"Bush thumbs his nose at millions opposed to war -- and he calls this a democracy." That's the lead headline on the newspaper of the Socialist Workers Party that is displayed (along with other propaganda) on the door of a professor's office three doors down from mine at the University of Texas.
The Iraqi government is reciting the same line. Al-Thawra, a Baghdad voice of Saddam, published an editorial stating, "When the American president declares that his evil administration does not make its decisions under the (pressure of) mass demonstrations here and there, he is in fact contradicting the false democratic values which he glorifies ..."
Is this an anti-democratic war? Has the will of millions been thwarted? What if it's true that one of every 100 to 200 New York area residents went to an anti-Bush demonstration in Manhattan on a beautiful spring day last Saturday? What about all those demonstrators in San Francisco and Hollywood? Shouldn't President Bush surrender?
Given the enormous publicity these demonstrations are receiving from sympathetic media, the numbers aren't hugely impressive. In my liberal city, the Austin American-Statesman last week presented an awestruck lead story with a big front-page headline about one local demonstration: "7,000 in Austin cheer for peace." Big deal, in a metropolitan area of 1 million.
The Statesman has sometimes covered with small inside stories (and sometimes ignored) larger numbers of Austinites who in past years participated in Marches for Jesus. Journalists should neither thumb their noses at Christian demonstrators nor pimp for the left, but even if marches for Jesus or against U.S. efforts in Iraq were many times larger than we've seen so far, so what? Elected leaders should represent both those who march and those who prefer to watch the NCAA tournament.
The United States is a representative democracy specifically designed not to be what America's founders decried: a "mobocracy." Beyond that, in this case even some on the left have criticized demonstration leaders for backing dictatorship, not democracy. Georgetown University history professor Michael Kazin complained in The Washington Post last month about protest organizers who refuse to say anything critical of Saddam Hussein."
Saddam's regime has been not only anti-democratic but Satanic in its treatment of human beings. Member of Parliament Ann Clwyd rose in the House of Commons on March 16 to read statements by Iraqi eyewitnesses that the organization she chairs, Indict, is compiling, so that specific Iraqi leaders can be prosecuted for crimes against humanity and genocide. Some witness statements are too grotesque to report. But here's one of the accounts of evil:
"There was a machine designed for shredding plastic. Men were dropped into it, and we were again made to watch. Sometimes they went in headfirst and died quickly. Sometimes they went in feet first and died screaming. It was horrible. I saw 30 people die like this. Their remains would be placed in plastic bags, and we were told they would be used as fish food. ... On one occasion, I saw Qusay (Hussein, Saddam's youngest son) personally supervise these murders."
The Iraq War debate was Tony Blair's finest hour, and members of the Labour Party like Clywd stood with him. The current protests are one of the U.S. left's worst hours, with speakers at rallies repeatedly saying, "We will shut this country down." It would be far more humane to shut down Saddam.
Those against the war are making their voices heard. They should not demand to be obeyed. Democracy means rule by the people -- all the people -- including those who vote for leaders and then, prayerfully trusting them to try to do what's right, stay home.