Why We Should Oppose the Democracy Summit

By David Swanson, World BEYOND War, December 2, 2021

The exclusion of certain countries from the U.S. “democracy summit” is not a side issue. It is the very purpose of the summit. And excluded countries have not been excluded for failing to meet the standards of behavior of those that were invited or the one doing the inviting. Invitees didn’t even have to be countries, as even a U.S. backed failed coup leader from Venezuela has been invited. So have representatives of Israel, Iraq, Pakistan, DRC, Zambia, Angola, Malaysia, Kenya, and — critically — pawns in the game: Taiwan and Ukraine.

What game? The weapons sales game. Which is the whole point. Look at the U.S. State Department website on the Democracy Summit. Right at the top: “‘Democracy doesn’t happen by accident. We have to defend it, fight for it, strengthen it, renew it.’ –President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.”

Not only do you have to “defend” and “fight,” but you have to do so against certain threats, and get a big gang in on the fighting to “tackle the greatest threats faced by democracies today through collective action.” The representatives of democracy at this amazing summit are such experts at democracy that they can “defend democracy and human rights at home and abroad.” It’s the abroad part that may make you scratch your head if you’re thinking of democracy as having anything to do with, you know, democracy. How do you do it for some other country? But keep reading, and the Russiagate themes become clear:

“[A]uthoritarian leaders are reaching across borders to undermine democracies — from targeting journalists and human rights defenders to meddling in elections.”

You see, the problem is not that the United States has long been, in reality, an oligarchy. The problem is not the U.S. status as top holdout on basic human rights treaties, top opponent of international law, top abuser of the veto at the United Nations, top incarcerator, top environmental destroyer, top weapons dealer, top funder of dictatorships, top war launcher, and top coup sponsor. The problem is not that, rather than democratizing the United Nations, the U.S. government is attempting to create a new forum in which it is, uniquely and even more than before, more equal than everybody else. The problem is certainly not the rigged primary election that Russiagate was concocted to distract from. And in no way whatsoever is the problem the 85 foreign elections, counting just those we know of and can list, that the U.S. government has interfered in. The problem is Russia. And nothing sells weapons like Russia — though China is catching up.

The oddest thing about the democracy summit is that there will not be a democracy in sight. I mean not even in pretense or formality. The U.S. public votes on nothing, not even on whether to hold democracy summits. Back in the 1930s the Ludlow Amendment almost gave us the right to vote on whether any war could be started, but the State Department shut that effort down decisively, and it’s never returned.

The U.S. government is not just a system of elected representation rather than a democracy, and a highly corrupted one that fundamentally fails to represent, but it’s also driven by an anti-democratic culture in which politicians routinely brag to the public about ignoring public opinion polls and are applauded for it. When sheriffs or judges misbehave, the main criticism is usually that they were elected. A more popular reform than clean money or fair media is the anti-democratic imposition of term limits. Politics is such a dirty word in the United States that I received an email today from an activist group accusing one of the two U.S. political parties of “politicizing elections.” (It turned out that they had in mind various voter-suppression behavior, all too common in the world’s beacon of democracy, where the winner of every election is “none of the above” and the most popular party is “neither.”)

Not only will there be no national democracy in sight. There will also be nothing democratic happening at the summit. The handpicked gang of officials will not vote or achieve consensus on anything. The participation in governance that you could find even at an Occupy Movement event will be nowhere to be seen. And neither will there be any corporate journalists shrieking at them all “WHAT IS YOUR ONE SINGLE DEMAND? WHAT IS YOUR ONE SINGLE DEMAND?” They already have several completely vague and hypocritical goals on the website — produced, of course, without a shred of democracy being employed or a single tyrant being harmed in the process.

Not wishing to impose thousands of pages on you, let me select at random just one of the invitees to the Democracy Summit as identified by the U.S. State Department: the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Here’s is just a bit of how the State Department describes the DRC in the last year:

“Significant human rights issues included: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings; forced disappearances; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary detention; political prisoners or detainees; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious abuses in an internal conflict, including killing of civilians, enforced disappearances or abductions, and torture and physical abuses or punishment, unlawful recruitment or use of child soldiers by illegal armed groups, and other conflict-related abuses; serious restrictions on free expression and the press, including violence, threats of violence, or unjustified arrests of journalists, censorship, and criminal libel; interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; serious acts of official corruption; lack of investigation and accountability for violence against women; trafficking in persons; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting persons with disabilities, members of national, racial, and ethnic minority groups, and indigenous people; crimes involving violence or threat of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons; and existence of the worst forms of child labor.”

So, maybe it’s not the “democracy” or the human rights. What could it be that gets you invited to these things? It’s not anything. Of 30 NATO countries, only 28 plus various countries targeted for addition, made the cut (Hungary and Turkey may have offended someone or failed to buy the right weapons). The point is simply to not invite Russia or China. That’s it. And both have already taken offense. So success is already achieved.

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