How We Denied Democracy to Mideast
By Robert Fisk
We created this place, weaned the grotesque dictators. And we expect the Arabs to trust Bushs promise?
It gets weirder and weirder. As his helicopters are falling out of the sky over Iraq, President Bush tells U.S. things are getting even better. The more we succeed, he says, the deadlier the attacks will become. Thank God the Americans now have a fewa very fewbrave journalists, like Maureen Dowd, to explain what is happening.
The worse things are, the better they get. Iraqs wartime information minister, Comical Ali, had nothing on this; he claimed the Americans werent in Baghdad when we could see their tanks. Bush claims hes going to introduce democracy in the Middle East when his soldiers are facing more than resistance in Iraq. They are facing an insurrection. So lets take a look at the latest lies. Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make U.S. safe, he told U.S. on Thursday. Because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty. Well said, Sir. George Bush Jr. sounds almost as convincing as, well, Tony Blair. Its all a lie. Wethe West, Europe, Americanever excused and accommodated lack of freedom. We endorsed lack of freedom. We created it in the Middle East and supported it.
When Colonel Ghaddafi took over Libya, the Foreign Office thought him a much sprightlier figure than King Idriss. We supported the Egyptian generals (aka Gamal Abdul Nasser) when they originally kicked out King Farouk. Wethe Britscreated the Hashemite Kingdom in Jordan. Wethe Britsput a Hashemite King on the throne of Iraq. And when the Baath party took over from the monarchy in Baghdad, the CIA obligingly handed Saddams mates the names of all senior Communist Party members so they could be liquidated.
The Brits created all those worthy sheikhdoms in the Gulf. Kuwait was our doing; Saudi Arabia was ultimately a joint Anglo-US project, the United Arab Emirates (formerly the Trucial State) etc. But when Iran decided in the 1950s that it preferred Mohammed Mossadeqs democratic rule to the Shahs, the CIAs Kim Roosevelt, with Colonel Monty Woodhouse of MI6, overthrew democracy in Iran. Now President Bush demands the same democracy in present-day Iran and says we merely excused and accommodated the loathsome U.S.-supported Shahs regime.
Now lets have another linguistic analysis of Mr. Bushs words. The failure of Iraqi democracy, he told us two days ago, would embolden terrorists around the world, increase dangers to the American people, and extinguish the hopes of millions in the region. Heres another take: the failure of the Bush administration to control Israels settlement-building on Arab land would embolden terrorists around the world, increase dangers to the American people and extinguish the hopes of millions in the region. Now that would be more like it. But no. President Bush thinks Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is a man of peace.
And then theres that intriguing Bush demand for a revolution in undemocratic Iran. Sure, Iran is a theocratic state (a necrocracy, I suspect), but the morally impressive President Mohamed Khatami, repeatedly thwarted by the dictatorial old divines, was democratically electedand by a far more convincing majority than President George Bush Jr. in the last U.S. presidential elections.
Yes, democracy can be the future of every nation, Bush tells us. So why did his country support Saddams viciousness and war crimes for so many years? Why did Washington give its blessing, at various stages, to Colonel Ghaddafi, Hafez Assad of Syria, the Turkish generals, Hassan of Morocco, the Shah, the sleek Ben Ali of Tunisia, the creepy generals of Algeria, the plucky little King of Jordan and evenbreathe in because the UNOCAL boys wanted a gas pipeline through Afghanistanthe Taliban?
A break here. Fouad Siniora is the finance minister of Lebanon. He is a believer in the American way of life, a graduate of the American University of Beirut and a former lecturer there, an ex-executive of Citibank. He has a valid American visa in his passport. Yet he has been telephoned by the American embassy in Beirut to be told he will not be permitted entry to the U.S.
Why? Because last year he gave $660 at a Ramadan fast-breaking iftah to a charity that runs educational projects and orphanages in Lebanon. The organization is run by Sayed Mohamed Fadlallahonce described by the Western press as the spiritual adviser to Hizbollah. CIA sources long ago revealed that they tried to kill Fadlallahthey failed, but their Saudi-prepared car bomb killed 75 civiliansso Siniora, an Americanophile to his fingertips, is persona non grata in the US. Fadlallah is not Hizbollahs spiritual adviserso he could hardly withdraw his support for its victory over the Israeli army in Lebanon three years agobut the loony-tune security legislation in the U.S. has deprived Siniora of any further contact with a country he admires.
Yes, roll on democracy. Bring em on. The new Rummyworld war on terror is in Iraq. Ban the press from filming the return of dead American soldiers to the U.S. Liberty is what its about, democracy. Accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East, indeed. We created this place, drew its borders, weaned their grotesque dictators. And we expect the Arabs to trust Mr. Bushs promise?
The Independent, November 8, 2003