Friday, May 21, 2004

Unpacking the Baggage

Faiza writes:

as I was passing by the presidential sites of Saddam which are now taken-over by the US troops, I remember-our prophet's saying :" never dwell in bad people's houses lest you should get the same end as theirs ""
this is a sign of our mighty God that those who have invaded Iraq will , sooner or later, face the same end of Saddam…
Believing that every tyrant has an end….


This passage offers to the critical reader two immediate issues. The first is the conflation of terms that ought to refer to distinct items. Aristotle, as he looked around at the variety of political systems in use around him, classified all systems as falling into four basic groups. Of those four, tyrannies and democracies were seen correctly as distinct systems. Since the month of July, 1979, when Saddam Hussein wrested control of Iraq -- Jimmy Carter was then in the second year of his one term! -- and set himself up as a tyrant who lives in "presidential palaces," the United States has had a genuine presidential election every four years and a number of presidents have been voted in and out. To suggest that George Bush is a tyrant is foolish. You may disagree with him or hate his policies or despise him as a person, but he is still simply an elected president. In November Americans will vote. If they approve, he stays in office. If they disapprove, he steps down and lets another person lead.

The second point of concern is the invocation of God's wrath to bring retribution. "This is a sign of our mighty God," she writes, "that those who have invaded Iraq will face, sooner or later, the same end as Saddam." This is wishful thinking, hoping one's "mighty God" will set everything right again and it also reveals a basic misunderstanding of how democracies work. Saddam (Brave Saladin!) hid in the backseat of a taxi on April 9, 2003, and peeked above the doorframe now and then as he was driven out of town to make sure no one recognized him. Saddam (Brave Warrior!)was pulled from his spiderhole a few months later, in his hand a pistol that this Arab Warrior never discharged. Not even one bullet. Saddam was lucky. Mussolini was not. Despots get pulled from spiderholes or hung from streetlamps. Calling upon the wrath of one's personal god will not suffice in a democracy. You actually have to go down and vote for the candidate of your choice! Any president who has been elected in a healthy democracy will never reach "the same end as Saddam." Sorry, but I just can't see Jimmy Carter riding out of town in a dusty taxi and then getting pulled out of spiderhole, can you?



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