Lucky old Afghanistan and Iraq. The Western world is ready and raring to introduce you to the joys of real democracy. And aren't we just the ones to do it?
Look at old blighty. With a British election imminent, Gordon "Bully Boy" Brown fights for his political life, with a new scandal revealed almost daily. For those of us who grew up identifying with the Labour Party, the last thirteen years of "New Labour" rule under Tony Blair and BBB have come as a demoralizing blow.
Never mind Mr. Blair's arrogant refusal to admit a single regret in invading Iraq. Never mind the sense of entitlement among Labour MPs (Tories too, but who expected anything more from them?) who had the gall to dun the state for personal expenses?
Never mind the corrupt deal between arms giant BAE and the impoverished east African country of Tanzania, enabled by Mr. Blair. Despite opposition from his cabinet, Mr. Blair personally insisted that hugely expensive military radar be sold to a country that needed none of it. Who won? BAE got a fat contract. Several Tanzanian officials got fat bribes. And Tony Blair pleasured yet another of the fancy corporate supporters he so cherished.
Here's how a Guardian article recently summed up New Labour's overall record: the government "accepted the whole Thatcherite economic settlement, has seen an increase in social and economic inequality, worshipped wealth and fawned on high finance at home and abroad, passed a vast array of repressive laws, …. allowed Rupert Murdoch to dictate its foreign policy, and took Britain - with flagrant dishonesty - into a needless, illegal and murderous war in order to support the most reactionary American president of modern times." So fed up are MPs themselves that 128 of them, fully 80 from Labour, are not standing again in the spring election.
But at least Britain doesn't have America's problems. A country bitterly divided, a Congress barely functional, a President who's lost the trust of many of those who elected him and reinforced the opposition of the 54 per cent of whites who voted against him - who accepted the Nobel Peace Prize by escalating the unwinnable war in Afghanistan.
We may be stuck with the Harper government forever, once the Prime Minister prorogues the next election.
An angry populist coalition so pathological and apocalyptic many are arming for the moment the White House imposes its dictatorship, an opportunistic right-wing leadership ready to countenance the craziest and most inflammatory threat by the Tea Party movement, high-profile media stars who routinely compare Barack Obama to Hitler, a militia known as the Oath Keepers consisting of armed military vets and former cops who urge citizens to disregard any laws they don't agree with.
A Democratic Party as venal and opportunistic as the vile Republicans, a system of government often run by greedy special interests and their armies of lobbyists, an administration whose senior economic advisers helped create the economic crisis, a judicial system so partisan it operates on the basis of politics and ideology rather than law, a media running the full ideological gamut from centre-right to lunatic right - Brits must be grateful for their small problems.
Fully 80 per cent of Americans are dissatisfied or angry with their government, and who can blame them? Many of them, more bizarrely, are against all government, except, presumably, to maintain a swollen military to protect American interests abroad.
Oh Canada. Do the travails of our closest historic allies give us comfort? Will the Olympic-sized burst of patriotism give us solace in the face of an impossible political conundrum? We may be stuck with the Harper government forever, once the Prime Minister prorogues the next election. The opposition can't risk defeating him because neither the Liberals nor NDP are likely to benefit at all from another election. So Stephen Harper is left with a virtually free hand to do as he chooses, some of which is quite clear.
Step by step he is limiting dissent. We now see that it's not necessary to introduce repressive legislation to do so. The government has so much purchase in so many parts of society that it can intimidate citizens into submission. New areas emerge in which any deviation from the biases of the government becomes inadmissible. Individuals and organizations are penalized for raising issues or pursuing concerns that the government opposes. Innuendo, insinuation, smears and slurs have become the currency with which the government debases its enemies - and to this government, there is no loyal opposition; those who dissent are enemies, not opponents.
Who would have thought that so many Canadians would buy into the government's phony law 'n order agenda. Legislation to implement the program is so unimportant even to Mr. Harper that much of it died on the order paper when he suspended Parliament. He knows that crime in Canada has steadily declined over the years and there's no evidence that most of the proposed laws would work.
But the law 'n order campaign itself has worked. It's conned Canadians into believing there's reason to be afraid. For the first time in years, a majority of Canadians approve the death penalty, a coarsening of public sensibilities that seemed almost impossible. Capital punishment, ending of the long gun registration, accusations of treason against those who don't support war in Afghanistan, allowing prisoners of war to be tortured and covering it up - Sarah Palin, here we are!
If a government that has the backing of less than a third of Canadians, a Prime Minister who is resented for his inability to resist the low road and the low blow, a leader who ditches absolute commitments without batting an eyelash, who has humiliated the institutions of Parliament, the Supreme Court and the Governor-General, whose economic "expertise" embarrasses economists and whose foreign policy is driven by ignorance and prejudice - what further changes to our national values can he get away with?
And who in the world is going to stop him?
Gerald Caplan is a former New Democratic Party national campaign director and is author of The Betrayal of Africa