The United States, the headline in the Jan. 6 New York Times informed us, "is completing plan to promote a democratic Iraq." The war against this Middle Eastern state that has never done a single thing to harm any American is not yet even under way, and already the munchkins on the Potomac are plotting how to "spread democracy" there.
The truth is, however, that the Times' headline seems to be the last we will hear of "democracy" on the Euphrates.
The description of what American diplomats, technocrats, bureaucrats and globocrats are planning for Iraq is anything but democratic; indeed, the participation and consent of the people of Iraq seem not even to be on the horizon.
What is being planned is nothing less than what old-fashioned sorts like to call "empire," though this time without the pith helmets and marching bands that European and American imperialism used to sport.
The plans include the trial of "only the most senior Iraqi leaders" and "quick takeover of the country's oil fields to pay for reconstruction," but they extend also to what is being called the "de-Baathization" of Iraq, similar to the de-Nazification of Germany after World War II (The Baath Party is the more or less national socialist vehicle for Saddam Hussein's system of rule). The process, as described by administration officials, will mean that "government elements closely identified with Saddam's regime ... will be eliminated, but much of the rest of the government will be reformed and kept."
That sounds nice; presumably being "eliminated" doesn't mean murdered, but then again it might. In any case, no one in Iraq has said boo about any of these plans, so there is nothing "democratic" about it at all.
As for the oil, the largest reserves in the world next to those of Saudi Arabia, the administration is assuring everyone that it's the "patrimony of the Iraqi people." That indeed is exactly what it is now under Saddam Hussein, but the administration is now "debating" "how an occupied Iraq would be represented in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, if at all."
It's terrific there's a real debate about that inside the administration. It would be democratic if the people of Iraq, whose "patrimony" the oil is, got to debate about it.
Then there's the little matter of just how long the United States plans to be in Iraq. That's open to question. "Administration officials insist American forces would not stay in Iraq a day longer than is necessary to stabilize the country." One of President Bush's "top advisers" says, "I don't think we're talking abut months, but I don't think we're talking about years, either."
In fact, as the officials admit when they're honest, they don't know what they're talking about — simply because no one knows what "stabilizing" Iraq means, how much resistance there will be to the invasion or how the Iraqis will respond to all the nifty plans for "democratization" once the war's over.
And then, of course, there's the "civilian administrator" who will be appointed ("perhaps designated by the United Nations" but certainly not by the Iraqi people, at least not until they get "deBaathicized") and who "would run the country's economy, rebuild its schools and political institutions, and administer aid programs" — in other words, the American puppet dictator of Baghdad.
There is supposedly a debate within the administration as to whether the United States should appoint a "provisional government" of Iraqis or not, but what's funny about all the planning for "democratization" is that not once does the word "election" seem to come up.
Nevertheless, this is what "spreading democracy" really means in the context of the modern technocratic global order: not actual participation in and consent by the people of the state being "democratized" but simply replacing one regime that our ruling class doesn't like with another that it controls.
And what is done in Iraq will serve as a model for other Arab and Third World states with similar social and political structures once we conquer them too.
In a recent issue of Pat Buchanan's anti-interventionist magazine, The American Conservative, veteran Middle East observer Arnaud de Borchgrave noted that "There is little realization in Washington that democracy [in Iraq and the Middle East] would make the region even more anti-American than it already is by giving free rein to Islamist fundamentalist extremists."
But since what the munchkins are planning for Iraq seems to have nothing to do with genuine democracy, there's no reason to worry — nor any reason to think that the peculiar Western institution of democracy would ever sprout in Iraq anyway.
There is therefore no reason to regret its absence in Iraq, let alone to try to engineer it there, but there's also no good reason to go there at all.
COPYRIGHT CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
January 13, 2003