March 08, 2005

What Really Fucking Pisses Me Off

I've heard it all the time in all sorts of avenues, from casual family conversation to comics and the Daily Show to CNN and the British press. And it makes me mad as hell.

It's when people act as though the Bush foreign policy vision of spreading democracy and worldwide liberty were simply discovered, first as a false pretense to invade Iraq and then again in the last few months after Iraqi elections and the aftereffects. Lies, deceptions, misinformation? No; more likely stupidity, ignorance and cynicism.

Point 1: Bush's AEI speech, just prior to the invasion of Iraq on February 28th, 2003. I watched it live at the time. In it, Bush said, inter alia, the following HIGHLY relevant nugget.

    A liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region, by bringing hope and progress into the lives of millions. America's interests in security, and America's belief in liberty, both lead in the same direction: to a free and peaceful Iraq.
I'm suddenly overcome with the need to resort to childish, outdated sports-gloating phrases. "Booyah!"

Point 2: Bush's Address to the Australian Parliament, on October 22nd, 2003, shows the continuity of the same ideals.

    We seek the rise of freedom and self-government in Afghanistan and in Iraq for the benefit of their people, as an example to their neighbors, and for the security of the world...
    Some are skeptical about the prospects for democracy in the Middle East, and wonder if its culture can support free institutions. In fact, freedom has always had its skeptics. Some doubted that Japan and other Asian countries could ever adopt the ways of self-government. The same doubts have been heard at various times about Germans and Africans. At the time of the Magna Carta, the English were not considered the most promising recruits for democracy. (Laughter.) And to be honest, sophisticated observers had serious reservations about the scruffy travelers who founded our two countries. (Laughter.) Every milestone of liberty was considered impossible before it was achieved. In our time, we must decide our own belief: Either freedom is the privilege of an elite few, or it is the right and capacity of all humanity. (Hear, hear.)

    By serving our ideals, we also serve our interests. If the Middle East remains a place of anger and hopelessness and incitement, this world will tend toward division and chaos and violence. Only the spread of freedom and hope in the Middle East in the long-term will bring peace to that region and beyond. And the liberation of more than 50 million Iraqis and Afghans from tyranny is progress to be proud of. (Hear, hear.)
Point 3: Bush's 2003 State of the Union of January 28th does not have a wealth of information on the subject, but contains important broad overtones of the same subject.

    America is a strong nation, and honorable in the use of our strength. We exercise power without conquest, and we sacrifice for the liberty of strangers.
    Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity. (Applause.)
Point 4: Bush's 2004 State of the Union of January 20th

    We also hear doubts that democracy is a realistic goal for the greater Middle East, where freedom is rare. Yet it is mistaken, and condescending, to assume that whole cultures and great religions are incompatible with liberty and self-government. I believe that God has planted in every human heart the desire to live in freedom. And even when that desire is crushed by tyranny for decades, it will rise again. (Applause.)

    As long as the Middle East remains a place of tyranny and despair and anger, it will continue to produce men and movements that threaten the safety of America and our friends. So America is pursuing a forward strategy of freedom in the greater Middle East.
He illustrates his point most clearly in the AEI Speech and of course in his second inaugural address. Bush has been saying it since prior to the war, and it wasn't just a sham argument. It wasn't simply pointing to rape rooms and running in headlong; it was very specific that freedom in Iraq could engender an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that democracy could bring a greater stability to the entire region. Why did Bush go down this road? Because this is exactly what Reagan was talking about when he and Shultz were talking about 'Democratic revolution' and so forth.

Reagan, June 8, 1982:
    Around the world today, the democratic revolution is gathering new strength...We must be staunch in our conviction that freedom is not the sole prerogative of a lucky few, but the inalienable and universal right of all human beings... This is not cultural imperialism, it is providing the means for genuine self-determination and protection for diversity. Democracy already flourishes in countries with very different cultures and historical experiences. It would be cultural condescension, or worse, to say that any people prefer dictatorship to democracy.
Reagan another time:
    Free people, where governments rest upon the consent of the governed, do not wage war on their neighbors. Free people, blessed by economic opportunity and protected by laws that respect the dignity of the individual, are not driven toward the domination of others.
Reagan's Secretary of State George Shultz:
    It is no accident, for example, that America's closest and most lasting relationships are its alliances with its fellow democracies. These ties with the Atlantic Community, Japan, and other democratic friends have an enduring quality precisely because they rest on a moral base, not only a base of strategic interest.
Reagan once again:
    True peace rests on the pillars of individual freedom, human rights, national self-determination and respect for the rule of law... Freedom and democracy are the best guarantors of peace... The rights of the individual and the rule of law are as fundamental to peace as arms control. A government which does not respect its citizens' rights and its international commitments to protect those rights is not likely to respect its other international undertakings.
This is a well-developed concept and it goes back to Kant and to President Woodrow Wilson. To think that Bush threw in human rights at the last minute as a sham excuse is a ludicrously shallow misperception.

"Freedom serves peace; the quest for peace must serve the cause of freedom." - Ronald Reagan

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