Thursday, March 10, 2005

Reality Check
(speaking of reality check--Blogger STILL is combining all the callous disregard for posting with a high handed lack of explanation that makes me think of the Bush administration).
This op-ed from The Guardian, (link via Angry Arab) as well as these two Robert Fisk reports undercut the bizarre notion that Bush somehow is influencing "democratic change" in the Middle East--or even THAT democratic change is behind the various recent events, most prominent in the US press being the demonstrations in Lebanon.

At last there was a democratic "cedar revolution" to match the US-backed Ukrainian "orange revolution" and a photogenic display of people power to bolster George Bush's insistence that the region is with him. "Freedom will prevail in Lebanon", Bush declared this week, promising anti-Syrian protesters that the US is "on your side". The foreign secretary, Jack Straw, is expected to join the cheerleaders for Arab democracy in a speech today and warn the left not to defend the status quo because of anti-Americanism.

The first decisive rebuff to this fairy tale of spin was delivered in Beirut on Tuesday, when at least 500,000 - some reports said it was more like a million - demonstrators took to the streets to show solidarity with embattled Syria and reject US and European interference in Lebanon. Mobilised by Hizbullah, the Shia Islamist movement, their numbers dwarfed the nearby anti-Syrian protesters by perhaps 10 to one; and while the well-heeled Beiruti jeunesse dorée have dominated the "people power" jamboree, most of Tuesday's demonstrators came from the Shia slums and the impoverished south. Bush's response was to ignore them completely. Whatever their numbers, they were, it seems, the wrong kind of people...

What the US campaign is clearly not about is the promotion of democracy in either Lebanon or Syria, where the most plausible alternative to the Assad regime are radical Islamists. In a pronouncement which defies satire, Bush insisted on Tuesday that Syria must withdraw from Lebanon before elections due in May "for those elections to be free and fair". Why the same point does not apply to elections held in occupied Iraq - where the US has 140,000 troops patrolling the streets, compared with 14,000 Syrian soldiers in the Lebanon mountains - or in occupied Palestine, for that matter, is unexplained. And why a UN resolution calling for Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon has to be complied with immediately, while those demanding an Israeli pullout from Palestinian and Syrian territory can be safely ignored for 38 years, is apparently unworthy of comment.

The rest of the Guardian report points out several ironies (irony being the term of the day, I guess). In addition to the notation above about occupations precluding "free and fair" elections, here's their take on the recent Palestinian election

The Palestinian elections in January took place because of the death of Yasser Arafat - they would have taken place earlier if the US and Israel hadn't known that Arafat was certain to win them - and followed a 1996 precedent.

In addition, the election in Iraq was an exercise in, well, nothing, when you see how violence is proceeding apace, the cosmetic changes being offered in Egypt and Saudi Arabia don't amount to a fingernail's worth of difference in how power is held, and, as AbuKhalil notes in several posts, demostrations by Kuwaiti women (and Jordanian workers) complaining about lack of political rights have been pretty much ignored by the mainstream media.

But, to go back to Lebanon for a moment: the demonstrations there (to which the government responded by re-appointing the pro-Syrian Prime Minister), more than anything else underscore the fact that the nation has an inverse relationship between geographic size and political complexity. Furthermore, Bush and his minions braying about one set of demonstrations (but ignoring the others) highlights a dangerous naiivete about "democracy" while simultaneously admitting more or less that they couldn't give a damn about genuine rule of the people (which, if implemented throughout the Middle East, would most likely result in a decidedly anti-Western swing).

Bush wants to have his cake--in fact, he wants to have THEIR cake as well--and he wants to greedily suck the icing off before stuffing it in his piehole, no pun intended. His hollow rhetoric will presumably be counterbalanced by advisors who will know how to stick to the script of public posture versus private agreement, but anyone thinks Lebanon is anything but a Pandora's box waiting to be unlocked doesn't know a thing about the country. Which is truly ironic, given that for some 15 years Beirut literally defined the futility of urban conflict for anyone paying even a minimal amount of attention to the news.

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