What strange times we live in. The country is at war with an enemy without identifiable borders or a government or army. There is no end date to this war, because there is no way to know if we have won. It is the perfect war for politicians, on all sides, because each party can spin it any way they want—for as long as they like.

Meanwhile, the body bags continue to come in, hidden from public view, masked behind impersonal statistics. We are told things are getting better, but we can’t help but wonder what Israel’s ongoing, incremental annexation of the West Bank means for the safety of Americans.

As Margaret Thatcher demonstrated so successfully with the Falklands war in 1982, any marginally popular politician can resuscitate a flagging term by going to war, all in the name of democracy and freedom from tyranny.

Dubya is learning from Maggie. The words he now uses to justify the invasion of Iraq are virtually identical to hers: to spread democracy and freedom. Never mind the lies about WMDs that were used as a pretext to war.

Today the Bush administration speaks in evangelical terms about spreading democracy and freedom throughout the world. Nice rhetoric, but this is 2005, not 1776. America is no longer the world’s only democracy. Indeed, we are due for our own overhaul. Our two-party system is a relic of the past that today only serves to stifle debate. Our electoral college and its winner-takes-all rules yield a distorted result of the popular vote. Our leaders come almost exclusively from the mercantile and wealthy classes. When was the last time a schoolteacher got elected to high office?

In 2005, people of many nations experienced self-determination and democracy, sometimes with our help and often without. For much of the 20th century, American power was arrayed against democracy in Iran, Chile, Vietnam, South Asia, Philippines, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.

Here at home, it seems every four years we elect an emperor, not a president. Our media fawn over him. In a time of war, our journalists feel compelled to wave the flag before they do their job, which is to dig deeper and uncover the truth. Now we are being shown government-produced media clips with government-paid media consultants without ever being informed of their partisan intent, all paid with taxpayer money.

Yes, we adore our president, and turn on anyone who dares to question his policies. Who needs censorship when citizens themselves are willing participants in groupthink? What does free speech mean when it applies only to the established ideology, not to dissent?

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