Democrats & Liberals Archives

A Lesson in Democracy

President Bush told us that America fought the Iraqi war in order to establish a democracy in Iraq, complete with free enterprise, free media, free elections and free military. Actually, he did not mention “free military”; it’s an extra. In order to help achieve these remarkable goals Americans in Iraq are running classes about democracy. Here is an example of one of the latest lessons, which happens to be about free media:

A free media is the backbone of a good, well-functioning democracy. It's necessary for the people to find out what their elected leaders are doing, so they may evaluate their performance and know whether to keep them in office or vote them out. What a free media needs most are good journalists who know how to ferret out the news and to write the stories so that the public will understand.

Americans today are training some of you for this task, as you can see from this news item that states that the U.S. State Department:

"is training Iraqi reporters in basic journalism skills and Western media ethics, including one workshop titled "The Role of Press in a Democratic Society." Standards vary widely at Iraqi newspapers, many of which are shoestring operations."

Standards should be high so the news would be credible. Sometimes a rewrite is necessary. There are even times when a good journalist should slant his message just so in order to achieve the appropriate positive response. We have American troops doing just that. Articles are written by U.S. military 'information operations' troops, then translated into Arabic and placed in Baghdad newspapers. This way we present the facts, but in a way that does not hurt us and our values.

If we can do it, so can you.

Some Americans object to this practice. A senior Pentagon official said:

"Here we are trying to create the principles of democracy in Iraq. Every speech we give in that country is about democracy. And we're breaking all the first principles of democracy when we're doing it."

As in Iraq, some people just don't understand what "free media" means.

This free media lesson follows your other lessons on:

  • FREE ENTERPRISE - Way back at the start of the occupation, we presented you a lesson in free enterprise: Big Business is in charge. No, not Iraqi business, American business. After all, to the victor belongs the spoils. So we gave you Halliburton and made sure that corporations could bring all their profits home. Remember, take care of business and your democracy is safe

  • FREE MILITARY - You see, there are many things our military cannot do according to law. So Americans give these tasks to private contractors. It costs more this way, but this practice brings dividends. I see that you Iraqis have learned this lesson well. I read about Iraqi death squads regularly now

  • FREE ELECTIONS - Elections are very important. You have learned this lesson well. You voted on a constitution for Iraq. The Shi'ites and Kurds liked it, but the Sunnis did not. So you did a little negotiating and you modified the constitution after the vote. Elections are not black and white events
I am very much encouraged by the progress you have made in building a democracy with free media, free enterprise, free military and free elections. You have followed our lead well. Soon we will leave and you will be on your own as a beacon for Middle East democracy.

Democracy is wonderful - if you master all the tricks.

Posted by Paul Siegel at November 30, 2005 5:35 PM