Democracy Under Siege

Peaceful demonstrators opposing dictatorial tendencies on the part of their government are being beaten in a government-supported policy of police brutality: Iran? Well, sure…but also Honduras, where a vicious rightwing dictatorship appears to have returned from the last century. In Israel the approach is different – instead of using the police, the government is encouraging a campaign of anti-Palestinian terrorism by extremist illegal settlers who, intent on retaining the land they have stolen, hardly need much encouragement. Rather than stopping the terrorists, the Israeli government seems more concerned about the recent call by one courageous Israeli professor to support the global anti-Israeli boycott in protest of an apartheid system he fears will destroy his country. In war-torn and occupied Afghanistan, one of the most vicious war criminals of the post-communist civil war is openly supporting Karzai. As for the Afghan election, whether the Afghan or Iranian election was more corrupt seems to be an open question. Meanwhile, in Washington, everyone is pretending that the previous administration, none of whose leading members has yet been brought to trial, never did anything that was less than pure and holy.

If democracy was reputed to have spread during the 1990s, today it is everywhere under siege. Burning olive groves is OK. Promoting coups is OK. Torturing prisoners is OK. Making war on civilian populations is OK. Promoting the idea of preventive war in the absence of a clear and present threat, even of nuclear war, even of nuclear war against a non-nuclear power is OK. Undermining constitutional guarantees of civil liberties is OK.

But don’t think all is chaos. Oh, no. There are rules for sure. Thou shalt not say anything embarrassing about the powers that be. Thou shalt not defend the poor, the weak, the underprivileged. Thou shalt not criticize the house religion. And of course thou shalt never ask Israel to play by the same rules as the rest of the world.

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