Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Letters to the Editor

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Letters to the Editor

Article excerpt

"Democracy" as Marketing Tool

Transmitted as an attachment is the latest wisdom from Uri Avnery.

Uri shares the extreme skepticism which permeates this region as to the genuine enthusiasm of the Bush regime for seeing "democracy" come to the Arab world. Even American polls have shown favorable views of the United States in single figures throughout the Arab world. (A recent Pew poll showed favorable views at 6 percent and 3 percent, respectively, in Egypt and Jordan, the two Arab countries which receive the highest levels of American aid.) Even in the absence of such poll numbers, it would be apparent to all with any knowledge of the Middle Bast that any government in this region which accurately reflected the will of the governed would be fiercely anti-American.

In the real world, it defies common sense to believe that ANY country would genuinely seek to replace governments which are friendly to it with governments which are hostile to it. People in this region are therefore left to speculate as to what real goals and intentions are being camouflaged by the new American crusade for "democracy" in the Middle East. The most benign explanation is that the Bush regime is simply grasping for the most marketable available post-facto justification for the invasion and occupation of Iraq after its original excuse has been exposed as a fraud. The less benign explanation is that public opinion (particularly in the United States) is being manipulated by a pre-emptive justification for one or more future aggressions.

Personally, I view the more benign explanation as a likely-and perhaps sufficient-one. In any event, "democracy" is clearly a clever marketing tool for either purpose-or both. Just as no one one supports "terrorism," no one opposes "democracy." Both words are thoroughly subjective and mean radically different things to different people. Witness "Democratic Kampuchea" (the official name for Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge), the "German Democratic Republic" (the former Bast Germany), the "Democratic People's Republic of Korea," and the "Democratic Republic of Congo."

The Arab world, mired in stultifying stability, is eager for change. Unfortunately, history demonstrates that, even in a bad situation, change may not be an improvement. The United States is clearly eager to bring this stability to an end. One could be more optimistic if there were any reason to believe that those running the U.S. government had even a minimal understanding of Middle Eastern realities.

John Whitbeck, via e-mail

Careful, there. "Democracy" is a touchy subject for those of us who live in the "Capital of the Free World" and have no vote in Congress. Not that we envy our counterparts in Baghdad, who actually are encouraged to vote by the same government that denies representation to its own citizens. If we had the choice between no vote and no car bombs, for example, we'd clearly opt for the former.

Minor Modifications

Bush's most recent deadline for finalization of the Iraqi constitution has come and gone, and another extension is contemplated. But I really don't understand why there is such a problem. The old constitution under Saddam worked quite well.

The Iraqis lived in a basically secular society with no imposition of Islamic law, and were guaranteed full employment, free healthcare for all, free education, including advanced degrees such as medical and legal, and women's rights.

Why don't they just take the old constitution and add the provisions required by the White House, such as privatization of the oil and banking industries and the water system by American companies, the right of KBR and Halliburton to continue their "rebuilding" efforts at outrageously inflated prices, and the continued presence of American troops in the 14 permanent bases that are being built in Iraq? Of course, we would have to give them a minuscule amount of their oil revenues and perhaps permit them to keep some small businesses. …

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