Although I have enjoyed many of Daniel Schorr's Opinion pieces, his March 4 column, "The Iraq effect? Bush may have had it right," was very upsetting. There are undoubtedly many people who have worked for decades for democratic change in Egypt and Lebanon. This is a slap in the face to their efforts and stinks of "those people would never have been able to do this without our influence." Besides, the idea that an illegal war is the agitator of democracy is appalling. If the United States truly acted like a democracy in its own domestic affairs, it would have a far more positive influence in other countries.
I just want to say how much I admire the integrity of Mr. Schorr to admit that President Bush may in fact have been instrumental in influencing the recent positive events in the Middle East. I almost never agree with Schorr, but his beliefs, if wrong-headed in my opinion, are always sincerely felt, and his admission, offered without irony or snideness, is an indication that he is that rarest of creatures in journalism today: a stand-up, classy guy.
Schorr's commentary presented a rather ominous future for democracy in the Middle East. Let's first agree for argument's sake that the Jan. 30 elections in Iraq were "successful." However, that does not erase the human cost of the US occupation, which not only led to the deaths of over 100,000 Iraqis, according to a recent Lancet study, but has left the country in ruins. If that's an acceptable price for allowing the people of the Middle East a slight measure of political freedom, we need to reexamine our priorities concerning "human rights."
Bush may have had it right, but at what cost? As a mother of a son in Iraq, I am not sure that the cost paid by some American families is a fair value. Most of the nation has not really had to make a sacrifice.
The grass-roots movements demanding democracy, which is springing up around the world, is not a testimony to the power of unilateral war to seed freedom. The roots of today's liberation in Lebanon are not in our warmaking, but in Berlin in October 1989, in Ukraine last year, and in the moves toward peace in neighboring Israel and the occupied territories.
Being Lebanese, I find this piece to be a far-fetched attempt at generalizing about the Middle East. First of all, one cannot compare Iraq, a recent democracy (aren't we a bit too optimistic?) to Lebanon, a country whose special breed of democracy has been working for more than 50 years, albeit interrupted during certain periods. And Lebanon cannot be compared to Egypt, a so-called "democracy" whose "president" has been there forever.
Moreover, I seriously doubt that the elections in Iraq had any direct effect whatsoever on the protests in Lebanon. What really did it was the assassination of the former prime minister. Also, the bigger powers, led by the United States, are not looking the other way, and they are speaking aloud. This is the source of external pressure on Lebanon rather than the "Iraq being a beacon" excuse.
This attitude of the US may fall under Bush's so-called Greater Middle East Plan rather than the elections themselves. Either way, both that vision and this article are attempts at oversimplifying a region beyond comprehension. It simply isn't black and white as some would want us to see.
Oh, and by the way, kifaya means "enough" in Arabic.
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