When George Bush sleazed the 2000 election out from under Al Gore, he did more damage internationally than anyone has yet acknowledged. In securing the leadership of a leading democracy by applying the Cheneyan belief that the ends justifies the means, democracy lost its best proponent and its greatest selling feature.
What is democracy when it cannot claim integrity as the collective will of a majority of the people?
Since the leading proponents of democracy -- the US -- clearly no longer believed in it, no one else around the world needed to respect their democratic processes either. Democracy became an expendable commodity, little more than an unconvincing advertising slogan: 'Things go better with..."
A nice smile and a good pretense were the only requirements for ambitious, modern politicians. Corrupt world leaders scurried like cockroaches to give the appearance of democracy while holding onto power the way water skiers hang off their ropes.
Robert Mugabe took George's lesson closest to heart when he abandoned pretenses completely and simply ignored the results of the elections held in Zimbabwe last year.
Now ironically, the profoundly anti-American Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is using the Bush-republican model of retaining power by brazenly fudging results in his national election.
A clear indication that the Iranian results are fiction is Iran's ban on text messaging prior to the vote. Ahmadinejad's strategists realized there was a real possibility of collective protests following this crooked election. They tried to head this off by arresting opposition leaders and by removing the main medium of the opposition's organization: cell phone networks. Ayatollah Khomenei then quickly endorsed the phoney results and warned opposition parties against questioning them.
Unfortunately this didn't stop the riots.
Three days later people are still standing on the rooftops of Tehran shouting "God is Great. Death to the Dictator" (by whom they now mean Ahmadinejad). The rioters burn trash in the streets at night and beat up the police sent to disperse them.
All this supports my deeply held personal belief that no good can come of the theft of democracy anywhere in the world. When such theft happens, it is an open expression of the contempt in which a country's leadership holds the opinions of its people. This is certainly what it meant under George W. Bush. The whole country, its institutions, laws and governance were up for sale by a government that no longer respected their own responsibility to the people or the people themselves. The challenge now facing the Republican party is to restore its own integrity. This is not impossible, but it won't happen soon and it will never happen under the leadership of Rush Limbaugh, Dick Cheney or Sarah Palin.
When integrity evaporates throughout an entire system, it's like a desert wind that dries up the smallest beads of life-sustaining moisture. If a government will lie to its own people about national election results, they will have little trouble lying to them or anyone else about -- in America's case -- torture, secret prisons and domestic wire-taps, or -- in Iran's case -- the real purpose of a national nuclear program which, it seems clear today, is intended to build a bomb in order to exert pressure that will counter Israel's recalcitrance in establishing a Palestinian home state.
The middle east today, is a much more dangerous place than it was a week ago. I hope Benjamin Netanyahu understands that the Palestinian two-step is no longer a viable option. Like Iran's phoney election results, the world sees through the push-me pull-me forces that have prevented Palestine from joining the world in free self-determination and self-governance.
With the assistance of a few corrupt politicians, the world has now brought the middle east to the brink of nuclear war.