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Easier said than done
Democracy and freedom in Iraq?

October 27, 2004

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?
-- Mahatma Gandhi

In the post-9/11 world, it is quite obvious that we face great uncertainty and confusion about the future direction of the US, Iraq, Afghanistan, terrorism, war, and peace. The information age is upon us and so misinformation. Through an increasingly concentrated, corporate owned and managed, channels of mass communication, we are continuously bombarded with an avalanche of sophisticated propaganda techniques that are aimed at furthering the political-economic agendas of an elite--rulers of the global village.

Hence, we are often unable to distinguish between right and wrong, truth and fact, or reality and fiction. My hope is that the following milestones, compiled from various sources of news and information, would shed some light on the state of affairs vis-à-vis Iraq, war, freedom, and democracy:

On March 20, 2003, after months of threats and a long military buildup, the United States pre-emptively and, despite wide-spread global opposition, attacked the sovereign nation of Iraq. The attack was based on the arguments brought forward by the US and British administrations that Saddam Hussein possessed, or was in the process of producing, Weapons of Mass Destruction.

On May 1, 2003, President George W. Bush landed in flying gear on the deck of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln -- which was adorned with a giant banner reading "Mission Accomplished" -- and said, "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended."

On July 22, 2004, the chairman of the independent 9/11 Commission investigating the September 11 terrorist attacks said publicly that 9/11 could have and should have been prevented. The report found no operational link between al-Qaeda and ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

On November 6, 2003, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said, "The troops deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom have ... rescued a nation and liberated a people." Perhaps the notorious human abuses and atrocities at the Abu Gharaib prison and Afghanistan illustrated that liberation.

On December 7, 2003, a former CIA analyst, Ray McGovern, said that there was no links between Iraq and Al Qaeda and that it was every US citizen`s duty to learn how Washington waged war based on false intelligence and misinformation.

On January 26, 2004, Human Rights Watch rejected the claim by the US and UK that they had launched the Iraq war on the basis of a humanitarian intervention.

On September 8, 2004, the mass media reported that the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq surpassed 1000, while Iraq Body Count, a private group that bases its figures in part on reports by 40 media outlets, estimated the number of civilian deaths since the war on Iraq began between 11,793 and 13,802.

On September 18, 2004, a draft of the Iraq Survey Group`s final report concluded that there was no evidence of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq.

On September 21, 2004, at the annual meeting of the General Assembly, US President George W. Bush defended his decision to go to war in Iraq on the basis of Saddam Hussein`s refusal fully to comply with Security Council resolutions and the need to defend freedom and democracy.

On September 28, 2004, the UK Prime Minister Tony Blair admitted that there was no evidence of chemical and biological weapons in Iraq, but maintained that "the world is a better place with Saddam in prison not in power."

During his campaign for reelections, President George W. Bush repeatedly invoked the grim memories of 9/11 and has said that "freedom is on the march" in Iraq and that the US and the world are now safer than before 9/11.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has repeatedly said that the American-led invasion of Iraq was illegal, that we have created a more dangerous world, and that we are less safe than before 9/11.

Quite naturally, people throughout the world prefer freedom to oppression, prosperity to poverty, sanitation to filth, health to sickness, employment to unemployment, and justice to injustice. And contrary to the ongoing political rhetoric which has been used to sugarcoat the miserable and chaotic conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan, democracy is not a product that can be imported or exported like a bar of soap or an automobile. It has to be cultivated and grow from within through careful planning, continuous nurturing, and education.

In other words, a free and democratic system requires a particular environment, mind-set, culture, and economic-social-political system that do not exist in Afghanistan, Iraq -- an unfortunately -- in most of the developing nations. Democracy, according to Abraham Lincoln, is a government "of the people, by the people, for the people."

Can we claim that our nation`s domestic and international conduct have been based on the ideals of the Constitution on which this great nation was founded? Can we claim that we have captured the essence of freedom and democracy at home? George Bernard Shaw, once said, "Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve." Ah, democracy -- it`s easier said than done.

As we approach the presidential elections, it is quite evident that the war on Iraq has not been about "human rights," "freedom," and "democracy," but about access to oil resources, exertion of regional and global control, establishment of military bases, enhancement of the economic interests of the transnational corporations, and expansion of the imperial power of America.

Dr. Yahya R. Kamalipour is professor of mass and international communication and head of the Department of Communication at Purdue University Calumet, Hammond, Indiana.  His most recent book War, Media, and Propaganda has been just released by Rowman & Littlefield. See:

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