The Democracy of Fear
Rami Khouri, mild mannered and polite, normally balances his criticism of the West with equal doses of vitriol for Arab leaders and their lieutenants. Not today; he minces no words.
America talks about building democracy in the Middle East. In fact, it fosters mainly violence and failed states.
By Rami G. KhouriOne can contrast Rami's angry article with Bush's speach at West Point "Bush to West Point grads: The message has spread from Damascus to Tehran that the future belongs to freedom." Or with the well crafted article by Massoud Darhally, reporting from the World Economic Forum in Egypt: One step forward, two steps back.
June 5, 2006 issue - Many of us in the Middle East instinctively hold our breath in fear when American and British leaders get together to discuss our region and its evolving politics and nations, as U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair did last week in Washington. They heaped accolades on the new Iraqi government headed by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, and proclaimed yet another beacon of hope and change for the entire Arab world. Bush applauded the "watershed event." Blair, during a fleeting visit to Baghdad, called it "a new beginning" that will let Iraqis take charge of their own destiny.
The view from the Arab world is rather different, based on our own history rather than imagined futures. Since Napoleon's conquest of Egypt two centuries ago, most of us have doubted the sincerity, legitimacy and efficacy of the Western armies that regularly march into our lands to deliver modernity through the muzzle of a French musket or the barrel of an M-1 tank. While Anglo-American politicians proclaim historic strides to replace Arab despotism and darkness with freedom and democracy, people who actually live here and know something about the Middle East shudder. For they witness Iraq and other Arab countries descending into an ever more fractious maelstrom of ethnic, religious and tribal violence. The link with U.S. and British policies is as clear and consistent as it is dangerous and destructive.
"The Democracy of Fear" explains Nir Rosen, writing in the Washington Post, is the only democracy he is seeing in Iraq.
Iraq Is the Republic of FearWe won't even speak of Palestine. But if you want to, read David Hirst this week in the Guardian: Punishment of Palestinians will create a crucible of trouble for the world. George Bush's policies helped build Hamas; now a dangerous linkage with Iran and Iraq threatens a mega-crisis.
By Nir Rosen
Sunday, May 28, 2006; Page B01
Every morning the streets of Baghdad are littered with dozens of bodies, bruised, torn, mutilated, executed only because they are Sunni or because they are Shiite. Power drills are an especially popular torture device.
I have spent nearly two of the three years since Baghdad fell in Iraq. On my last trip, a few weeks back, I flew out of the city overcome with fatalism. Over the course of six weeks, I worked with three different drivers; at various times each had to take a day off because a neighbor or relative had been killed. One morning 14 bodies were found, all with ID cards in their front pockets, all called Omar. Omar is a Sunni name. In Baghdad these days, nobody is more insecure than men called Omar. On another day a group of bodies was found with hands folded on their abdomens, right hand over left, the way Sunnis pray. It was a message. These days many Sunnis are obtaining false papers with neutral names. Sunni militias are retaliating, stopping buses and demanding the jinsiya , or ID cards, of all passengers. Individuals belonging to Shiite tribes are executed.
Under the reign of Saddam Hussein, dissidents called Iraq "the republic of fear" and hoped it would end when Hussein was toppled. But the war, it turns out, has spread the fear democratically.