Tuesday, February 01, 2005

January 31, 2005

Election Reflection
I am not quite sure what to make of yesterday’s vote in Iraq. As much as I oppose the Bush strategy I also see the advantages in introducing representative government to the handful of backward cultures still ruled by monarchs, despots and despotic monarchs. Because just as the America could not be free until non-whites and women could vote, so too the world cannot be free until every citizen has a voice in how they are ruled, and by whom.

Having said that I do not have to tell the readers of this blog that democracy does not guarantee voters get the best and/or brightest leaders. We have elected some real doozeys here – look no further than 1600 Penn. Ave. -- the white place on the corner.

And now the Iraqis will have that to learn about democracy too. Inevitably some of those they elected yesterday will break their campaign promises, fail to perform and/or rip them off. That’s when the real test in democracy-building begins. I recall the conversation Ben Franklin with a farmer outside Constitution Hall after the first Constitutional Convention.

“Well Mr. Franklin,” the farmer asked. “What kind of government did you give us?”

Franklin replied, “A democracy, if you can keep it.”

We’ve been trying our damnedest to do just that for over two centuries now and, from time to time, it’s still an iffy affair.

And so too it will be in Iraq. I have no idea if Bush pulled off a coup here or not. The election went better than expected, that’s for certain. But wwhat it all means in the long run is a big a mystery as it was before the vote. Did Bush inject the democracy “virus” into Middle East’s body politic? If so, will the virus create growing demand for representative governments? Or will it unleash tribal rivalries that have been held at bay by the iron fist of repressive regimes?

If it’s the first, then Bush will go down in history as the Middle East’s messiah of democracy. But if it goes the other way then what happened when the former Yugoslavia was freed of General Tito and the Soviet rule, will engulf the Middle East. And if that happens get ready for a half a century of war. And it will not be a regional war, but a world war because there is no way the world’s industrial nations are going to let the flow of oil stop while Bedouin tribes, Shiites, Sunnis, Persians and Arabs sort out 4000 years of gripes and property line disputes.

Add into that the fact.. and by then it will be a fact.. that some of the belligerents will be armed with nukes and things could get mindbogglingly messy.

If history has a single lesson to teach about such bold moves it is this; intentions – good and otherwise – almost always lose to unintended (and unforeseen) consequences. And so too shall it come to pass in Iraq. Bush destroyed the status quo. Just exactly what will replace it has yet to materialize. Bush has succeed in his goal New forces are on the move throughout the Middle East.

But they are forces he cannot now control. And, as we learned in Russia, democracy does not automatically arrive humming Yankee Doodle Dandy. In some places it arrives chanting, “Allah Akbar, Down with Amerika!”

Islam the “Peaceful Religion”

On a different, but not unrelated subject, I am beginning to lose my patience with Muslims who live in the west and complain they are being profiled unfairly by law enforcement.

“Despite vows from American Islamic leaders after Sept. 11, 2001 to proselytize peacefully, New York based Freedom House found 57 documents with incendiary material in more than dozen mosques in six states and Washington, D.C. visited over the past year.” (Wall Street Journal)

The materials in question compare Jews to animals and encourage Muslims to hate and shun non-Muslims. Freedom House is no rightwing nut-tank but a human-rights organization founded in 1941 to oppose the spread of Nazism and Communism in Europe.

The Freedom House report tracked the source of the objectionable materials directly to – guess who – our “allies” the Saudi government.

The Saudis continue to be the source of Muslim hate literature supplied to kids attending Islamic schools around the world. Is it then surprising that all you have to do is log onto Internet discussion boards to find plenty of this kind of thing:

hey you mother fucker you dont understand the concept of ISLAM it is the one true way to becoming free and when you dont know anything about being a muslim dont go aroud the web talking shit you fukin white american mother fuker ..... yes the iranian population does not like to be called arab because we areant thats as simple as that i would know because im a iranian SHIITE MUSLIM and im proud to be musllim and i am prepared to die for the sake of ALLAH. the ayotollah khomeini was a great religious leader and had a whole coutry under his palm the fukin gay ass carter administration was scared out of there mind when we took hostages so fuk you.

So which is it Muslims? Are you just a misunderstood religion, or a pack of angry wolves the world should treat accordingly? Yeah, I know there are violent nutty Christians and Jews too, but their respective religious communities have kept them small in numbers and influence. Consequently none of them have committed mass murder on scale of 9/11.

And so this is where things stand. A Westerner ends up sitting on next to a Jehovah Witness on a long plane ride might wish they were dead by the time they arrive at their destination, but at least they know they will not be dead. Can’t say the same right now for traditional Muslims, and that’s not our fault.

So, if Muslims who live in the West don’t want to be profiled then I would suggest they change their public relations profile. They can start by going through the literature at the approximately 2000 Islamic schools, mosques and institutions in the US and purge them of hate literature masquerading as religious thought. Either Islam really is a religion that preaches peace or it’s a Muslim version of the Klu Klux Klan. It can't be both at the same time.

September 12, 2001 was the day Muslims should have started figuring out which they are. But it’s never too later to start that process.

Until then get used to being victims of profiling, because this is one of those rare cases when it is largely the victims own fault.

Raconteur at Large

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