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Bush's Favorite Fairy Tale

Reported by Judy - March 24, 2005

A simplistic book for a simple-minded president. That’s one way to sum up why George Bush says his favorite book is Natan Sharansky’s The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror. Sharansky, a Jewish dissident in the former Soviet Union, bases his book on the simplistic division of all societies into “fear societies” and “free societies” and the even more simplistic assertion that free societies do not cause wars. Then he uses this unproven assertion to back up Bush’s support for the invasion of Iraq. No wonder Bush likes the book.

Sharansky defines a free society as one that thrives on dissent. A fear society, he says, is a society that bans dissent. The only way to guarantee peace and security in the world is for all the nations to be free societies, according to Sharansky. The reason, he said, is that fear societies need enemies to keep their people under control, whereas free people cannot be manipulated by fear into launching wars.

Anyone who has lived through the last four or five years of George Bush’s foreign policy can see an immediate problem with that analysis. If free societies thrive on dissent, has the U.S. been a free society under Bush? According to Sharansky’s narrow definition of freedom, a society is free if its people can express opposing views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm (p. 40). Loss of friends, income or job, intimidation, visits from federal authorities, and so on, are apparently OK in a free society.

In recent years, Republicans have labeled anyone opposed to Bush’s policies as a traitor (including triple amputee Vietnam War vet Max Cleland); college professors with unpopular views have their speaking contracts cancelled and are threatened with loss of tenure; opponents of the Iraq War were visited by FBI agents, and on and on. Maybe no one has been lost in the Gulag, yet (that we know of), but it is clear that even “free” societies can make dissent mighty uncomfortable at times.

Sharansky discusses “double-think” in the Soviet Union, which he describes as the mental gymnastics performed by dissidents who outwardly conformed to the party line, while secretly despising it. He sees no potential for “double-think” in the U.S. if the government can require recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, praying in schools, or displays of the Ten Commandments in public courthouses.

Government-controlled media in the Soviet Union helped glorify leaders, but Sharansky does not notice how in this country, Fox News Channel, the Washington Times, and phony journalists like Jeff Gannon accomplish the same thing outside of government. Who needs a government-run press when you can find private citizens to do the dirty-work for you? Not to mention the Bush administration’s own payments to journalists and government-produced “news” clips. Sharansky is so eager to live in a black and white world that he misses these “fear society” tendencies within American society. He does not see that free societies are in constant danger of sliding into fear societies, that even elected leaders can use fear as a means of bolstering their power (or re-election), and that as a result, civil liberties are never secure and need constant protection even in free societies.

That may be why Sharansky makes the ridiculous claim that having free societies automatically translates into a peaceful world. Dictators, he said, use outside enemies to justify punitive measures at home intended to control the population. “By tapping into the strong national, religious, ethnic, or other sentiments that an ‘enemy’ arouses, regimes in fear societies rally their people to their side and divert attention away from their subject’s miserable living conditions and the regime’s failure to improve them,” wrote Sharansky (p. 83). Sounds like he stole Karl Rove’s 2004 campaign strategy book. Or was it vice versa?

His contention that free societies are peaceful ones is contradicted repeatedly by the historical record. Wasn’t the War of 1812 between two “free” societies? How about the U.S. war with Mexico? Wasn’t the U.S. Civil War between two “free” societies? Wasn’t the Bay of Pigs a U.S.-backed invasion of Cuba? What about Operation Just Cause against Panama? And wasn’t Hitler elected in Germany?

Much of the book deals with Sharansky’s experiences in the Soviet Union. He reveals his ideological bias when he praises Ronald Reagan for bringing down the Soviet Union through the SDI missile defense system (which was never built and has never worked in tests) and by damning Jimmy Carter with faint praise for making human rights part of U.S. foreign policy yet failing to take “decisive action” (without giving any examples of this).

Then Sharansky returns to the theme of free societies vs. fear societies, conflating the war on terror with the war on Iraq and recasting the war on Iraq as a war for democracy rather than a search for weapons of mass destruction. Sharansky selectively quotes Bush in 2003 as saying the war was about democracy and praises him for sticking with that goal. What else could Bush do, once it was clear the WMD claim was bogus?

Next, Sharansky tries to discredit Bush’s critics by implying they believe Arabs are not suited to democracy because of religion, tradition, or other factors. That is a phony argument. Criticism of Bush has mainly centered on how he has bungled the job in Iraq and that what is there now is far from a democracy.

Sharansky ends the book with the hope that Bush will pressure other countries in the Middle East to become more democratic. Sharansky’s influence on Bush is obvious of late. In a recent clip played on “The Big Story with John Gibson," Bush parroted the Sharansky line that, “Free societies don’t attack their neighbors.”
http://www.newshounds.us/2005/03/10/gibson_bomb_a_democracy_with_clean_conscience.php#comments
And another time, he said, that the debate over the war on Iraq “really centers around the fact that people don’t believe Iraq can be free; that if you’re Muslim, or perhaps brown-skinned, you can’t be self-governing and free. I strongly disagree with that.” As Counter-Bias pointed out, critics of Bush’s Iraqi policy would strongly disagree with Bush’s characterization of their position.

For someone who doesn’t like to read, Bush clearly has absorbed a lot of Sharansky’s book. As another Newshound commented, perhaps he read the Condi Clift Notes version. Excuse me, I meant perhaps he had it read to him.

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