Thursday, February 24, 2005


Binary America

The New (Package) Deal

There seems to be a significant mood for polarization in America. I don’t know whether it is old or new, but it seems to be widespread. I see it exemplified by President Bush’s repeatedly iterated stance of “you are either with us or against us”.

If you are not with us, then you have to be against us. Since we are good, you have to be bad. Even if you are with us in principle and final objective but do not approve of ‘our’ approach to solution, then you are also against us. Simple logic… but wrong.

There is no possibility of compromise. There is no middle ground.

With us, or against us. Good or evil. White or black. Red or blue. It is a binary perspective: 0 or 1.

Our administration is good. If you are against any of its policies, you are bad.
Our administration is pro-democracy. If you oppose it, you are anti-democratic.
Our administration is religious. If you don’t like it, you hate religion.
Our administration represents the people of America. If you do not approve of it, you hate America.
Our administration is fighting a global war on terrorism. If you do not like its approach or its methods, you are a ‘terrorist-hugging dirt bag’.

It is not black and white in the wider sense. Old black and white movies were not strictly pure black and white. They had a wide range of shades of gray. Otherwise they would have been quite annoying to the eye.

It is not even a binary system. In a binary system, combinations of 0’s and 1’s can produce an astonishing variety of shades. Witness these very words you are reading and the images and colors you can get on your monitor.

No. This is like a two-state multi-bit binary system. Something like either 111111111111111 (us) or 000000000000000 (them). Generosity is sometimes shown by allowing a few 0’s on the less significant bits.

It is like a ‘package-deal’: If you are with us, you have to be pro-democracy, pro-war-on-Iraq, anti-terrorist, pro-religion, anti-abortion, pro-Rumsfeld, pro-Sharon, anti-social-welfare, anti-France, anti-UN and so on and so forth.

This is worse than McCarthyism. What is so worrying is that this mood seems to be prevalent in America to the point of being epidemic.

It is this mode of thinking that has alienated much of Western Europe (a traditional ally) and most of the rest of the world. They did not approve of our actions in Iraq. Therefore, they must be enemies.


Problem: French Fries. French, bad, 0. Fries, good, 1. Result: 01.
Can’t have that!
Solution: Freedom, good, 1. Therefore, we have “Freedom Fries”.

Well, life is not as simple as that! Life is too complex, rich and varied to be described by a few 0’s and 1’s. Personally this creates a problem for me. If I am forced to use this system, being pro-democracy, pro-freedom, not-against-religion but against the present administration’s policies in Iraq, against their approach to war on terror against crony-cracy in Iraq… I would be something like:


Very bad indeed!

The problem is… many, many hundreds of millions of mankind, including a couple of hundred million Americans, have similar problems.


You are taking Bush's quote “you are either with us or against us”, out of context. It was said in the context of the 'War on Terror'. It meant - if you support or harbor terrorist we will also consider you the enemy.

world policy is a violent matter, although it shows very big 32-teeth smiles, most of the time. arbiters only exist when people (bloggers and non-) show their critical views, and don't follow like sheep. which is exactly what abu K. is doing. shukran!

You quite sure about your use of maths here, mate? Doesn’t each digit in a binary number double the value of the previous digit? 1111=15 but 0000=just 0? That’s not polarity.
But sure, polarity is what it’s all about. In the US, I gather the Liberal/Left/Democratic pole is more or less just sitting there, it’s not getting more radical, while the Conservative/Right/Republican pole keeps moving further away from the centre.
What puzzles me, is that in regard to most human attributes and activities, the Normal or Bell curve applies - the majority in the middle, trailing off to decreasing numbers at the extremes. Like distribution of intelligence, or say running ability, very fast to average to very slow, or whatever.
Logically you would expect the same thing to apply in politics - most voters should be middle of the road, with numbers decreasing towards the extremes of right and left. But the US doesn’t seem to be like this. Is anywhere else? Can anyone describe countries where this happens, i.e. the centre holds power, with opposition from both right and left? (Presumably the centre party would bend right or left depending on electoral leanings, but the extreme parties could never gain full power themselves. So what’s in it for them?) Why is a two party system superior to a three or five party system?
Sort of relevant to Iraq, because there seems to be a religious/secular split there that may play a significant part in politics, but far as I’m aware religious fundamentalism in Islam does not necessarily equate at all to a right-wing economic orientation? Can you be socialist in economics but still strictly Islamic in religion? I don't recall seeing anything about Jafaari's economic orientation. Abu may care to comment?

Abu Khaleel,

I read this posting first and then followed Circular's link to the Times article. The article bagan with Machiavelli's name. This is a good one word summary of your posting! Of course in Iraq we used to have another Machiavellian leader who took the principle to its ultimate manifestation. It all reminds me of that old balck Iraqi joke which I am sure you know, but I will repeat here for the benefit of Circular and others.
The glorious leader was having breakfast with his family one day. His youngest daughter Halla brings him her school report. It was a simple record showing all subjects with 100% marks against them. All teacher comment fields were left empty except for the English Language where the teacher wrote "room for improvement". SH tells Halla that he knows why they are all giving her 100% but would she come clean and tell him how good her English was. She tells him she really is pretty bad in the subject. He summons one of his body guards and asks him to contact the "boys" and have them find the best English teacher in Baghdad. Months later SH was again having a breakfast with his family and he remembers Halla's English problems. So he asks her how she was progressing now that she had private lessons. "But Dad I had no private lessons from anyone" she replis. Now angry he summons the same body guard again and asks him for an explanation why his order was disobayed. After a few phone calls the body guard returns with a grim face. "Sir, the security chief sends you his regards and says that immediately after receiving the request we looked everywhere for that English teacher. When we found him we interrogated him. He confessed, so we subsequenly liquidated him!"... Obviously the security services too were working on the 0 or 1 principle with no room for shades in between.

Yes I think President Bush is an extremist just like terrorists are.

But I think it is a growing phenomenon in America.Everything seems black or white. I could not talk to my in-laws about Clinton when he was president because they HATED him. I think it is due to the two party system. There is such ire between the two parties.

But I read somewhere that using logic there can never be a full-fledged third party because it gets "eaten" by one or the other parties. Stick w/many parties in Iraq and you may be safe.

Hello Abu Khaleel,
You're making our dear President appear as some kind of fanatic. Some people say it is his style, some people say it is his substance(some people say both). This is precisely why Europe and the whole world detests him. After 9/11, Americans wanted a strongman-'bad cop' type, not Bush's compassionate conservative election 2000 image. It's quite easy to play the villain so Bush happily complies. The job position of world policeman is increasingly anachronistic. America is confused and nervous about that. Too bad.

Abu Khaleel:

In my view, a large political center exists in the U.S., but the polar extremes are so much more vocal than the center that it becomes difficult to discern its voice among the cacophony. This is understandable since the polar extremists are typically politically passionate, and therefore, more likely to express their views publicly and forcefully, than centrists. The media in this country is far more interested in reporting political conflict than compromises since the inherent drama of conflict makes for better copy and higher circulation, than delving into the mundane details of a compromise. Thus, the U.S. political and media systems creates an impression of a far more polarized electorate and political class, than exists is in reality.

For example, when I have sat down to talk with friends and neighbors about Iraq or other foreign policy issues, I have almost universally found their opinions to be far more nuanced than the those expressed by the polemists for the political extremes. This is true whether the friends or neighbors lean right or lean left in their politics or world view. The reason that I have repeatedly cited to the foreign policy survey of the council for foreign relations is that it gives voice to the more nuanced views that I typically encounter.

Another important thing to consider is the dynamic nature of the political center. For example, in this country, I have observed that the political center seems to slowly ebb and flow between left and right over time. In recent U.S. history, the process seems to be both cyclical and self-correcting, as if the political pendulum must swing back toward the middle after too long a sojourn near one polar extreme.

Accordingly, while I sometimes find the lack of sufficient numbers of centrist voices in this and other forums to be disturbing, I know that many times it is merely a function of the deafening over-expression of the politically polarized. Thankfully, in my view, the American public and its politicians are not nearly as binary in their viewpoints as one would conclude from most media sources.


Abu Hadi --

Thanks for the joke! I never heard that one before :)

Mark --

[mark] “Thankfully, in my view, the American public and its politicians are not nearly as binary in their viewpoints as one would conclude from most media sources.”

Well, I certainly hope that you are correct. To me, judging by what I read in the media and what I read on the boards, Americans are split right down the middle. I don’t know what you think, but I think that the current 2 party system in the US is unbalanced and frankly, dangerous, especially when things become as acrimonious as they are now. This is mere speculation, but would a three party system where things are more or less balanced not work better? Perhaps it is the ‘winner takes all’ nature of US politics that makes outsiders wonder about the attitudes there.

Hi Bruno,

I saw a program about our two party system(I posted above) and the analysts said that three parties just don't work. If a third party grows then it tends to absorb one of the other two.
This may just be the case in America, I'm not sure.

" ... I have observed that the political center seems to slowly ebb and flow between left and right over time. In recent U.S. history, the process seems to be both cyclical and self-correcting, as if the political pendulum must swing back toward the middle after too long a sojourn near one polar extreme."
Makes sense, although I can’t remember the pendulum swinging very far to the left compared to many other countries - is the left in the US equivalent to the centre in Europe?
I guess the big danger is that of one extreme, in this case of course the far right, grabbing the pendulum and preventing it from swinging.
Unscrupulous "attack" politicking, possible manipulation of the electoral process, legislation that threatens basic liberties, a "constant war" mentality that may be used to justify extensions of Federal power?
Doubtless I’m being paranoid, aren’t I?

Dear Folks,

Please compare: "You are either with us, or you are against us" to the liberal rallying cry of the 60's and 70's: "If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.

If you dig back through the history of rhetoric, I'm sure you would find the exact same formulations in every language, culture, and political persuasion.

There is nothing particularly right wing, or born again christian, or American about it.

That’s true enough as far as it goes, Charles, but I think Abu’s point is that the Republican or Administration line is sold as an all-in-one package deal: you are either with us or against us in the fight against fanatical terrorists (with you! With you!) and therefore pro the invasion of Iraq (well, hang on a minute, not the same thing) and the anti-ballistic missile shield (duh, what?) and pro-democracy (who isn’t, on this Blog?) and Creationist and anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage and pro-gun-ownership, and global warming is nonsense and the Chinese don’t really own half our debt and and ...
It would be OK if the parts of this package was just the views of different sections of the extreme right, but in line with Mark’s pendulum analogy, from outside the US we get the impression that it’s a package deal for half the country - you gotta buy all this together: question one part, like the necessity of invading Iraq, and you’re a Commie liberal leftist pinko gay-loving US-hating tyrant-loving abortionist atheist. Probably need deodorant, too.
I’d call that polarisation.

Sounds to me like someone is exaggerating just a tad.

They are deliberately creating an extreme view on the opposite side to justify their position. Its that whole 'straw man' thing again.

I do not think that the US is split between 'Commie liberal leftist pinko gay-loving US-hating tyrant-loving abortionist atheist', and their polar opposites - with the latter currently in charge.

But I do think it can be helpful during difficult times of conflict to try to understand things in basic, broad terms.

If we consider the current conflict, and exclude things like homosexuality, abortion, and gun ownership, etc., then I do think that the argument of 'with us or against us' can be made.

I think there is a moral underpinning to the current conflict. Rather than grappling with that argument, because it would draw them into a 'for or against' rhetorical framework, the broad anti-war movement looks for a million and one ways to pin prick the US.

Most poeple agree that oppressive regimes are bad.

Most people would agree that in a conflict with oppressive regimes a unified front against them would be more effective.

Most people would agree that if the democratic countries of the world, together with any other regimes that could be coopted, decided to end the rule of oppressive regimes around the world - and all of the suffering they cause - then this could be accomplished. The more countries that opposed the oppressive regimes, the easier this task would be to accomplish (less destruction, less death, less suffering, etc.).

You are either 'helping' in this task, or you are 'not helping.' The 'not helping' group could include both active and passive opposition. In any case, not helping makes the job more difficult. In a war, that means more death and suffering for everyone.

I hate to use the word "circular" but that's how this argument ends up being.
The whole idea is who chooses when to go to war against the oppressive regime-
Should it not have been the iraqii's themselves asking for help?

Yet Bush made it his personal agenda like a cornered child saying:your'e either gonna play with me or else go home!

Who ever gave him the right to be war leader of the world?

Hower, I do agree from an American standpoint that the bush Admin and most sadly-americans are being picked on for many things many of which we are not guilty of. But this is what happens when you are the "bully". The picked on kids finally get tired of the oppression and join ranks and can even deliver somnething worse than the bully deliverd it's called mob mentality.
Lastly, our worst enemy is simply Bush's way with the language. He hasn't a diplomatic tooth in his head!

Thank you anonymous above.
The point is, Charles, that oppressive regimes are doubtless undesirable, but they are not necessarily the worst thing about the world today.
(a) They have been with us since time immemorial and new ones will arise in the future.
(b) There’s actually fewer of them at the moment that there have ever been - but that’s not due to outside intervention, in most cases, just a general trend towards democracy, most notably in South America for example. Or Eastern Europe. None of these newly democratic regimes have been imposed by invasion, however.
(c) If you think that they must be reformed or removed by force by what you call the "democratic world," isn’t there a need for international consensus first, presumably at the UN? Since realistically we can’t "do" them all at once, wouldn’t we need some kind of register or census to rank them from worstest on down, in order to know which one to do next?
(On this principle, NK would have to be next, presumably. Tricky job. Saudi would have to come fairly high on the list.)
(d) If you don’t follow the "worstest first" approach, and go some other way, "easiest first" maybe, where do you draw the line? There’s any amount of "ain’t quite perfect" states available. Maybe the US would end up having to invade itself to reform its antiquated and clumsy two-party system!
(e) Are you quite sure that the only choice for naughty regimes is: either you are (1) satisfactorily democratic, measuring 5.0 or higher on the Charles scale, or (2) the united world, led of course by the US Marines, is gonna invade your ass and make you democratic, by golly!
Is there no place for diplomacy, international pressure, sanctions, even (gasp) the carrot rather than the stick?
It’s this calling from beyond the stars thing. George Bush might be getting messages from outer space telling him that "freedom at gunpoint" is the most urgent task for him and his regime, but the rest of the world can’t hear the messages, and is perhaps just a little doubtful about his sanity.

One more point, then I promise I'll shut up, Abu.
Telling the President of Russia, in public and to his face, that their version of democracy isn't quite good enough to satisfy the US may be in line with the mission from the stars, but is it very wise diplomacy? Isn't it likely to just make Russia more determined to continue its dealings with Iran?
Are you really, really sure about this guy?

"oppressive regimes are ... not necessarily the worst thing about the world today."

I'll bet if you added up the mayhem, suffering, death, destruction, slaughter, rape, torture, etc., that has happened over the last century, the vast majority of it (>99%) could be directly attributed to regimes that are oppressive and undemocratic.

You might argue that bad people have always been around and new ones will always be born. This is true. But they should be in jail and not running countries. It is certainly within our power to help change this - although we currently lack the will.

You can argue that there are fewer oppressive regimes now than in the past (which slightly contradicts your assertion that there have been and ever will be...), but you might also trace democratic progress and fertility back to the fact that many countries have fought bloody wars, and spent billions in treasure, to oppose the existence and spread of oppressive regimes, while protecting and promoting liberal regimes and movements.

The 'success' of democracy may be assured in geological terms (or maybe not?), but in any case, sitting back and watching may drag the process out over the next 5000 years.

Oppression - even in small countries, can lead to the real death and suffering of millions. It happened before, and its happening now. Of course you could argue that in the broad scheme of things those people don't matter.

Consensus? Sure. I don't think anyone disagreed on the nature of Saddam's regime. It is not as if the US invaded Norway - right?

If you want to debate priority, or, which baddie goes first, that is reasonable. We would have to look at various active and passive criteria. What countries allow freedom of press, religion, association, etc., and have representative governments? Those could be passive criteria. Active criteria could be: who is killing, torturing, disenfranchising, raping, enslaving, etc. You could give weighted values to each criteria.

So now we have a list. France might think #5 should be upgraded to #2. US thinks #3 should really be #2. The Brits just can't stand #9. OK. Those are more or less tactical disagreements once the overall strategic goal of getting rid of the baddies has been agreed upon. Next you need to consider the cost of acting or not acting.

#1 is a wacko with nuclear weapons. Direct military confrontation could have terrible results - even if in the end he could be defeated. Maybe it makes sense to go after #3 first? I mean, progress is progress right? Wouldn't it send a message to the other folks on the list that they need to change pronto or else? Maybe we wouldn't even have to fight everone on list to achieve our strategic goals if we quickly took out #3 and #8. Who knows, #7 might throw in the towel (he did business with #1 and #4 and #8 so his neutralization would have an immediate ripple effect), and #1 might even show signs of compromise.

Is this a dangerous slippery slope? Well, maybe. But probably not. There is a consensus about who the baddies are. You don't make it onto the list if you aren't a serious SOB. We even have an objective formula!

"Maybe the US would end up having to invade itself to reform its antiquated and clumsy two-party system!"

Its more likely that once the bad guy list is taken care of, much more energy would be left to refine and improve the various democratic forms of government. They all have room for improvement. This would be a good thing.

Even if military force became a commonplace and acceptable option, it doesn't mean that diplomacy would disappear. Heck, the UN danced around Saddam for decades, and wrote lots of angry letters.

How about something like - 'hey, #22 - we are checkin you out.' Followed by '#22, we're not kidding. Unless you cut that sheet out we are gonna vote to put you on the list.' Followed by 'That's it #22, your on the list and the Kiwi division is coming off rotation in Sudan next month after a bit of whoop ass - and they are going to vacation in your palace - you probably want to vacate before they get there'

Imagine the pratical benefits of enforcing this once or twice - promptly? 'Comply please' is not effective if there isn't a proven 'comply or else' locked, loaded, and ready to go.

Literally millions of civilions have died violent deaths over the last 10-15 years because there was no default 'or else' that had credibility.

To Charles:

Only people with binary minds is capable to believe that 911 - the call-the-cops-number-day - was not a kind of "Pearl Harbour" false flag in order to allow the war on oil.

A new evidence arise: CNN Reported No Plane Hit Pentagon

Think about this in the moment whem you are getting you pay-check to troll "un-American" sites like this one.

And only people with binary minds is capable to believe Iraqis has no right to resistance and self-determination.

To Alvaro,

I am not Charles but I cannot read your words without responding. The U.S. did NOT stage her own 911.

The number 911 is a simple coincidence or a date picked to mock us.

Osama Bin Laden described what he did to our towers. Period.

To Alvaro,

even though you make me angry, I wish you peace.

To binary minded people, US = 1 and Osama = 0. Then US ever never had created Osama in order to fight URSS in Afghanistan.

The "call-the-cops-number-day" is a dellusion too big to be understood by binary minded people. They are even incapable to click a link and see a video. It is too much for such a people understand what realy happened.

And this kind of people get angry if they read something contrary of their beliefs.

Poor binary minded people!


Don't pay much attention to Alvaro. It just encourages him. He is convinced that the Zionist Illuminati control W and Osama and staged the whole thing...

Wait a minute! Maybe he is right!

I know I promised not to contribute for a while, but my promises aren’t worth the screen they are written on.
Perhaps I’m over-optimistic, but Charles does seem to be making some progress, he acknowledges that there are degrees of tyranny, and I think he admits that the US has no special licence to decide alone which particular nations need urgent and violent attention.
But he does say in regard to spreading democracy at gunpoint:
"'Comply please' is not effective if there isn't a proven 'comply or else' locked, loaded, and ready to go."
In other words, "Me Tarzan, me liberate, ugh ugh ugh." Is that really the sort of world we want?
Force should only be the very last resort, and very carefully applied? Isn’t that what us despised liberals have been saying all along about Iraq - force was applied hastily, precipitately, and so clumsily that every day it seems more and more to be making the situation worse than what it was supposed to cure?
Consider this one, Charles. 25 years ago Bruno’s country, South Africa, was one of the most unjust and repressive regimes on earth. Under the Bush/Charles doctrine, the US and the rest of the world would have been justified in bombing the living daylights out of the place. And it would have been real easy to identify the bad guys - they all had WHITE skins. (Probably would have got Bruno, too.)
Do you really think that would have been such a good idea now?
(Hint: all you really have to say is, OK, maybe Bush ain’t so bright after all. We won’t laugh.)

Historically speaking, invasions do not usually lead to democracies.

Invasions did restore democracy to Japan, Germany and Italy after democracies in those countries had been subverted by militarist movements. But there are not many good examples of democracy being newly imposed by force anywhere.

Will Iraq be one of the first? We're waiting to see. I hope so. It has not happened yet, but maybe it will happen.

If the US were to embark on a global mission to spread democracy - which has not happened yet and which was not the stated rationale behind the invasion of Iraq - sanctions followed by invasions would be a very ineffective way to achieve the mission.

That method is especially ineffective in terms of lost human lives of the people who supposedly should be helped by this quest for democracy.

Now if the US were to embark on a mission to replace regimes it perceives as hostile to US interests with regimes less hostile, to those interests, with little or no regard for democracy and even less for the well-being of people living in those countries...

Well in that case the US would do pretty much what it has been doing.

So far democracy in Iraq is something we hope will happen in the future at some point. US control of Iraq is certainly in place today.

Of course in Afghanistan, where another hostile regime was replaced with a compliant one over a year before the invasion of Iraq, independent democracy isn't even a plausible hope anytime in the foreseeable future.

But marketing a mission to replace hostile regimes as a mission to impose democracy has benefits not only for the inventors of the policies, who get more enthusiastic supporters, but also for those at whom the marketing is aimed.

The people at whom this mission was marketed get a cause to feel good about, something to believe in.

For those who believe in the mission, anyone who challenges the mission is not engaging in a debate about whether and how to replace hostile regimes, but actively standing in the way of human progress itself.

Well known facts are the worse thing for binary minded people. As I presented a well known fact "No boeing hit Pentagon", Charles counterattacks: "Alvaro believes in Illuminati"

No, mister, I don't. But, click the link and you will see that "No boeing hit Pentagon".

@ Circ

"he acknowledges that there are degrees of tyranny,"

Sure, and thuggery and buggery as well.

"the US has no special licence to decide alone which particular nations need urgent and violent attention."

Not exactly. My point was that everyone agreed Saddam was a brutal SOB, in material breach of UNSC resolutions and ceasefire, and that he had not changed his spots. Even the Franch agreed. It was obvious that Saddam's 'cooperation' (which was nevertheless not immediate, complete, and unconditional - as required) was only the result of 250K US/UK troops on border. It was not because he was complying in good faith as required. The French admitted this publicly.

We all agreed Saddam was dangerous SOB. We all signed on to an ultimatum. French et al decided not to enforce. They backed out.

There may be new grounds to despise the French here - but I don't see anything wrong with enforcing a unanimous ultimatum on Saddam.

""Me Tarzan, me liberate, ugh ugh ugh." Is that really the sort of world we want?"

You're getting sloppy circ. Diplomacy has never depended upon good intentions. Maybe it has hoped for good intentions and good faith, but it has never and will never depend on it. A sane man would only put himself at the mercy of his adversary's good intentions if he had absolutely no other recourse - or means to defend himself.

"force was applied hastily, precipitately, and so clumsily that every day it seems more and more to be making the situation worse than what it was supposed to cure?"

I'm not sure what historical references you are basing your statement on. I'm sure you wouldn't say something so silly out of the naive fantasy that war is not violent, dangerous, disorganized, etc. Right?

"South Africa... Under the Bush/Charles doctrine, the US and the rest of the world would have been justified in bombing the living daylights out of the place."

Maybe. Probably not. They were democratic right? More or less civilized - except for the fact that their laws were rather behind the times in certain crucial regards. They weren't overly aggressive, were they? any mass graves? Did they use bug spray on their own people or neighbors?

Remember - we have a formula. Active and passive criteria. Probably they would have received a very stern - 'hey you - we are watching - better shape up quick.'Economic pressures can work against democratic governments because they are accountable to the people. The situation is more problematic when the leaders are thugs who are happy to spray their own people with pesticides.

"OK, maybe Bush ain’t so bright after all. We won’t laugh."

When did I ever say Bush was "bright." In fact, quite often i have referred to him as a dim bulb. But isn't it uncanny? I mean the changes taking place in the ME. Decades of nothing - no progress - and then - progress. Maybe its too early to tell, but there seems to be quite the flurry of political progress lately.

He may be dim, but he is also right. Being smarter does not necessarily help you see right and wrong more clearly. More specifically, your IQ is not an indicator of your level of willpower to commit to doing the right thing.

And last but not least, I think W is not as stupid as many would like to think.

You don’t seem to have added anything, Charles, just the same old stuff about bringing democracy at gunpoint to wherever takes your fancy.
But just to correct your historical misunderstanding, and Bruno can back me up here, from the 1950’s South Africa functioned under a system named "Apartheid," strictly meaning apartness, keeping the races separate, but really meaning maintaining the economic and political supremacy of the white race.
"...They were democratic right? More or less civilized ..." No Charles, they weren’t, blacks, the majority of the population, had no vote, no right to free movement around the country, and no promise of democracy in the future: the white attitude was that they would always rule. Then the whites set aside the poorest areas of the country as "black homelands" and forced unwanted blacks to move to them.
Any black opposition or protest was ruthlessly suppressed (have you never heard of Sharpeville? Have you never heard of Nelson Mandela?) and torture of political prisoners was routine.
Areas in the cities were set aside as "only for whites." When Japanese businessmen travelled there, they were issued special passes as "honorary whites." When our All Black Rugby Team (the white South Africans are fanatical about Rugby) was to tour in the 1960’s, they offered to let our Maori players be "honorary whites." Bastards.
When a redneck NZ government, in 1981, allowed a South African Rugby team to tour here, it produced the most massive civil disorder this country has ever known, with thousands and thousands of wishy washy liberal protestors - ordinary citizens, housewives - taking to the streets and braving Police batons to stop the games. I know elderly women who still have the scars.
It was that sort of international pressure that brought the South African whites to their senses and persuaded them to join the 20th century.
But if you accept all the above as correct (ask Bruno, he’ll tell you) then you would have just bombed the buggers, right? The collapse of Apartheid was as unexpected as the collapse of the USSR. Couldn’t have waited for that, send in the B52’s, right?


when you speak of the "flurry of political progress.." and aparently attach it to our going into Iraq, it smacks of great arrogance.

Who is to judge what is progress? I personally favor democracies because i know of nothing better for the whole of the people but ours isn't that old and yet is a shambles. There is lying and deceit.

I am not so sure that a more religious government such as the Islamic ones wouldn't be better.

And our country is moving towards combining more religion into politics, so isn't that similar? Ironical, no?

@ Circ,

"South Africa functioned under a system named "Apartheid,""

Sure. It was a pretty nasty system. Worldwide boycotts and divestiture promoted grassroots domestic opposition and put a glaring light on an utterly intolerable social system. The regime - which was democratic and payed lip service to democratic principles (and the people in the regime were raised on those principles) could no longer straddle the vast chasm between their principles and their practices.

"Have you never heard of Sharpeville?"

70 people killed?

"Have you never heard of Nelson Mandela?"

Didn't he become President?

I hardly think these examples qualify South Africa in same category as Saddam. Brutal methods were used in a last gasp effort of the old colonial structures to dominate native populations. The system was not viable and fell apart because the regime itself could not deny forever its true democratic values.

This is hugely different than Iraq.

"you would have just bombed the buggers, right?"


Do you really see no difference between RSA and Iraq?

Circular –

What you have written about South Africa is largely correct. A few of the finer points though:

(1) Apartheid *theoretically* was not meant to actually entrench whites as superior. It was meant to preserve “black” and “white” culture and ways of doing things. However in *reality* the white power structure found that if it were to rely on white labour alone it would remain poor … hence it utilized black (cheap) labour to enrich itself, while keeping discriminatory laws in place. This hypocritical stance was the result of two unpalatable choices reality offered to the Apartheid govt. – to stay white and poor or to be multicultural and rich. They could not handle either choice, and tried to steer a hypocritical and untenable path of “white AND rich”.

I see this hypocritical double talk as being reflected in the US policies in the ME – that they have the choice between a country being Pro US but a dictatorship or Anti US and a democracy. They are trying to steer the untenable middle course, with rocks on either side and a strong current to boot. This “almost democracy” approach is doomed to failure.

Here for example, is a super ironical statement by the White House:

Lebanon Government Resigns After Protest
Middle East - AP By ZEINA KARAM,

"Syrian military forces and intelligence personnel need to leave the country, [lebanon]" said White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. "That will help ensure that elections are free and fair."

Does this then imply that an election under occupation is not free and fair? I don’t understand … I thought that the OCCUPIED Iraqi elections were free and fair … *grim smile*

(2) The collapse of Apartheid was a consequence of the collapse of the USSR. The white government here lived in paranoid fear of a communist takeover and the collapse of the foundations of communism opened a gap for negotiation. Basically I feel that the process was possible because of this and a mix of other factors on the ground. The Apartheid government knew that it would lose in the long run - however, the armed forces were quite strong enough to keep the lid on the pressure cooker for many more years. Both the ANC and the Nats realised that they were in a lose-lose situation, and had to come up with a solution. (Imagine the blacks coming to power at the tail end of a long civil war – sure they would control everything – except that there would have been nothing left.)

Lesson for the Middle East? If one removes the pressure from a regime (like the USSR’s collapse did for SA) they will be more amenable to dialogue. Think Iran and their alleged nuclear program for example.


"Does this then imply that an election under occupation is not free and fair? I don’t understand … I thought that the OCCUPIED Iraqi elections were free and fair … *grim smile*"

I suppose it would depend on who the occupier was. Don't you agree?

Who is more likely to help organize and facilitate a free and fair election: A democratic occupier, or an autocratic/ dictatorial occupier?

Is it really so challenging to draw the correct conclusion?

Charles –

One would think that a democracy would be better qualified at implementing democracy than a dictatorship, would one not? But reality dictates otherwise:

Syria has managed Lebanese affairs since the UN Taifa Accord mandated their presence there. They have allowed elections, a parliament and have kept the peace. (Admittedly, they have meddled extensively in the politics to keep their interests protected.) Syria did this on their own.

On the other hand:

America in Iraq successively tried to install a dictator in the guise of Chalabi, tried to use handpicked caucuses to rule by proxy, and cancelled municipal elections when the results were displeasing. Furthermore, America ran like hell when Sistani first demanded elections, and it was only through huge mass demonstrations and the pressure of the continued insurgency (which highlighted the need for a political solution) that these were held. Even in those elections astronomical sums were spent on trying to punt Allawi (the puppet in waiting) to the front of the race, the same as was done in Afghanistan with Karzai.

When Syria leaves Lebanon in accordance with the Taifa agreement and UN Res 1559, it will leave a functioning democratic structure set up by it. At the moment Iraqi democracy is only occurring because of Iraqi pressure.

Now, who is really the most likely to bring democracy?

The realities on the ground reflect rather poorly on the US.

Nevertheless I agree with you:

Syria out of Lebanon!
Israel out of Lebanon!


America out of Iraq!

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Your statements are almost a part of the problem. Not specifically of course, but the nature of it. Everyone has a better idea, a better plan, a better method in which to execute it, etc. Naysaying does nothing, I didn't see many solutions, only problems. You come up with a better solution to immediatly begin to counteract terrorism, not slowly, but quickly, while pleasing everyone around, and I'm sure they'll use it. If not, then who are you to critisise?
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