The NEW Champion of democracy and freedom in the Middle East - the very same USA that has been the main champion for decades of repression, secret police, despotic regimes, and CIA-control. What a world of propaganda and subterfuge we all now live in. Get this from the front page of the Washington Post, 21 August 2002:
U.S. to Seek Mideast Reforms
Programs Aim to Foster Democracy, Education, Markets
By Peter Slevin and Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, August 21, 2002; Page A01
The Bush administration intends to launch an effort this fall to promote democracy in the Middle East, combining the president's ambitious rhetoric -- and moves such as last week's rebuke of Egypt's human rights performance -- with dollars meant to improve political institutions and public debate in often repressive societies.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell as early as next month will unveil a program aimed at promoting economic, education and political reform, including $25 million for pilot projects and additional millions for training political activists, journalists and trade union leaders, according to U.S. officials.
A central goal of the effort, which would include a review of the effectiveness of $1 billion in U.S. foreign aid to the Middle East, is to develop economic opportunities and political safety valves in a region that is home to significant anti-American sentiment.
The administration's ambitions remain modest, officials said, adding that the president and his foreign policy advisers are wary of jeopardizing U.S. relations with countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, key allies that have long been criticized for their human rights records and lack of political freedoms.
"You have to be realistic," said one official. "Clearly we have important strategic relationships. What we're talking about doing is working together to encourage these changes -- but saying more clearly than we have before that these are changes the region needs to make if it is to receive the benefits of globalization."
Senior officials working on the initiative speak of incremental progress -- slowly building a freer press, more functional local governments and more engaged civic organizations. They describe building "partnerships" on economics and education with governments in countries such as Oman and Morocco.
The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks motivated the administration to shift tactics in a part of the world where U.S. governments traditionally have avoided pointed talk of human rights and the absence of democratic freedoms in favor of preserving the political stability of autocratic regimes that back U.S. policies. Bush still courts the support of these governments, but in speeches this year he has called on them to pay closer attention to the rights of their citizens.
"In poverty, they struggle. In tyranny, they suffer," Bush said at West Point in June. "The peoples of the Islamic nations want and deserve the same freedoms and opportunities as people in every nation, and their governments should listen to their hopes."
Since then, Bush has offered words of support to pro-democracy demonstrators in Iran, demanded political reforms from the Palestinian Authority as a condition for statehood and has called for a democratic successor to President Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Last week, Bush notified Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that he opposed additional U.S. aid to Egypt because of its treatment of human rights campaigner Saad Eddin Ibrahim.
"There has clearly been a sense that the United States stood for these things in the rest of the world and not in the Arab world," said a senior State Department official. "September 11th really focused people on this part of the world in a way we hadn't before, and focused people on the fact that the Mideast has not performed economically or politically the way it should have."
The challenges are formidable for a project that encompasses societies from Iran to Morocco. Rulers are hardly eager to change the political formulas that preserve their power, and large segments of Middle Eastern society remain suspicious of U.S. motives.
"To do this, the door has to be open," said Youssef Ibrahim, a Middle Eastern specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations. "Right now, there is nothing but hostility to the United States."
Some Middle East specialists and human rights activists praise the administration's ambition but remain doubtful. They say they have not seen a willingness by the White House to pressure Middle Eastern governments, apart from Iraq and Iran and a Palestinian leadership that has a record of supporting assaults on Israel.
"The Clinton administration was big on words about democracy, but it never put a lot of muscle in it. Frankly, this administration hasn't either. I'm not convinced they have a game plan that works or a strategy to achieve it," said Edward S. Walker Jr., who was President Bill Clinton's assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs. Walker said Clinton focused on promoting democracy in about a dozen countries in Asia and Latin America, skipping the Middle East because the hurdles were thought to be too high.
Yet some officials also cited a danger in pushing too hard. Bush's July 12 statement supporting reform movements in Iran, Walker said, "by all indications has strengthened the conservatives and weakened the forces of democracy."
The Bush administration's agenda combines the president's outspoken faith in universal values such as human rights with the view of neo-conservatives that U.S. power should be harnessed to spread U.S. influence abroad. The notion also attracts figures, such as Powell, who think the United States should do more as a force for good, and others who think a measure of openness could strengthen some Middle Eastern governments.
Some officials have likened the approach in the Middle East to the campaign against the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s, when neo-conservatives and human rights advocates both supported dissidents and opposition groups. One source of influence is Israeli lawmaker Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet dissident who has spoken widely about how to promote democracy in the Middle East and whose writings are closely read in the administration.
The Sept. 11 attacks boosted the message of advocates within the administration who favored democracy-building programs in the Middle East. Fifteen of the 19 terrorists who hijacked airplanes that day were disaffected Saudis. The threat of Middle Eastern poverty and autocracy to U.S. interests seemed suddenly clear, officials said.
"It's this whole change in the parameters of how we look at the Middle East, that it's no longer off-limits," said a senior State Department official. "The state of affairs in these countries has to be a matter of interest to us."
This official described the goal of this year's intensified funding for democracy projects this way: "Greater citizen involvement in the political process so they don't feel frustrated at home."
The State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor has chosen to concentrate $13 million in pro-democracy funding this year in two areas: China and the Muslim world, including Central Asia.
One project will be training sessions for democratic activists, to be held in Morocco, Bahrain and Lebanon. People from across the region will be taught about grass-roots advocacy, election monitoring, political party building and communication. Also planned are seminars for journalists from 11 Middle Eastern countries and a project to train trade union leaders as advocates for political liberty, openness and accountability.
Another $25 million in State Department money, received in a special appropriation from Congress after Sept. 11, will be used for an array of projects to be discussed by Powell in his upcoming speech. The program includes voter education, loan funds, financial training and classes in advocacy skills for workers in non-governmental organizations.
Officials said Powell will describe the department's review of $1 billion in foreign aid, which the administration wants to allocate more effectively to spur economic and democratic reforms.
The status of women will be a particular focus. U.S. officials hope, for example, to bring over several dozen women from the Middle East during this year's midterm election campaigns. The visitors would start in Washington with seminars about the U.S. political system and then travel to congressional districts.
"Too often across this region, the groups that are well-organized are the radical Islamist groups, in part because the religious outlet has been the only acceptable outlet for dissent," a senior State Department official said. "What the United States can effectively do is open up the public space for debate and help moderate voices be heard."