Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Emperor has no Clothes

So, here it is January 11th and the election in Iraq is nineteen days away.


I imagine our president will insist on having it and then proclaim it a success, having after fifty years “brought democracy” to a Middle East dictatorship. That’s the pattern of his mind-set. W proclaims the sun to rise in the west and set in the east and others pay the price of his hubris. There will be a price here as well, most likely civil war.


W probably ought to send Dick Cheney in to talk to these people . . . they just don’t seem to get it. How are we supposed to set up our western-style system of governing for these middle eastern-style primitives if they won’t stop assassinating the Iraqis we appoint to tell them how to do it? Saddam never had any trouble with that and he was a really nasty man compared to W and, when you consider it carefully, probably compared to Cheney as well.


Of course I know that W isn’t allowed to see the newspapers that might otherwise cloud the issues in his sunny (as opposed to Sunni) mind. He’s no doubt hearing “Yes, Mr. President there are a few problems but basically we think we can hold the election just fine. We delivered Florida for you and we’ll deliver Iraq right on schedule. Eat your eggs, play with Laura’s puppy.”


You think I’m delivering a pretty heavy load of irony there, but I’m dead serious . . . I think that’s what he’s hearing . . . I think that’s just how far this president is being held from the reality of what’s happening on the ground.


For a century after blacks in America got the right to vote, they were prevented from exercising it. All it took was a lynching here and a cross-burning there, a few redneck sheriffs and a benign state of mind in the south that allowed such things to happen. No roadside bombs necessary, no systematic assassination of Mississippians or Alabamans on their way home from striving to create a military or police force.


A hundred years and then a Martin Luther King, Jr. needed, to make it happen.


A hundred years after our own Civil War, the bloodiest war this country has ever fought, a war that cost more American lives than all the foreign wars we ever fought added together. A war that devastated the economy of our southern states, that took a hundred years to heal and some say has not healed yet. That was our country, seventy-five years into our experiment with democracy, an experiment that nearly died on the operating table of black suffrage.


Iraq is a year and a half out of a fifty-year dictatorship in a warlord society where opposing militant theocracies thirst for power. Iraq is a society in which the ordinary citizen has never had any say in the way things are run. But we’re going to stage an election there in nineteen days and I do mean stage an election, because it will bear no resemblance to what we have come to know as the democratic process. I’m not certain how the resulting chaos will be evaluated, but it’s a sure thing that no one will abide by the result . . . at least no one with the power of a gun or a bomb.


So, they will have it because W wants it. Presumably he will be told that it was a success and presumably he will go on to tell us the same. But the Emperor has no clothes.