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A blog on terrorism, democracy and international politics
Sunday, February 13, 2005
One specious claim is that the invasion is an attempt to impose 'our' system on Arabs who apparently choose to live under Ba'athist tyranny. These same people proceed to inform their incredulous audience that Arabs have no democratic history, so democracy in Iraq is impossible. The sentiments of the 'resistance', they claim, are the rule in the Arab world, and the democrats the exception.
These claims, which attempt to paint supporters of the war as culturally ignorant, in other words bigoted, in fact expose the condescending racism of those making the claims. What seems to be forgotten is that much of Europe laboured under tyranny throughout significant parts of the 20th century. Arabs are not a separate species, incapable of seeking genuine freedom and a say in their own destiny. When they live in tyranny it is because of unfortunate historical circumstances, not through choice.
In recent weeks we have seen truly groundbreaking events in the Middle East that have struck a blow against the bigotry of those who believe Arabs are incable of being democrats. The first was the election of a new Palestinian President who is expressing the will of his constituents by working to end the long conflict with Israel. The second is the enormous number of Iraqis who turned out in the recent election, smiles across their faces, holding their ink-daubed fingers in the air in triumph, despite the ever-present threat of violence from their former overlords and foreign jihadis.
These two elections double the number of countries in the Middle East whose governments are elected by the people - the others being Israel and Turkey.* These events are now permanently part of world history.
What do proponents of the "Arabs can't be democrats" line say to these two elections? The predictable response is that elections do not a democracy make. Sure, these may be examples of budding democracy, but without a tradition that incorporates the many other essential democratic institutions, democracy will never blossom.
Iraq now has hundreds of political parties, independent media outlets, bloggers and many other aspects of a nascent democracy. Large protest marches against terrorism, although rarely publicised in the West, are reported on Iraqi blogs. The Iraqis have also begun to utilise the petition, a democratic institution which pre-dates democratic elections in Europe, to tell us exactly what they think of those who oppose their liberation.
The following is from a petition from "Iraqi civil society organizations [and] Iraqi and Arab intellectuals" sent to Kofi Annan.
We, the undersigned, [...] are gravely concerned at the continuing attempts of certain governments to undermine the democratic process in Iraq. In the vanguard of these governments stands the French government. Since the start, this government has opposed the endeavours of the international community to help the Iraqi people end the despotic rule of Saddam Hussein, a rule that posed a threat to international peace and security, under the pretext of protecting the integrity of the Iraqi people. It threatened to resort to the veto in the UN Security Council to thwart any resolution which could help the Iraqi people rid themselves of the dictatorial regime.
After the liberation of Iraq under United States leadership and supported by many countries in the world, the French government called for the participation of the Baath party in the transitional government in spite of that party's totalitarian thought, nationalistic fanaticism and sanguinary past. These efforts were repeated in different forms including the persistent call for the withdrawal of multinational forces from Iraq, forces which Iraq needs in order to ensure security. The last such effort was the French government's demand to convene an international conference in Egypt to include governments and representatives of what it calls factions of the "Iraqi resistance". We wish to confirm to you that this "resistance" is none other than an alliance of remnants of the ousted regime in Baghdad and non-Iraqi Islamist and extremist terrorist groups affiliated to the Al Qaida organization led by Osama Ben Laden whose Iraq branch is headed by the Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, as well as organized crime gangs previously released by Saddam Hussein before his fall.
The whole petition can be read http://www.petitiononline.com/ocsi/petition.html (scroll down for English translation).
Link from: Omar at Iraq the Model
* Some definitions of 'the Middle East' include Afghanistan. This would bring the number of countries whose governments were democratically elected to five - three more than in 2001.
Petition link for those reading this through text-only e-mail: