What real democracy doesn’t look like

Let freedom reign:

President Bush and his foreign policy muse, the onetime Soviet Jewish dissident Natan Sharansky, are planning a June rendezvous in Prague, at a conference to promote democratic reforms around the world.

Just over two years ago, the newly re-elected Bush was riding a wave of apparent success in his campaign to democratize the Middle East. It was a season known as the “Arab Spring Revolution.” Millions of Iraqis voted in democratic elections. The Lebanese toppled their Syrian-puppet government, ending Syrian occupation of their country. And Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced that he would allow candidates to run against him.

At the time, Bush pointed to a book, “The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom To Overcome Tyranny and Terror,” as his foreign-policy bible, telling The New York Times it was “part of my presidential DNA.” He invoked it in his second inaugural address in 2005, to which he invited Sharansky, the book’s author. Then an Israeli minister and leader of his own Yisrael B’Aliyah party, Sharansky became Bush’s ideological partner in the drive to change the Arab world.

The tide has since turned. The “Arab Spring Revolution” has lost its momentum, and so has the Bush administration. Tens of Iraqi civilians and American soldiers are killed in Iraq daily. The Lebanese government stands incapacitated by the Islamist extremists of Hezbollah. And crackdowns against human and political rights activists and outspoken bloggers in Syria and Egypt are on the rise.

It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry when reading such nonsense. Bush’s so-called democracy agenda has never been anything other than rhetoric, brutal violence and racism. Iraq was never on the road to real freedom, Lebanon was viciously invaded by Israel last year and the Palestinians continue to languish under occupation. The policies of the Bush administration have only worsened the situation of all Middle Eastern people.

Sharansky talks about peace and democracy, but it’s the kind that is uniformly rejected by most Arabs, and rightly so. US-style capitalism is not the model aspired-to by many around the world. Real freedom is, but as Robert Fisk has often said, freedom from us is the key, something most Western powers are unwilling to offer.

With a majority of Iraqi lawmakers now calling for US withdrawal, Israeli soldiers assaulting protestors and Iraq in the grip of ever-growing violence, Bush and his “muse” Sharansky have brought misery, destruction and revenge to the Middle East.

The mass exodus out of Iraq – the largest since the Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from Palestine in 1948 – will create new realities but one thing is clear: true democracy is not the real goal of Bush and his minions. Witness the Western response to the election of Hamas in 2006 for evidence of how “we” deal with Middle Eastern democracy.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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