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They will make a dictatorship and call it democracy


Arab world reactions to President Bush's "Democracy" speech ranged from cautious optimism to
frank incredulity. An interview with Georgetown University professor Daniel Brumberg at the Council for Foreign Affairs seems to indicate in a brutally frank way that the less credulous may have it right.
From time to time various pundits have suggested that the US should settle for less than democracy in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, or frankly, that it should settle for dictatorship. Brumberg's interpretation of Bush's speech shows how Bush may be saying "democracy" and meaning something else.

The jewel in in this interview is perhaps the following line:
"The autocracy of the Arab world exists not despite, but because of, a certain measure of freedom."

Does this mean that freedom causes autocracy, or that autocracy causes freedom? Yes it is really and truly in the interview. No, it was not written by George Orwell, and it is not 1984. It gets worse as we read on. We are back with Humpty Dumpty making words mean whatever he wants them to mean. Brumberg is saying that if it is up to the USA, there is not a chance in Hell that there will be democracy in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East, that the USA doesn't intend to bring about democracy at all. The government of Egypt is held up as an example of what the US might be striving to attain, for example in Iraq. "It is a dictatorship, but really it is not too bad, because not too many
people are murdered outright. We don't like straightforward murders. Of course, if many thousands
die of schistosomiasis or starvation or overwork or poor natal care, that is only to be expected. "

The operative paragraph is perhaps this one:

So, on the one hand there is an equating of these regimes with the Soviet Union, a notion that liberty will produce democracy. That's on the level of aspiration and ideology. And then there is the level of hard politics, which is: "We know that political liberalization doesn't necessarily open the path to democratization. And we don't even want it to, because if it did, it would only empower the Islamists. So we are going to talk about women's rights. We're going to talk about economic liberalization. We're going to talk about free trade. We're going to talk about civil society. We're going to talk about freedom. But we're not going to talk about constitutional reforms."

It is not clear to anyone except neocons what the relation might be between free trade and democracy. Nor does women's rights make any sense. If men don't have any rights, then making women equal with men is not worth very much. If elections can have only one outcome, then what is the point of giving everyone the right to vote?

As in Egypt, people in Iraq and elsewhere will have the right to complain about the situation, as long as they blame the situation on the Jews or the Zionists or the Americans and not on the government. In Egypt, Saad Eddin Ibrahim got a long prison sentence, mostly because he noted that President Mubarak seems to be grooming his son as successor. Iran is given as a bad example. However, unlike Egypt, Iran has a real opposition, and a President who is working for reform with a mandate from the people. Iran has had several changes of government brought about in fairly democratic elections since President Mubarak came into office in 1981. So why is Iran a bad example, while Egypt is a good example?

Maybe Brumberg's interpretation is the wrong one, and maybe he doesn't know any more
than the rest of us, but his analysis has the disturbing ring of truth to it, and in fact, quite strangely,
free trade associations are part of the US program for "democracy."

What is bad for the people of the Middle East will undoubtedly be worse for the USA. Repressive regimes force all the opposition into Islamism, so everyone who is opposed to the government becomes an Islamist, and is also opposed to the USA. It is necessarily so because in a Muslim country, religion is the one thing that the government can't touch. They can co-opt and repress NGOs, suppress students, close down newspapers and political parties. But they don't usually date to touch the mosques. So the religious organization is the only non-government group that is left intact and it must become the vehicle for protest. That is why Ayatollah Khomeini was so successful in spreading his message in Iran and provoking a revolt through the mosques, beginning in the holy city of Qom. In Egypt, Syria and Jordan, it is not surprising that the only threat to the government comes from the Islamists. It is not that all Arab people are in favor of reaction and fanaticism, but rather that their governments don't allow them any other way of protesting. The result is that whenever the so-called "benevolent autocracy" regimes fall, as the Shah did in Iran, the replacement regime hates the USA.

Who is next? Most likely Saudi Arabia. In July of 2002, Pentagon consultant Richard Perle sponsored a now infamous slide show which made the case for regime change in Saudi Arabia. Perle may well get regime change in Saudi Arabia, but the resulting regime will not be what he hoped for at all. Meanwhile, US policy makers make pious pronouncements about "democracy" or cynical one about autocracy that is due to freedom, and continue to support the same old, same old. When the upheaval comes, they will wring their hands and say "who could have known?"

Ami Isseroff


Mideast Expert Brumberg: Bush Mistakes Arab 'Autocracies' for Soviet 'Totalitarianism'

Daniel Brumberg, an associate professor at Georgetown University and a spedeletedt on democracy in the Middle East, says that President Bush's speech on the importance of democratizing the Arab world mistakenly compares Arab "autocracies" with Soviet totalitarianism.

In the Arab world, Brumberg contends, there is considerable "liberty," if not democracy, in the majority of Arab states, and the Bush administration has no intention of causing these states serious problems for fear of bringing hostile Islamic governments to power. Brumberg is a Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Democracy and Rule of Law Project.

He was interviewed on November 7, 2003, by Bernard Gwertzman, consulting editor for cfr.org.


What is your overall impression of President Bush's November 6 speech on bringing democracy to the Middle East?

This was an important speech because it defines what, from the point of view of the Bush administration, is a long-term commitment to transforming the region and making democracy a pillar of U.S. foreign policy. That concept has been floating around for a while, but now it is much more official. We've been very comfortable living with autocracies in one form or the other in that region for a long time. So, in that sense, the speech is very positive.

But on the negative side, if you read this speech closely, it really evokes the kind of neoconservative view of the region that tends mistakenly to equate the nature of autocracies in the Middle East with that of totalitarianism in the former Soviet Union. This is a major confusion that could lead the administration into misunderstanding what it is dealing with. You have a lot of aspirations and a good serving of ideology in Bush's speech and in the administration's approach, which ultimately will have to deal with reality.

What distinguishes what happened in Eastern Europe, where in the 1980s and '90s the Soviet bloc collapsed and democracies arose in some of the countries, from what is possible in the Middle East today?

The difference is that, for the most part, the regimes of the Arab world are not totalitarian. They are autocracies that mix both elements of autocratic rule and a degree of freedom and openness. That is very different from the former Soviet Union and its allies, which tried the best they could to be totalitarian regimes that denied all freedoms. And Bush's harping on this notion of freedom and his tendency to equate freedom with democracy in his speech reminds us that the administration is looking at the Arab world through the prism of the Soviet Union and through the prism of Iraq, which was the regime that came closest in many respects to the totalitarian model. The autocracy of the Arab world exists not despite, but because of, a certain measure of freedom.

You wrote an interesting essay for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in which you divided the autocracies in the Middle East between "full or total" and "liberalized or partial" autocracies. Could you explain your thinking?

Full autocracies, one of the categories, are closer to the totalitarian model. They strive for total control. They don't brook any kind of dissent. In that way, they do echo the Soviet and Marxist-Leninist model.

Which countries fit that category?

Certainly Iraq was the primary example of that. Iran is as well. Syria is, to some extent. Tunisia is and, in many ways, so is Saudi Arabia. But all this is a matter of degree. Certainly, I suppose Iraq and Iran are closest to the model, and then I would put Syria there.

But in Iran, you have constant demonstrations and a president who disagrees with the ruling mullahs.
Iran is an interesting example of what I think is the possibility for even a total autocracy to find ways perhaps to liberalize over time. If Iran's leaders were smart enough, they would see that it would be wise for them to engage in a certain degree of political opening. But they see this as a slippery slope to their own destruction and behave just as the former hardliners in the Soviet Union did. For the most part, these regimes are not willing to allow any formal political openings. In some respects, the election of President Mohammed Khatami in Iran was the result of a miscalculation by the hardliners, who failed to realize when he was elected in 1997 how much his candidacy would galvanize the discontent of the new generation of young people in Iran.

But the Iranians have also demonstrated their capacity to repress and survive. That demonstrates the limitations of the reform movement, certainly in the short and medium term. I don't think the fundamental nature of the Iranian regime will change any time soon. That's one of the hard realities that the Bush administration will have to face up to.

What is the other kind of autocracy?

The liberalized or partial autocracies are those that deliberately allow a certain degree of freedom and liberty and use this as a mechanism to divide the opposition, to let it blow off steam. This gives people, particularly in the political elite both within and outside the regime, a sense that they have some room to breathe; this creates a readiness to accept the regime, so long as it doesn't use the kinds of violent totalitarian methods that would be typical of an Iraq. But reading Bush's speech, you would think these regimes are all a replica of the totalitarian or neototalitarian or total autocracy model of Iraq, but they are not.

Which countries fit into this category?

Most of the regimes in the Arab world are liberalized autocracies. These include Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Oman. These regimes are in no way regimes that deny people the right to express themselves or to exercise a certain degree of liberty. They count on that exercise of liberty to stave off further demands for democratization. These are regimes that are good at political liberalization and which use it as a mechanism to ultimately prevent a step forward from liberalization itself to full democratization. They do it very successfully.

In Egypt, there are many media outlets and an elected government. How controlled is the press and how free are the elections?

First of all, you really don't have a democratic election or legislative system. What you have is a ruling party that uses its capacity to distribute patronage to its normal constituents and uses its political machine essentially to replicate its power every few years in an election, which allows very little actual space to opposition parties to participate, to mobilize the population, or in any way to threaten the power and hegemony of the ruling establishment. Elections exist as a way of opening up a kind of safety valve, but overall they serve to enhance the power of the regime. And that's true of all the liberalized autocracies in one way or the other.

As far as the press is concerned, there are opposition papers. They are allowed to publish criticisms of the regime that don't go beyond a certain kind of ambiguously defined [so-called] red line. This is never fully clear. One of the red lines is that you are not allowed to criticize the military or to insult the presidential family, which is treated almost as a royal family in Egypt. But so long as you stay within those boundaries, a lot is said and has been said by the opposition parties and press, in terms of criticism. Once again, in no sense can that be compared to the Iraqi regime.

At the same time, the government has a whole host of laws in the constitution and in the statutes themselves that give it the power and authority to clamp down and silence any of these opposition groups it deems in some sense has crossed the red line. There is a joke: "You have freedom of speech, but you don't have freedom after speech."

How do you think Arab capitals will react to Bush's speech?

I think most of the regimes will be pretty nervous about this rhetoric because they are really afraid that Bush will start pushing for changes that will open up the doors to the [so-called] Islamists and empower forms of opposition that are in many respects threatening to the status quo. And these Islamist groups would be perhaps even more autocratic than many of these regimes right now. At the same time, [the regimes] know that the United States counts on the political support of the leaders of most of these nations in the Arab world and is not about to pull the rug out from under them. The United States counts on these regimes to maintain the geostrategic balance of power in the region. So, we can't compare our attitude toward Egypt with our attitude toward the government in Poland in the 1960s and 1970s or something like that.

It occurred to me, before the Iraq war, that if there really were free democracies in the Middle East, the unpopularity of the United States would likely have guaranteed that Washington would never have had any bases or support against Iraq in the region. Do you agree with that?

Yes. In the current conditions, if you had open elections, you would find yourself in a serious problem because it would only empower those opposition groups that are adamantly opposed to policies such as any kind of peace with Israel, for example. The mainstream Islamist groups-not just the radicals-the ones prepared to participate in elections for the most part, with very few exceptions, reject any kind of peace treaty with Israel. Most of these Islamist parties engage in and use as a regular part of their ideology the most anti-Semitic forms of rhetoric that you can imagine.

The choice for the liberal autocracies is not to clamp down on the Islamists-these governments are too smart for that-but to offer them ways of state-managed inclusion that really don't give them political power but nevertheless give them some controlled voice. You find Islamists included in elections in places like Algeria, Morocco, and Kuwait, but that doesn't allow them to wield actual power. It's an interesting division of labor.

Is Bush advocating a policy that would be self-destructive to the United States?

No, because I think that ultimately there is a huge gap between the rhetoric of democratization and the reality of our actual policy. I think the people in the administration know very well that, in practical terms, there is a huge difference between liberalization and democratization and that even a measure of freedom by itself doesn't necessarily add up to a process of democratization. Bush said in his speech: "Working democracies always need time to develop-as did our own. We have taken a 200-year journey toward inclusion and justice." I am not sure the Bush administration is willing to say it is ready to wait 200 years, but that's the loophole in the speech. The administration can say that those countries have their own traditions; we're not going to impose this; it took us 200 years. It is a standard conventional American approach, which is to promote liberalization in the hope that down the road it opens the door to democratization. But in no way are we ready to push the democratization button because we know this could empower the Islamists.

So, it is more of an evolutionary approach?

This approach has always been at the heart of our [vision of] political change in the region. The difference is that in the past we had a policy of advocating democratization programs: USAID [the U.S. Agency for International Development], the National Endowment for Democracy. They are all there. Now it is elevated to high policy. It is more prominent. But when you look closely at the rhetoric, you will see that the aspiration for democratization and the policies are not quite the same. It is not as if the administration is totally unaware of the nature of these regimes. So, on the one hand there is an equating of these regimes with the Soviet Union, a notion that liberty will produce democracy. That's on the level of aspiration and ideology. And then there is the level of hard politics, which is: "We know that political liberalization doesn't necessarily open the path to democratization. And we don't even want it to, because if it did, it would only empower the Islamists. So we are going to talk about women's rights. We're going to talk about economic liberalization. We're going to talk about free trade. We're going to talk about civil society. We're going to talk about freedom. But we're not going to talk about constitutional reforms." Nobody in the administration is proposing the kind of constitutional reforms you had, for instance, in Indonesia in the last few years, which created a problem but actually represent the populace. No one is talking about that, either in the [government's] Middle East Partnership Initiative [to promote reform], or in USAID, or in the State Department. It is this gap between reality and the actual policy that I think is interesting.

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Replies: 1 Comment

by Khalid Amayreh

One of the most enduring myths about Israel is the often-made claim that it is a democracy. The big lie is marketed effectively in many Western countries where Zionist-controlled or Zionist-influenced media has a definite stranglehold on public opinion. consequently, the “veracity” of the myth is taken for granted by many politicians, journalists, intellectuals and ordinary people, and is used as a ready-made weapon against Israel’s critics.

The truth of the matter, however, is that Israel is not a real democracy but rather a nefarious ethno-centric terrorocracy that heavily employs state-terror as official policy.

This terror, with all its evil manifestations, is sanctioned by the law of the land and defended doggedly by a potent propaganda machine comprising hundreds of news outlets from Sidney to California.

For skeptics who might still be induced to give Israeli “democracy” the benefit of the doubt, let us consider the following facts.

Israeli leaders from Ben-Gurion to Ariel Sharon committed incalculable crimes against innocent civilians. Some of these crimes assumed genocidal dimensions, such as the Dir Yasin, Tantura, Jenin and Sabra and Shatilla massacres.

The First Israeli Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, directed and presided over the utter destruction and obliteration of as many as 500 Palestinian towns and villages. The remains and relics of some of these towns and villages are documented in Walid Khalidi’s masterpiece, “All that remains.”

That was ethnic cleansing on a very large scale, a crime against humanity by every conceivable standard. Needless to say, the Israeli state committed this genocidal crime willfully for the purpose of effecting Zionism, and building a purely racist Jewish state with as few non-Jews as possible.

Another Prime Minister, the infamous Menachem Begin, praised the Dir Yasin massacre, calling it a “miracle.”

Another Israeli Premier, Yitzhak Shamir, masterminded the killing of hundreds of Palestinian and British civilians. His responsibility for the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem prompted the British government to place him on its most wanted list.

Even, Yitzhak Rabin, the celebrated “peace maker” and Nobel Prize laureate, had carried out several atrocities against Palestinian civilians in Lud and Ramleh. And while acting as Defense Minister during the first Palestinian uprising against Jewish colonialism, he ordered his soldiers to break Palestinian youngsters’ bones.

When Rabins’ ideological son, Ehud Barak, sought to convince Israeli Jews to elect him as Prime Minister, he had to remind them of the most graphic details of how he murdered three Palestinian leaders in Beirut in the late 1970s. The grisly reminder worked effectively, and the decorated terrorist became Prime Minister.

Then came the arch-terrorist of them all, Herr Ariel Sharon, Der Fuhrer, a certified war criminal of Hitler’s and Saddam Hussein’s ilk. Sharon, whom the ignoramus of the White House so unscrupulously called “a man of peace,” is responsible for shedding more innocent blood than any other Israeli leader. Here are some of Sharon’s known infamies: The wicked former general slaughtered scores of innocent peasants at the village of Kfar Kassem in the mid 1950s. In 1956, he slaughtered hundreds of Egyptian prisoners of war by ordering them crushed under the treads of Israeli tanks in the Sinai Peninsula in 1956. And in 1982, during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, Sharon oversaw the mass slaughter of some 2000 unsuspecting boys, women and children.

Sharon never really regretted the killing, and his atrocities eventually earned him the glorious title of “malich Yisrael” or “King of Israel.” Far from trying and punishing him for his diabolical crimes, Israel actually elected him twice as Prime Minister, with a landslide majority.

For the past 30 months, Sharon has been carrying out one of the ugliest reigns of terror in the history of humanity, prompting the former Israeli minister of education, Shulamit Aloni, to remark that “we have become a barbarian people.”

Sharon’s crimes against the unprotected and largely unarmed Palestinians transcend reality and defy human imagination.

Sharon has presided over killing and maiming of tens of thousands of civilians, the destruction of thousands of homes, orchards, farms, fields, and civilian infrastructure, forcing many conscientious Jews and non-Jews to draw comparisons between the Nazi holocaust against the Jews and the Israeli war of liquidation against the Palestinians.

Over a year ago, a Jewish British Member of Parliament, Paul Kaufman, remarked that “Sharon has made the Star of David look like the Swastika of Hitler.”

Oona King, another British Jewish MP and a member of the Jewish Council for Racial Equality, remarked that “Gaza is the same in nature as the Warsaw Ghetto.” She added that “as a Jew, I hoped I would never live to see the day I was ashamed of the actions of the Jewish state.”

The honorable Jewish lady knew what she was talking about. She was referring to Pregnant Palestinian women shot dead or forced to give birth at Israeli roadblocks, having been barred access to nearby hospitals by Zionism’s heroic soldier

She was alluding to hundreds of Palestinian towns, villages, hamlets and refugee camps reduced by the Israeli army to huge, open-air concentration camps, only lacking the gas chambers.

She was talking about the attempted systematic elimination of a people whose only crime is its enduring desire for freedom from a Satanic military occupation unparallel in the human history.

The conscientious Jewish lady was speaking of a helpless and defenseless people forced into very much the same situation that Jews encountered in Nazi-occupied Europe more than half a century ago.

Does a democracy allow soldiers to shoot and kill pregnant women on their way to hospital for no other reason than the fact the poor women adhere to the “wrong” religion and belong to the “wrong” tribe?

Does a democracy instruct soldiers to plant landmines in the vicinity of schools in order to kill and maim as many “children of a lesser God” as possible?

Does a democracy dispatch warplanes to pour death at apartment buildings and crowded streets and neighborhoods under the pretext of fighting terror?

Does a democracy murder suspects and opponents without charge or trial?

Does a democracy practice collective punishment, including hermetic, suffocating and open-ended against their citizens and subjects?

Indeed, does a democracy practice apartheid in its ugliest forms against a sector of its citizens because they happen to belong to the “wrong race.”

Is occupying, tormenting, enslaving and dispossessing another people compatible with democracy.?

Can a racist apartheid be a true democracy? If the answer for these questions is in the affirmative, then Israel is a democracy. If not, we must not hesitate to call the spade a spade.

In short, Israel is a terrorocracy, not a democracy.

Posted by Tyrant loather @ 11/18/2003 10:18 AM CST

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