Charley Reese – Monday July 5, 2004
Somebody ought to tell President George Bush something he obviously doesn't know. He keeps talking about wanting democracy in the Middle East and reform in general as an antidote to extremism.
What apparently his staff members have not told him, probably because they themselves don't know, is that most of the reformers in the Middle East in recent years have been Islamist, and sometimes the Islamic fundamentalists. It is they who have provided social services the government neglected to provide. It is they who have often demanded democratic elections and honest government.
In Algeria, for example, an Islamist party was on the verge of sweeping the board in a free election. The Algerian army stepped in and stopped the election. Unfortunately, the United States backed the army rather than democracy and the Islamists. A bloody civil war was the result.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban came to power as reformers, driving out the warlords, who were corrupt and brutal. We, of course, have brought the warlords back to power, and Afghanistan is now once again one of the world's greatest sources for opium.
Islam is an interesting and lovely religion, as highly moral and peaceful as Christianity or any other. Americans should read some books about it, rather than listening to ignorant demagogues or people with a secret agenda. "The Oxford History of Islam" is a good place to start.
Of course, Bush is preaching democracy because that's the platitude generated by the neoconservative, pro-Israeli ideologues who have dominated his administration. It's an excuse to avoid facing the truth, which is that our problem in the Middle East is our one-sided support for the terrible mistreatment of the Palestinians by the Israelis. That's it. It's not the conditions in the Arab world. It's not the Islamic fundamentalists. It's our own policy, stupid.
How can we legitimately put pressure on Iran about its nuclear program while we remain dead silent about the nuclear arsenal Israel has already built? All of the Arab countries and Iran have repeatedly called for a nuclear-free Middle East, but we won't back it, because we won't confront Israel about its weapons of mass destruction.
How can we talk about obeying United Nations resolutions when Israel is in defiance of more than 60 of them? How can we talk about the rule of law when Israel's occupation and illegal settlements are a violation of international law? How can we talk about respect for human rights while staying silent about the abuses of Palestinian human rights?
It would serve George Bush right if there really were free elections in the Middle East. After that, we wouldn't have one single friend in the region — for our only friends are these very authoritarian and undemocratic rulers he seems to stupidly want to depose.
As for Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia whom some people are trying to blame for terrorism, that's pure bunk. The Wahhabi movement was founded by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhabi, who lived in the 1700s. It is to Islam what the Puritans were to Christianity. Wahhabis believe in literalism (as do Southern Baptists), strict observance of Muslim rituals and the condemnation of the cult of the saints.
It has always been the religion of Saudi Arabia, and we have had good relations with that country since World War II, based on its oil and our greed for it. In all those decades, the Wahhabis never gave us any trouble. Why should they now? I submit to you they haven't. Don't confuse Islamic fundamentalism with terrorism, as the pro-Israel crowd wants you to do. And don't commit the racist fallacy of concluding that a particular few terrorists represent the whole of Muslims.
© 2004 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.
Last updated 10/07/2004