Monday, April 10, 2006

Letter from London 10th April 2006

For the “Bahrain Tribune”

The two lead items on the evening news here in Britain last Sunday were Iraq and the Italian elections. The first story was President Mubarak of Egypt saying that Iraq had now deteriorated into civil war. The Italian election story was how Prime Minister Berlusconi may win re-election as a result of his iron grip on much of the Italian media through his company's ownership of newspapers and TV stations. There is no obvious connection between these two stories - until, that is, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw unintentionally provided one. Iraq is not in a state of civil war, said Straw, on the contrary they are reaping the benefits of democracy.

The "D" word democracy is brazenly used by American and British leaders to justify their disastrous military involvement in Iraq, an involvement that has without question created the civil war conditions that Mubarak so accurately described. The tens of thousands of dead, dispossessed, orphaned and maimed Iraqi citizens are the price, according to this warped ideology, that has to be paid for the welcome benefits of "democracy". Meanwhile a western European country that has enjoyed these benefits for decades is ruled by a man with criminal convictions and whose brand of democratic government involves the effective suppression of the opposition parties' rights to a level playing field to communicate their messages in an election. That the democracy in Italian is a sham is a metter for the Italians I suppose. That the so-called democracy in Iraq is equally an illusion is in many ways the least of the problems brought to the country on the back of American and British armies of occupation.

I realise, of course, that there can always be the accusation that to criticise the American and British actions in Iraq can be seen to be wise after the event and to have been made in the light of the current civil war. But many of us who opposed this action from the start did so at least in part because we feared that in the vacuum created by occupation it was inevitable that Shiite/Sunni rivalries would burst into open conflict. I was personally on record in saying this, as were many other commentators who knew the Middle East well. To have lived in the region for many years gives all of us the opportunity not only to learn about the nature of the region and its many and varied communities, but also to see that the western model of government (which is what Bush and Blair mean by "democracy") has little place in the region. To suggest that a parliamentary style of government, based on political parties and an adversarial style is appropriate for much of the Middle East is just plain ignorant. And to impose it on a country like Iraq, and to justify this imposition even when chaos is all around, is not just naïve - it is criminal.

So the next time the benighted Anglo-Saxon politicians of each side of the Atlantic prattle on about how smart they are to have brought democracy to Iraq it might be right to ask them a question. Do they really truly believe that the imposition of this western governance model (which as we can see is deeply flawed even in their own backyard of Italy) has been worthwhile in the light of everything else that has happened? And (more importantly) whether it will endure five minutes when the American and British troops eventually scuttle home.