Monday, September 27, 2004

An opinion piece:

Bush's America asks: Why us?

By Imad Khadduri

Monday 27 September 2004, 3:03 Makka Time, 0:03 GMT

As the US presidential elections approach, the American public is facing an important challenge and responsibility as it is confronted by the spectre of a dangerous potential outcome of a second Bush term.

President Bush's public pronouncements and stated efforts to build democracy in Iraq (after failed weapons of mass destruction and al-Qaida accusations) are underpinned by a misguided view of America's own democracy. He [Bush] believes that American democracy works because Americans are innately good people, believing in values of tolerance and respect for others and guided by religious faith.The Bush doctrine also equates security at home with the spread of freedom and democracy at the point of a gun elsewhere in the world."I believe that America is called to lead the cause of freedom in a new century," Bush told the nation in accepting his party's presidential nomination on 2 September.

"I believe that millions in the Middle East plead in silence for their liberty. I believe that given the chance, they will embrace the most honourable form of government ever devised by man. I believe all these things because freedom is not America's gift to the world, it is the Almighty God's gift to every man and woman in this world."

"He [Bush] believes that American democracy works because Americans are innately good people, believing in values of tolerance and respect for others and guided by religious faith"
This president believes that he was placed in the White House by a higher power in order to win the war on terrorism, the pivotal struggle of our time. It is this, more than anything, that divides America, stretches its military, bleeds its federal coffers and has led to the occupation of two states, and the deaths of tens of thousands of humans.

If, in the president's view, the goodness of Americans and the nobility of their mission are self-evident, then the failure of peoples around the world to see the resistance against the occupation in Iraq in the same way, means that they are "enemies of freedom". Fighters opposing American power, even if they are residents of the occupied country, do not merit the protections of international law, while 20,000 mercenaries in "sovereign" Iraq are still beyond any law.

Institutional restraints on the exercise of power by Americans in detention centres and prisons can, in this view, safely be relaxed. Moreover, constitutional protections can be denied even to American citizens, arrested in the United States, when they are suspected of being "enemy combatants."

In an article by Robert O Keohane and Annie-Marie Slaughter in the IHT on 23 June 2003 titled "Bush's mistaken view of US Democracy", the democratic challenge is stark: "Behind the debate about the conduct of the war in Iraq, and the occupation, is a larger divide - between those Americans who believe that their unique virtues should permit them to act above the law, and those who believe that people in authority, necessarily imperfect, must be constrained by institutions and by law. Those who understand and believe in the theory of the American Constitution should reject the Bush administration's political theory of personal good and evil. We must continue to insist that the United States is a "government of laws and not of men".

In a recently published book, "Losing America: Confronting a Reckless and Arrogant Presidency", the senior senator from West Virginia, Robert Byrd, perceives so grave a threat to constitutional government that he proclaims: "Never, in my view, had America been led by such a dangerous head of state." Byrd quotes the advice of Herman Goering to rulers who seek to enhance their power: "Whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship ... all you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger."

The American Constitution established a system of checks and balances, by which Congress, the president and the courts each check each other, as do the states and the federal government, to ensure that the power of the government is both limited and controlled. These are not simply theoretical differences about the core of American democracy.

The stage has been reached when they have profound implications for the American people as their bewildered and anxious question is asked: Why us?

A valid response is: Is the public in the US responsible for the actions of its government? In an article "Fewer Americans choosing to vote" by Ben Duncan on 31 August 2004 on Aljazeera.net, he notes: "Although the United States often bills itself as the world's greatest democracy, voter turnout has consistently fallen through the years and nearly half of the American electorate chose not to vote in the 2000 presidential election as more Americans have disengaged from the political process.

What is unfolding in front of the American voters, with the alarming increase in dissonance between rhetoric and reality, is the litmus test for American democracy and how the Americans think about and control the role of the United States in the world.

It is a heavy responsibility, with corresponding consequences.

[Imad Khadduri has an MSc in Physics from the University of Michigan (United States) and a PhD in Nuclear Reactor Technology from the University of Birmingham (United Kingdom). Khadduri worked with the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission for 30 years (1968-1998). He left Iraq in late 1998. He now teaches and works as a network administrator in Toronto, Canada]

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