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Despite U.S. boot heel on Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine

Bush pontificates on 'democracy' in Middle East

By Richard Becker

On Nov. 6, in a highly ideological and condescending speech whose actual authorship is unknown, President George W. Bush outlined his administration's "vision" for a "democratic" Middle East. The speech was greeted by near-universal condemnation in the region.

"He wants democracy and the U.S. is occupying Iraq and its ally Israel is killing Palestinians? Arabs just don't buy it," said Moghazy al Badrawy, a political analyst based in the Gulf.

"Mr. Bush has not read history," another Gulf-based writer noted, pointing out the unparalleled role of U.S. foreign policy in undermining progressive development and popular democracy in the region for more than a half-century.

Speaking appropriately enough to the 20th anniversary meeting of the National Endowment for Democracy, Bush called for reshaping the Middle East to suit the interests of Corporate America. The region, said the president, "must be a focus of American policy for decades to come."

The NED was established in 1983 as an instrument of the Reagan administration's crusade to overthrow the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Cuba and the rest of the socialist camp.

Bush's address to the same group two decades later reaffirmed his administration's intention to overturn any and all governments in the developing world, socialist or otherwise, that fail to follow Washington's dictates.

Bush's speech focused on the Middle East in general and Iran and Syria in particular. But he also targeted the governments of Cuba, Zimbabwe, Myanmar and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea for "regime change."

Colonialist, fundamentalist & anti-communist

The Nov. 6 speech's colonialist, Christian fundamentalist and anti-communist character is illustrated by a few choice lines:

"Liberty is the plan of heaven for humanity."

"A religion that demands individual moral accountability and encourages the encounter of the individual with God is fully compatible with the rights and responsibilities of self-government."

"The success of freedom is not determined by some dialectic of history."

"Successful societies privatize their eco nomies and secure the rights of property."

"The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution."

The uninformed would hardly know that Iraq had just been invaded and recolonized by the very leader uttering such glowing tributes to "freedom"!

Heightening the sense of absurdity, Bush praised U.S. client states and puppet regimes such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Afghanistan and Iraq, while at the same time he condemned Syria and Iran.

Saudi Arabia is a U.S.-created theocra tic family dictatorship. Even the mild est dissent is punishable by torture and execution. There has never been an election in Saudi Arabia. Women are deprived of even the right to drive a car. It is also the number-one oil producer in the world. Bush's praise for the Saudi government's "first steps toward reform" refer red to a recent announcement that the regime is considering holding restricted municipal elections.

President Hosni Mubarak presides over a police state in Egypt, the most populous of the Arab countries. His regime is dependent on billions of dollars annually in U.S. support. When the Egyptian people attempted to demonstrate against the war on Iraq, they were viciously attacked by thousands of U.S.-armed Egyptian cops.

In Afghanistan, the U.S.-installed puppet president, Hamid Karzai, must have a personal protection unit made up of U.S. special forces to survive. His government's rule does not extend outside of the capital, Kabul.

With only unintended irony, President Bush stated that in Iraq, "the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi Gov erning Council are also working together to build a democracy." The CPA is headed by L. Paul Bremer, appointed by U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The CPA and the U.S. military are the real rulers in occupied Iraq.

The appointed Bremer in turn appointed a 25-member "Iraqi Governing Council," a group of mostly wealthy exiles. Together, according to Bush, the appoint ees and the U.S. generals are now "securing democracy in Iraq."

"Iraq democracy will succeed, and that success will send forth the news from [Syrian capital] Damascus to [Iranian capital] Tehran that freedom can be the future of every nation," said the president.

Whatever their shortcomings, both Iran and Syria have functioning parliamentary systems in which women participate as both voters and representatives.

As Egyptian analyst Gamal A.G. Soltan wrote: "Praising Saudi Arabia and criticizing Iran. It's not fair at all. The spectrum of freedom available in Iran is much wider than Saudi Arabia.

Qatar's Al-Sharq newspaper editorialized, "As the crisis in Iraq deepens, the United States is trying to open a new front in the region, especially with Syria."

'Democracy': cover for U.S. goal of domination

The reality is that the Bush administration could not care less about democracy and freedom--other than the freedom of capital to go anywhere, exploit anywhere. Believing that Bush and his ghoulish team have the slightest interest in the rights or welfare of any of the peoples of the Middle East can only lead to confusion.

Iran is a dramatic case in point. This year is the 50th anniversary of the CIA coup that overthrew the first democratic government in that country's history. It was a nationalist bourgeois govern -ment led by a man named Mohammed Mossadegh.

Iran had been a virtual British colony for about 40 years when Mossadegh took office in 1951. The country's rich oil resources were owned and controlled by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co., today known as British Petroleum. Iranian oil workers lived in indescribable poverty in Abadan, the Iranian oil center, while many Anglo-Iranian shareholders lived in luxury in London. Anglo-Iranian paid more in taxes to the British government than it did in royalties to Iran.

After coming to power, Mossadegh nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. In retaliation, Britain and the United States slapped a worldwide oil embargo on Iran. After 18 months of destabilization, the CIA--under the direction of Kermit Roos evelt, a grandson of President Theo dore Roosevelt--carried out a successful coup.

The ousted shah (king) was returned to power. The United States trained a brutal secret police force, the SAVAK. For the next 25 years the Iranian people were subjected to horrific repression and the whole sale looting of their natural resources. The primary beneficiary was now U.S. rather than British capital. Iran became the pivot of U.S. military power in the Gulf region, home to two-thirds of the world's oil supply.

The SAVAK to a very large degree destroyed the secular, left and progressive organizations in Iran. It is estimated that more than 100,000 people, mostly young people, were arrested, subjected to torture and executed over a quarter of a century. The destruction of the secular and left movements opened the way for the triumph of the Islamic forces when the Iranian people rose up against the shah and his U.S. sponsors in the 1978-79 revolution.

U.S.: main obstacle to development and democracy

The Pentagon and the CIA also intervened seeking to destroy the nationalist and socialist movements and governments in Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Oman, Dhofar, Libya, Lebanon, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the region over the past 50 years. U.S. leaders have used not only overt and covert military means, but also economic sanctions, often with devastating effect.

The United States, of course, played the key role in creating the Israeli state, which has since its formation served as a beachhead for Western imperialist interests in the Middle East. The super-militarized Israeli state not only dispossessed the Palestinian people of their homeland, it has severely distorted and limited development in the area.

The Israeli leaders have always made clear their eagerness to carry out the agenda of the Western powers, especially the United States. No neighboring government could decide to embark on a new course--especially one running counter to imperialist interests--without having to contemplate the consequences it might suffer at the hands of Israel.

A dramatic example was Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser's decision to nationalize the Suez Canal in 1956--followed shortly thereafter by a combined British-French-Israeli invasion.

When the United States wanted to crush the Lebanese left and the Palestine Liberation Organization in the 1970s and 1980s, the Israeli military invaded Leb anon, occupying most of the country in 1982, carpet bombing the capital, Beirut, for months, and killing more than 20,000 Lebanese and Palestinian civilians.

In the case of "the Israeli-American protectorate of Jordan," as the writer Tariq Ali has called it, the Israeli Army stood ready to invade in 1970-71, when it looked as if the Palestinian majority in that country might overthrow the CIA-sponsored King Hussein.

Reflecting on this history and responding to the colonialist tone of Bush's speech, the Syrian daily al-Thawra newspaper wrote: "The people of the region are not in need of lessons in democracy and freedom. ... Can there be democratic revolution by occupying sovereign countries' land? Can it be by jets and cannons and destructive weapons?"

Reprinted from the Nov. 20, 2003, issue of Workers World newspaper

This article is copyright under a Creative Commons License.
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