by Eric Margolis
SAN FRANCISCO - Once the United States overthrows Saddam Hussein and `liberates' Iraq, it will then proceed to spread democracy, human rights, and enlightenment throughout the world, but most notably in the Mideast. So vows Bush Administration's National Security Advisor, Miss Condoleeza Rice, an academic expert on Soviet affairs, who has drawn up much of the recently-proclaimed Bush Doctrine of worldwide intervention.
One hopes her preposterous assertion is simply part of the Administration's propaganda buildup before invading oil-rich Iraq. Truth is indeed the first casualty of war. Recall in 1990 the famous heart-jerker about Kuwaiti babies thrown from incubators by evil Iraq soldiers, a canard that ignited war fever across America, but turned out to be a total fabrication. Or White House claims to have photographic evidence of an impending Iraqi invasion of Saudi Arabia. These claims were also phony, but they succeeded in stampeding the petrified Saudis into allowing the US to permanently station military forces in the kingdom, where they remain to this day.
If Miss Rice truly believes the US will bring democracy to the Mideast, she must also believe in the tooth fairy. Such naivete is unacceptable in a senior policy maker.
Unsurprisingly, Rice's silly claim was greeted from Morocco to Pakistan with profoundest derision by the very people she aspires to `liberate.' In fact, the Bush Administration's stated goal of bringing democracy to the Muslim World faithfully echoes claims by Victorian Britain's imperialists that they were conquering and exploiting Africa and Asia only to bring the benefits of Christianity and western civilization to benighted heathen.
Fifty years ago, Mideasterners would have believed Miss Rice. After World War II, they hailed the United States as the symbol of honest government, decency, generosity, and opposition to colonialism. When America's great president, Dwight Eisenhower, ordered the British, French and Israelis to end their 1956 aggression against Egypt, America was a supreme hero across Asia and Africa.
In the ensuing half century, America has gone from hero to supreme villain. America's ever-growing support for Israel was half the reason. But the other half was the frightful punishment of Iraq and the US policy of keeping oil prices low, and supply high, by imposing despotic surrogate rulers on the region.
The US has dominated the Arab World for the past 50 years. What has it done during this long period to promote democracy or human rights there? Name one democracy, one nation ruled by laws, one nation not run by the secret police.
Take a tour of the Arab states under US `protection':
Arab nations not under direct or indirect US domination - Libya, Syria, Yemen, Sudan - are also nasty dictatorships (Yemen less so). Lebanon is a tribal-feudal society currently dominated by Syria. Saddam's brutal Iraq, formerly a kingdom, then military dictatorship, was a close US ally from 1979-1990.
- Morocco - A medieval monarchy, as brutal as Iraq, with thousands of political prisoners tortured and confined to underground dungeons.
- Algeria - Military dictatorship. Sunk in a nightmare civil war. When Algeria held the Arab World's first free vote in 1991, Islamic parties won. The army, backed by France and the US, annulled the elections, and has ruled since.
- Tunisia - Military dictatorship.
- Egypt - Home of 40% all Arabs, intellectual heart of the Arab World. Military dictatorship with a ruthless secret police. Routinely tortures and murders opponents. Many thousands in political prisons. Censored press. Sham parliament. As in the case of Iran under the late Shah Reza Pahlavi, FBI, CIA, and NSA all assist Egypt's secret police in repressing opposition and keeping the military regime in power. 9/11 chief planner Ayman al-Zawahri was tortured for years in Egyptian prisons.
- Jordan - Decent and well-run, but no democracy. The US-backed king and his Bedouin army rule a nation that is over 60% Palestinian.
- Saudi Arabia - Feudal monarchy of 7,000 princes. Political opponents muzzled, sometimes charged with drug dealing and beheaded. The Saudis sell oil to the US and its allies on the cheap. In exchange, they get protection from the US against their neighbors and own people. Saudi buys billions of US, British, and French arms it cannot use and keep $100 billion in the US financial system. Osama bin Laden claims the west steals Arab oil. He says oil should cost US$300 a barrel, not $20-30 - true terrorist talk to SUV owners.
- Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates - all tiny feudal monarchies inherited by the US from the British Empire. Oman, anther monarchy, is discreetly run by British intelligence, MI6.
Now, suddenly, Miss Rice and the Israel-first neo-conservatives who are pulling the Bush Administration's strings, claim they will bring brining the balm of democracy to the wretched Arabs.
But why now, after half a century of fostering petro-despotism? Why the sudden conversion on the road to Baghdad? And at the very same time that the Bush Administration is busy shoring up Pakistan's military dictator, Gen. Pervez Musharraf. And maintaining a US-imposed regime in chaotic, `liberated,' Afghanistan whose leader, Hamid Karzai, must be protected by teams of US bodyguards from his own unloving people.
In the buildup to the 1991 war against Iraq, Bush I promised a Palestinian state. This time around, the big promise is democracy and freedom for all Arabs, especially Iraqis, then Iranians. Why just recently, Bush II promised Palestinians democracy - provided, of course, they didn't re-elect Yasser Arafat.
[Eric Margolis is a syndicated foreign affairs columnist and broadcaster, and
author of War at the Top of
the World - The Struggle for Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Tibet which was reviewed in
The Economist, May 13, 2000]
[Last week Aboul Gheit and Rice again appeared side by side, this time in the
Egyptian tourist capital, Luxor. Once again each offered a summary of the talks
-- which this year, unlike last, included President Hosni Mubarak. This time
Iran loomed large in their discussions, as did Iraq. But it was Rice who
neglected to mention something: "democracy and reform." During the course of her
visit to Egypt, and her latest tour through the Middle East, the words never
publicly crossed her lips.--Jackson Diehl, "Rice's Rhetoric, in Full Retreat," Washington Post,
January 22, 2007]
Copyright © 2002 Eric Margolis - All Rights