Operation: Iraqi Freedom (To Do What We Tell You)
May 31, 2003
By Brad Radcliffe

Before invading Iraq, the Bush team tried several arguments before they found one that stuck. First it was "Saddam Hussein's support of 9-11 terrorists." Eventually, even the administration didn't seem to believe it, so that line was abandoned.

Then there was "regime change" - we were supposed to believe that the Saddam Hussein's brutal dictatorship posed a direct and imminent threat to the United States, despite his decimated forces since the first Gulf War and ten years of economic sanctions. In retrospect, critics of the war say that the ease in which the American military ripped through the Iraqi defenses shows that its military was never a threat.

When that excuse didn't flutter pulses, the Bush team moved into the "tons and tons of weapons of mass destruction stockpiled by a sadist who gassed his own people!" Despite the weapons inspectors in situ who could find nothing, we were told that Saddam had biological and chemical weapons and was ready to deliver them at a moment's notice. And now key Iraqi scientists with comic book names - Chemical Ali, Dr. Anthrax, and Mrs. Germ - have been caught and interrogated.

The result: nothing. U.S. weapons teams have all but given up finding the putative massive stockpiles of chemical weapons that once posed such an imminent threat to America, and even Bush and his team have fallen strangely silent on this point.

The one reason for going to war that did poll well was "bringing democracy to Iraq." For breathes there an American with soul so dead that she doesn't want political freedom for others? Not a real American! Once this excuse was shown to resonate, the White House media team touted it like an e-mail spammer selling herbal Viagra.

In a widely-aired April 28th speech to Iraqi Americans in Michigan, Bush said, "People who live in Iraq deserve the same freedom that you and I enjoy here in America. (Applause.) And after years of tyranny and torture, that freedom has finally arrived. (Applause.) . . .The Iraqi people are fully capable of self-government. Every day Iraqis are moving toward democracy and embracing the responsibilities of active citizenship."

In his stage-managed jet landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln May 2nd, Bush said, "We're helping to rebuild Iraq . . . we will stand with the new leaders of Iraq as they establish a government of, by, and for the Iraqi people. The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done. Then we will leave, and we will leave behind a free Iraq."

We're all clear on that, right? "A government of, by, and for the Iraqi people . . ."

Why then is the administration's point man in Iraq, the colonial governor handpicked by the Bush team, saying something totally contrary to Bush's unqualified support of democracy? Consider this from a Knight/Ridder article dated May 27th - "L. Paul Bremer III, the top U.S. official in Iraq, declared a 'new era' for the nation and spoke of selecting leaders for a new government. Yet many Iraqis warned that they will resist any U.S.-imposed government, demanding that a national congress be held this summer . . . . Bremer and other American reconstruction leaders are distancing themselves from calls for a national congress and say they will choose the country's interim leaders."

Select the country's leaders? Since when are democratically elected leaders selected by a small handpicked minority (well, since the last presidential election in the United States, that is)? But wait, there's more.

"'America has two choices: One is to force things on the Iraqi people, and the second is to listen to the Iraqi people,' said Hamid al-Bayati, a spokesman for the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. 'If they try to force things on us, they will repeat Saddam's mistakes.'"

That warning didn't stop our colonial governor from rejecting Iraqi control of the "democratic" process. "On Monday, Bremer pointedly refused to endorse their plan for a national congress, and sources said the former ambassador is steadfast in his belief that he and the United States have ultimate authority over who runs the new government."

So there you have it - Mr. Bush stands on the rolling deck of an aircraft carrier and paraphrases the Gettysburg Address declaring that Iraqis will have full freedom to nominate and elect their national leaders. When Iraqis move toward democracy however, Mr. Bush's man unequivocally rejects any process that doesn't give the Bush team "ultimate authority." And since that authority is maintained by rifles and tanks, the Iraqis don't seem to have much choice.

That's a new definition of democracy that I'm sure would have left Mr. Webster astonished - rule by the "ultimate authority" of government, or worse yet, rule by the ultimate authority of a foreign government. In my dictionary, the former is called fascism, the latter is called imperialism. When Mr. Bush said "the Iraqi people are fully capable of self-government," he apparently meant only so long as that "self-government" serves U.S. interests and yields to U.S. control.

Operation Iraqi Freedom - freedom to do exactly as Mr. Bush tells you to do. Yes, Iraq is looking more like the U.S. everyday.