Monday, March 08, 2004

remember when 'democracy' meant 'the will of the people'?

So last week American troops removed the democratically elected Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from office, which somehow "helped save Haitian constitutional democracy". You may recall that this isn't the first time we've meddled in Aristide's affairs, and some Haitians believe that this recent coup was just chapter two of an on-going political drama:

"Dick Cheney was the secretary of defense, Colin Powell was the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and George Bush, the father, was president at the time of the first military coup against President Aristide," recalls the attorney, Ira Kurzban of Miami. "Is there a settling of scores in some sense? They thought they got rid of him the first time, but Clinton brought him back. And now they want to make sure, before the November election, that they get rid of him a second time."

These actions are making other people nervous, as well: people who are concerned that the US might just, as long as we're in the neighborhood, remove Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez or any other 'leftist' leaders we don't like. I think State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said it best:

Boucher singled out Venezuela as an example of how Washington has supported democracy in the region. "We've stood up for threats to democracy in Venezuela, whatever side they might be coming from," he said.

'Whatever side', indeed... if you don't see the irony in Boucher's words, I would remind you that in April 2002 the US supported a coup against the democratically-elected Chavez that failed when hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans surrounded the seat of government and demanded his return.

Our meddling is particularly absurd in the light of worldwide concern over the way the US handled Iraq. Of course, the 'liberal' media organization Reuters is reporting the story in a different light:

U.S. Claims Diplomatic Victory on Iraq Constitution

The United States on Monday claimed a diplomatic victory in Iraq's tortuous march toward sovereignty after the Iraqi Governing Council signed an interim constitution despite persistent reservations from the country's leading Shi'ite Muslim cleric.

President Bush, who was visiting his native Texas for a campaign fund-raiser, called the signing "a historic milestone" that established American-style freedoms of religion, speech and assembly for Iraq while moving the Muslim nation toward sovereignty and democratic elections.

I've still not been able to find any way of looking at the situation that would justify the imposition of democracy1 at gunpoint... isn't democracy supposed to be the will of the people? Isn't the imposition of a government 'for your own good' automatically and by definition the opposite of democracy? I always thought 'the people' meant 'the people of the country', but Bush and friends have apparently decided that "We, the people" is an exclusive copyright, and therefore the US, in taking over the role of 'the people' in every country whose affairs we meddle in, is merely protecting its copyright.

I am glad I can't share Bush's view on this... I think the strain of such a narrow and illogical viewpoint would give me a headache.