These are perilous times for Democracy. Not only has the language attached to policies in this country been turned on its head, but our efforts in Iraq and elsewhere have failed to establish the democratic footprint heralded by the current administration. If hunger in the United States is now described as “low food security” what advanced skills must be needed to decipher the circumlocutions used to state the case for decisions that have failed to make us demonstrably safer, advance the cause of democracy in other lands or calm restive populations in the Middle East.
There are disturbing echoes of making Viet Nam “safe for democracy” when Iraq’s chaos is described by some as the understandable conflict of a nation struggling to affirm newly formed democratic institutions. But Prime Minister Maliki’s “unity government” depends on the support of Mugtada al Sadr, leader of a Shiite stronghold in “Sadr City”. And as violence escalates in Baghdad even Sadr seems to be losing control of his minions while revenge killings between Sunnis and Shiites spike. Perhaps all the U.S. can hope for now is that, although true democracy may not survive, some entity can be created capable of restoring calm and a measure of stability.
But while we claim to stand on principle as a nation the fact is we only support elected governments we favor or, as in the case of Iraq, political entities we choose to designate as acceptable no matter how marginal their democratic hustings. In the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, when disaffected Palestinians elected a government led by Hamas, Israel and the United States sought to destroy it by withholding financial assets and closing off avenues of commerce. And Israel has kidnapped leaders of the Hamas government and assassinated others with the tacit approval of the United States. Even now lands that are said to be privately owned by Palestinians are held by Israelis who have built facilities on them or walled them off, creating still further partisan furor.
And when two Israeli soldiers were kidnapped along the Lebanese border Israel responded with a devastating barrage of bombs and missile attacks in southern Lebanon that destroyed vast areas of infrastructure, homes and personnel without in the end disarming Hezbollah. In fact the attacks seem to have increased support for Hezbollah rather than diminish it, threatening Lebanon’s fragile democracy. The response from the United States during the attacks was to replenish Israel supply of cluster bombs, some of which still represent a danger to civilians. Whatever the original action and reaction current conditions do not auger well for western interests or stability in the region.
What seems a serious misreading of problems in the Middle East has created greater conflict and fewer options for all parties. Far from furthering democratic ideals, military actions have only created fearful, distrustful Muslim populations. In Iraq, Israel, Lebanon and elsewhere checks and balances are not political tools but rather never-ending reprisals by gun-toting, bomb-throwing factions. And when people in this country maintain that it is better to “fight them over there” than over here the question arises, when will we have killed the last terrorist, and is it only terrorism that enflames the Middle East and other violence-disrupted areas?
When the president lumps all aspects of national rage around the world under the umbrella of terrorist interventions such assertions only serve to over-simplify complicated, deep-seated regional differences. There is no easy solution for issues that cross boundaries, religions and ethnicities as if they emanated from one source. It does a disservice to our nation and our people to serve up such bromides. What has kept the United States from descending into the disruptions seen around the world is the fact that our country relies on a Constitution that, among other things, established a political framework meant to balance power by the institutionalized use of checks and balances among three distinct branches of government and that this was accomplished in a non-sectarian manner and further reinforced by a Bill of Rights.
Lately these founding principles have been threatened by an executive claiming greater power for itself with the acquiescence of its Republican majorities in Congress and by courting religious factions to win votes by promising to appoint conservative judges to the bench. And it has been uncommunicative about the ways in which its policies are formulated while Republicans in Congress have prevented Democrats from having a legislative voice. In sum it has been a de-constructive force in the furtherance of democratic ideals both here and abroad.
Hopefully, a new congress along with a greater involvement by ordinary Americans will help to revitalize our democracy and staunch the flow of executive power grabs. A good start would be to call “low food security” by its rightful name – – HUNGER.

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