Morning Report 3/10/05
Smells Like Bush Team 'Spirit'

Bush wants 'democracy' in Lebanon, but which brand?

This self-captioned poster of a Google-eyed Bush popped up last fall on the Web site of Beirut paper Dar Al-Hayat

Before you swallow the hype that there's a "spirit of democracy" wafting across the Middle East and that what's going on in Lebanon is another version of Ukraine's supposed "Orange Revolution," take a look at Meron Benvenisti's analysis in this morning's Haaretz. Sarcastically titled "A Thrilling Epic of Freedom," the piece includes this passage:

    The desperate American need to justify the Iraqi war after the fact is causing them and their supporters to inflate every event and to lend it a significance that goes beyond the local, limited context, which usually stems not from lofty principles, but from the interests of local tyrants who want to strengthen their position.

    Enthusiasm over the "harbingers of freedom" is particularly strong among right-wing circles in Israel and the United States, who see the spread of democracy as the justification for their old demand that a precondition for any normalization and peace process is a "democratization of the Arabs." In the eyes of the satisfied people of the Western world, political freedom and the institutions of parliamentary democracy are more important than freedom from want and equality of opportunity in the areas of economics, education and health.

Bush's invasion of Iraq has set in motion forces that we can't stop. Hey, not all of the forces are bad, as Der Spiegel's Volker Windfuhr and Bernhard Zand noted Monday in a deep analysis. But the Iraq fiasco makes the Bush regime and its hard-right allies desperate to promote the notion that there's a "spirit of democracy" in the Middle East that mighty America has unleashed, when in fact part of what's being unleashed is both undemocratic and scary. Here's more from Der Spiegel on the serious problem of Syria:

    Observers doubt that driving the Damascus regime into a corner will truly improve the situation in the Middle East. Last week Flynt Leverett, a former Middle East expert in the U.S. government's National Security Council, warned not to "rush things with Syria." Leverett believes that using the exuberance of Lebanon's democratic spring to achieve the "maximum goal"—of deposing Bashar al-Assad—would be dangerous. He believes that "the most likely outcome would be chaos in Syria, and the political order following this chaos would be of a heavily Islamist nature." An overly hasty withdrawal by the Syrians would also leave behind an unwanted vacuum in southern Lebanon—namely a leaderless Shiite Hezbollah party. Hezbollah, well-integrated politically and supported by Syria until now, could then turn to an increasingly radical Iran for support—an outcome even Israel's national security advisor, Giora Eiland, has warned against.

Meanwhile, the simplistic Bush regime crows about "democracy." Just remember that the Bushites tried to impose on Iraq the kind of "democracy" that dismantled that country's police force and army, shut down newspapers that were critical of the U.S. occupation, and, for plunder's sake, tried to privatize the entire economy at once.

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In Lebanon, on the other hand, there's a genuine coalition of people tired of living under Syria's yoke, and the latest news—the apparent re-establishment of a pro-Syrian government—is likely to inflame them further. Bush seems to say he supports "democracy" there. But it's not the kind he and his handlers want.

Evidence of that is Bush's extremely strange semi-endorsement of a role for Hezbollah in a new version of Lebanon. (See Steve Weisman's story in this morning's New York Times.) The neocons in the Bush administration consider Hezbollah as nothing more than a terrorist outfit. Israel's hard-right government is likely freaking out. But for now, at least, the Bush regime has to kind of go along with support of Hezbollah. That won't last long.

And don't kid yourself that just because thousands of Lebanese detest the Syrian presence they automatically embrace the Bush regime's Israel-loving neocons. Read Jihad Al Khazen's analysis yesterday in Beirut's Dar Al-Hayat, comparing coverage of "foreign fighters" in Iraq from the Weekly Standard and The Nation. If the likes of Jerry Bremer had their way of "spreading democracy" in Lebanon, Dar Al-Hayat would be shut down.

The Iraq debacle can teach us many lessons, whether the Bush regime pays any attention to them or not. One of the key documents—worth re-reading—in the history of our unjustified invasion is the International Crisis Group's Reconstructing Iraq, which I wrote about last September.

That's an analysis of the strange "democracy" that the Bush regime's Medal of Freedom winner Bremer tried to impose during his suzerainty—during which time we basically spent zero on health care and oil-rich Iraq had to import gasoline.

We hear propaganda to the contrary, of course. Nothing, however, is stranger (in a funny way) than the persistence of this counter-propaganda prank: Type "miserable failure" (with the quotation marks) into Google and you still get, at the top of the list of 157,000 hits, the official White House biography of George W. Bush. (Right-wingers have tried to counter this: Jimmy Carter is second, and Michael Moore is third. But Bush is still No. 1.)

This Google-bombing of Bush was first noted way back in December 2003, but it still works. Now that is a miracle of the spirit of democracy.

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