Move On Iraq Is A War On Democracy



President Bush named the war on terrorism "Operation Enduring Freedom." (An earlier name, "Operation Infinite Justice," was hastily withdrawn.)

Now, the administration is on the brink of attacking Iraq, supposedly so that we can bring democracy to Baghdad. Yet war will bring little democracy to Iraq and make it ever more elusive here at home. The Bush Administration has not asked the Iraqi people whether they see bombing and invasion which may kill tens of thousands of civilians as liberation. But it has become increasingly clear that we don't trust the Iraqi people to govern themselves.Plans to install a government run by London-based exiles have been scrapped in favor of rule by US General Tommy Franks. The real problem is that Iraq is naturally fragmented into Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites. The Shiite majority with ties to Iran is the one we trust least.

These were the considerations that led US policy makers to support Saddam Hussein for more than 20 years.They make it unlikely that his successor will be any democrat.Instead, we will be returning to naked colonialism and no doubt increasing terrorist resistance.

The administration's "war for democracy" is in fact a war on democracy including democracy here at home.Presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer ominously warned the press, "Watch what you do, watch what you say."

Attorney General John Ashcroft has thrown thousands of immigrants into detention without due process of law.Even citizens can be stripped of their rights if the government terms them "enemy combatants."

Surveillance has increased. When Congress began to investigate the administration's poor record in preventing Sept 11, it found it was itself under investigation a tactic practiced by J. Edgar Hoover, not to mention classic dictators.It is clear that John Ashcroft and Dick Cheney always considered real democracy a handicap; it is best used chiefly as a self-congratulatory slogan.

But if democracy does not respect dissent, it is no longer democracy. Without dissent, we cannot hope to understand a complex and changing world. We are likely to stumble into adventures that win us only hate. Americans have a chance to defend democracy not by bombing Iraq, but by casting ballots Nov. 5.

Voters should use the day to let neo-authoritarians taste the finest democratic privilege: electoral defeat.

David Crimmins, Payson

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