Americans always have been smug-proud about their democracy, lording it over other nations as liberty in action. Nobody is haughtier about it than President Bush: He self-righteously declared a war so he could export U.S. democracy to Iraq.
But which "democracy"?
The U.S. democracy studied by elementary school students in history primers? Or real-life "democracy" Americans live and read about every day in 2006?
This isn't much to boast about:
• The president informs Congress he won't abide by 700 laws he signed, while also ignoring the law requiring court orders to wiretap citizens' phones.
• Geneva Conventions requiring humane treatment of wartime detainees are rejected as not applicable to the United States.
• Congress promotes cutthroat Tom DeLay to the No. 2 position of power after he hammers Washington's lobbyists into slathering money and favors on Republicans in exchange for favorable legislation.
• Republicans and Democrats alike are increasingly exposed as shaking down businesses for bribes.
• The president, under pressure from religious fanatics, rejects medical research that could save lives, and under pressure from smokestack industry rejects climate research that could spare future generations catastrophic environmental changes.
• Political stooges eager for war concoct phony scare intelligence about nonexistent Iraqi nuclear weapons.
• The president deceives an anxious nation more than 1,130 days ago claiming "mission accomplished" in Iraq.
• The blundering Defense secretary scraps advice of professional military tacticians, resulting in ill-supplied troops sent into combat in Iraq, inadequate forces posted to control overwhelming insurgent warfare and runaway war costs headed toward more than $1 trillion.
• Democrats and Republicans so politically inept and terrified of White House threats they refuse to exercise constitutional oversight to rein in a rogue presidency.
• The White House disguises programs as "national security secrets" to avoid sharing them with the public and Congress and to force weak-kneed judges to kill open-government lawsuits.
• The U.S. democracy's "free press" is threatened with prison for reporting on questionable programs declared "secret" by the president.
• A wide range of states are suspected of rigging elections.
President Bush's idea of an exportable democracy is more about the fabled history of colonists defying England to create a government of lofty ideals and Abraham Lincoln's grand vision: a government "of the people, by the people and for the people."
If Iraq were to emulate the reality of today's government in Washington, President Bush would demand Baghdad's politicians be ousted and replaced with officials who practice true democracy.