Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Democracy In North Africa

Michael Tomasky

"My problem with Perry’s zeal is one of my problems with the Tea Party generally: Though it claims to be libertarian, it is remixing the religious right’s greatest hits." - Dana Milbank

So, we've spent over $60 billion on Iraq and Afghanistan, we can sit back and view our accomplishments with pride. The other billions of dollars that European countries contributed in humanitarian aid and buying townhouses in Dubai by friends of Hamid Karzai, demonstrates what happens when you throw money down the rabbit-hole. They don't even get any free heroin for their efforts...

Thinking that after 10 years of occupation, the folks of Baghdad might have some advice for the dazed citizens of Libya, the NY times reporter, Michael Schmidt, walked into a crowded cafe and began befriending people and asking questions. The results were pretty interesting: "The men said they had learned the hard way what they never understood living under decades of repression: that democracy is not just the absence of oppression, but that it also involves challenging concepts of tolerance, compromise and civic responsibility yet to take root in Iraq, or in Libya."

Other advice was directed at the Ahmed Chalabi wannabees now traveling back to Libya: “People came from the outside to run Iraq, and they didn’t understand the suffering we had lived through,” said Firas Abdul Hadi, 28, an engineer in the office of the mayor of Baghdad, referring to how Iraqis who fled the country under Mr. Hussein’s rule tried to claim power when they returned.

“They came back and claimed to be patriotic,” he said. “The Libyans should vote for people who suffered like them. People who were abroad didn’t feel what they did.”

I had been wondering why the US spend all of this time, money, and effort in Iraq, only to watch them adopt the British style of government. It makes no sense, and I haven't yet found an account of how this came to be. Unfortunately, it's a more dysfunctional style of governing and Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya would be better off coming up with a simpler form that will serve them better: The parliamentary system in Iraq has failed, said Thaar Abdul Kadhum, 34, a contractor. “They should have a president who can make all the decisions, and not have all these blocs like we have now.”

The character of the politicians matters, too, they said. If the leaders do not have strong enough personalities, the men said, corruption will be rife, as it is in Iraq, where bribes are commonplace. “People with weak personalities are seduced by the power, and they use the power to steal money from the people,” Ahmed Ali, 46, a shop owner, said shortly after losing a game of chess.

Finally, people of Libya, Syria, Egypt, and Tunisia, be careful in what you ask for: "The men said that Libyans should be wary of freedom of speech. In Iraq, they said, they are now free to express themselves, which they could not do under Saddam Hussein. But this right is almost useless, they said, because the government is not responsive to the public.

“Nobody listens to the people,” Mr. Hadi said."

Eight years after the United States-led invasion, there are still bombings and assassinations in Iraq almost every day, and unemployment is high. It is far from the country that the Bush administration had hoped for after Saddam Hussein’s government fell... amen to that, brothers. I have to use the word amen because we are still so Islamophobic in the US, or at least in Herman Cain's and Rick Perry's America... For $60 billion we could have bought every citizen a Chevy and an air-conditioning unit, with change left over...

An Italian news station claims that Moammar Qaddafi is still inside Libya, holed up in a town about 60 miles south of Tripoli. I would have thought that he had made plans for a safe, quick getaway, but after 42 years in the same bunker inside the same compound, he got complacent. Probably began believing his own BS about being beloved by all of the people, before he went crazy. I know, using the word crazy is politically incorrect, but then, so is being a dictator. To be honest, Qaddafi wasn't all that bad, as far as dictators go. He has a wacky charm, and if he'd shared more of the oil revenue with the rest of Libyans, he might still be in power today. It will be interesting to see if these countries can avoid the sectarian fighting, and if they end up substituting a religious dictatorship for the post-colonial autocrats they just deposed...

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