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True democracy

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President Bush's final--and most diabolical--lie in the campaign to justify the invasion of Iraq is that we are there to bring democracy. We are told this war is for the good of the Iraqi people, to pave the way for self-rule. But it's the reverse of real democracy that the Bush administration has in mind--it's rule to fit the needs of multinational business interests at the expense of the Iraqi people and tens of thousands of American families.

It always seemed simplistic to say that we went to Iraq to gain control of the second-largest oil reserves on the planet. Are we really that brazen? But when we look at the region as a whole, and see that our designs on remaking the Middle Eastern map in the name of "stability" are critical to assuring the free flow of oil and commerce, it becomes apparent that the ruling powers' interest there has nothing to do with any desire to improve the lives of millions of people who are truly in need of a system that works to their advantage.

That may seem obvious to radicals and conspiratorial to everyone else. But I was recently introduced to the books Empire and Multitude, written by Duke literature professor Michael Hardt and Italian political writer Antonio Negri, and their analysis of the current world order makes fascinating sense. The New York Times somewhat cynically called their thesis in Empire--that empires are no longer the domain of nations but of a global network of superpowers, multinational corporations and global institutions like the World Economic Forum--"The Next Big Idea." That book was published in 2001, before 9/11 and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and some said those wars by a sole superpower disproved the notion. But in Multitude, they come back to argue that such wars--and the amorphous "war on terror"--are part of a larger, permanent global war that allows the suspension of true democracy and the assertion of supranational power. Knowing what we know about corporate contracts in Iraq, construction of permanent American bases, and efforts to control the Shiite majority, "The Next Big Idea" seems like an idea whose time has come.

In Multitude (which I'm still digging through), they argue convincingly that just as imperial power has moved across borders, so can true democracy. But it will take resistance at all levels--from landless workers in Brazil to high-tech workers in the United States--to create global democracy that works in everyone's interest.

That sounds pretty high-falutin'. But there's a first step we all can take--go to Fayetteville on Saturday and show that we are ready to retake power. That is the true war for democracy.

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