat contender to the White House, John Kerry, looks more like Bush on steroids than Bush-lite when it comes to foreign policy questions.

Kerry says his military will be bigger than Bush’s [3], and that he too will use force preventively and unilaterally [4].

And recently he pledged that, unlike Bush, he’d get the job done in Cuba [5]. Castro, and all his intolerable baggage — full-employment, free health care, and free education — would be swept away, to be replaced by the phony freedom and democracy Iraqis are so grateful the US is ramming down their throats.

Sadly, the Left will line up behind this right-wing, pro-imperialist anyway — stupidly, desperately, unsure what do to, but to toss the dice once again, in a fixed game.

And if that’s not as absurd as the US staying in Iraq over the objections of a vast majority of Iraqis, for democracy, what is?

STEPHEN GOWANS is a writer and political activist who lives in Ottawa, Canada. He can be reached at:

1. “80% in Iraq Distrust Occupation Authority,” The Washington Post, May 13, 2004.

2. Harry Magdoff, “Imperialism Without Colonies,” Monthly Review Press, New York, 2003. p. 115.

3. “On foreign policy, Kerry is not far from Bush,” The Globe and Mail, March 3, 2004.

4. “Kerry Condemns Bush for Failing to Back Aristide,” The New York Times, March 7, 2004; John Laughland, “If it’s war you want, vote Kerry,” The Spectator, April 10, 2004.

5. “Bush’s Failed Policies on Cuba,”, May 7, 2004