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Good Reads: Qaddafi was right, Bush was right, and FBI is so wrong

Today's Good Reads look into whether Islamists are taking over Libya, as Qaddafi warned, if Bush's war on terror instigated the Arab Spring, and how the FBI is training agents to see mainstream Muslims as radicals.

By Scott BaldaufStaff Writer / September 15, 2011

This video image taken from Turkish television Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi is seen during a March 2011 interview with the TV channel TRT, in Tripoli, Libya,

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Wouldn’t it be ironic, after all this fighting, if Col. Muammar Qaddafi was right all along? The "Brother Leader" – who briefly repaired his relations with the West by handing over intelligence on Al Qaeda after the 9/11 attacks – once warned the West that if he was toppled, power would shift to the Islamists.

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Well, here we are, and as The New York Times points out, the most respected politician in Libya, Ali Sallabi, is an Islamist. The most powerful military leader, Abdel Hakim Belhadj, is an Islamist. And Tripoli’s Municipal Council is dominated by members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Democracy is like that. Given the chance to choose their own leaders, people often do so.

The Times’s Rod Nordland and David D. Kirkpatrick managed to get an interview with Mr. Sallabi, an Islamic scholar who helped whip up the demonstrations that kicked off the rebellion. Sallabi sums up his understanding of democracy like this: “It is the people’s revolution, and all the people are Muslims, Islamists,” but he adds that doesn't mean excluding secularists.

“They have the right to offer their proposals and programs," [Sallabi] said. "and if the Libyan people choose them I have no problem. We believe in democracy and the peaceful exchange of power.”

It would also be ironic if all this democracy-building in the Arab world had something to do with former President George W. Bush. Shadi Hamid – as director research at the left-of-center Brookings Institution’s Doha Center, and by no means a Bush sycophant or a neoconservative – writes a persuasive argument in this month’s Atlantic Monthly that makes this very point.

Mr. Hamid starts off by acknowledging President Bush’s missteps – the mistaken connection between Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the Sept. 11 attacks, the misguided search for weapons of mass destruction – but then says that Bush’s third reason for sending troops into Iraq, democracy, may have sparked off democratic aspirations across the Middle East.

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