With Turkey now the new “frontier” in the war against terror, the Bush administration is fighting Al Qaeda all over the place. The world is divided into two halves: the Western democratic half led by Bush’s Christian America, and the Al Qaeda half led by the seldom seen if living bin Laden and his lurking Muslim hordes.
Al Qaeda “has developed into a kind of worldwide lexicon of terrorism,” notes a writer in Ha’aretz, the Israeli newspaper. “So, when two vehicles blow up on the same day in the same place, it’s taken to be ‘a characteristic operating method of Al Qaeda.’ Every terrorist who was ever in Afghanistan or Pakistan is automatically a member of the organization. Every extremist preacher in a remote mosque is from Al Qaeda, and every Arab regime that wants to arrest opponents of the regime can do so very comfortably by declaring that the detainees have ties to Al Qaeda. Whatever is anti-Western, anti-American or anti-Israeli is Al Qaeda.”
If this were viewed as a war between Christianity and Islam, it would at least be understandable. But the Bush administration says that is not what it has in mind. Like Woodrow Wilson, Bush is trying to make the world safe for democracy. And it’s slow going. Israel is democratic. Turkey, a secular Islamic state, sometimes seems to be democratic. But our real allies in the region haven’t the least interest in democracy, Quentin Peel writes in Britain’s Financial Times. Morocco, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia are all kingdoms, run by royal families. What little there is of democracy in these places comes from the top down, offered to the people by beneficent monarchs. The real bottom-up, potentially democratic movements that promise to establish serious long-term change in Iran and the Palestinian territories are dismissed as the work of religious kooks and rabble-rousers. In Iraq the Bush government incessantly talks about turning the place over to Iraqis, although the supposed elections it now proposes to insert as the linchpin of its democratization campaign will call for local leaders, many of them appointed by Americans, to elect the government—not by any democratic mass of people.
Peel notes that quite a few U.S. conservatives “are appalled at the president’s newfound missionary zeal.” To buttress that point, he quotes Dimitri Simes, president of the Nixon Center (yes, that Nixon) in D.C., as saying, “The pursuit of moralistic projects has undermined not only American interests, but American values. Double standards and deception, or at least considerable self-deception, have become all too common.”
Additional reporting: Ashley Glacel and Sheelah Kolhatkar