The National

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Nov. 1) – Tomorrow will be "the one day of the year" for many of our people.

Worldwide, people are making bets on the outcome of a great race, and much of the world's attention will be focused to see which of the runners will be the new champion.

If we add that in many ways the fate of the world hangs on the outcome, there will be some who think that we are overstressing the importance of this year's Melbourne Cup.

We might well be, were we to attach that much importance to the premier Australian horse race, to be run tomorrow.

We are in fact thinking of the U.S. presidential election, also scheduled for tomorrow.

This event may well be an also-ran for many Papua New Guineans more interested in the outcome at Flemington rather than in Washington. But it is vital that PNG, as a small independent nation in the west of the South Pacific, should pay close attention to the outcome of the U.S. presidential election.

The campaign started with a clear majority for incumbent Republican President George W Bush. It is ending with most polls unable to separate the President from his major challenger, Democrat John Kerry.

An Internet site has been running "world-wide voting" for the U.S. encounter, with an astonishing result.

When last accessed, not one country in the world showed a clear majority of voters for President Bush, and the acceptance of John Kerry was not only global, but by a huge majority.

It seems that this apparent universal distaste for the reigning American administration is not necessarily reflected in the States.

Over the years, Americans have been accused of being parochial in their outlook. It has been suggested that they focus more on domestic issues than on world concerns. Even the current President, whose involvement with "the rest of the world" is mainly responsible for the negative global view of his leadership, often appears to have little factual grasp of the realities outside the borders of the U.S.

On the one hand, Mr Bush is without doubt occupying the most powerful position in the world. In the blinking of an eye, he can unleash war against other nations, often remote from his own. Or he can release a cornucopia of American dollars to those overseas administrations currently in his government's political good books.

Mr Bush has shown a grim determination to administer his view of "democracy" to the rest of the world - a doctor armed with unpalatable medicine who finds himself confronted with a room full of recalcitrant child patients.

The fact that forms of democracy have been embraced by a sizeable proportion of the world's peoples, and have been operating in some cases for a very long time, and with a modicum of success, does not appear to trouble Mr Bush.

As he succinctly commented at the beginning of the Iraq escapade, "those who are not with us are against us, and all we stand for."

It is the aspect of force that so troubles many nations.

Is it appropriate that "democracy," touted as the triumph of rule by and for the people, should be installed by military might?

In our opinion, the Government of Sir Michael Somare deserves much credit for the immediate distancing of this country from active involvement in Iraq.

True, PNG's open support would have meant little when measured beside the resources and military power of the U.S. and her allies.

But it would have been a significant moral victory for the Bush administration.

The great adventure in Iraq has turned horribly sour.

American and allied casualties continue to mount.

The allies have no answer to the random beheading of innocent foreign civilians by fanatical Islamic supporters.

They can do little to protect their military forces from the terrorist and sniper gunfire that has decimated the ranks of the bringers of democracy.

Tomorrow we will begin to find out what Iraq means to the American people.

For us in faraway PNG, perhaps the most important outcome is that there should be a clear-cut result in the presidential elections.

Recent history has shown that the U.S. can be a generous friend to small countries - or an implacable enemy.

These are momentous days.

November 2, 2004

The National:

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