Deep Underground with Raul Groom

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

David Brooks is funny. Deep Underground took note of a Brooks column not too long ago where Brooks told a pleasing tale about the "settlement" of the U.S., and drew a parallel with the U.S. attempt to reorganize Iraq after invading and destroying it.

Now, the new parallel is between El Salvador in 1982 and Iraq in 2005. Brooks tells us that El Salvador in 1982 was a place of terrible strife and violence. Of course, we're supposed to assume - and if we're Brooks' target audience, we probably will - that this strife and violence was just sort of an endemic condition in El Salvador, which after all, if full of dark-skinned indigenous people of the sort that the U.S. bravely and wisely exterminated during our grand triumph of spirit. So they are probably just violent by nature, right?

Hmm. Actually, looking in my history book here, it seems that El Salvador was ruled for decades by dictators installed and supported by the United States. This state of affairs worked out well for Washingon until, in 1980, Archbishop Romero appealed to the Carter administration to stop sending money and weapons to the right-wing neo-nazi government that was crushing the nascent stirrings of democracy in his country. A month after the letter was received, the Salvadoran government, still receiving ample aid from the U.S., began a brutal war against its own population, massacring hundreds of people and assassinating Archbishop Romero.

These incidents were not particularly of interest to people in the United States, but when four nuns were raped and killed by the Salvadoran army, there began to be an outcry for a change in the U.S. relationship with this murderous terror state.

The reaction of the incoming Reagan administration was to install an apparatus for "free elections" in the country, while allowing the right-wing death squads to continue to arrest and kill any socialist candidates or their supporters. It was against this backdrop that the 1982 elections were held, and the U.S.-backed candidate predictably won. The resulting war of extermination by Duarte's newly installed "democratic" regime would eventually claim some 75,000 lives.

So this gives us a good understanding, actually, of how Brooks feels about the Iraq elections. Obviously when a country is in a violent state of chaos, any elections held in that context are going to favor the side with the most ability to perpetrate massive violence against their opponents. So really, it's wonderful to have elections in Iraq while people are being shot at and blown up from all sides. After all, is a few thousand Iraqi deaths that high a price to pay for an election in which the U.S.-backed candidates are likely to win?

Apparently, a few thousand Iraqi deaths is not really too high a price to pay for anything, considering what the first ten thousand or so got us.


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