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“What do the Americans want from us now?”

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    “It is the beginning of our new freedom,” an Iraqi shopkeeper shouted at me. Then he paused, and asked: “What do the Americans want from us now?” [Independent]

Hey, good question. I wish I could tell you, Iraqi Shopkeeper, but I’m only an American. I can’t tell you what Americans want from you. I would imagine it has something to do with your uncritical acceptance of whatever America wants, but I can’t guarantee it will be that easy. Democracy is hard.

We’ve brought in your new President. I know you’ve never heard of him, but everyone in the Pentagon agrees that he is your new President, so you can consider him democratic. No, don’t thank us. Our pleasure. We’re selfless that way, as any American on the street will tell you.

What’s next for you? Well, um…okay, we maybe haven’t thought this part out too far ahead. We kind of got caught up in the whole war thing. Liberating you was so exciting.

But we know the first stage is a liberating military occupation. We’ll be liberating you with our Marines for, oh, six months or two years or ten years or indefinitely. Whatever it takes until we can consider you officially liberated. No, don’t thank us. Our pleasure.

Almost certainly, we’re going to have “security concerns.” Now that you have freedom, we’re going to pause for a little bit, watch the statues fall, get some more good TV to wash away those few images of those Iraqi civilians we liberated from their arms and legs. That stuff is really popular here–the statues thing, not the arms and legs thing. Then, we’re going to notice that you don’t know how to use freedom. We’re going to have “security concerns.” Especially when you start to resent our liberating security measures. Especially when you decide you want to do something that isn’t “in America’s interest.” Because that’s not democracy.

We had a similar problem last month with another bunch of people, many of whom we had personally liberated a long time ago. This bunch, called the Security Council, thought that democracy meant they could vote, and then the vote meant something. What they didn’t realize is that the vote only meant something if we considered it to be “in America’s interest.” It’s so clear–democracy is what is “in America’s interest.” (Duh–we only invented democracy. I know, funny isn’t it? But some people really don’t get that. I know, I know–you will. Here, let me pat you on the cheek.)

So if you start to get ideas that your democratic leaders in the Pentagon don’t like, we might have to liberate you from those ideas. You might not like that, but, hey, this is what democracy looks like. And when you band together with a lot of others to make your opinions known, maybe even perversely using the same kind of violence that we used to liberate you, that’s when things might get really democratic. And when you make a suicide run at one of our liberating checkpoints, or try to seize one of our (er, your) liberated oil wells, we’ll have to liberate some bullets from our guns and liberate your intestines from your body. No, don’t thank us. Our pleasure.

And as you increasingly show that you don’t know how to use Christianity, oh, wait, I mean freedom (I don’t know where that came from!), we’re going to have to step up the liberation process. We might even have to liberate you from your freedom. I know that sounds paradoxical to someone so unacquainted with the democratic system, but once you remember that “democracy” means “in America’s interest” (remember that?), you can see how it all makes sense. Oh–and we might even have to liberate some of your neighbors, too. We like to share freedom. That’s just how we are.

But, hey, why the long face, Iraqi Shopkeeper? This is a happy day. And it’s only going to get happier. You haven’t seen anything yet. Your liberation has barely begun.

No, don’t thank us. Our pleasure.

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About Brian Flemming

  • andy

    you are so right! Ok send Saddam back in because it’s so clear now that things were better with him!

  • Eric Olsen

    Brian, not the Crusades model again? Do you really think converting Muslims to Christianity has anything to do with this? If it’s about conversion there are way more fertile grounds than the heart of Islam: China has a billion people with NO RELIGION AT ALL; there are tens of millions of animists ripe for the plucking in Africa.

    “Freedom” doesn’t mean in America’s interest: it means in the native people’s interest, which will ultimately be in our interest – market economy democracies don’t fight each other, remember?

    I have no problem with you keeping a clear eye on what happens next to make sure we follow through on our promises, but I see no basis for such abject cynicism.

  • NC

    Speaking of the Crusades: as I understand it, the goal of Christians there wasn’t so much the conversion of people of different faiths as it was the killing of them.

    Killing people because they don’t believe in the same god as you. I wonder, which of the world’s major religions currently most adheres to that principle? HMMMMMMM….

    Oh well. I’m sure socialism will straighten it all out. Just look at the track record!

  • andy,

    I think you give what is probably an accurate preview of what we’ll hear if the military occupation of Iraq remains, um, military (i.e., violent). No matter how bad it gets, no matter how many of the “bad Iraqis” (i.e., the ones who don’t want freedom) are killed or locked up, we can always say, “Hey, it’s better than they had it under Saddam.”

    I mean, that’s a really high bar. Or low, depending on how you look at it. Anyway, there’s lots of leeway. I have no comeback for it, I have to admit. You’re right–as bad as it gets, it probably won’t be as bad as Saddam. Yay!


    “…not the Crusades model again?”

    That was an offhand comment, appropriate to the Christianity motivation–which I imagine Bush and his supporters feel is a nice side benefit to the war. That converting Muslims into Christians is a strong desire of some of Bush’s most important supporters is, I think, undeniable.

    How much that will impact the occupation/liberation of Iraq, I don’t know. That’s why I only mentioned it in passing.

    “I have no problem with you keeping a clear eye on what happens next to make sure we follow through on our promises, but I see no basis for such abject cynicism.”

    The basis: the history of every other outside occupier of Baghdad, the history of the British Empire, and…well, history. Oh yeah–and the record of those who are in charge of this occupation.

    I am deeply skeptical that the particular American leaders in charge right now will conduct themselves with honor and grace in this occupation. So far, the pattern getting into the war has had bald-faced lies woven into its fabric. The war utterly depended on lies.

    Additionally, the war depended on contempt for the international community.

    Additionally, George W. Bush himself has shown nothing but contempt for the rest of the world since taking office.

    Additionally, the White House’s own master plan for our security requires dominance over literally every single country on the globe, to be maintained through the “reaffirmation” of military force. This isn’t my opinion. This is their plan.

    Lies. Contempt. A stated desire to dominate. An infatuation with military deployment. Yeah, I’m cynical about the notion that these qualities will lead to fairness and justice in Iraq.

      Nowhere has this appearance of diplomatic hypocrisy been more striking than on Iraq. The president got high marks for his superb speech at the Security Council last September, urging the United Nations to get serious about enforcing its resolutions on Iraq and to try inspections one last time. Unfortunately, that appeal had been preceded by speeches by Cheney and comments by Rumsfeld calling inspections a sham—statements that actually contradicted American policy—and making clear that the administration had decided to go to war. The only debate was whether to have the United Nations rubber-stamp this policy. To make matters worse, weeks after the new U.S.-sponsored U.N. resolution calling for fresh inspections, the administration began large-scale deployments on Iraq’s border. Diplomatically, it had promised a good-faith effort to watch how the inspections were going; militarily, it was gearing up for war with troops that could not stay ready in the desert forever. Is it any wonder that other countries, even those that would be willing to endorse a war with Iraq, have felt that the diplomacy was a charade, pursued simply to allow time for military preparations?

      President Bush’s favorite verb is “expect.” He announces peremptorily that he “expects” the Palestinians to dump Yasir Arafat, “expects” countries to be with him or against him, “expects” Turkey to cooperate. It is all part of the administration’s basic approach toward foreign policy, which is best described by the phrase used for its war plan—”shock and awe.” The notion is that the United States needs to intimidate countries with its power and assertiveness, always threatening, always denouncing, never showing weakness. Donald Rumsfeld often quotes a line from Al Capone: “You will get more with a kind word and a gun than with a kind word alone.”

      But should the guiding philosophy of the world’s leading democracy really be the tough talk of a Chicago mobster? In terms of effectiveness, this strategy has been a disaster. It has alienated friends and delighted enemies. Having traveled around the world and met with senior government officials in dozens of countries over the past year, I can report that with the exception of Britain and Israel, every country the administration has dealt with feels humiliated by it. “Most officials in Latin American countries today are not anti-American types,” says Jorge Castaneda, the reformist foreign minister of Mexico, who resigned two months ago. “We have studied in the United States or worked there. We like and understand America. But we find it extremely irritating to be treated with utter contempt.” Last fall, a senior ambassador to the United Nations, in a speech supporting America’s position on Iraq, added an innocuous phrase that could have been seen as deviating from that support. The Bush administration called up his foreign minister and demanded that he be formally reprimanded within an hour. The ambassador now seethes when he talks about U.S. arrogance. Does this really help America’s cause in the world? There are dozens of stories like this from every part of the world. [Newsweek]

  • I really like the use of the word “liberate” in the post. That’s how I imagine a good satitre to be!

  • Thanks, Michelle.

  • another excellent post, brian.

    thank you.
    xoxo, jared

  • Harryson Lima

    this is stupid!!

  • Harryson Lima

    you people can stop kissing bush’s ass… he cant run this country at all!!

  • Nancy

    I always felt that if Bush wanted to set Iraq straight so very badly, he should have taken up residence in Iraq and bankrupted THEM instead. And took those obnoxious twin tarts with him so they could justify their existance & do some actual work of value instead of bar hopping every night.

  • Harryson Lima

    Bush is an idiot.if he wants all of are kids to enlist then why dont his?? he needs to think about how the poor people always fight the wars otherwise he will go down and so will america. fuck jesus christ- ps from justin v.

  • Ned

    My name might be ned but im not a bed. haha bush sux weeny and so does america

  • stacy

    Stacy’s mom has got it going on, she all i want nd ive waited so long, stacy cant u see your not the girl for me, i know it might be wrong but im in love with stacy’s mom!!

  • Billy Brady

    Man i miss u Harryson!!! DAMN this sux im here in English thinkin of all the good times we had in shop and with chewy. O well man take care dude!!