Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Phony Phreedom

If you find yourself in the uncomfortable situation of having to disguise your imperialist warmongering by claiming that you are actually bringing 'freedom' to the oppressed - or at least to those of the oppressed who happen to live on top of a pool of oil - but find that some of the oppressed are impolite enough to request that their freedom be accompanied by elections, there is an easy way to have your imperialism and be seen to grant your phony phreedom too. Like sausage making, the process of creating phreedom is quite simple but not very pretty, and you don't necessarily want to be aware of all the ingredients. You begin with 'shock and awe' bombing, followed by a violent military occupation. You install your own stooge government of opportunists ready to do what they are told, including setting up something which could, on a dark desert night, pass for an election. Then you bring in some UN election wizards, technicians so skilled they could stage what looks to be a fair election in a morgue (a useful skill in Iraq).

You pick a few photo-op polling stations in relatively safe areas, and surround them with enough of the US Army to make it safe enough for an Iraqi to consider voting there, and, much more importantly, safe enough for American 'journalists' and camera crews to venture intrepidly out from under their Baghdad hotel beds to video the photo-ops. Add a few photogenic voters - local go-getters who have a nose for power, bribe recipients, those threatened with the loss of their only source of food if they don't vote, and a few people who just want to be on TV - and a completely credulous 'journalist' to stand in front of the camera, all to create the illusion of a representative polling station. Slip a few dollars to a 'representative voter' - either a ringer from your stooge government or a local opportunist/exhibitionist - to tearfully thank America for restoring his freedom, have a few worthies line up to provide local color by performing some folk dances, badly, and you have all the makings of an Emmy Award for news coverage. Repeat in a few different places and you've recreated the whole election for American television. The inky finger becomes the logo now required for Americans to be able to process any new information.

Now, have your stooge government certify some enormous, and completely fictitious, turnout rate. The real international monitors are hiding under their hotel beds in Jordan, having correctly concluded that Iraqi pollinq places were too dangerous to get near, so no one will ever really know what the real turnout was, or even whether the results were in any way fair.

Finally, have the commentators in the disgusting American media - to a man - describe this charade as the story of the little people of Iraq fighting off the evil terrorists - oh, yes! - to courageously make their way to the polling stations to claim the freedom and dignity granted to them by America, personified by the saintly George Bush. This fits right in with the usual mythology that America only does good, and provides cover for that part of the population still capable of feeling guilty for an illegal attack on a sovereign country based on a rationale consisting of a series of lies, the bombing of civilians (wedding parties!), the cluster bombs, the depleted uranium, the torture, the children spattered with the blood of their parents, and so on. Any American member of the media who demurred on the celebration of American goodness - and, don't worry, there weren't any - would have been immediately met with the question of who they hated more, the courageous Iraqi people, freedom, or America.

The real tragedy in all this is that it sets up Bush to continue to use his bogus equation of American warmongering with freedom. In other words, going along with the charade of this election means you are implicitly dooming the next victim of the American Empire, who will receive exactly the same treatment under the guise of the same phony phreedom. The next attack will be easier, as Bush can fall back on the example of the phreedom he has personally granted to the Iraqi people, and will no doubt promise the people of Iraq, or Syria, or Cuba, or Venezuela, or wherever. We will see the mechanics of this phony pharce of phreedom repeated again and again, with staged elections being used to retroactively justify the results of American colonialist violence.


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