Neverending election stuff

Reading about Saddam's trial (more), you really start to see what a colossal screwup the Iraq war was. Let's look at Iraq in the late 70s and 80s. At that point it was the most liberal of the Arab nations. Women could move freely, get a good education, and held positions of power in government and commerce. Human rights, while poor by our standards, were some of the best in the region (and a lot better than they are now). Saddam loved America, and wanted his nation to become a Western nation. Walking down the streets of Baghdad didn't look that different from a Western city — people listening to music on their walkmans, soda pop ads on bus shelters, and so on.

Unfortunately Saddam was fighting an uphill battle. He had Kurdish separatist groups to deal with, as well as a majority of the population who wanted an Islamic government. Not only that, but his next door neighbor — Iran — was a fascistic and controlling Islamic state. He repressed (and sometimes appeased) these groups (and Iran), often brutally, in the interests of furthering Westernization in his country, with the support of the West who supplied him with weaponry and financing. At some point though the relationship turned sour and the US briefly invaded.

Saddam didn't really understand why, since the US had already told him that recapturing territory lost to Kuwait was a domestic issue and his business to deal with as he saw fit. The first Gulf War ended quickly, and, confused by sanctions that he thought were an attempt by the West to demean him, Saddam continued doing what he did best — keeping the country out of the hands of the terror and extremist groups, while slowly Westernizing the region. He destroyed his WMD programs as requested, but kept making noise about them so as not to appear “weak” to the Islamic states around him.

Al Qaeda and other terror groups targeted Iraq, as Saddam was genuinely threatening what they saw as their traditional way of life. Iran became more hostile, and supported resistance movements inside Iraq. Saddam, assuming that the US knew perfectly well that he had no weapons, continued to boast about his non-existent chemical, biological, and nuclear programs in order to keep Iran at bay.

Unfortunately the US neo-cons seized 9/11 as an opportunity to go after Iraq — the most US-positive of possible targets — and destroyed all hope for Westernization of the Middle East with the most recent war on Iraq, and now we're in the mess we're in now — Americans dying daily, Iraqis being killed constantly, terror bases, growing insurgency, and a hydra that will continue to sprout more heads as long as we're there chopping them off. So is the world better off with Saddam out of power? Absolutely not.

Unless of course you're a defense or military construction contractor (which these neo-cons all are), in which case you're now fabulously wealthy and can expect a visit from Robin Leach any day now to tour your Baroque decorated bomb shelter.

Anyway, it's interesting to watch the traditional Bush and Republican supporters drop away — it's fascinating seeing them writhe as they try and figure out how to shout out “I hate everything about Bush and where he's taking this country, but I still support Bush.” I don't know how McCain and the rest of them stay so loyal to the party while being so obviously distraught by Bush's actions. This latest tiff with Pat Robertson (more) is interesting as well.

"He was just sitting there, like, I'm on top of the world, and I warned him about this war. I had deep misgivings about this war, deep misgivings. And I was trying to say, 'Mr. President, you better prepare the American people for casualties,' " Robertson said.

"Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties," Robertson quoted Bush as saying.

"'Well,' I said, 'it's the way it's going to be. . . . The Lord told me it was going to be, A, a disaster and, B, messy.'"

What's most fascinating though is that after all this, Robertson still says Bush is blessed by God and will win the election. That said, if current trends (more) continue, there's a very real possibility that Kerry wins by a dramatic margin. At times the polls predict him winning with something like 320 electoral votes (with 218 to Bush)… and I sort of think a lot of people who tell the telephone pollsters they're voting Bush will secretly check off Kerry's name once their honor is actually tested.

On top of the massive betrayal of America by Bush, this swing is happening for one reason: voter turnout. I've lived in America (Philadelphia), I've traveled all over America, I'm married to an American, and I have many American friends. I know that on the whole Americans are “good people” and have very similar attitudes to my friends here in Canada — and my friends around the world when it comes down to it.

I believe that if most Americans vote, Americans will put good people into the White House. All it takes (assuming the election isn't rigged) is people going out there and voting. I had this “what if” paradise moment yesterday where I realized that if all Americans actually went out and voted, America would swing to politics similar to Canada and Europe. What an incredible, wonderful world that could be — can you imagine if a nation with America's clout actually started to stand for freedom and justice and social responsibility? Can you imagine if all the money America poured into fueling wars around the world started to fuel positive change instead?

The world could transform into something really wonderful.
America, you can be that shining beacon!

On that note, I thought the “voting” lottery (proposed recently in Fortune magazine; more) was brilliant, and a uniquely “American” solution to the problem of low voter turnout. I hope the idea gets enacted, maybe in Arizona first. When it comes to democracy, there aren't many US states that can compare to the liberty and resistance to corruption that Arizona has.

Turn the election into a lottery. The stub that's proof you voted would be your ticket. Prizes could range from $10 million for the winner to dozens of $1 million runners-up. Does anyone doubt this would lift turnout from today's pathetic 50% in presidential years (and one-third of eligible voters in off-years) toward 100%?

Anyway, I've got a whack of work to do. If you want more election stuff, check out derelection 2004, the best news blog about the election that I've found, done by the folks at CURSOR.

Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

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