My Photo
Location: Manchester, New Hampshire, United States

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

(CHICAGO)(January 2, 2007) Two presidents died in the past few days. The way they are being remembered says a lot about them and the nations in which they rose to power.
Gerald Ford came to the White House from humble beginnings and happenstance. He has remained mostly on the sidelines since leaving Washington thirty years ago. Ford inherited chaos in 1974, and created an aura of tranquility that allowed the democratic and political processes to continue. He sacrificed his own electoral future for the good of the nation.
Saddam Hussein was executed, through American incompetence and Iraqi blood lust if you believe the governments, and through American cupidity and Iraqi revenge if you don't. What's to believe? Who belies anything coming out of Washington or the Baghdad regime any more?
Saddam inherited a wealthy nation with a bright future and bankrupted and destroyed his country.
Arabs like to blame the colonial powers for their chaotic governance. But the empires have long since departed, and the chaos only increases. In Egypt, we have the Mubarek regime, an explosion waiting to happen. In Saudi Arabia, small explosions have already occurred; bigger ones may follow. Syria? Another Middle East crime family. Iran, which is not Arab, elected a leader who is more obsessed with proving what did not happen sixty-two years ago than he is with confronting the dismal economic future for his own nation. What gives?
I know from painful personal experience the United States is not a perfect place. I have spent a lifetime fighting corruption in government, in the courts, in daily life. I can count the ways in which we are imperfect. But overarching all of the evil is an essential goodness, and the resilience of a political system that has endured peacefully for over two centuries.
Our elections are not perfect. The little guy doesn’t stand a chance as a candidate against movie stars and millionaires. But he or she can run. There are no laws against criticizing the president.
I was in Washington during the early 1970's. I remember the dispiriting conditions created by the Nixon administration. A president who should be remembered for progressive social legislation and the opening to China is instead enshrined in our history for the Watergate break-in. Nixon won big in 1972; two years later the people had removed him and Gerald Ford was president.
The transition was peaceful, Nixon left; Ford moved in, and politics soon thereafter resumed. Ford may have been an "accidental" president but he was a good man and the goodness of his character almost carried him to reelection.
Saddam Hussein adopted a pattern of governance that can only be called schizophrenic. He pursued progressive social policies extending education and women's rights to the nation. And he pursued a form of governance that was so destructive only Hitler and the Third Reich stand as a counterpart to the self-destructiveness of Saddam's leadership. What kind of system produced this man? What kind of a nation did he leave behind?
Saddam was buried quietly, with the assistance of U.S. helicopters (the American presence, again). Few have mourned him, although many have used his death as an excuse for attacks on his killers.
Sadly, Saddam's death is probably a precursor to similar upheaval and instability across the Arab world. Mubarek wants his son to succeed him in Egypt? That is not likely to happen, not peacefully. Bashir Assad? I would not bet on a quiet end. The Saudis? Take your pick. Iran is a revolution waiting to happen. Only George Bush keeps the mullahs in power.
There is a clash of civilizations going on even though the civilizations are not clashing. How do you explain human beings behaving so differently in the West and the Arab world? Blame it on long dead colonial overlords? Yesterday two new nations joined the European Union. There was joy in the streets. People knew they had joined an organization that, while far from perfect and far from democratic, promised stability, human rights and order, not chaos.
Germany recently replaced its leader; France will do so this year. Tony Blair will probably be gone. No one expects a bloodbath or a nation destroyed. The West has learned from its mistakes. The East has not. Not yet.
And yet the Arab peoples will not be hostages to their leaders forever. Change will come. Peace and order will eventually prevail, perhaps not in my lifetime but in the foreseeable future.
Saddam represents a disgraceful past: a man who literally destroyed his nation. The Iraqi people, all of them, will eventually agree on Saddam's evil, on his destruction of a promising new nation that once had a bright future and where today the lights keep going out. George Bush may have made a mess of Iraq. But Saddam was there before him. Saddam, not Bush, destroyed Iraq.
Despite the clash of civilizations, tranquility predominates in the West. Gerald Ford was a peaceful man who helped save his nation. We honor him for his service and for his humility.
The death of two presidents tells us a lot about two nations, one that desperately needs to heal, Iraq, and one that has already begun to heal in the wake of 2006's election results, America.
Andy Martin is the Executive Editor and publisher of © Copyright by Andy Martin 2006. Comments? E-mail: Media contact: (866) 706-2639. Andy is America’s most respected independent foreign policy, military and intelligence analyst. He is a Middle East expert who is Executive Director of the Revolutionary War Research Center. He has spent 36 years in and out of the Middle East and spent much of 2003 in Iraq.


Post a Comment

<< Home