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Bringing Democracy to the Middle East

Keith Parkins | 13.12.2004 15:57 | Analysis | Anti-militarism | Repression

G8 meets Middle East in Morocco under the guise of bring democracy to the Middle East.

'To defeat the murderous extremists in our midst, we must work together to address the causes of despair and frustration that extremists exploit for their own ends.' -- Colin Powell

Under the instigation of George W Bush, G8 held a meeting in Morocco together with Arab leaders with the intention of bringing democracy to the Middle East. At least that was the original intention. No self-respecting Middle East leader would have attended such conference, and so it was watered down to discuss economic and social change. A meeting which lasted all of four hours.

The discussion of this conference by the mainstream media was appalling. One such example was on the World this Weekend, lunchtime Sunday news programme on BBC Radio 4 (1pm Sunday 12 December 2004).

It was taken as a given assumption that the US was intent on delivering democracy, the discussion was how, what type of democracy and was it wanted.

A puerile discussion took place, with so-called 'experts' being wheeled out. The discussion was along the lines: are the people in the Middle East ready for democracy, do we have the right to impose democracy, will it be an Islamic fundamentalist theocracy, will it be friendly to the West?

Or in other words, the discussion was bullshit.

Does it matter if it is friendly to the West? So long as it is not aggressive towards the West, the answer must surely be no. And what do we mean by friendly towards the West? Does it mean opening up the borders to exploitation by western global corporations?

An Islamic fundamentalist regime is unlikely, although the more the West interferes the greater the possibility. What is likely, is a regime, whether totalitarian or with a tilt towards democracy, that has an Islamic tinge. In the same way that western so-called democracies have a Christian tinge. Even the secular regime of Saddam Hussein had an Islamic tinge.

What we do not wish to see, is the creation of evil empires based on fundamentalism, driven by ideologies, as we now see with the regime in the US or its client state in Saudi Arabia.

What do we mean by democracy? Is it the US-style democracy, where mainstream candidates and parties are for sale to the highest bidder? Where social justice does not matter. Where everything is to be determined by the market, and if you don't have the money to participate in the market, you don't count.

Underlying the entire discussion was the notion that the US was intent on delivering democracy to the Middle East. A basic assumption that is clearly false. But this was why the discussion was so puerile, as no one questioned this flawed underlying assumption.

If we look at the track record of the US over the last 50 years or more, it has not been one of delivering democracy. Far from it, it has been one of undermining democracy.

From post-WWII Italy, to Iran in the 1950s, to Indo-China in the 1960s, to Central America in the 1980s, the track record of the US has been that of undermining democracy.

But maybe we are wrong, maybe George W Bush Bush, despite his many shortcomings, means well, is actually intent on bringing democracy to the Middle East.

His track record in Texas does not bode well, where he tore up any form of social and environmental legislation, and created a state where corporations could more or less do as they pleased.

Maybe Iraq serves as the new George W Bush, one who has learnt from his mistakes, and is now a fervent believer in democracy.

Many reasons were given for invading Iraq, these almost changed daily, threats to neighbours, WMDs, regime change, democracy. All have proved false.

Maybe we got onto a false start, but now Saddam Hussein has been toppled, what are the liberators doing to bring democracy to the previously oppressed people of Iraq?

When we look, post-invasion, what we see is a brutal occupation. American soldiers swaggering down the street. Even when they mean well, searching peoples houses, leads to humiliation. Gunning people down on the streets, destroying their property, looting their houses, interring innocent people, failing to rebuild their infrastructure. These are not the signs of a democracy.

One of the first indicators of a free and democratic society, is how it treats its women, do they feel safe to roam the street.

The answer is no. Women feel less safe to roam the streets. They are being snatched by 'misery gangs' and gang-raped. If they are returned, they are then executed by their families for bringing disgrace to the family. When they do dare venture out, they are forced to cover themselves up to not attract attention from the growing ascendancy of Islamic fundamentalists.

As Christian Palenti writes (in The Freedom) 'The political traction of Islam can be seen everywhere, perhaps most obviously in the number of women wearing the hejab or headscarf'.

Freedom is not just the freedom of women, it is the freedom to eat at night, the freedom for society as a whole to feel free. As Peggy Gish writes (in Iraq):

'Security is more than whether one feels safe to venture out and participate in society. Security also means being able to feed one's family, have clean water and adequate shelter, and care for one's health needs. The lack of these things, in turn, fed into the desperation that fuels crime and violent resistance.'

One of the first acts of US appointed Iraq viceroy Paul Bremer, was to sign an executive order giving US corporations the official authority to loot and pillage in Iraq. Not long after, he signed another order to indemnify them for their actions.

There were have been elections November of last year. These were postponed, a puppet regime installed instead. This was because it was seen that a government representing the Iraqi people would demand two things, return of their looted assets, and that the occupiers leave.

There are to be elections in January of next year, but no one believes these will be fair. Candidates have to obtain official approval. No one can stand who criticises the occupiers or their puppet regime.

There is also a stranglehold on the media. Any outlet that criticises the occupiers or their puppet regime, is closed down.

What most gives way to the lie, is the imprisoning of men under the same conditions as existed under Saddam Hussein – the disappeared, the detained, the abused and the tortured.

To quote Christian Parenti again:

'The true nature of Operation Iraqi Freedom appears most clearly in its capricious use of mass detention. It is in this regard that the American occupation most resembles the regime it replaced.'

Aggressors don't speak of conquering their weaker neighbours, they speak of liberation, of bringing democracy. That was how Nazi Germany justified attacking Poland. That was how the Soviet Union justified attacking Hungary and Czechoslovakia. It was how the US justified attacking Iraq.


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Keith Parkins