March 2, 2003

Funny Papers

Many people are under the impression that the New York Times doesn't have a funnies section, but they just aren't looking in the right place. Today's New York Times magazine has a cover story that asks the question "Does democracy in Iraq stand a chance?"

What a laugh it is. What an obscure question that has nothing whatever to do with reality. Perhaps it's not an attempt to be funny, but an exercise in science fiction.

A more pertinent question -- one which is being asked in many quarters but apparently hasn't trickled down to the New York Times yet -- is "Does democracy in America stand a chance?"

Remember, this reigning Bush regime was not put into power by winning an election. The Times seemed anxious to forget that the minute it happened. But just because the paper of record tries to erase history in the manner of the Ministry of Information, does not make that history go away.

Not only did the regime nullify democracy in seizing power, it has taken aggressive steps to nullify the Bill of Rights. This is all a matter of public record whether the Times wants to look at it or not.

We saw what "democracy" means to both the Bush regime and the New York Times when the business elite tried to overthrow the democratically elected leader of Venezuela. Both the Times and the Bush administration supported the attempted coup and tried to pass it off as "democratic," by some obscure logic never made clear.

It is also well-known that the regime's intention, stated in a September 2000 document called "Rebuilding America's Defenses," was to take over Iraq whether or not Saddam was in power. The plan "Rebuilding America's Defenses" was, according to The Sunday Herald, "drawn up for Dick Cheney (now vice- president), Donald Rumsfeld (defence secretary), Paul Wolfowitz (Rumsfeld's deputy), George W Bush's younger brother Jeb and Lewis Libby (Cheney's chief of staff). The document, entitled Rebuilding America's Defences: Strategies, Forces And Resources For A New Century, was written in September 2000 by the neo-conservative think-tank Project for the New American Century (PNAC)."

It says specifically in the report what the intentions are, and they have nothing to do with democracy, or even with Rumsfeld's old buddy Saddam: "The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."

It couldn't be more clear. The Times knows this, but prefers to play a little game of make believe, perhaps to protect the gentle sensibilities of its readers from the truth.

The Times couldn't have known when they set up the cover for today's magazine that it would come on the day after the Turkish parliament rejected the deal offered by the US to provide $15 billion if Turkey would allow the Superpower to use its land as a base for the destruction and conquest of Iraq. A few hours after the unexpected defeat, the vote was nullified and it looks as though the US will get its way no matter what the democratic processes of the country determine. (See Associated Press, CNN and The New York Times for the vote and its nullification.)

The Times couldn't have known this very last development, but it has been around to see that the US overthrows democratically elected governments to replace them with hard-line military dictatorships in country after country and decade after decade. The idea that the US plans to nurture democracy in Iraq is an absurd fairy tale. As Harvey Wasserman put it recently in the The Free Press: "A regime that hates democracy can't wage war for democracy".

It is not realistic to expect the New York Times Magazine to inform you, or to report the news, or even to tell you something remotely resembling the truth. The description of Lewis Lapham, editor of Harper's magazine is more apt: "The New York Times Magazine commands the authority of the show windows at Bergdorf Goodman. Of the moment and with the trends, the editors arrange the sociopolitical merchandise in ways meant to attract discriminating shoppers in the markets of received opinion -- well-informed and right-thinking people, competently educated and decently affluent, alive to the similarities in the works of Versace and Matisse, fond of animals and the several shades of beige. Although the editors occasionally make space for ideas a trifle too advanced for some of their less sophisticated readers in Oklahoma or eastern Queens, they don't take chances with the big-ticket items or with what they judge to be the consensus of uptown money and downtown style."

In regard to a war on Iraq, Lapham says, "The United States Army (very with it, very now) was on its way to an invasion of Iraq, there to exhibit a modish line of summer weapons at the military equivalent of a runway show, and the Times had gone to the trouble of furnishing a helpful program note: What to watch for, when to applaud, how to think about this year's new and exciting look in geopolitics."

Lapham was referring to the January 5 issue, with its cover story "The American Empire (Get Used to It)", by a Harvard professor and "brand-name foreign-policy intellectual." But it applies just as much to today's issue.

If the New York Times Magazine's genteel readers would like to think that the scalded, burning, bleeding bodies, the tens of thousands of innocent children who will be destroyed by the "shock and awe" attack about to be unleashed by their government on Iraq are part of a process to "democratize" Iraq, then the Times is certainly not going to disturb them with the ugly truth.

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