Tags: The | Contagion | Freedom

The Contagion of Freedom

Thursday, 03 March 2005 12:00 AM

Within hours after the Lebanese demonstrators toppled their pro-Syrian puppet government, even the most sober Syrians began to sing "Show Me the Way to Go Home." And three anti-Bush Americans with whom I'd quarreled told me that President George W. Bush may actually have changed the world for the better. One went so far as to suggest the president might wind up with a Nobel Peace Prize!

You've got the Rose Revolution in Georgia, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the Purple Revolution in Iraq (the color of the ink the death-defying voters dipped their fingers in to show the "Vote and You Die" crowd they had indeed voted).

You've got Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, in effect admitting that all his previous elections were frauds by calling this time for a real one, with genuine opposition.

You've got the dictator of Syria, Bashar Assad, handing over a most-wanted half-brother of Saddam Hussein to the Iraqi government, in effect saying, "Please go easy on us – we're changing!"

You've got the most legitimatized leader of the Palestinians in history and, despite another Tel Aviv bombing in late February, a potential peace in the Holy Land that can finally be seen without high-powered binoculars.

If, instead of gloating, you spend your time reading the small print in the New York Times, you find still more reason to cheer the Bush-ogenic flash-contagion of freedom.

Kyrgyzstan, embedded in the forgotten part of what was Soviet Asia, had a little Lebanon concurrent with the big one in Beirut in which historically quiescent mobs took to the streets, blocked traffic and occupied a government building to protest the "disqualification" of certain candidates for office. Did the White House spin-masters get so drunk on triumph they overlooked that AND Togo?

Yes, Togo! Ever since independence, the ‘African Way" in far too much of black Africa has been "Kill your way to the top. Jail or shoot all opponents. Rule with an iron hand connected to a sponge-rubber conscience. Loot the treasury. Name everything that's built after yourself. Develop first-name relationships with Swiss bankers. And arrange so that when you die your eldest son will – smooth as an eel zipping through Vaseline – take your place."

That was then. That was before the Bush Contagion of Unbelievably Good News in Bad Places.

This time the people of the West African nation of Togo took to the streets and said "No, you don't! Not any more!" They were joined by the African Union. The young son withdrew. The Togo Parliament appointed a temporary leader. Free elections coming up.

The most sadistic act I'm capable of is looking people square in the eye who ridiculed me for saying Bush would win the last election. That's all. Just looking. If you want to ape my high standards of humanity, rattle off all the above to your anti-Bush friends and ask: "Hey. How much of this do you think would have happened if we hadn't gone in and overthrown Saddam Hussein?" (Warn them that their own thought-leaders admit the correct answer is zero!)

There's no reality TV show looking for people like me to face the camera and recount "How I Became a Neocon." (Can you be a neocon today if you've felt the way you feel since 1948?) If there were, I think my testimony would at least keep the audience awake, if not hold them spellbound in my platinum tweezers.

After World War II I was old enough to read the Reader's Digest, Life magazine and my hometown newspaper. Beginning in 1947, they and almost the entire American media began to detail how our former Great Soviet Ally had become the new Nazi Germany, repressing all the populations they pretended to have "liberated" just two and three years earlier. At that impressionable age I concluded: "Fire is hot. Water is wet. Barbecue and Brunswick stew are great. And communism is bad."

In October 1951 I joined my classmates traveling from Chapel Hill, N.C., to College Park, Md., for the our big Carolina-Maryland football game. Then-Princess Elizabeth was in Maryland's Byrd stadium. At halftime at the hot dog stand I ran into Bill Dentzer, president of the National Student Association, of which I was Virginia-Carolinas chairman.

Bill told me the Yugoslav Union of Students had invited us to send a delegate at their expense to the Zagreb Peace Conference, a Tito copy of Soviet "peace conferences," but Tito was the one Communist leader on OUR side. Dentzer asked if I would go. Stupidest question that brilliant man ever asked! Off I went.

I didn't have much sophistication packed into my mental handbag, but I had this much: I knew I was about to see my first Communist country, and I figured a lot of the bad stuff I'd heard and read about communism would turn out to be exaggerated.

As happens so often, what was sophisticated was also wrong! Communism was worse than I'd been led to believe!

Although those Yugoslav hammers and sickles and pictures of Marx and Lenin and Tito represented a regime on our side, that helped the people of Yugoslavia not one whit. They were living under communism every bit as oppressive as that of Hungary, Albania, Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, East Germany and the Soviet Union itself.

Dictators may fool Harvard faculty today, but they couldn't fool a Tar Heel undergrad back then!

It was so blisteringly obvious that the people of Tito's Yugoslavia hated the communist system and were terrified to utter one word against it. Later journalistic service in the aftermath of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and visits to the Soviet Union not only confirmed but reinforced my impressions. A government called "communist" ruled. But the people down below hated it and became progressively less and less afraid to speak out.

Although just out of short pants and still speaking soprano, I wrote, beginning in student newspapers, and preached wherever I could that "The people under those dictatorships are against their leaders, they're with us, and they're praying we'll one day rise up and be with them and set them free."

Obviously, my juvenile neocon efforts back in the 1950s were like dropping a honeysuckle down the Grand Canyon and waiting for an echo. Nonetheless I felt considerably heftier than a honeysuckle the night the Berlin Wall came down in 1989.

So for me it's still 1951 and everything is still communist Yugoslavia. Is it such neocon insane radicalism to imagine that oppressed peoples everywhere KNOW they're oppressed and want their oppressors overthrown?

I sit here watching free Lebanon and all the rest, vastly more pleased than surprised. There are about as many people who simply don't want freedom as there are children who simply don't want ice cream. Major universities specializing in foreign affairs fail to transmit that fact of life over a period of four academic years.

One of the most astounding things I've learned in my travels is that, smack in the middle of World War II, students in Nazi Germany had to memorize ALL FOUR VERSES of their English enemy's anthem, "God Save The King."

Can you believe it? "God Save The King"!

I suggest that we've progressed now to the fourth verse of our own "Star-Spangled Banner," which contains the lyric

President Bush has started, though not yet finished, my ultimate political aspiration born there in the deprivation of communist Yugoslavia in 1951.

"Get on the side of the oppressed people and show their repressive governments the fullness and omni-dimensionality of your purple finger."

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Within hours after the Lebanese demonstrators toppled their pro-Syrian puppet government, even the most sober Syrians began to sing "Show Me the Way to Go Home." And three anti-Bush Americans with whom I'd quarreled told me that President George W. Bush may actually have...
The,Contagion,Freedom
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2005-00-03
Thursday, 03 March 2005 12:00 AM
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