George Orwell was an uncommonly perceptive man.
Because of his fiction and essays, words and concepts such as newspeak and doublethink have been ingrained into the popular political lexicon. Orwell concerned himself with the party’s, the politician’s or the activist’s ability to take a word and make it mean its opposite unknowingly to the citizenry. When this occurs on a mass scale, Orwell believed, the population was susceptible to the lure of authoritarianism in the guise of democracy.This was the point of his novels 1984 and Animal Farm along with his excellent essay Politics and The English Language.
The Bush Administration has adopted this method of newspeak with much vigor. If you believe what you read and hear, the most important value to President Bush is liberty. In five major speeches given since the bombing of Iraq, President Bush says the word liberty or its synonyms “free” or “freedom” 131 times. No longer does Bush concentrate on WMDs as a catalyst for the Iraq campaign, but rather he argues the campaign was to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq. Bush apparently believes in the age-old adage, “If you repeat it enough, people will believe it.”
In Bush’s recent “Freedom in Iraq and Middle East” speech on November 6th at the 20th Anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy he makes a bold statement that the “Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and the Iraqi Governing Council are also working together to build a democracy.” A statement many on the ground in Iraq contradict.
For instance, Fox news commentator Major Bob Bevelacqua, an initial supporter of the war, said in a recent interview that the Iraqis perceive the CPA as a corrupt institution that enables US contractors and their foreign subcontractors to seize most of the rebuilding contracts in Iraq. To further legitimize this perception, members of the Iraqi interim council are searched before entering CPA buildings (the same buildings and palaces Hussein ruled from), while foreign subcontractors merely flash ID cards to gain access. Recently, the U.S. decided to close the bidding on all new contracts strictly to those countries that supported the invasion and occupation. To Iraqis on the street, the only ones seeming to benefit from the bombing and occupation of their country are the U.S. and their cronies.
The message couldn’t be clearer, American economic gain in Iraq weighs more pressing than the successful and democratic transfer of power to Iraqis. The essence of democracy is that the people of the politico-economic entity must construct the society upon their own rules reached cooperatively. If the society is constructed from the outside, then the people feel no allegiance to the government and naturally civil strife follows along with suppression.
On a more pragmatic note, many political scientists contend democracies’ do not have good survival rates when people cannot reach middle-class living standards. So how can the U.S. create a prosperous Iraq if Iraqi firms and labor are not the main participants in the rebuilding process? Scarcity and want are not the building blocks of democracy, jobs equaling prosperity are.
The word “liberty” coming from the President’s mouth registers as an obscenity to most Iraqis. The only “liberty” Iraqis know is the freedom of poverty, unemployment, and insecurity. Many Iraqis argue the U.S. and its multinational corporations have come to liberate Iraq’s resource wealth and economic potential from them – in a sense to plunder. Because of this perception, disenfranchised and disillusioned Iraqis have taken arms with the fanatics and the remnants of the old regime to throw the U.S. out of Iraq.
No one can say for sure whether the Bush Administration targeted Iraq as a lucrative prospect for select corporations close to the White House. The point is the people of Iraq believe this and the U.S. continues to lose the battle to gain hearts and minds at the cost of American soldiers and innocent Iraqi lives.
At the close of Politics and the English Language George Orwell wrote, “Political language…is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” Right now, Iraqis suffer from an extreme case of windburn blowing from the mouth of our President. Until power is transferred to a government composed of Iraqis, and jobs are made available to a majority in Iraq, “liberty” will be the pillow talk that allowed Americans to lie down with a policy of plunder in a new era of colonialism.
Matthew Harwood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.