The Cheapening of Democracy: Why the terrorists won and the west lost

When the Arabs lost Palestine to the Jews in 1947 by a watershed UN declaration that saw the re-demarcation of a part of the Arab world to include a new Jewish state, Israel, it was the beginning of a new form of armed Arabic revolt that metamorphosed into what is now known as “terrorism”. While the underlying assumptions, or assertions rather, for the waging of this revolt by it’s proponents, architects and perpetrators are thought to be fundamentally religious, the reality is anything but. This was the beginning of a long and protracted armed dispute between the Arabs and Muslims elsewhere and the West (read: U.S.A.) and their idealogues. Faced with a geo-political crisis that threatened their very identity that is deeply entrenched with Islam and a people shamed by their Governments failure in many a concerted military campaigns against Israel, a new concept of guerilla warfare emerged within the minds of those affected.

This will in turn colour the world’s opinion of itself in time to come and fundamentally shake and expose the very foundations of established western democratic institutions and ideals such as, the right to choose one’s government freely and fairly, the free and independent press, freedom of expression, freedom of religious adherence, guarantees of civil liberties, the right of individual privacy, the free market economy, the rule of law and it’s due processjust to mention a few.

So much has been said and done in the name of “security” and the “war on terror” and the (still) fuzzy western concept of “freedom” that it ate into the rights of it’s people who are increasingly feeling short-changed of their constitutional rights and guarantees. In short the “terrorists” have directly or otherwise, influenced a massive overhaul in the thought, political, economic, government and administrative structures of the west. They have cast a doubt on their freedom, caused questions to be raised on the integrity of their system, exposed the hypocrisy of their leaders thereat and thus paralysed their ability to put their ideals of “freedom” into practice.

In the words of Tony Blair who felt frustrated at having to deal with “20th century problems with 19th century

legal  framework.”. western governments everywhere are suddenly pushing through “security” bills after “security” bills in their parliaments to deal with “terrorism” and the problems posed by it. The only thing it does, besides killing a bunch of radical idealogues and divest it’s people of civil liberties, is to vest sweeping executive powers to their leaders and the country’s security apparatus. One of the safeguards of “freedom” in a “free society” is the balance of powers and it’s enforcement via checks and balances among the three branches of governmentnamely the executive, legislative and the judiciary. One of the things that George W Bush said he stood against was oppressive dictatorships like that of Saddam’s. The problem is at least when Saddam was in power
Iraq was much more stable than it is now.

The excessive military adventures of the west to redress and address the situation could have been won on the physical front, but it is indeed is a pyrrhic victory for it happened at the cost of their basic ideals.

The terrorists have, inter alia, shook some of the most inviolable bedrocks of democratic civil society such as

1) the erosion of civil liberties (due to “security concerns”). Examples are the unconstitutional wire tappings by US security agencies,

2) the denial of right of individual privacysuch as broad wire tappings ,

3) tarnishing of journalistic integrity (like paying Iraqi papers to run favourable stories),

4) cheapening of human rights (does “Abu ghraib” & “Guatanamo bay” ring a bell),

5) denial of freedom of religious belief,

6) impartiality of the legal system (suspects held in abeyance of due process of law, the Saddam Kangaroo court trial).

7) denial of right to be treated Equally under law (e.g. Patriot act, security profiling and screening in airports targeting Middle Easterners and muslims)

The west admittedly stood for all these and more and it was one of the reasons for the post 9-11 offensive on
Iraq, Afaganistan and a whole host of other so-called threats that coincidentally are Islamic in character

While the west is trying it’s best to cling on to it’s ideals without ever acknowledging that it’s losing it’s grip on it, the rest of it’s traditional opponents are clamouring to institute it’s principles into their system (or at least seem to be doing it).

But reallydemocratic principles go beyond the ballot box. Everybody seems to be jumping into the “free-‘n-Fair-election” bandwagon these days with much fanfare and hoo-haa.

Examples are
Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Qatar, UAE, Iraq, Eygpt etc. etc. All of a sudden it seems important to seem democratic.

It’s a simple six-step process:

1)     Express a desire for freedom and liberty

For maximum effect include words like “Liberty”, “freedom”, “victory”, “voice of the people”, “economic reform”, “abolish corruption”, “terrorism”, “social welfare”, “aid for the needy”, “women’s rights”, “human rights”, “environment”, “justice”, “mercy”, “gay rights” etc. 

2)     Denounce Hitler and Islamic Terrorism and praise Israel

3)     Call for snap elections

so than opposition parties have no time or resources to prepare while secretly jailing those who manage to put a credible fight. Unleash your secret service on the denizens so that they would be psyched-out into voting you in 

4)     Win the elections by a landslide  and claim legitimacy of Authority via this mandate

5)     Go for thank-you rounds around the country and speak in corny hackneyed platitudes.

6)  Continue your tyranny as per normal.

One example in point is Egypt in 2005 – a pathetic attempt by Hosni Mubarak to get the people’s mandate. The
US is quiet on this matter because the alternative to this oppressive regime, the immensely popular banned Islamic Brotherhood which would win hands down in an election, is not a viable option in terms of western interests. So bigotry in the so called seat of the Champion of Democracy is okay as long as western interests are not threatened. The moment the western interests are threatened the whole regime will be scrutinised to the boot to justify condemning it and taking action to stop the offending party

I believe that’s because their real beliefs are elsewhere. “Freedom”, “democracy” and “war on terror” are just means to achieve those underlying ideals.

The nebulous concept of “war on terror” has thus far actually been only a war on western democratic ideals and institutions. It tested the soundness of it’s relevance in the face of crisis and exposed not it’s weakness but the weakness of resolve of it’s adherents to stick to it when it comes to the crunch. One example is G.W. Bush using the sweeping discretionary powers of wartime administration to illegally eavesdrop on citizens, using torture on “terror” suspects, keeping prisoners indefinitely without a charge or trial in Guantanamo Bay, refusing to bring US soldiers flouting international law to justice or just letting them off with a slap on the wrist, waging war based on faulty intelligence without UN Mandate or a just cause and then justifying it when it is exposed.

Not only is this an ironic self-admission of weakness of resolve and belief in a deeply entrenched ideal of “freedom and liberty” (whatever it means), it speaks volumes of a frustration of being constrained by ideals, principles, laws, morals, ethics and standards in dealing with this kind of “evil”. The only people who will feel constrained by morals are the bigots.

This was admittedly the case for Tony Blair who felt expressed displeasure at having to deal with 21st century problems with 19th century legal framework in his push for “tougher terrorism laws”. He felt a dire need to sort of “level” the

playing field to deal with “terrorists”and that means to become a terrorist to deal with terrorists. Period

It is called “counter-terrorism” for these guys. Sort of like a code word giving licence to the rest of the world to start killing, maiming or torturing anyone whose name even remotely sounds Arabic. This usually requires the imposition of tough measures that has no legal nor moral justificatins to start with.

In reality, it was really a frustration of not having enough power against the beautiful system of checks and balances that limit the power of individuals. This is nothing but an admission of failure, lack of resolve and belief in a system that is supposedly the world’s ticket utopiaand it is. It was a dictator’s cry for raw power to tackle raw problems. Fighting evil with evil. That’s the justification. Is it necessary?

Were there is absolutely no provision or means in a democratic system to tackle dangerous bomb wielding bandits? Is firepower and sweepingly intrusive security measures the only answer? I seriously doubt it. So far it has only polarised the world. The downside to this is that when people get weary of all this, the backlash will start and the respective regimes will find increasing need to be more oppressive to contain the dissent while hanging on to the last remaining remnants of “democracy” by their teeth.

The western ideals of freedom and liberty, so painstakingly built by it’s former fathers to end pain, suffering and oppression and to grant true freedom and liberty to the laity now lay maimed and defeated by the successors. It seems like they have their own versions of “liberty and freedom”. The irony of it is that vested ideals are being defeated by their own proponents.

What has been (and still is) the small voice is that this IS indeed a war of ideas rather than that of guns. The problem is that an ideological war could never be won on the battlefield alone. The real battle, as I have said earlier, lies in one’s resolve to stick to principles when it comes to the crunch.

If you can’t do that you’ve lost the war even though you won the battle. It’s an implicit admission of failure in the system or a lack of belief in an ideal system. So much harping has been done about freedom but the reality is anything but.

If any westerner is thinking that the terrorist are taking a beating since the arrival of Bush and his ilk, he should think again. American foreign policy may be so powerful as to change the political and socio-cultural landscape of the middle-east. But to implement discriminatory, myopic and oppressive policies to advance a limited goal is a double edged sword.

These policies were applied purportedly to defeat “terrorism” and propagate democracywithout due regard for justice and fairnessthe very ideal that the western nations think they stood for. Last time I checked “terrorists” had forced the west to abandon these ideals and become one of them. It was the cheapest sell-out in Anglo-American history. The greatest losers are people like you and me who had to put up with the invasion of privacy and other broadly administered embarrassing security measures.

The “terrorists” have in effect caused the shift in American foreign policy where the west was forced to abandon their democratic ideals.

One of Bush’s stated goals after 9-11 was to “spread freedom and democracy” around the world by destroying the “enemies of peace” i.e the terrorists. With what he has done thus far I don’t think democracy, freedom and human rights has a enemy greater other than him.

Thanks to Bush it looks like the “terrorists” won by a landslide.


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