Like most Americans, I am delighted with the capture of Saddam Hussein and thereby eliminating his ability to inflict harm on his people and his neighbors. The many fine people serving in our armed forces in Iraq deserve a great deal of credit for the dogged pursuit of this ruthless dictator. However, it is well over 25 years too late.
The fact remains that Europe and the United States supported Hussein throughout the 1980's when his brutality was common knowledge in all western governments around the world, including our own. Most looked the other way.
Despite his capture, it remains a fact that the Western democracies helped supply him with the materials to create the gas that was used to kill the Kurds, armaments for his military forces, and other political support including a least one visit to the region to meet with our ally Saddam by our current Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld.
The first President Bush built a coalition to go to war with Iraq only because Saddam made a serious mistake and threatened the world's oil supply by invading Kuwait thereby scaring the heck out of Saudi Arabia's oil rich and undemocratic leadership.
Indeed, it was not until recently when no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq nor any evidence that Iraq was involved in 9-11 that the United States began to emphasize the mission to bring democracy to the region. If you believe that was our real motivation to invade Iraq, then I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.
For a country that is supposed to represent and promote the best ideals of democracy, our relations with other countries have been guided too often by the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, no matter how repugnant the government, often controlled by some type of undemocratic autocrat, might be.
Currently, we give billions of dollars in foreign aid undemocratic countries, such as Pakistan and Egypt, when neither of these countries is a democracy nor trying very hard to become one.
Just as Iraq once was, Pakistan is convenient for our efforts in Afghanistan although it is run by a former Pakistani General named Musharraf who overthrew the elected government in Pakistan and whose last attempt at an election consisted of a vote of confidence in his rule that he somehow won with more than 90% of the ballots cast.
Similarly, Egypt is seen as a bulwark against instability in the Mideast although it has been run by President Hosni Mubarak for twenty years and he wins elections with 99% of the vote since he brooks no opposition. He hasn't even appointed a Vice President since that person might threaten his authority.
Despite this, the U.S consistently supports him. However, if either leader leaves office suddenly through a coup d'etat or assassination or aother way, we will lose our power and influence in the area and be wondering why so many people in these countries hate us.
We need to consistently support the rational, gradual teaching and implementation of democracy throughout the world no matter what political expediencies might seem temporarily necessary.
It should be remembered that our own democracy took many years to mature and it is a fantasy that democratic traditions will develop and work well quickly in countries with little or no tradition of participatory rule.
However, our support of these efforts on a consistent basis over the long haul will help countries develop reliable leadership and governmental institutions and insulate us from charges of hypocrisy.