Attempting to define freedom - R.H. Joseph

The situation in Iraq is becoming increasingly interesting and that ain't good.

Recent reports suggest Shiites are joining Sunnis in their repudiation of the American invasion.

The down side is our sons and daughters are increasingly in harm's way. The upside, of course, is that gas prices will eventually come down. It's all a matter of priorities, really.

Do you suppose Iraqis refer to those willing to die for their country in the act of repelling foreign invaders "heroic freedom fighters?"

If you take exception to such a description consider what has happened recently in Iraq and what looms like a communicable disease.

A couple of weeks ago American-led invasion forces shut down an Iraqi newspaper opposed to the occupation of their country. In the process of imposing democracy we have eliminated freedom of the press.

How can any rational being in Iraq compare the political propaganda disseminated by the invasion forces with this selectively enforced censorship and fail to presume Americans are duplicitous?

Similarly, we have targeted at least one Islamic cleric for speaking out against the invasion forces. How must such behavior appear to those regaled with stories of America's vaunted right of free speech?

Admittedly, part of the Bush league's aggressive effort to curtail democratic freedoms at home includes attempting to silence those speaking out against the president's foreign policy by referring to them as traitors. Nevertheless, until Bush succeeds in stifling our right to dissent the freedom to which most of us have become accustomed appears not to be included in our introduction of democracy to Iraq.

Worse, any Iraqi with a modicum of awareness of American history must construe we are doing to their leaders what we did (and do?) to American blacks who refused to remain docile in the face of enforced subjugation.

Of these, the thinkers, the activists, the leaders, all were accurately perceived a threat to the entrenched power structure in America and were eliminated in one fashion or another.

Despite his protestations to the contrary, I assure you Republican Trent Lott wasn't kidding when he wished his constituency could return to their position of unassailable cultural dominance.

This, in turn, brings up the final point: the methodology employed by a ruling class to maintain domination.

From South Africa to South America the ruling class employed paramilitary groups to "disappear" tens of thousands of the thinkers, the activists, and the leaders of those who would demand a redress of grievances, much the same as our forefathers demanded such redress from the British.

Subsequent to our invasion Iraq is now filling up with "private security forces" whose mission is ostensibly to protect non-military targets.

Is it too bold to suggest these paramilitary forces may engage in conduct exceeding the boundaries within which our military must function?

For good reason the American people have legislated the parameters of civilized behavior for those armed forces representing us. Unbridled scalawags will always permit the end to justify the means.

Bush provides tax incentives for the purchase of large SUVs. They gotta eat.

In addition to our silencing written and spoken dissent in Iraq will the Bush league condone the systematic "disappearance" of the Iraqi thinkers, activists and leaders who challenge our right to occupy their country and exploit its resources?

It is interesting that the Bush league would deny Iraqis the truly valuable aspects of democracy: a free press and freedom of speech and attempt to mollify those who rightfully object by substituting for such tangible power the illusory right to vote.

Proof of the deceptive value of this latter aspect of the American system of government is marvelously evident in the race by Democrats and Republicans to accumulate vast amounts of wealth with which to sway the voters. Issues, what issues?

If you silence written and spoken dissent and control the vote through carefully contrived, psychologically astute propaganda "freedom" becomes an illusion.

Bush is amassing vast amounts of wealth so his campaign managers can effectively distract voters from the various negative realities for which his administration is responsible.

What sort of "democracy" has the Bush league in mind for Iraq? Do we care as long as gas is cheap?

Should we care?

R.H. Joseph is a longtime employee of the News Daily. His column appears on Wednesdays. He may be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 252, or by e-mail at rjoseph@news-daily.com.