Democracy only matters when it’s friendly

and conversely, dictators are only bad if they’re hostile to your interests.

These basic principles of The Real Politik as we all know it, was confirmed again today when Pat Robertson, leader of the Christian Coalition of America said,

You know, I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination, but if [Chavez] thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it.

“It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war … and I don’t think any oil shipments will stop.”

There you have it folks, proof in the most direct of ways that it’s not about democracy, it’s about influence and resources.

Of course, the US Government has forcefully distanced itself, from Mr. Robertsons’ comments.

But stupidity and running-off-at-the-mouth aside, what Robertsons’ words and his own position of power as founder of one of the largest grassroots political lobby groups in the country shows is just how much influence the Christian Right have in Washington.

From Right Wing Watch:

The coalition is credited with helping Bush win the South Carolina presidential primary through their strong get-out-the-vote activities. During the 2000 election Pat Robertson taped a telephone message criticizing presidential candidate John McCain on the eve of the February Michigan primary.

The Christian Coalition’s annual conference, “Road to Victory,” has been a veritable who’s who in right-wing and mainstream conservative circles, in 2000 their list of speakers included: Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, House Majority Leader Dick Armey, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Rev. Jerry Falwell, RNC chairman Jim Nicholson, and then-presidential candidate George W. Bush via videotape.

The Christian Coalition’s principal “contribution” to electoral politics is the distribution of election-eve voters guides. Nominally nonpartisan but plainly directive, the guides outline the candidates’ positions on a variety of issues. The Coalition’s descriptions, however, are often manipulative. They describe a supporter of the National Endowment for the Arts, for example, as an proponent of “tax-funded obscene art.” Many candidates refuse to respond to the questionnaires for fear of distortion, however the group filled it in for them by reviewing voting records. These “non-partisan” voter guides eventually led to the group losing its tax-exempt status. The Federal Election Commission’s charged that the Christian Coalition endorsed Republican candidates with its voter guides in the 1990 and 1992 elections and illegally coordinated its activities with the Bush reelection campaign.

So while Robertsons’ comments are obviously “out of line” and extreme it is clear that the Bush Administration wants, needs, and works hard for the support of this group and thus implicitly agrees with it’s stance on various issues.

The disturbing aspect of these comments then is not the comments itself but rather the fact that once the initial controversy goes away it will be business as usual and this Coalition will continue to exert its’ considerable influence on Congress and the Administration and these policies of influence before democracy will continue.

I will add, also that this is likely the end scenario that I see for Iraq. The war was, of course, not about bringing democracy to Iraq, if it were, then a plan would have been in place to secure that outcome, rather it was a resource grab. A neo-empirical march to the Middle East to grab the cheapest oil still available… and if Iraqis managed somehow to come out of it with a democracy than that’s great. But if they don’t, hopefully the US would have a few bases in-country to ensure a friendly regime and continued oil exports.

Unfortuantely for the US pretty much every aspect of that plan is going down the tubes in large part because it was so simplistic and half baked in the first place. And in that, Robertson is probably right, they should have just unofficially sent some terrorist (ie. CIA operative) in and assassinated Hussein and hoped for the best because at least then they wouldn’t be embroiled in a never ending insurgency… but dammit… those darn laws and Executive Orders get in the way. As did the incompetence of the CIA itself which apparently couldn’t tell the difference between Yellow Cake and their own mothers Bundt if they took a bite of it themselves.

14 thoughts on “Democracy only matters when it’s friendly”

  1. Robertson has obviously lost his mind. Canadians and the BBC may believe that Robertson has a large following and speaks for Christians but I assure he does not. He has now lost the last shred of credibility he had remaining. I actually believe he is off his rocker. As a Christian I abhor this exhortation to violence from this tv evangelist.

  2. In the kindest possible way though Jane, when you say you “abhor this exhortation to violence from this tv evangelist” I have to ask.

    How is George Bush pushing the Iraq War onto the American and Iraqi people anything different?

    Remember, Saddam did not attack, threaten or even blow smoke at the US. The US and coalition invaded of its’ own accord as was eventually admitted by the US when they accepted their status as “occupying force” after Saddam fell.

    If Robertson is off his rocker for suggesting an assissinaton then surely Bush has joined an elite league of war starting madmen with not the most illustrious list of compatriots.

  3. Well, of course, Chris, I expected your spin. Our President believed that Saddam possessed WMD. This has all been debated ad nauseum and you remain unconvinced of the legitimacy of the Iraqi war as I remain unconvinced by your arguments and calls for GWB to be tried as a war criminal.

    You will of course draw parallels whenever you see an opportunity to bolster your perception of the US policy for Iraq in 2003 and the whole evil American imperialist concoction. I do not see the same parallel.

    Robertson is an idiot at best and possessed by demons at worst IMO.
    His opinion on most subjects of national importance are not helpful and usually lack reason to put it kindly. The opinion put forth regarding Chavez is preposterous and puts him in a class with the mullahs in Iran as far as I’m concerned.

    As an American voter I believe I am far more moderate in my political perspective than say the typical Canadian Liberal or leftist. I usually find the extremist on both sides of the American political debate pretty ridiculous – Michael Moore meet your mirror image – Pat Robertson. A pox on both.

    I thank you for the civility of your comments but vehemently disagree with your conclusions, perspective and implied suggestion that the US should remove its self from Iraq forthwith. We need to leave when the Iraqis say it’s time and they want us there for the time being. The day we leave, I’ll be celebrating, believe me.

  4. “We need to leave when the Iraqis say it’s time and they want us there for the time being.”

    I would love to see a poll of Iraqis supporting that…

  5. Yes, so would I as I believe that the majority of Iraqis fear our premature withdrawal more than any leftist would be willing to admit. Iraqi anti-insurgency sentiment is high. Iraqis are working hard to develop their own defenses against the terrorists among them. If course the prism you use to examing Iraq ignores the bravery and committment the Iraqi people exhibit in developing their own defenses, writing a new constitution and keeping the B’aathists at bay. I realize I’m contradicting professor Juan what’s his name but there you have it.

  6. Sorry I haven’t commented in a long time, much as I like the blog, I’ve been very busy lately.

    Chris, you’ve saying because fundamentalists Christians are a powerful lobbying force: Robertson = the Bush adminstration even when they contradict each other. To think I thought you were writing about “Real Politik”! Besides, I do not know a single Christian north or south of the border who is going to let Pat Robertson affect their decisions.

    Take a deep breath then think about how monumentally unimportant all of this. I mean, last week Pat Robertson wanted to nuke Foggy Bottom. So knocking off an elected president a military goon like Chavez could be considered an extremely small step towards sanity. I don’t agree with assasinations though, much as I dislike Chavez and (yuck) Castro. So does American law as layed down by President Gerald Ford. So does the Foggy Bottom that Pat Robertson (and yourself?) seems to habitually dislike.

  7. Actually Chris, there were very few days (if any) that Saddam’s forces did not shoot at U.S. warplanes patrolling the no-fly zone that the UN mandated. This sounds very much like threatening AND attacking.

    I would also say that there is a qualitative difference between the war and Robertson. Bush invaded Iraq publicly and gave Saddam the opportunity to avoid it simply by abiding by UN mandates. Saddam will get a trial because of this, like he deserves. Robertson is basically suggesting murder – no warning, no trial, no chance to avoid his fate…yeah, there is a bit of a difference.

  8. I will restate what i said in the post:

    “while Robertsons’ comments are obviously “out of line” and extreme it is clear that the Bush Administration wants, needs, and works hard for the support of this group and thus implicitly agrees with it’s stance on various issues.”

    Does anyone disagree with that statement? Does Money not mean Influence. If you don’t think so… then frankly, I think you’re wrong at least as far as US Lobby groups go. We’re not, after all, talking about a tiny group of lobbiers. We’re talking about one of the largest and most vocal contributors to the Republican party in the United States. Just like the NRA and Friends of the Family, these groups throw huge amounts of support behind the current Republican administration and while some inside the groups, like Robertson, or Charlton Heston, are more extreme in their views, they are also the outspoken leaders and figure heads thus when they talk, people listen.

    That is why I believe that this shows the current state of Real Politik. Robertsons’ comments are simply a blunt statement of the fact. It’s not about democracy. It’s not about freedom. It’s not about the Good of the Common Man.

    It’s about power, influence, money and greed.

    That is Real Politik, and the US Administration can distance themselves as much as they like from Robertsons’ comments… but he has betrayed his true feelings… and in the process betrayed the utterly immoral position that his Coalition implicitly stands for and that the Republican party implicity accepts by receiving millions of dollars and invaluable support at election time.

    As I said in the post:

    “The disturbing aspect of these comments then is not the comments itself but rather the fact that once the initial controversy goes away it will be business as usual and this Coalition will continue to exert its’ considerable influence on Congress and the Administration and these policies of influence before democracy will continue.”

    There is a major democracy deficit in the United States right now. Policy is too often pushed by interest groups rather than the will of the people and that again speaks to the reality that is Influence and Power before the Common Good.

    J-P Saddam shooting at warplanes in the no-fly-zone WITHIN HIS OWN BORDERS does not constitute an attack against the US or UK (or France before they pulled out of the patrols).

    “Bush invaded Iraq publicly and gave Saddam the opportunity to avoid it simply by abiding by UN mandates. “

    Actually, the “opportunity” that Bush gave Saddam in the form of resolution 1441 was taken full advantage of by Saddam with the documents released in December which have now been proven to have actually been quite accurate regardless of the (understandable) sceptiscism they were viewed with at the time. Days before the war, Saddam also agreed to dismantle the missile production facilities that *were* in contravention of UN mandate as well as a number of other moves that, while they were reluctant, were none-the-less in the direction of compliance.

    Bush basically got impatient and invaded without UNSC approval which is, I should remind you, is illegal in EXACTLY the same way as Saddams contravention of UNSC mandates. This was the opinion of the State Department and now famously, the UK Attorney General up until days before the invasion was launched. So really, if the world were fair and law-abiding we would have both Saddam and Bush on trial. But of course, that is not Real Politik.

  9. I would agree that extremist interest groups have too much influence right now, whether it is groups like Focus on the Family on the Republican side or Moveon.org on the Democrat side.

    The main thing your so pointedly ignorning in your attempts to string Bush up with Pat Robertson is that Robertson happens to have no actual power to make something like an assasination take place in the short run. Bush has no desire to change the law. Robertson has just spouted his mouth off.

    Also ignorning the UN isn’t just Real Politik anymore, it’s realistic politics. When is the last time the UN did something? When is the last time it took them less than a year to make a decision. Considering that the UN refuses to enforces its laws you are so concerned about on dictators like Saddam, what kind of power do those laws have on elected Presidents?

  10. Of course Robertson himself has little real power… but the people he claims to represent DO have enormous amounts of power.

    And I’ll throw your generalization of the UN right back at you… the UNSC only have 5 members that matter. The US, UK, France, Russia and China…

    It’s not the UN that can’t get anything done… when it has the mandate, it does the job one way or another… it’s the 5 veto wielding members who are far too concerned about their own interests to be bothered with doing what’s “right” and giving the rest of the UN the mandate to act.

    That is why I support initiatives like the “Responsibility to Protect” which would effectively give hard and fast conditions for when the UNSC MUST act no matter what the situation or who’s involved.

    Personally, I think veto power should be abolished as it is essentially what derails every major UNSC decision… but of course that will never happen.

  11. I also find it highly “convenient” that people are so willingly to be shocked and appalled at the notion of “breaking the law” as it applies to assassinating one man, yet when that same principle of “law” is applied to war then it’s OK to just ignore it or make excuses and justifications and kill 1000s of American and Coalition soldiers and 10s of 1000s of Iraqis?

    Something just doesn’t add up for me there.

  12. “And I’ll throw your generalization of the UN right back at you… the UNSC only have 5 members that matter. The US, UK, France, Russia and China…

    It’s not the UN that can’t get anything done… when it has the mandate, it does the job one way or another…[we both know that on any important issue this is not the case. Sudan? Niger? Where art thou oh unanimous UN?] it’s the 5 veto wielding members who are far too concerned about their own interests to be bothered with doing what’s “right” and giving the rest of the UN the mandate to act.”

    Way to explain why I’m right. I mean… jeez. Way to cut into my fun.

    Let’s break this down in cold talking points:
    1) Initiatves like “Responsibility to Protect” have about as much chance of suceeding as the Marxist-Lenist Part has of winning the next federal election.
    2) Even if they (being great power-marginalizing UN reform measures) were to be put into place, it would just cause the great powers to lessen their role in the UN, hamstringing an organization which completely dependant on their money and the attention of their citizens.

    I wouldn’t really mind, it would increase the effectiveness of NGOs and governments to lose an essentially useless third wheel (the UN) which so often tries to mediate just for it’s own sake rather than the issues at stake.

    I just find it all extremely funny and but quite unimportant. It’s like this will be on trivial pursuit cards: “which religious leader in 2005 called for the assasination of a Venezualen leader?” I’ve heard many leftists, tell me to my face that President Bush should be assasinated. Should I have made a citizens arrest right then and there? Of course not! Instead I just laugh. What’s the point in responding to things that have no power of action? Really?

  13. Sorry Chris, I should said that it isn’t that the UN does or doesn’t do the job “one way or another” it’s that it takes them so bloody long to do it, let the problem worsen so much that there’s nothing they can do (ie. Sudan) or they spring to action so long after the fact that most of their “mandated” work has already been taken care of by independant governements and/or NGOs (ie. during the Tsunami).

    Throughout both of these scenarios, the UN in all it’s bodies wastes billions of dollars sitting on its hands.

    Again this is why they are unimportant in the decision making process, no matter what kids learned in high school history.

  14. Dylan:

    The UN is busy sitting on its’ hands because in order for it to do anything of great importance, it needs Security Council approval, and unless the threat is of a completely politically, benign and non-political nature (the Tsunami for example) then there is inevitably either a huge delay, or quite simply nothing gets done.

    And in the case of major disasters like the Tsunami, only the UN has the apparatus to keep governments engaged in these situations over a long term. NGOs are there to do the majority of the work on the ground and they do an oustanding job… but they can’t be bothered (nor should they) to rally governments to help when they should. We all have an incredibly short attention span… Bam, Iran… remember them? Completely destroyed by an Earthquake in 2004. The UN is the only one that constantly reminds us, and governments, to keep our promises of aid. And this is all independant of the Security Council.

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