The Guardian: "We're Great!"
The dangers of exporting democracy
Bush's crusade is based on a dangerous illusion and will fail
Saturday January 22, 2005
Although President Bush's uncompromising second inaugural address does not so much as mention the words Iraq, Afghanistan and the war on terror, he and his supporters continue to engage in a planned reordering of the world. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are but one part of a supposedly universal effort to create world order by "spreading democracy". This idea is not merely quixotic - it is dangerous. The rhetoric implies that democracy is applicable in a standardised (western) form, that it can succeed everywhere, that it can remedy today's transnational dilemmas, and that it can bring peace, rather than sow disorder. It cannot.
Dear Mr. Hobsbawm,
In your recent Guardian article you refer to the nature of democracy in the UK:
"We now know something about how the actual decisions to go to war in Iraq were taken in at least two states of unquestionable democratic bona fides: the US and the UK. Other than creating complex problems of deceit and concealment, electoral democracy and representative assemblies had little to do with that process."
With public opposition to the war in Iraq and subsequently continuation of the war much greater than support for it. Without a democratic decision on an issue as important as waging war and imposing military rule on a foreign nation. How can the democracies (a form of government in which the supreme power is retained and directly exercised by the people) you suggest be "bona fide"?
"Fortunately, media independence could not be so easily circumvented in the UK."
With copy such as: "the country's first free election in decades". ('Vote against violence,' Leader, The Guardian, January 7, 2005), "if the security situation does not improve, there is doubt, as Annan hinted, over the feasibility of holding the country's first democratic election in January as planned". (Leader, 'Kofi Annan on Iraq: The war was illegal,' The Guardian, September 17, 2004), [as Iraq] "prepares for the country's first democratic election next month". (Ewen MacAskill, 'Blair 'feels the danger' on visit to Baghdad,' December 22, 2004)
and opinions: "The Iraqi elections are the first democratic elections in Iraq for 50 years - acknowledged as a democratic opportunity. We know that the Americans and the British want the elections to be free and fair - but of course we don't yet know if that will be the case - especially bearing in mind security. But our aim is to provide impartial, fair and accurate coverage, reflecting significant strands of argument to enable our audiences to make up their own minds." (Helen Boaden Director, BBC News)
While at the same time: "'Failure to hold elections on January 30 would be seen as a major triumph for the insurgence,' he said. 'But if these elections are to be credible they must cover the whole country and the whole population. No one should minimise the difficulty of carrying this through.'" ('Beleaguered Blair gives warm welcome to announcement - US and Britain hope exit strategy can be hastened,' Michael White, political editor, The Guardian, November 22, 2004)
there is cause to believe that the media is not as independent as you a think.
In a recent znet article Frank Brodhead describes two different standards for free and fair democractic elections (or simply "democratic" elections):
"For example, off the media agenda are discussions of the right of government opponents to campaign (without being killed); the absence of large-scale financing of favored candidates by foreign governments or patrons; the presence of meaningful freedoms of speech, the press, and assembly; the ability of voters to cast their ballots freely and safely without intimidation by domestic or foreign military forces or "death squads"; the existence of a truly secret ballot; an honest counting of the ballots; and the assurance that the person who gets the most votes will win the election."
"[A] large turnout (indicating voter support for the election itself and thus identifying the election with "democracy"); statements by political leaders and "ordinary people" that they are voting because they want freedom; and ineffective opposition to the election, perhaps even military attacks, by opponents of the government."
An independent media would, I presume, use the first standard as one that represents democractic elections more accurately. Whether an escalation of the already large scale violence coincides with the elections is no reason to compromise the standards which make democratic elections democratic.
If the criteria Mr.Brodhead proposes are not present then the elections can be nothing more than a smoke screen. Behind which the "independent" media can celebrate it's ability to outsmart government propaganda.
An independent media has, I believe, a responsibility to the truth. But when the media submits to the government's ever changing rhetoric:
"invaded in order to depose a cruel dictator and give its people a better life." (Guardian)
it is discouraging, when one remembers the rhetoric professed just three short years ago:
"The primary goal is to make it clear to Saddam that we expect him to be a peaceful neighbour in the region and we expect him not to develop weapons of mass destruction. And if we find him doing so, there will be a consequence."—U.S. President George W. Bush at his first White House news conference; Feb. 22, 2001
"Our mission -- besides removing the regime that threatened us, besides ending a place where the terrorists could find a friend, besides getting rid of weapons of mass destruction -- our mission has been to bring a humanitarian aid and restore basic services, and put this country, Iraq, on the road to self-government. And we'll stay as long as it takes to complete our mission. And then all our forces are going to leave Iraq and come home"
-made by Bush in Ohio
Would it be safer to suspend the back patting until the Iraqi people have independence? or until Tony Blair is forced to blush when he says "There's a battle between democracy and terrorism and democracy has got to succeed."