EMPIREWATCH Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor-in-chief of the NATION magazine on Chris Matthews this morning. Clad in a mod-looking leather jacket and sharp black turtleneck, Vanden Heuvel claimed that the pending war with Iraq is ” a turning point ” for this nation in terms of becoming an empire and dismissed the President’s policy for democracy in post-Saddam Iraq as a cynical gesture. Setting aside the inherent weirdness of hearing the same rhetoric coming from the NATION as from Pat Buchanan, I think Vanden Heuvel is wrong regarding our intentions to establish democratic norms abroad. Since it is a position I have advocated in the past I’m pleased to sdee the Bush administration move past the State Department and foreign policy elite preference for a Baathist-lite replacement for Saddam – a preference shared by France, Germany,Russia,the Saudis, Turkey and much of the autocratic Arab world. Genuine democracy and – importantly – a commitment to bringing American-style individual rights to Iraq will also send a message to Arafat that the U.S. is serious about not being a midwife to establishing a PLO dictatorship when an independent Palestine becomes a reality.