Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Bush and democracy

Responses to the laughable idea that the United States, and in particular, George Bush, is responsible for bringing democracy to the Middle East:

  1. Dilip Hiro:

    "The United States flaunts the banner of democracy in the Middle East only when that advances its economic, military, or strategic interests. The history of the past six decades shows that whenever there has been conflict between furthering democracy in the region and advancing American national interests, U.S. administrations have invariably opted for the latter course. Furthermore, when free and fair elections in the Middle East have produced results that run contrary to Washington's strategic interests, it has either ignored them or tried to block the recurrence of such events."

  2. Tony Karon:

    "Most of the archaic autocracies of the Arab world are actually long-time U.S. client regimes. And while we should all hail the fact that people are voting, the tendency in Washington is to ignore what they're actually voting for."


    "If Arab autocrats have been hesitant in backing their U.S. patron's Mideast policies, that's only because their own citizenry is implacably hostile to the same policies. Mubarak's greatest challenge, if Egypt were a genuine democracy, wouldn't come from the liberal democrats of the Ayman Nour variety, but from the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. The same is probably true in Syria. It's not out of a desire to follow the U.S. example, but because of the desire to repudiate it and the self-serving local elites it has long sustained, that much of the Arab world is now demanding its democratic rights."

  3. Juan Cole:

    ". . . the Bush administration is widely seen in the region as hypocritical, backing Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and of the Golan Heights (the latter belonging to Syria) while pressuring Syria about its troops in Lebanon, into which Kissinger had invited Damascus years ago. Bush would be on stronger ground as a champion of liberty if he helped liberate the Palestinians from military occupation and creeping Israeli colonization, and if he brokered the return of the Golan Heights and Shebaa Farms to Damascus in return for peace between Syria and Israel. The end of Israeli occupation of the territory of neighbors would deprive the radical Shiite party in Lebanon, Hezbollah, of its ability to mobilize Lebanese youth against this injustice. Without decisive action on the Arab-Israeli front, Bush risks having his democratization rhetoric viewed as a mere stalking horse for neo-imperial domination."

  4. Again Juan Cole, on the intentionally unworkable Iraqi constitutional provisions gifted to the Iraqi people by the liberating Americans:

    "The US spiked the Iraqi parliamentary process by putting in a provision that a government has to be formed with a 2/3s majority. This provision is a neo-colonial imposition on Iraq. The Iraqi public was never asked about it. And, it is predictably producing gridlock, as the UIA is forced to try to accommodate a party that should be in the opposition in the British system, the Kurdistan Alliance."

  5. Pepe Escobar (referring to the 2005 Transparency International (TI) report on corruption, and to Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq):

    "Bremer's CPA imposed myriad laws over Iyad Allawi's transitional government. Washington controls almost every excruciating detail of Iraq's economy: that's how the 'new' Iraqi administration was conceived by the neo-conservatives. The Ministry of Energy is in effect American-controlled. American-paid officials control all the key administrative positions in each relevant Iraqi ministry. Their mandate lasts for five years. Gung-ho privatization has not even started in full - and it will make a mockery of all the warnings included in the TI report.

    Hakim says that the Iraqi population wants a full American troop pullout, and no American 'permanent military bases'. He may be right, but it won't happen. A Sunni Baghdad businessman was savvy enough to note, 'We all know the Americans are building 14 military bases all over the country. And we all know they won't leave them. Does that sound like freedom to you?'"

  6. Matthew Yglesias:

    "Speaking of Iraq policy, I seem to have misset my clock radio last night and instead of the usual NPR got what I think was C-SPAN Radio where they had Marina Ottaway on. She, unlike pretty much everyone else one ever hears talking on this subject, did an admirable job of raising the elephant in the corner of American Iraq policy, the fact that near as anybody can tell the administration is still trying to finagle some kind of permanent military basing agreement in Iraq. That the administration has managed to hew consistently to this agenda without ever stating that this is one of their major policy goals is astounding, and that the American media is consistently unwilling to discuss the point is appalling. What's even more astounding about it is that one regularly hears and reads in expert commentary that we ought to 'make clear' that this isn't what we're doing. Apparently, it's impolitic to note that Bush isn't making it clear that we don't want permanent bases because we do, in fact, want permanent bases."

  7. William Blum, referring in particular to American attitudes towards Cuba, but generally commenting on the American misuse of 'democracy':

    "As numerous interventions have demonstrated, the engine of American foreign policy has been fueled, not by a devotion to democracy, but rather by the desire to: 1) make the world safe for American transnational corporations; 2) enhance the financial statements of defense contractors at home; 3) prevent the rise of any society that might serve as a successful example of an alternative to the capitalist model; 4) extend political and economic hegemony over as wide an area as possible, as befits a 'great power'; and 5) fight a moral crusade against what cold warriors convinced themselves, and the American people, was the existence of an evil International Communist Conspiracy."

It's necessary for progressives to have a little perspective before drinking the kool aid and following the 'wingers into sanctifying Bush and his mission to bring freedom to all. Neocon plans for the world are no different than the usual American plans for the past fifty years, which have always involved world domination hidden under a thin veneer of bringing the form, but not the reality, of democratic choice to the citizens of various American client states. The only exception to this is post-war Europe, which only received better treatment due to the paleness of its inhabitants. Bush is just another in a long line of American leaders who have tried to take over the world by blowing the smoke of 'democracy' over violent neo-colonialism.