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Friday, April 30, 2004
 
Simple Man's Burden

As noted elsewhere, our president said this on Thursday:

There's a lot of people in the world who don't believe that people whose skin color may not be the same as ours can be free and self-govern. I reject that. I reject that strongly. I believe that people who practice the Muslim faith can self-govern. I believe that people whose skins aren't necessarily -- are a different color than white can self-govern.

This is a reiteration of a theme first brought up at the April 13 press conference:

Some of the debate really center 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. I reject that, because I believe that freedom is the deepest need of every human soul, and, if given a chance, the Iraqi people will be not only self-governing, but a stable and free society.

This is not about accusing the left/democrats/not us of racism. We're the civil rights party, for chrissake. Only a very few people would ever believe that charge, and they didn't need further encouragement to hate us. It's not about democrats' supposed racism.

Closely read, the quotes condemn only the purported a priori ruling-out of a democracy for the alien Iraqis because they are Muslim and/or brown, not for noting the very real possibility that they won't wind up with one. No one of any consequence is on record saying the former. Acknowledging the argument as something that one needs to distance oneself from is itself dirty. Still dirtier is bringing it up out of the blue. Raising it gives it dignity, legitimacy. Imagine if he had said that he held no truck with people who believed that blacks were subhuman.

It's about getting the words "different," "color," "brown," "white," and "Muslim" out in the open. They're not like us. It's nothing we don't already know, but the repetition in the context of the possibility of having democratic government is useful to Bush. Setting up a dichotomy between white democracies (are we, really?) and brown dictatorships/theocracies is a rhetorical device that equates the supposedly neutral "white" with the unquestioned good of democracy. Nice trick, that.

If, horrors, the government of Iraq somehow turns out to be less than ideal, he can say that he aspired to the best things for the [brown, Muslim] Iraqi people, but they failed. Also, the possibility opens up that the racists were, wink-wink, right.

This is a not-so-indirect appeal to racial and religious bigotry, and it's disgusting.

Billmon is all over this line of thinking. I see another Koufax in his very near future.