Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Another Shibboleth Bites the Dust.

They were going to "democratise the Middle East"; the war on terror, extended to Iraq, would "transform Iraq into a functioning democratic state that will inspire change in neighboring societies" . As Bush put it, "Iraqi democracy will succeed, and that success will set forth the news from Damascus to Tehran that freedom can be the future of every nation".

Well, instead of Jeffersonian revolution, the Middle East is now suffering counter-revolutionary terror and repression, and it's all thanks to the "war on terror" according to Amnesty International :

The US-led "War on Terror" has had a "profound and far-reaching impact" on human rights in the Gulf region, says an Amnesty International report.
The organisation says Gulf states, along with the US, show a "disturbing disregard for the rule of law and fundamental human rights standards".

It says a region whose rights record had been improving was now using the war as a cover for repression.

The by-products of the war are torture and extra-judicial killings, it says.


The report says hundreds of people have been detained during crackdowns on Islamic militants justified by the war on terror.

It says the worst abuses include torture and ill-treatment, and apparent extra-judicial killings.

The report draws on the experiences of many people detained during the "War on Terror" and the ordeals of their relatives left at home, who are often given little or no information about their whereabouts and well-being.

An example is Nouf al-Shammari, whose first husband died at the hands of Iraqi security forces during the occupation of Kuwait in 1990, and whose second is now detained in Guantanamo Bay.

She described herself as "repeatedly crushed by injustices" and the uncertainty over her husband's future.

And furthermore :

"The 'war on terror' has evolved into a global street brawl with governments and armed groups duking it out and innocent civilians suffering severely," said Dr. William F. Schulz, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). "Worldwide, armed groups commit atrocities serious enough to be characterized as war crimes or crimes against humanity. At the same time, too many governments have lent a veneer of legitimacy to the actions of armed groups by disregarding human rights, and in some cases, by committing war crimes and crimes against humanity themselves. Whether in the name of anti-terrorism, counter-insurgency or security, the US and other governments have suspended, circumvented or violated the law and weakened the best defense against insecurity and violence: respect for human rights. Locked in a deadly embrace of violence, armed groups and governments are riding roughshod over human rights."

I have always suspected that when neoconservatives speak of "democracy", they actually mean "free markets" - indeed, the latter seems to be a talisman opening up the former in most conservative thinking. For example, I recall a Tory MP seriously informing BBC Newsnight that the way to democratise China was to encourage privatisation, trade liberalisation and free market economics. (And not, readers, because this would encourage dissent and hasten a revolution against the autocracy, pace Chile). And bite my rock, I do discover after all that while the G8 calls for "reforms" in the Middle East, the hard negotiations are taking place over a free trade zone in the Middle East. As the State Department reports :

The U.S.-Morocco FTA will support economic and political reforms in Morocco, Zoellick said.

"In Morocco, Jordan, Bahrain, and elsewhere, we are laying the building blocks that will lead to President Bush's vision of a Middle East Free Trade Area," he added.

"Step by step, the Administration is working to build bridges of free trade with economic and social reformers in the Middle East. Our plan offers trade and openness as vital tools for leaders striving to build more open, optimistic, and tolerant Islamic societies," said Zoellick.

Zoellick praised the FTA as way to "embrace reforming states, encourage their transformation and bolster their chances for success even as we open new markets for American goods and services."

In fact, "free trade" is all the rage at the moment with the Bush administration in the Middle East. But the Bush administration should listen to its own advice sometimes. After all, as Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns puts it, the kinds of political and economic reforms advocated by the US "cannot be imposed from the outside" . Took you a while to figure that one out.

By the way, the net effect of all this is that most Americans now reject the Iraq war . My prediction - Bush won't win the next election; but Kerry just may lose it.