Ezy Reading: Is The United States At Risk of Contradicting Their Democratic Self?

Evan Kanarakis

The Associated Press reported on January 28th that at least twice in recent months the U.S Army in Iraq has seized and jailed the wives of suspected insurgents in hopes of ‘leveraging’ their husbands into surrender. One of the reported cases involved the imprisonment of a young mother nursing a baby.

We can concede that war in any form is a messy business indeed, and that pure allegiance to democratic ideals in such circumstances (if a ‘pure’ allegiance exists at all) is near impossible. In addition, while this isn’t a case of tit-for-tat, insurgents and terrorists in Iraq have, most certainly, made no qualms of the fact that they will quite happily kidnap and, sometimes, kill innocents –the recent January 7 abduction of American journalist Jill Carroll comes to mind- in order to secure their own leverage. In the case of Carroll’s abduction, her kidnapper’s principal demand was that the United States and Iraqi governmental authorities free all female Iraqi detainees.

But at the same time, we would hope that the United States, a nation eager to wave the flags of freedom and liberty is not engaging in a war in which they are willing to ‘play to the level of the opposition’, for after all this opposition has no interest in democracy, or at the very least a democracy dictated to them by an occupying nation. Desperate times do indeed call for desperate measures, and there’s little doubt that in such ‘just’ wars as WWI and WWII the United States and her allies likely employed arguably questionable practices to reach their goals that have not always made it into the history books or popular, romanticized versions of events. When, in their rhetoric, George Bush and his administration place such a high onus of expectation upon the democratic practices and ideals of other nations, the United States must be mindful of so tainting such considerations by their own actions as to hollow the message. Elsewhere in the Middle East, Hamas’ recent gains in a fair and democratic election have certainly now brought to bear the issue of United States rhetoric and idealism on the one hand versus United States policy and regional considerations on the other that override the recognition of an extremist group’s popular victory made through just means.

Regardless of the initial or real motives for entering Iraq, and regardless of the steps that must be taken in war to secure ultimate goals, the United States must never lose sight of maintaining in word and in action the ideals they believe –or, if we are to be cynical, that they are at least selling- as being integral to the good of all people. Should they fail in setting the standards by their own behaviour for the value and truth of democracy, they will have become just another hammer of power in the annals of history subjugating an enemy nation’s population to their will and form of government.

Ezy Reading is out every Monday.