On the 8th of March 2005, President George Bush citing progress in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine said that democracy was beginning to spread across the Middle East and that “the authoritarian rule is the last gasp of a discredited past.”
The Bush administration and its supporters have seized upon the events in the Middle East to give an upbeat assessment of democratic reform and America’s standing in the region. Some have even gone far as making comparisons with the fall of the iron curtain, while others are pointing to a vindication of Bush’s foreign policy since 9/11.
However, behind the rhetoric, Bush’s vision of exporting democracy to the Middle East and other parts of the world falls way short of the very same democracy standard America routinely employs to dismiss election results, castigate despots, and put states on notice.
A central tenet of democracy requires people to choose legitimate representation in an environment that is impartial, free from local intimidation and foreign intervention. Bush was quick to apply this standard to Ukraine and more recently to Lebanon.
In the case of Ukraine, Bush contravened this standard, as evidence emerged that the US embassy was responsible for spearheading Yushchenko’s “Orange Revolution”.
In Lebanon, Washington’s open incitement and support for the “Cedar Revolution” and its demand that forthcoming elections cannot be fair and free, unless Lebanon is completely free of Syrian occupation stinks of hypocrisy. Resounding
Were not the elections in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine held under American and Israeli occupation? Were not the candidates vetted by America? Was not the atmosphere prior to and on the day of the elections one of insecurity and fear? Were not the election results manipulated and the electoral process staged managed? Clearly the answer to all of these questions is a defiant “yes”. Hence the elections in these countries can only be described as unfair, illegal and imposed on the people.
But according to Bush’s democracy yardstick the dodgy elections in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine were a resounding success. Even by third world standards such elections would have been declared null and void.
Likewise, Bush has failed to evaluate Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia against his benchmark for democracy. Musharraf’s sham referendum in 2002, Mubarak’s upcoming presidential faÃ§ade and the Saudi municipal elections, which bars women from participating, can only be regarded as an indictment against democracy.
Rather than punishing these states for subverting democracy, Bush has rewarded them with billions of dollars in aid and offered muted criticisms in their defence. This was particularly evident, after Bush’s inauguration address. The US State department scuttled to assure the rulers of Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia that they were not targets of his speech.
Ironically, Iran, which is comparatively more democratic than Egypt and Saudi Arabia put together, has been earmarked for regime change. However, America is more concerned about securing Iran’s huge oil and gas reserves than about nurturing democracy in Iran. In 1953, America worried about the nationalisation of Iranian oil removed the then elected Prime Minister, Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh and replaced him with the Shah –” an absolute monarchist.
America’s obsession with making bold claims about spreading democracy and liberty, while simultaneously propping up despotic regimes has a notorious history. On March 12 1947, President Truman said, “One of the primary objectives of the foreign policy of the United States is the creation of conditions in which we and other nations will be able to work out a way of life free from coercion…totalitarian regimes imposed on free peoples, by direct or indirect aggression, undermine the foundations of international peace and hence the security of the United States.”
Henceforth, America armed with the “Truman Doctrine” proceeded to sabotage democracy and freedom throughout the Muslim world in return for exploiting resources for her multinational corporations and safeguarding her strategic interests. America did this by supporting all manners of secular autocracies, monarchies and sheikhdoms.
Bush’s vision for a democratic Muslim world is the same as the Truman Doctrine. In both, the exporting of democracy and liberty, as well as the support for dictatorships is totally subservient to American corporate interests.
America is not alone in promoting its corporate interests dressed up in western values. Other western powers most notably Britain, France and the EU compete with the US in trouncing these values. The banishment of slavery in the 19th century and drive to grant independence to colonies in the 20th century were solely motivated by rivalry between great powers to hold onto their precious resources. Exporting western values was the least of their concerns.
Today, there is a bitter struggle between the EU and America over the resources of the Muslim world, in particular its energy reserves. Bush under the cover of freedom and democracy is seeking to remove those regimes that are either pro-European or look towards Europe for guidance and assistance. The EU-US conflict over oil and gas can be found in Muslim countries like Sudan, Morocco (Western Sahara issue), Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Libya, and the Gulf sheikhdoms.
Those minority of Muslims who are still enchanted by western values need to realise that the western powers are not interested in the liberation of the Muslim world. Nor are they interested in granting Muslims freedom and democracy.
These Muslims should take a quick look at the domestic affairs of western countries and they will quickly learn that western values are only a myth. The anti-terror laws in Britain, the Patriot Act in the US, the indefinite detention of Muslims in Guantanamo and Bellmarsh (UK) and the humiliation of Muslim prisoners in Abu Ghraib, Bagram and Basra clearly belittle their values.
As for westerners, they need to take a serious look at how their governments are using the war on terrorism as an excuse to enact draconian laws that are transforming their liberal societies into totalitarian ones.
Measures such as imprisonment without trial, internment of citizens, extra judicial torture, concentration of power in the hands of the executive, unelected government advisors, ministers over-ruling the judiciary, greater press restrictions, pre-packaged news stories, suppression of information and intrusion into personal privacy strike at the very heart of liberal democracies.
How soon America and Europe transform themselves into a fortress of totalitarianism depends upon whether Americans and Europeans value liberty and democracy above safety. Benjamin Franklin, once said, "Those that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”