Sunday, January 30, 2005

Michael Ignatieff gets it all so very very wrong

Iraqis fight a lonely battle for democracy:
"Just as depressing as the violence in Iraq is the indifference to it abroad. Americans and Europeans who have never lifted a finger to defend their own right to vote seem not to care that Iraqis are dying for the right to choose their own leaders....

Liberals can't bring themselves to support freedom in Iraq lest they seem to collude with neo-conservative bombast. Anti-war ideologues can't support the Iraqis because that would require admitting that positive outcomes can result from bad policies...."
Where to begin with such patent foolishness?

Let's start with the mistaken premise that this 'election' is going to institute democracy.

This premise is simply erroneous. Elections are necessary but not sufficient for democracy. If that were the case, then the Soviet Union would truly have been a 'People's Republic': after all, they had plenty of elections and extremely high voter turnout. But they didn't have choice you say?

And what choices do Iraqis have today? Candidates cannot campaign, indeed, cannot reveal their identities. The few major players are parties or personages with murky (at best) platforms.

Most observers understand the hard facts of the matter, no matter what tomfoolery Ignatieff would have us believe about this being a 'battle for democracy.' This exercise is really one of two things: for the occupiers, it is one more PR exercise for the TV consumers at home; for the Iraqis who are political players, it is just another way of carving up the spoils of civil service prior to the real brokering of power that will occur once the occupiers leave. In other words, for the people who are really calling the shots, this is just this 'election' is simply another made for TV event that will do little except to reshuffle the frontmen and acceptable faces of occupation. For the Iraqi powerbrokers it will serve to reshuffle the distribution of perks and office titles, without significantly changing the facts on the ground. If democracy is brought to Iraq, it will not be as a result of this 'election' but due to a commitment by actual players like the Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani or SCIRI.

So, if this election is in fact a sham, why are people willing to die in the attempt to participate? Are they dying for the sake of democracy? People on the ground may believe they are dying for democracy... but that does not make it so. The soldiers who fought in WWI thought they were fighting to end all wars... but it just was not so. The Germans were told they were defending Kultur against the barbarism of the East and the decadence of the West. Down through the ages people have been promised many wondrous things to fight the battles of their social 'superiors.' And in each instance there were priests, or fellow travelers, dupes or willing stooges to propagandize on behalf of the powerful and demonize those who are willing to look behind the curtain.

And that is precisely the role Ignatieff is playing. By falsely investing this PR operation with false meaning (election = democracy), he can attack those who see through the ugly manipulative nature of the event as being insufficiently supportive of 'democracy' when if fact their only thought crime is to be insufficiently supportive of the latest fabrication designed to 'shock and awe' the television audience.

[Let us not forget the priorities that lay behind this operation, after all, which is being run according to a schedule set to accomodate Dubya's own political agenda -- after the US elections, but before the hard lifting involved in pushing through the final dismantling of FDR's Social Security program. If the aim of the elections were remotely designed with the realistic aim of aiding the institution of democracy, then the elections should have been staged when Sistani first asked for them and not delayed for over a year, during which time Iraq has witnessed a virtual implosion of the security situation. But no, Jerry Bremer had to create a neo-con dreamland of crony capitalism first, all rubberstamped by his handpicked Iraqi council... but I digress. The point being, the motives that lay behind this exercise, which are clearly visible for those willing to see, are an accurate guide as to its design, intent and likely result.]
The beauty of Ignatieff's intellectually dishonest stance is that he will then be able to blame the 'failure' of democratization on the very people who saw through the nullity of this exercise to begin with, as is already anticipated in his casting blame on liberals and anti-war activists for their failure to be 'on board with two feet' due to their fear of "admitting that positive outcomes can result from bad policies." Of course, when viewed logically, blaming liberals and anti-war activists for the failure of democracy in Iraq is akin to blaming the US Armed Forces for the failure of Syria and Iran to adopt Western democracy -- for the current plans for 'democracy' in Iraq (drawn up by many of the same folks who 'planned' the post-war stabilization) are just as divorced from reality as those grandiose promises that the successful invasion of Iraq would lead to democracy throughout the Middle East. Except that, unlike the military, the liberals and anti-war folks have been completely shut out of the process, having had no input into planning and execution whatsoever....

Contra Ignatieff, cheerleading the latest PR exercise in Iraq should not be confused with a championing democracy.

Nor is the refusal to swallow propaganda the equivalent to fear of "seem[ing] to collude with neo-conservative bombast."