Well I’m glad George Bush cleared up for us just what his definition of democracy is: The people have a right to express their opinions, but he has the power to do as he pleases. That was the message from America’s great, unelected president — in his first media appearance following massive peace marches across America and around the world.
Democracy is a wonderful thing, he told the gathered press corps with a smirk. Isn’t it just dandy that those millions who marched have a right to express their opinion? Of course that’s the extent of Bush’s “democracy:” that the people are merely allowed to march in protest at all. Never mind that Bush is going to do just the opposite of what they want. I don’t know where he gets the idea that this is democracy; I thought this was the definition of dictatorship. Maybe he’s just confused because they both start with “d.”
But I guess we should be grateful that we still have the right to march. Next time around they will prohibit peace marches altogether — like New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to do this time around — and they will still tell us how great it is that we live in a “democracy.” President Bush or the next dictator-in-president’s-clothing will get up in front of the cameras and say something like: “Well isn’t democracy wonderful? Isn’t it great that everybody can express their opinions freely in the comfort of their own home? Isn’t that much better than going out into the street where all kinds of bad things can happen? Like getting beat up by police? Who so thoughtfully put up pens that bring to mind stockyards, but might enrage human beings, who somehow feel that they should not be herded like cattle? Of course police need to do this to keep the ‘peace.’ So, isn’t democracy wonderful to spare everyone this unpleasantness, in advance?”
Of course America isn’t alone in practicing this curious brand of “democracy.” Italy, where 70 percent of the population is firmly against war, according to polls, and where millions marched in protest last weekend, has a “democratic” government that is supporting the US-led drive to war, and has permitted the US to launch bombardments on Iraq from its territory. In Spain, where millions took to the streets, and the polls show a similar distaste for an offensive war, the government is likewise steamrolling right over the will of the people. Even in Britain, where intense war propaganda has been softening up the public for months, the majority of the population still opposes a war. Yet Blair, a chameleon-like authoritarian who has run roughshod not just over the parliamentary opposition, but over his own party caucus who mostly oppose the war, continues to disregard the people’s will with impunity.
So that’s the report card on the “democracies” of the West — dismal failures by any honest standard. Even those countries that are routinely described as “undemocratic” appear to be paying more heed to the will of their people. Turkey, for example, which is deemed “authoritarian” by European standards, has dug in its heels against US pressure to allow an attack on Iraq from its soil, in deference to popular opposition. This is an incredible act of resistance that is not coming cheaply. Turkey can ill afford to offend the US, the sole guarantor of its security and the big sugar daddy who has made — and continues to maintain — Turkey as a power to be reckoned with. Perhaps no country outside of Israel is so heavily subsidized by the US in military terms, or so important in geo-strategic terms. Yet somehow, the “undemocratic” Turks are mustering more democracy than the Italians, Spanish and British — all of whom have made grandstanding, high-minded speeches at one time or another about Turkey’s unsuitability to join the “democratic” club of the European Community.
How topsy-turvy this all seems. But we should be used to topsy-turvy by now — living in a world where George Bush speaks of “defending” America by launching an unprovoked attack on a country that poses no conceivable threat to anyone; invokes “peace” as the goal of his war of aggression; and denounces those who oppose aggression as opponents of “peace.” It’s no wonder then that his idea of democracy is really a dictatorship. After all, they both start with “d.”
Mr. Gordon Arnaut is an independent journalist and documentary filmmaker in Canada. He contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN).