Center for American Progress

President Bush’s Remarks on Democracy in the Middle East: What About Iraq?

President Bush’s Remarks on Democracy in the Middle East: What About Iraq?




President Bush gave a speech today that addressed democracy in the Middle East, but glossed over the situation in Iraq. Although the Bush administration has talked a good game about its commitment to Iraqi democracy, its actions have spoken louder than its words.

The President says, “For too long, many people in (the Middle East) have been victims and subjects – they deserve to be active citizens.”

In Iraq, the United States is not practicing the habits of democracy:

  • At this point in time, the Iraqi population has virtually no say in how their country is run. According to the New York Times’ Tom Friedman, two-thirds of the Governing Council – which was handpicked by the United States – no longer regularly attend meetings.
  • According to members of the Iraqi Governing Council, the Coalition Authority refuses to disclose how it is spending both Iraqi and American funds. Secrecy also surrounds the process of awarding contracts. The perception that American contractors with ties to the Bush Administration are profiting from their connections damages Iraq’s struggle for transparent democracy.
  • The Pentagon is running the Iraqi Media Network, which most Iraqis do not view as a credible source of news. Instead, most continue to watch Al-Jazeera.
  • 47% of Iraqis say that they viewed coalition forces as liberators or peacekeepers when they first arrived. Only 19% now hold that view. (Washington Times, 10/24/03)
  • On the local level, American soldiers are still functioning as mayors, judges, and other civil officials.

The President says, “As we watch and encourage reforms in the region, we are mindful that modernization is not the same as Westernization. Representative governments in the Middle East will reflect their own cultures. They will not, and should not, looks like us.”

U.S. authorities are trying to use Iraq as a laboratory for policies made in America:

  • Senator John McCain says: “The Coalition Provisional Authority continues to make a fundamental mistake in the way it interacts with the Iraqi people. The CPA seems to think that all wisdom is made in America.”
  • Recently the Authority imposed a flat tax – long a dream of American conservatives – on the people of Iraq (McCain: “We should leave it to the Iraqis to decide what kind of tax code they should have”).
  • The Washington Post reports that the United States has “ordered” reforms that will allow full foreign ownership of parts of the Iraqi economy. This follows an earlier memo by U.S. officials that permits investors to take their profits out of the country, with “no requirement to reinvest the money in Iraq.”
  • According to a recent Zobgy poll, a majority of Iraqis think that, “Democracy is a Western way of doing things and will not work here.” When asked to choose which form of government they prefer, 23% pick that used in the United States. 29% pick either those of Saudi Arabia or Syria.




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