Where Are the Democracies?

by Philip Greenspan

September 22, 2003


The word 'democracy' is derived from the Greek demos, the people, and kratein, to rule. A succinct definition is Lincoln's famous phrase 'government of the people, by the people and for the people'.

Right now the U.S. claims to be bringing democracy to Iraq. But does it really mean democracy?

Does the U.S. know what democracy is? It claims to be a democracy. But no one could honestly say that the U.S. fits the definition. It is actually a government of, by and for the plutocracy -- the corporations and the super rich.

Americans think they have a democracy because they have the right to vote. They treasure that right and believe it is the duty of the good citizen to exercise that right. Voting is an easy and convenient once a year ritual. Ample opportunity is afforded to all who wish to vote. There are many polling places that are open at accessible times (many jurisdictions declare a holiday from work or require employers to permit time off for employees to vote).

But despite its convenience, turnout in the U.S. is disappointing and keeps dropping over time. Turnout is so dismal that no candidate can honestly say that he has been able to snare half of the eligible voters. Why? Because everyone knows it's a charade. Both parties of the two party system are controlled by the real rulers, the plutocracy. The system effectively locks out any honest representative of the people.

Each of the competing candidates desires to win and makes promises to the electorate. They know that once the electorate has performed its annual excursion to the polls those voters will hibernate until the next election; and the winners will be set for years -- four years for president; six, for senator; two, for representative; etc. Thus they have ample time to satisfy the demands of their benefactors.

Elections all over the world are usually no more than masquerades with intimidation, ballot stuffing and all types of fraudulent activities employed to insure the correct result. Equating voting to democracy is a foolish notion that is fostered by the real rulers to pacify the masses. "Gee, if you people don't like what your government is doing you have only yourselves to blame. You voted them in!"

Elections merely change the cast of the governmental pantomime. Nothing comes easy. Every right, privilege and benefit obtained from the government was achieved through the long, hard-fought efforts of activists; activists so committed that although obstacles constantly hindered them they persevered until they achieved their goal. Nothing worthwhile was granted as a gift.

The myth of American democracy was created by the founding fathers who had no intention of awarding the 'rabble' the right to govern. Governmental power was a prize that they would steal once they dumped the king.

They enticed the public to fight their battles and ratify their constitution by promising a democratic government. Over the years that promise has been nurtured into a myth. The public schools and public relations industry have so inculcated and developed that myth that 'The American Democracy' has evolved into a religion or cult.

The presidential high priest makes a pronouncement and his loyal couriers in the media sing out with praises and plead for blind obedience. Deviation is heresy and disloyal scoundrels suffer the scorn of their fellow citizens.

If a totalitarian country is deemed a democracy by the U.S., its subservient media will delude, and in the eyes of the public it is transformed into a democracy.

The coup that temporarily ousted Venezuela's Chavez was a scenario for a Marx Brothers farce. The US government and its toady press were alone in proclaiming that the usurper ushered in democracy.

That event is just the most recent of numerous regimes that have been anointed by the US and its media with democratic credentials. A few of the more noteworthy were the Shah of Iran, Marcos in the Philippines, Suharto in Indonesia and Pinochet in Chile. All had achieved their positions with major assists from the CIA.

Unfortunately these 'ideal leaders' did not have the consent of their people. The governments they provided were not of the people; not by the people; and absolutely and most assuredly not for the people.

No government is satisfactory to all the people. That is obvious. Dictators never report results of 100 percent approval in the sham elections they conduct. Occasionally they may claim over 99 percent, but never 100.

An authoritarian ruler can survive with the backing of a small minority. He must also have a tough police and military force, whose loyalty is amply rewarded, to tyrannize and subdue the majority.

The U.S. often provides the necessary expertise to those 'democracies' it favors. The CIA trained the Shah's SAVAK torturers. At Fort Benning, Georgia, the infamous 'School of Assassins' trains Latin American military personnel how to torture, murder, and terrorize to keep the lid on dissent. Many of its graduates have been fingered for their commission of atrocities.

However, with all the assistance that is provided to these oppressive regimes, an uprising eventually overthrows them. The dedication of the people who take on those dictators is proof positive that they do not, repeat, do not think that the US-sponsored thugs have brought them democracy. They gamble with their lives to depose those bastards. When people vote with their lives at stake you can readily believe that that is a legitimate election.

Take Venezuela: When a coup was launched in April 2002 against President Hugo Chavez, Venezuelans responded by dramatically ousting the interlopers and reinstating their elected president, who had received the greatest majority of votes in the country's history. Whatever CIA-sponsored dirty tricks, the local elite could not deny the people their legitimate government. That phenomenon was truly democracy in action.

Another phenomenal example is Vietnam. Two major powers, France and the U.S., fought that Third World nation for many years. They hit it with more firepower than was necessary to defeat the formidable German army during WWII and yet they were unable to defeat Vietnam because it had the life-on-the-line devotion of its people.

The U.S., besides extolling its favored foreign democracies, will vilify other governments that it describes as tyrannical dictatorships. It will showcase former citizens of an objectionable government -- like the Cuban and the Iraqi émigrés -- who will honestly state how terribly that government treated them.

No government satisfies all its citizens, and in many instances the dissatisfied minority is so upset that they will leave the country and plot against it. They will assist a potential enemy state to overturn that terrible government and restore it to its prior conditions.

Invariably those émigrés were a small wealthy minority in the country they fled. They realized that their fortunes and comfortable life styles were jeopardized by a new government that destroyed the system that fostered those life styles. It was a system that the U.S. preferred. A system that subjected the majority to a bare subsistence existence.

The U.S. is most accommodating to these minorities. They were the elite of a former government that worked hand in glove with the interests of the U.S. A return to its former status would restore that ideal relationship.

The U.S. foolishly accepts the émigré's assessment of conditions in their former homelands. The Bay of Pigs disaster and the hostility that the GIs are encountering in Iraq are the results of their faulty advice.

Since Castro came to power the U.S. has attempted to bring down the Cuban government. Besides the Bay of Pigs the island has been subjected to sanctions and many clandestine and criminal activities of the CIA and the Cuban émigrés. The CIA has unleashed a barrage of dirty tricks. It made numerous attempts to assassinate Castro, even recruiting the Mafia to assist. Hundreds of thousands of Cubans were infected by dengue fever. Oil refineries, chemical plants, bridges, cane fields, sugar mills and warehouses were damaged. Thousands of tons of sugar were contaminated by chemical and biological agents. Hundreds of thousands of pigs and thousands of turkeys were killed from viruses smuggled into the island.

The Miami-Cubans have criminally attacked targets not only in Cuba, but in the U.S. and other countries around the world -- targets like Cuban embassies or individuals and businesses friendly to the Cuban government. They bombed a Cuban airliner that left 76 dead. Yet, these terrorists were not subjected to the punishments they deserve. Many live comfortably in Miami proudly acknowledging their crimes to the accolades of the émigré community.

When the Soviet Union collapsed the anti-Castro forces predicted his fall within six months and Congress enacted additional legislation to hasten it.

These events, orchestrated by the U.S. superpower and its émigré criminals, have hurt the country and all of its citizens have been adversely affected. Nevertheless the country has survived these tactics for 44 years and takes pride in its accomplishments particularly in medicine and education.

With the end of Gulf War I the U.S. called on Iraqis to oust Saddam Hussein. It desired a coup that would replace the bum with an amenable sycophant. The Iraqi public responded instead. The U.S., fearing that a people's government would rebuff its future demands, failed to assist the rebellion. Accordingly Saddam's troops crushed the uprising.

The U.S. then pressured the United Nations to slap sanctions on the country. For twelve years the Iraqis suffered under the sanctions but during those lean years the bum maintained services and with food rationing insured that all would eat.

Saddam was bad news but the Iraqis did not dump him. The benefits that he and his Baath party provided were factors that weakened the opposition. A purge could not take place without outside support -- support that the U.S. failed to give after Gulf War I.

The Iraqis' experience of the duplicity of the U.S. made them wary of its recent claim to bring democracy to their country. Much as they were happy to see the tyrant go, they now find that their supposed liberators are far worse than the old culprit. They want those liberators out and pronto!

Some governments claimed to be democracies received substantial military and economic aid from the U.S. and yet were overthrown; and some referred to as dictatorships were subjected to military and economic attacks but survived much longer than those democracies.

What can account for such an anomaly? The people! They will dethrone a culprit when his actions are intolerable even if they must confront his police and military. Even if they must put their lives on the line; and conversely they will put their lives on the line to support a government that they are satisfied with.

The governments referred to in this essay have been portrayed in the media as democracies or dictatorships. From the people's reactions what would a reasonable assessment be?

For the governments of the Shah of Iran, Marcos of the Philippines, Suharto of Indonesia and Pinochet of Chile there certainly was no democracy there. This was acknowledged as each was overthrown by that same media that had lauded those governments while they held power.

Hussein did not provide his people with a democracy either, but the people of Iraq learned that the U.S. preferred him to a democracy that might have been forged by the short-lived peoples' revolt; a revolt triggered by a U.S. request for Saddam's overthrow. They also knew that the twelve years of sanctions resulted from the machinations of the U.S. It was the tyrant Saddam who ameliorated the effect of those sanctions and it was the Baath party that had given the country a better life style than other Middle East countries. Bad as the despot was he was preferable to the big bully. They stuck by him but are now showing their displeasure with their supposed liberators.

Vietnam, Cuba and Venezuela have stood up to the U.S. Their citizens defiantly declare that from their point of view what Ho offered, and Castro and Chavez now offer is a government that they will support with their lives.

Democratic actions -- actions by the masses -- are arising near and far. The world's sole superpower has been stymied by unexpected forces. American GIs are being killed and maimed by the resisting Iraqis and Afghans. In cities and towns in the United States and throughout the world millions and millions are regularly protesting. Each is symbolically shouting this message "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!!!"

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Democracy Because I Say So - by Philip Greenspan (Sept. 9, 2002)

Cuba on Swans

Iraq on Swans

America the 'beautiful' on Swans


Philip Greenspan on Swans (with bio).

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Published September 22, 2003
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