Abu Aardvark

The battle's done, and we kind of won, so we sound our victory cheer - where do we go from here?

As seen in the Washington Post!
And The Connection!
and the Pioneer Press!

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Why shouldn't (America) be exempt from some wacky international treaty on women or aardvarks? - Jonah Goldberg, July 26, 2002

The aardvark appears to be the ancestor of all mammals, including humans. - the BBC

I discovered your blog after you attacked me in it, and I enjoy it. Don't agree with hardly any of it, but it's well-written and witty- Martin Kramer

Aardvarks are solitary, industrious, sarcastic, eat termites, graduated from Duke, and watch Buffy obsessively - Encyclopedia Brittanica

My vacation totally sucked, until I met the cutest aardvark. Man, I wish I knew who that aardvark really was! - Eliza Dushku

Nobody likes a wise-guy aardvark. Why do you have to be such an annoying, objectively pro-statue, aardvark? - anonymous reader who sounds a lot like Dave Sim

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Saturday, June 28, 2003
It's Saturday and I'm still busy, busy, busy. But here's some quick hits:

The American occupation forces have cancelled all elections throughout Iraq. That should help us convince the Arab world that we are serious about establishing democracy.

A terrifying story about Michael Ledeen's influence with Karl Rove, and therefore with Bush. Ledeen, aside from vastly overstating the significance, extent, and sometimes existence of student protests in Iran, has advocated a much wider war against "the terror masters" (which seems to include pretty much the whole Muslim world), and likes to describe Europe as our strategic enemy. That should help us convince the Arab world that Iraq was not a stepping stone to a wider regional war.

Friday, June 27, 2003
Pete Moore, a political scientist who has been studying the Arab business sector for many years, files an interesting report from the World Economic Forum meeting in Jordan (it should be available at MERIP Online soon). Moore describes the key role the State Department has assigned Jordan as a showcase for its Middle East Partnership Initiative, and a key test case for the theory that economic development will solve many of America's problems with Arab radicalism. As Moore points out, however, Jordan's economic performance has not been one to brag about, at least not for most average Jordanians: "Officials at the WEF meeting were quick to highlight QIZ achievements. Jordan's exports to the US have risen from less than $20 million in 1999 to over $200 million by 2002. More than 20,000 jobs have been created in the QIZs, with a reported 70 percent of the jobs going to women. The success of the QIZ program is crucial, since it was the foundation of the more ambitious US-Jordan Free Trade Agreement. ....This is the official story, one which WEF participants were happy to repeat. Similar to Amman's past efforts at economic reinvention, however, the real QIZ story bears unpleasantly little resemblance to the slogans.

"The much touted peace dividend has turned out to be a bait and switch for ordinary Jordanians. Unemployment remains high (around 20 percent of the labor force), population growth is rapid, and despite peaks and valleys, per capita income has essentially remained locked at its 1984 level. In the face of these pressures, professional and working-class Jordanians have seen prices steadily rise in tandem with Israeli-Palestinian violence. By 1997, the RBC collapsed, as continued violence in the Occupied Territories soured Jordanian public opinion on the peace process. Exchanges with Israeli businesses made easy targets for the protests and boycotts of secular and Islamist opposition groups. Even Jordan's weak and dependent official business representatives went along with opposition boycotts of Israeli-attended trade fairs.

Behind the official QIZ numbers, there are other numbers and trends that went without comment at the WEF meeting. For instance, more than 80 percent of the firms located in Jordan's 12 zones (two new zones were approved at the WEF meeting) are South Asian textile and luggage manufacturers. Nearly half of the 20,000 workers are not Jordanian. Though a minimum wage of $3.50 per day is official policy, QIZ managers commonly express ignorance as to whether this is actually enforced by QIZ firms. Complaints about working conditions and lack of government action to increase domestic employment are on the rise. Given Israeli closures of the West Bank, QIZ exports do not currently include Palestinian components. Moreover, manufacturers struggle to ensure that Israeli contributions meet the minimum 7 percent. Jordanian QIZ managers report that Israeli inputs commonly amount to little more than labels, zippers and packaging added during export at the Israeli port of Haifa. Since much of the cloth is imported and wages are extraordinarily low, QIZ firms find it difficult to meet the 11.7 percent domestic content requirement, and thus there have been calls to lower the threshold. What all of this means for Jordan is that while (mostly foreign) QIZ investors, owners and managers may realize nice returns, the zones have backfired as contributors to productive development, employment growth or Israeli-Jordanian normalization. These outcomes are ominous for Washington's larger free trade designs."

But what about Jordanian democracy? The aardvark would note the extensive gerrymandering of last week's elections, which ensured that the Parliament would be overwhelmingly dominated by East Bankers over Palestinians, and by conservatives over reformers; low voter turnout and increasingly outraged but depressed public opinion; and the ongoing restrictions on public freedoms and the press set in place by royal decrees over the last two years. Moore says: "Little of this is lost on a skeptical Jordanian public. This newest, "free trade Jordan" has necessitated a steady reversal of the political liberalization welcomed by Jordanians in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Most recently, the government's public relations campaign called "Jordan First" made official the effort to put economic reform first and everything else, especially meaningful political participation, second. What has certainly not come first are the civil society associations that protest the trade policies or voice support for Palestinian rights. It is no surprise, then, that in Jordan's parliamentary elections leading up to the WEF meeting, voter turnout in Amman was low and regime loyalists prevailed. For many Jordanians, this disjuncture between the economic and the political is what really matters."

Last week some time, I mentioned that the Bush administration was inflating its estimates of replacement troops just like it inflated the coalition. One of the countries it named as sending troops to occupy, I mean liberate, I mean help stabilize to freedom, Iraq was India, which I found strange since I knew that there was a raging debate in India about this very question. The New York Times takes note of this raging debate today: "Opponents say it would betray the legacy of India's 60-year struggle against British colonial rule, or worse, send Indian soldiers home in body bags. Supporters say it would help India protect its energy supplies, exorcise its colonial demons and cement the good will of the world's colossus. For more than a month, Indian officials have debated sending more than 17,000 troops to help American forces stabilize Iraq. The detachment, a full Indian Army division, would be larger than the 14,000 British soldiers now deployed in southern Iraq and would make the Indians the second-biggest military force in the country. Slated to control the relatively stable northern third of Iraq, the Indians would free a sizable chunk of the 145,000 American soldiers now there to return home. They would also allow the Bush administration to claim broader international support for the American occupation of the country. But a week after a special team from the Pentagon made its case here, no final decision has been made by Indian leaders. Instead, New Delhi has adopted a go-slow approach and asked the United States to issue several "clarifications" of American policy in Iraq."

Thursday, June 26, 2003
Thank you Billmon for doing everyone's work for them.

Doctor of Revisionism

US Senate leader says weapons of mass destruction not main cause of Iraq war
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The Republican leader in the Senate said that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was not the main justification for the US-led invasion of Iraq.

"I'm not sure that's the major reason we went to war," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist told NBC television's Today Show. "If you talk to most of the American people today, to have Saddam Hussein and his rogue regime out of there is something the American people want, it's something they deserve," the Republican leader said.

Let's go to the tape:

I am absolutely convinced, based on the information that’s been given to me, that the weapon of mass destruction which can kill more people than an atomic bomb -- that is, biological weapons -- is in the hands of the leadership of Iraq.

Bill Frist
MSNBC Interview
January 10, 2003

What is unique about Iraq compared to, I would argue, any other country in the world, in this juncture, is the exhaustion of diplomacy thus far, and, No. 2, this intersection of weapons of mass destruction.

Bill Frist
NewsHour Interview
January 22, 2003

Iraq is a grave threat to this nation. It desires to acquire and use weapons of mass terror and is run by a despot with a proven record of willingness to use them. Iraq has had 12 years to comply with UN requirements for disarmament and has failed to do so. The president is right to say it’s time has run out.

Bill Frist
Press Release
January 28, 2003

Let there be no mistake about our Nation's purpose in confronting Iraq -- Saddam Hussein's regime poses a clear threat to the people of United States, its friends and its allies, and it is a threat that we must address now.

Bill Frist
Senate Speech
March 7, 2003

Getting rid of Saddam Hussein's regime is our best inoculation. Destroying once and for all his weapons of disease and death is a vaccination for the world.

Bill Frist
Washington Post op-ed
March 16, 2003

The United States . . . is now at war "so we will not ever see" what terrorists could do "if supplied with weapons of mass destruction by Saddam Hussein."

Bill Frist
Senate Debate
March 20, 2003

We simply cannot live in fear of a ruthless dictator, aggressor and terrorist such as Saddam Hussein, who possesses the world’s most deadly weapons.

Bill Frist
Speech to American Israel Political Action Committee
March 31, 2003

I am not eager to send young Americans into harm’s way in Iraq, or to see innocent people killed or hurt in military operations. Given all of the facts and circumstances known to us, however, I am convinced that if we wait, a threat will continue to materialize in Iraq that could cause incalculable damage to world peace in general, and to the United States in particular.

Bill Frist
Letter to Future of Freedom Foundation
March, 2003

UPDATE: I must be slipping. I forgot to correctly identify Mr. Frist as Mr. Cat Killer Frist. I apologize for the oversight.

Back during the war (April 6, to be precise), Barry Rubin, a hawk's hawk on the Middle East, unleashed a typically scathing attack on the Arab media. Focusing on Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed al-Sahhaf's increasingly wild claims, Rubin asserted that "the big lie, the ridiculous exaggeration" is typical of the Arab media. He asks: "how can people cope with the world when provided with such false information?"

Flash forward. What does Barry Rubin have to say about the exaggerations (at the very least) and lies (more likely) of the Bush administration about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and ties to al-Qaeda? Has he been firmly critical of the American media for its credulous approach to government propaganda? Has he issued stern warnings to the American people, asking how democracy can function given such false information? Um, not that I could find. But I'm busy, busy, busy, so I admit I didn't look too hard.

New blogger sure does look pretty. But it ate my last post and then locked me out for the rest of the day. Hmph. Probably a conspiracy to make sure that I keep doing my own real work.

Busy, busy, busy. And I see that blogger had transformed its template in my absence. But here's a nice "al-Jazeera moment" for those of you who don't spend your days and nights poring over transcripts of Arabic language talk shows. The scene: the al-Jazeera program "More than one opinion." The time: June 3. The guest: Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute, one of the most tireless of the neoconservative agitators for war against Iraq over the last many years. Here is the beginning of the dialogue, according to al-Jazeera's transcript:

Sami Haddad (the host): "After the declarations of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld that there were no WMD in Iraq and that perhaps Iraq destroyed them before the war, do you think that America and its ally the "buddle dog" Britain lied to the world in order to get to occupation and regime change?"

Pletka: "You should be ashamed of yourself.. ashamed of yourself for this question, this question that nobody who pretends to be a journalist would ask, why don't you ask me a real question?"

I guess she was expecting to be on Fox News? She isn't supposed to get actual "questions" or anything, right? Quick - cut to the footage of the statue! What? Al-Jazeera doesn't have any? Statue alert! Statue alert! Anyway, the conversation doesn't go very well. But it's great to see ambassadors for the American style of media, free and fair and relentless in its questioning of those in power.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003
In other news, the aardvark is suddenly extremely busy and writing on a very tight deadline. This is a good thing for the aardvark, probably a less good thing for fans and readers. I'll try to keep on things, but apologies in advance if the blog has to take a back seat for a couple of weeks.

Judith Miller is finally getting in trouble: " New York Times reporter Judith Miller played a highly unusual role in an Army unit assigned to search for dangerous Iraqi weapons, according to U.S. military officials, prompting criticism that the unit was turned into what one official called a "rogue operation." More than a half-dozen military officers said that Miller acted as a middleman between the Army unit with which she was embedded and Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi, on one occasion accompanying Army officers to Chalabi's headquarters, where they took custody of Saddam Hussein's son-in-law. She also sat in on the initial debriefing of the son-in-law, these sources say. Since interrogating Iraqis was not the mission of the unit, these officials said, it became a "Judith Miller team," in the words of one officer close to the situation." Kudos to Howard Kurtz for criticizing the New York Times over something that matters.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003
Martin Kramer - surprise! - has an opinion on Stanley Kurtz's Title VI hearings. He thinks -surprise! - Kurtz is right and Terry Hartle is wrong. In response to Hartle's completely accurate assessment of Edward Said's minimal influence in Middle East studies/political science division, Kramer explodes: "The claim is absolute nonsense, as anyone who inhabits academe knows. Said is one of only two academics today (the other is Noam Chomsky) who draws an overflow crowd on any campus he visits and who always gets a standing ovation. (It happened again this spring at Berkeley and UCLA.) Just this past fall, on the anniversary of 9/11, American and European scholars of the Middle East, meeting in their first "world congress," honored Said (and only Said) with their first-ever award for "outstanding contributions to Middle Eastern studies." And needless to say, you cannot finish an undergraduate education in Middle Eastern studies without being assigned Orientalism several times over."

Note how Kramer either deliberately changes the subject or else really is obtuse enough to not get the point: neither Hartle nor the aardvark ever claimed that Said lacked influence as a public intellectual. Of course he receives honors and awards - as well he should. He is a passionate, articulate, and brave scholar and public intellectual who has inspired generations - who would deny that? But that is entirely different from the claim that the academic study of the Middle East - political scientists are my focus here - is overly influenced by Said. Political science of the Middle East has been dominated by discussions of the state, of civil society, of rentierism, of Islamist movements, of many other things... but the mainstream of the field is far more interested in making itself relevant to the wider field of political science than it is in paying homage to Edward Said. Kramer knows this, and he's just doing the Bush thing - if you keep repeating a lie often enough, people start repeating it and maybe even believing it. Or, alternately, Kramer doesn't know this, in which case he is entirely ignorant of the field and should just stop talking about it, or at least stop being taken seriously. Will you find Said on undergraduate syllabi? Of course. I do assign a few chapters of Said in my Political Islam course, for example - paired with a few chapters of Martin Kramer, so that students can decide for themselves.

The punchline - Kramer endorses a proposal to place Middle Eastern studies directly under the oversight of the national security establishment - "an interagency group which would include representatives of the State Department, the Defense Department, the CIA, and other agencies like Homeland Security, which are the kinds of agencies that hire people with the skills we produce. Those other agencies could work with the Department of Education to see that these programs are producing the manpower required." Now why in the world would academics oppose something like that?

Newsweek has an interesting report on all those Iraqi scientists who didn't get the INC briefing book ahead of time: "While Bush aides try to look calm, the search grows increasingly feverish. They predicted they would find Saddam Hussein’s arsenal of mass destruction as soon as Iraq’s experts could dare to tell the truth. Now the regime is gone, and Saddam’s best-known WMD officials are dead or in U.S. custody, shielded from the regime’s monstrous reprisals. There’s only one problem. What the survivors are saying is not what the White House wants to hear. THE DETAINEES SAY Iraq destroyed all of its banned munitions years ago, and nothing more was produced. The scientists have been threatened, coaxed, offered all kinds of incentives, including safe haven outside Iraq for their families. Nothing changes their stories." Doesn't prove anything, of course - there's no reason to believe that even upper level scientists would know everything in a compartmentalized, highly secretive program - but it piles more material onto the "preponderance of evidence" puzzle.

I think I have to go lie down. We, as a nation, have learned nothing.

The Post reports a new poll: "Most Americans would support the United States taking military action to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons despite growing public concern about the mounting number of U.S. military casualties in the aftermath of the war with Iraq, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. President Bush last week said the rest of the world should join the United States in declaring that it "will not tolerate" nuclear weapons in Iran -- a vow that most Americans appear willing to back with force. By 56 percent to 38 percent, the public endorsed the use of the military to block Iran from developing nuclear arms."

On the positive side, it is virtually impossible to imagine the US actually launching a war against Iran - even the Ledeen hawks don't advocate one, and Ken Pollack's discussion of the military obstacles would sober up anyone who thought it might be fun. But these kind of public opinion results are deeply alarming. The poll also confirms the ongoing ignorance - about a quarter of Americans still think chemical weapons were used - and about 60% think the war was justified even if no WMD are ever found.

It can be very interesting to see how people talk among themselves, as opposed to what they say when they are on the road selling a product. In that regard, I found this "videoconference" session published in MERIA, one of the house journals of the pro-Israeli Right, absolutely fascinating. Out in the battlefields of the talk shows, the lecture circuit, the op-ed pages, and - of course - the blogs, the Right is aggressively certain about Iraq, dismissive if not contemptuous of anyone who might suggest that the war was less than fully justified, less than fully successful, or less than fully over. But talking among themselves, what do the luminaries of the pro-war brain trust really think?

MARTIN KRAMER: "In contrast, the war of 2003 was a very different enterprise. The United States marched to war, not to uphold the status quo, but to change it. The symbol of the war is the removal from his palace of one of the longest-standing rulers in the Middle East, with an implication for other rulers. The United States is sending the message that it wants to use change in Iraq as leverage for change elsewhere in the region. Now, you would have thought that this would have created a great opportunity for those elements in Arab societies that want change, to seize the opportunity to promote greater democratization and participation of the people in their own self-governance. Unfortunately, the regimes have very successfully managed to persuade their own publics that this was a new imperialist war; that it was not conducted with any element of altruistic intent but was simply to secure oil for the United States.... So paradoxically the Arab states have managed to create among their own publics a sense of shared identification with the idea of resisting change. The war was interpreted not as a signal for a flourishing of civil society and opposition to dictatorships but as a kind of new imperialism, an American plan to re-divide and dominate the Arabs."

DAVID MACK: "I agree with a lot of what Martin said but I particularly agree with his comment that the Arab street is unfavorably impressed by what they see happening in Iraq, what the attitude of the Iraqi street is, and the kind of forces that are being unleashed. Ultimately whether this war is a success or a failure is going to be judged, as you indicated Martin, by what we are able to accomplish in Iraq, both over the short and long terms."

DANIELLE PLETKA: "The judgment that is going to be made by the Arab street is going to relate mainly to whether Iraq will be a country to which they look and say, "I want that for me as well." That is obviously what our goal needs to be. .... A transitional period with difficulties is not so bad if one is working hard to implement a clear plan. But the fact is that President George W. Bush and people underneath him, all the way down to the bottom of the ladder inside Iraq among our own personnel, have not articulated a goal and a plan. This has produced a massive feeling of uncertainty in Iraq and throughout the region."

REUVEN PAZ: "I don't see any relevance between what happened in Iraq and Palestinian terrorism, either that of the Islamic or nationalist groups. I don't think that the Iraqi war influenced that."

Why do Martin Kramer, Reuven Paz, David Mack, and Danielle Pletka hate America? No, seriously.... let's leave that kind of cheap shot to the Sullivans of the world. The point is that the certainties in the op-ed pages aside, a lot of uncertainty remains about the impact of the Iraq war, and it is far too early to judge its success along any metric. When they are being honest, experts on both sides of the issue acknowledge this. Too bad that nuance and rumination so rarely survive out there in the wider public debate.

Really interesting article by Brian Whitaker on a subject near and dear to the aardvark's heart - Arab media. Whitaker takes a look at the quite exhilerating explosion of newspapers in Iraq, and finds some reasons for concern. His reading of the state of the Arab press - lots of pictures of the President/King, carefully monitored red lines - is only one piece of a more complex picture, but a depressingly familiar piece (The European-based press is much more free and open, for example). As counter-examples he mentions "Algeria in the late 1980s, when about 120 newspapers sprang up before dwindling to just over 20, and in Yemen during the early 1990s. The Yemeni experience, in particular, is relevant to Iraq. In 1990, the unification of Marxist southern Yemen with the traditionalist north brought high hopes of a new political era. Dozens of political parties sprang up - some with only a handful of members - and the number of newspapers almost tripled, from 21 to 57. Most of the new papers were owned by political parties or individuals with political ambitions and, since there weren't enough trained journalists to write for them, they tended to be strong on opinions but weak on reporting. This led to some lively debate, but if you wanted to know what was really going on it was often better to rely on word of mouth. Yemen's media "spring" continued for four years and it lasted so long mainly because of internal squabbles in the government which prevented various regulations in the press law from being enforced. Today, the Yemeni press is much tamer than it was and is certainly not a model to be copied, though the free spirit of the early 1990s does linger on in places." He might have told a similar story about Jordan in the 1990s, and there are other examples which jump to mind.

I would take issue with Whitaker's criticism of the emerging Iraqi press for lacking professional journalism norms or skills. He, like many journalists, tends to undervalue the political press and to give insufficient weight to the importance of the open exchange of political opinion. Yes, professional journalism is extremely important, but so is free and open public political debate. After years and years of listening to Arab Information Ministers complain that the opposition press "lacks journalistic professionalism" and using this an excuse to crack down on lively criticism and public debate, I'm somewhat skeptical of this line of argument.

As for Iraq itself, how depressing a line is this: "The new ruler of Iraq, Paul Bremer III, has already shown a disturbing inclination to follow the traditional route of Arab leaders where newspapers are concerned." To be fair, there are good reasons to be concerned about an unregulated press in an anarchic, unstable political environment. There is a lot of room for incitement and ethnic/religious extremism to drive out moderate or progressive political debate. But there are also good reasons to worry that this fear can itself be manipulated or exaggerated in order to justify politically useful controls on an opposition media. The latter would be a huge mistake. Since the entire Arab and Muslim world is watching us in Iraq to see how sincere or hypocritical the US is in its democracy rhetoric, the US occupation needs to be hyper-alert to things which will confirm the negative image. And allowing a critical free press is an important example of the kind of thing the US can do at relatively low cost to show that it is sincere about democratic openness.

Monday, June 23, 2003
Last week (permalinks Bloggered, don't get me started), I suggested reading Geneive Abdo's excellent book, Answering Only To God, before getting overly excited by the recent protests in Iran. In Sunday's Post, she offers her thoughts: "But is Iran, once the center of radical Islam, really ripe for another revolution? Has it reached what Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld likes to call a "tipping point," ready to fall with the slightest push? Neither history nor contemporary facts on the ground support such conclusions. In marked contrast to the run-up to the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the fruit of what has been called a "theology of discontent" created over many decades by disparate factions, politics in Iran today remains very much the preserve of a narrow circle of "insiders." These revolutionaries, comprising so-called reformers and hard-liners alike, have no intention of easing their shared monopoly on power. The result is the complete lack of any credible opposition political movement or cohesive ideological challenge to the current Islamic political system. Restive students, often identified by the Bush administration as those who might lead an internal rebellion, remain few and have repeatedly failed to turn their street demonstrations into a broad-based opposition movement. Simply put, there is no viable alternative on the horizon."


Anthony Shadid reports that
"Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the senior religious figure of Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority and the community's most influential voice, has expressed "great unease" about the 10-week-old U.S. occupation and demanded that the United States allow Iraqis to rule themselves." Hearing it from Ayatollah Sistani is different than hearing that sort of thing from Sadr, or even SCIRI. Sistani represents the quietist, apolitical (or relatively apolitical) voice of the traditional Shia establishment. His speaking out might reflect his fear at being outflanked by the more radicals, it might reflect his genuine convictions - but either way, it suggests a crystallizing consensus within the Shia community which is going to be tougher and tougher for an American occupying authority to break.

David Rohde, an experienced and gifted journalist, seems surprised: "Just as neoconservatives in Washington had hoped, the concept of demokratiya has taken hold in the Iraqi imagination, raising the possibility that it will inspire change throughout the Middle East. But there is a problem: The United States isn't perceived as a cultivator of democracy here. It is seen as a military occupier that supports democracy and free speech when they serve its interest, but suppresses both when they don't."

This shouldn't be surprising- such attitudes are widespread in the Arab world, in both directions: the aspiration for democracy, and the perception that the United States does not support democracy. Democracy has played a powerful role in the "Iraqi imagination" - and in the wider Arab imagination - for decades. Indeed, looking beyond Iraq, almost all parts of civil society in the Arab world have converged around for demands for democracy - including most of the larger, more mainstream Islamist movements. What they mean by democracy is another question - almost all agree on public freedoms, but agreement breaks down on tougher issues like the sources of law, tolerance of minorities, and the rest of the "meat" of political life. But these issues are openly debated in places like al-Jazeera (most famously), but also in local diwaniyya and salons, in both local and pan-Arab newspapers, on the internet, in mosques, in public forums - the debates have been going on, even if most Americans weren't aware of them. The overwhelming consensus within these debates, sadly, is that the United States is not on the side of democracy in these fights. Their demands have been frustrated by authoritarian regimes with little interest in genuine democracy, and these regimes have had little problem retaining American political and economic support. Contrary to the rather disingenuous attribution of these "new attitudes" as a success for the neocons in the wake of the invasion of Iraq, this contradiction has been at the heart of Arab political discourse since the end of the Cold War. If anything, the war on Iraq, along with the war on terror, gave repressive states a freer hand from the United States in dealing with restive, especially Islamist, political opposition - a heightened contradiction between aspirations for democracy in American rhetoric and support for repression in American practice which has been widely discussed in Arab political circles. If the US genuinely wants to push for more democracy in the region, it needs to understand how "democracy" is - and has been - debated there, and how its initiatives are likely to be received.

Hilarious! The New York Times reviews the record and finds that Bush never actually "lied" about anything. He shaded the truth, he exaggerated, he selectively emphasized, he engaged in rhetoric, there is no evidence that he did not believe the untrue things he was saying... Boys, boys, boys. Isn't this the sort of thing that grown ups are supposed to gently but firmly correct in about the third grade? "No, George, you did not 'selectively emphasize' the 'relative weight' of your contribution 'without your knowledge' of the mysteriously toppled apple tree - you cut it down. Tell the truth, George."