One of the purported goals of a war in Iraq is to bring democracy to the region. Advocates of this view suggest that the Iraqi people will greet the Americans as liberators. I have a different view.

First of all, I do not really believe that this war is about "freeing" those poor oppressed Iraqis. But let me put my skepticism aside for a moment and let me assume that it's true.

Iraq, assertions to the contrary notwithstanding, is not Pol Pot's Cambodia, not Rwanda, not North Korea. The dictatorship there, as most people experience it, is relatively "mild" (not unlike the autocratic regimes in many other Middle Eastern countries, and definitely a great deal milder than the fundamentalist regime in our friend, Saudi Arabia.) So, a young Viktor Toth there, while suffering from hardships (largely due to the economic isolation of the country, i.e., the sanctions) would nevertheless be able to live a "normal" life. He'd have work. He'd have gone to school. In the evenings, he could go to a nightclub in Baghdad, and then hail down a cab on the way home. If he got injured, he'd be taken to a hospital, where they'd treat him despite the shortage of some essential supplies. If he got robbed, he could yell for a cop who'd come and try to help.

In other words, his life would not be terribly unlike the life I lived in Budapest, Hungary, in the early 1980s. And the reason why I make a personal analogy is because at the time, I was very pro-American. I hated Communism, I hated the one-party dictatorship that we lived under. I'd have loved to see the Iron Curtain come down. When I was drafted as a conscript soldier, at one point I actually told (!) my commander that if a war came, I'd not be able to shoot at Americans, because they did me no harm (I didn't have the courage to add what I thought, namely that they'd be coming to tear down the regime that I hate.)

So let's imagine for a moment that the year is 1985, and the United States decides to tear down János Kádár's evil dictatorship and get rid of his Weapons of Mass Destruction.

So one bright spring day (or more likely, one dark spring night) airplanes appear in the sky above Budapest. And before we realize what is happening, bombs start to fall. Bombs that destroy the power distribution grid, so the city falls into darkness. Bombs that destroy the beautiful bridges across the Danube. A huge bomb, just a block away from where I live (causing all my windows to shatter) that destroys the Theresa switching office, an archaic but still functional rotary switching center that was built in the late 1920s; my phone then goes dead. Another huge bomb two blocks away destroys the Western Railway Station, originally designed by Eiffel. One giant bunker buster or two hits the Gellert hills, under which, rumor has it, is the nation's central air defense command. Yet another huge bomb hits Buda castle, where under a nondescript building sits the country's central electricity distribution command center.

And the bombs continue to fall. Fall on barracks, killing hundreds of conscript soldiers, some friends of mine among them. Fall on more railway lines and stations. Factories of military significance, including an electronics factory where some friends of mine die. The main highway between Budapest and Lake Balaton is bombed into uselessness. As is Ferihegy Airport. The bombs destroy the television transmitter on Szabadság-hegy and the major radio stations. Some historic buildings downtown that house key ministries are turned into smoking craters.

Oh, this is a humane war. "Collateral damage" is minimized. Only a few stray bombs miss their targets, most hit precisely. There's no carpet bombing of the city, there's no terror bombardment with incendiary bombs as in WWII. Some targets, in fact, are intentionally left alone because of fear of massive collateral damage.

Even so, the city is killed. The bridges between Buda and Pest are destroyed. The Metro's tunnel is flooded. The telephone system is dead. There is no electricity. Tens of thousands of people: conscript soldiers, workers at "strategic" installations like that switching office near my home, not to mention those who became collateral damage, are dead. We're not hungry yet, because we had fair warning, and we stocked up on basic foodstuffs. But there's no work, there's no transportation, there's no running water. My neighbor gets a heart attack and dies, because there's no way to call an ambulance. Another neighbor is taken to a hospital in time, but dies there because there's no clean water.

When it's all over: when the government collapses, when the city comes to a complete standstill, American GIs arrive and give me a sack of flour as "humanitarian aid" so that I do not starve.

Do you seriously believe that I'd have greeted them as liberators? Do you seriously believe that if the Communist government (the one that I hated, remember?) gave me a gun, I wouldn't have used it, _voluntarily_, to fight?

And this was me, one who hated Communism enough to leave everything behind one day, and start a new life, penniless, in the West. What about the others? What about those millions who actually believed the government's propaganda and blamed not the one-party state but the West and the economic sanctions for the hardships in their lives?

Of course this scenario was based on the premise that the goal of this war is to liberate Iraqis and establish democracy there. But we already know what "democracy" means in this Brave New World. A "democratic" leader, like Tony Blair, follows orders from Washington even if his actions are totally contrary to what his people believe. A leader like Chirac, who acts according to the wishes of an overwhelming majority of his constituents, is a "weasel". Some look at trade deals as an explanation for Chirac's behavior because the idea that a leader does something simply because he represents the people of his country has become so alien to them, they no longer even consider it as a possibility.

Of course it all makes sense. You just have to remember that War Is Peace. Freedom Is Slavery. Ignorance Is Strength. Saddam Evil. Bomb Iraq.