OurIndonesia – Hundred of thousands of American and Allied troops, with the most deadly weapons ever possessed by humans, are now fighting against Iraq. Washington’s rhetoric concerning this war describes it as the liberation of the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein’s tyranny. Following the fall of Saddam, America would build a democracy there. Democracy is then to be built through a combination of war and occupation.
Many arguments have been used to justify this rhetoric. For example, both the German and Japanese cases were used as justifications for a unilateral war against Iraq. America and its allies fought against Germany and Japan, and after destroying and defeating them, helped out both countries to recover and build democratic political systems.
Japan and Germany are however incomparable to the Iraq case. America and its allies were warranted in executing a war against Japan and Germany. German Nazism had conquered almost all of the European continent. Japan had occupied almost the entire East and South-East of Asia. Japan had even had even attacked America by bombing Pearl Harbor. No one doubts that Japan and Germany posed real threats toward other countries’ sovereignty. Resistance and then conquering both countries by any means was unavoidable, and therefore justified.
Senator Larry Bird, in his speech to the American Senate a day before the attack upon Iraq, said that the war was a certainty and unavoidable. But war against Iraq is merely an option. The war against Iraq could be avoided if Bush wanted it. There is still a peaceful way to disarm Iraq. There is still a peaceful way to liberate the Iraqi people and to build democracy there, if that is what is desired.
Iraq is neither Germany nor Japan. Saddam’s regime is closer to be compared with, for instance, Suharto’s regime. Both are repressive and brutal toward their political opponents, and especially hard on separatist movements. The Kurds in the North and the Shi’ite Islam on the South were oppressed brutally. Moreover, both have a history of invading neighbouring countries such as Kuwait and Iran.
Saddam has acted in similar fashion to Suharto in his brutal action toward his political opponents for instance towards PKI (Indonesian Communist Party), Islam politicians and separatist movements in Aceh and New Guinea. Whenever there is chance, it occupies its neighbours as was the case with East Timor. The difference is that Saddam used chemical weapons while Suharto did not.
Even though Saddam and Suharto are cruel to their people; it is the people who have to endure it. They have the right to determine the future of their nation. If they want democracy, it is up to them to make it happen. If the rich and brilliant America and its allies would help, they should assist the people to work against the regime peacefully.
As reported by CNN several days before the war, the Iraqi people desire democracy but they want to do it alone, without outside intervention. Those poor and oppressed Iraqi people still have the dignity of having a sovereign nation.
The Iraqi people understand the meaning of democracy. Building the democracy through war, by an illicit foreign force’s occupation, is anathema. Iraqi people know that democracy is a domestic regime built on the base of their people’s will to solve the problem peacefully, not a regime built by through illegitimate war and occupation by a foreign force.
If the Iraqi people are too weak and incapable to overthrow Saddam’s regime and substitute him with the power desired by the Iraqi people, it is their own business, not the Americans – unless they actually desire an American military presence. The Americans think that it is they alone who have national dignity and pride toward its nation. They neglect the fact that Iraqi people, like the Indonesian people. Even though poor and foolish, that feeling of nationalism remains – even after everything else is gone.
Democracy is built on national pride, wherever it is, except the Japanese and Germany who are unique, and less proud for being part of their nation. It might be due to their bitter history. Being the Japanese or Germany is not significant anymore because in its history this identity brought them suffering. Iraq has no such bitter history. America is however now making a bitter national identity for the Iraqi people, and damaging their national pride.
The excessive national pride felt by American currently could lead to a terrible outcome. Sustaining Saddam’s regime is dependent upon Iraqi national pride, so the Iraqi people are incapable of seeing that Saddam is destroying the Iraqi nation itself.
This is similar to the majority of American people who are already attached to its superiority and therefore see Bush’s actions as the manifestation of American superiority. Do they want to see America as the most unpopular nation in the world and as a source of terror for others. Such opinions and feelings towards other nations are insignificant for American society now.
Democracy which is praised and adored as the best governmental system, when it is unified by Bush with the war machine, turns into a frightening spectre for other nations. If people were frightened before of chauvinism, that fear is only increased by a chauvinistic democracy: the authorization and occupation of other countries behind the veil of democracy. The result is a special kind of democracy: an American enforced democracy.
This article is originally published in IslamLib.