Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

On the Tyranny of the Majority

Today’s “Mainstream Baptists” blog has a great post on the “tyranny of the majority,” and shows why democracies need to balance the principle of majority rule with respect for fundamental human rights–even, or especially, the rights of minorities. So, for instance, in a nation in which 80% claim to be Christian (so where are they on Sunday?), it is vital that we protect the rights of Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Wiccans, atheists, and other non-Christians. Tomorrow, as often in the past and in other parts of the world, it may be Christians in the minority. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Mainstream Baptists: On the Tyranny of the Majority


September 24, 2006 Posted by | democracy, human rights. | 1 Comment

Will U.S.A. Respect Iraqi Democracy?

The U.S., especially the Bush administration, says that it keeps starting wars in order to “spread democracy,” despite strong historical evidence that democracy cannot be imposed by force from without. But the U.S. record on this is very mixed. Quite often in our history, even in the years since WWII, we have undermined democracies and imposed friendly dictatorships. The Baathists came to power in Iraq (eventually leading to Saddam Hussein–whom we liked and armed for years) because the U.S. and U.K. stopped a previous attempt at Iraqi democracy. Guatemala had a nonviolent revolution in 1948 and 10 years of democracy–modeling its constitution on the U.S. one–until it nationalized the fruit industry in the ’50s. Then-Sec. of State of John Foster Dulles was heavily invested in United Fruit Company, so he sent in the CIA which overthrew the government. Guatemala then had decades of military governments and civil war from which it is still trying to recover.

Another Sec. of State, Kissinger, had Chile’s democratically elected president Salvador Allende assassinated (he was too Socialist for Kissinger), leading, again, to decades of military dictatorship and incredible human rights abuses. The U.S. supported the apartheid government of South Africa for decades against all attempts (some nonviolent and some violent) to overthrow it for a multi-racial democracy. (Remember Jerry Falwell calling Archbishop Desmond Tutu a Communist dupe?) Reagan called for Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall (eventually nonviolent people movements did it) and allow democracy into Eastern Europe, but he and Nancy championed the Philippine dictator Marcos and the Haitian dictator Du’valier (sp?) against democratic movements. When Burma had a pro-democracy movement, the U.S., at first, backed the military government (with the Orwellian name of SLORC–State Law and Order Restoration Committee!) because Pepsi-Co and other transnational governments were afraid of nationalization. (Boycotts against Pepsi led to them getting out of Burma and promising to stay out until democracy is restored–whereupon the U.S. finally instituted sanctions against Burma rather than selling it arms!) Recently, the U.S. supported the overthrow of Haiti’s democratically elected president (not that I am the biggest fan of Aristide, but he WAS democratically elected and the U.S. backed his forced exile to Africa). When Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, elected with many international monitors in procedures that would have passed far better scrutiny than the U.S. elections of 2000 and 2004, was briefly overthrown in a 48 hour failed coup–the coup was denounced by most of the world. But the Bush administration quickly recognized the rebel government and had to retract itself later. (Is it any wonder that Chavez, who has his good and bad points, is paranoid about the U.S.?)

Then, after pushing for free elections in Palestine, the U.S. cuts off all aid once the Palestinians exercise their rights and elect a Hamas majority parliament! I am no fan of Hamas. But Hamas hadn’t expected to win and I, along with many others, had argued for encouraging their participation in the political process–because exclusion would encourage them to continue using guerilla warfare. It was also clear that the unexpected Hamas victory was not a sign of Palestinian rejection of a peace process, according to exit polls, but was voter rejection of Fatah’s corruption and utter failure to get anywhere with Israel. Palestinians felt they had nothing to lose. But the U.S. punished them for using their democracy to vote differently than the U.S. and Israel liked.

So, the U.S. championing of democracy is highly suspect abroad–and don’t even get me started on the violations of freedom here at home. Now comes the litmus test. Our credibility, especially with the Muslim world, will stand or fall now in Iraq. In this story, http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0722-05.htm, Iraq’s Parliamentary Speaker has just called for the U.S. to set an early date for withdrawal. If the rest of the Parliament votes for this and the U.S. is asked to leave, will we respect the Iraqi government–a regime change we claim justified the invasion?

And how about credibility at home? All the justifications for the war have proven false: No WMDs; no connection with al-Qaeda (until after the invasion); no connection with 9/11; No credible threat to Iraq’s own neighbors or to the U.S. The only justification (which was not part of the congressional vote to authorize war) left is the “necessity” of regime change to oust the dictator Hussein (once the U.S. champion in war against Iran; once the good friend of Donald Rumsfeld; once defended publicly against human rights charges by both Reagan and his mouthpiece Rush Limbaugh) for a “free and democratic Iraq.” So, if we refuse to respect Iraqi sovereignty and stay despite their voting for us to leave, the last fig leaf of excuse will fall here at home, too. The imperial ambitions and utter lack of regard for any democracy that votes different than Bush tells them too (just as his “signing statements” attempt to bypass law here at home) will be ignored. If this happens, what will the U.S. public do? Once upon a time we could not abide tyrants, but now???

July 22, 2006 Posted by | democracy, Iraq | 6 Comments