Friday, March 18, 2005

And by "freedom" we mean "constant threat of violence"

Just how does this fit into the grand plan of spreading freedom and liberty throughout the Arab world?

Here's a snip from the article:

In southern Baghdad, the hazards of life have come to this: Gangs of militant Islamists are warning barbers that it is haram - forbidden - to shave men's beards or do Western-style haircuts. As many as 12 barbers have been killed, Iraqi officials say, including five in one day in late January. With little hope of police protection, most now refuse to offer the offending cuts, and have placed prominent signs in their front windows saying so.

This may seem like a small thing, but if it is unsafe for Iraqi men to have a western-style haircut, imagine for a moment what life must be like over there. Clearly Iraqis are not- either out of ideology or fear of retribution from ideologues- going to embrace the freedoms of the Western World. This is a culture that has long seen the West as an enemy, and this doesn't seem to be changing. In the Times today, an editorial basically says it all:
Things are even worse on the Arab street. While hope for change may be rising, opinion about the United States has never been as profoundly negative. Even under the best circumstances, it would have been hard for the proud people of the Middle East to acknowledge any benefit from an armed intervention by a Western power. And the occupying forces have made themselves easy to hate with maddening human-rights disasters. When the average Egyptian or Palestinian or Saudi thinks about the Americans in Iraq, the image is not voters' purple-stained fingers but the naked Iraqi prisoner at the other end of Pfc. Lynndie England's leash.

This is so important, and yet so ignored by the American people. We are kept in a sort of Platonic Cave, seeing only what is shown to us. This is progress, we are told, as we are shown images of the Cedar Revolution, Iraqi voters, handshaking between Mideast leaders. And it is, and I hope as much as anyone else that it will continue. But we also have a responsibility to ourselves and to history to become aware of the fact that this "progress" is neither a direct product of the Bush Doctrine, nor is it consequence-free. We owe it to ourselves to understand the complexity and future repercussions of these issues.


  1. the platonic cave allusion's a good choice.

    i'm no juan cole myself, but it seems as though the increased u.s. presence and saber-rattling can only mean having to front for more friedman-approved strongmen/women/people and duplicitous, arrogant, ne'er do wells like chalabi...which would of course mean more in the way of an extremist response, etc., blah blah. like that great band ratt once sang, what comes around goes around...

  2. I would rather think it was John Kennedy standing in front of the Wall in Berlin in 1962 saying, "Ich bin ein Berliner" that caused the subsequent fall of Communism intead of Ronald Reagan challenging Breshnev to "Tear down this wall." Perhaps it's both?

    The Middle East should be changing. Not all catalysts are benign. The danger from Bush and his neocons is that they are very, very radical. They were right. Change the mix and their will be change.

    History may judge their audacity and its disregard for its cost to humanity differently than you and I. God forbid, but what if history gave them credit for the peace that followed the turmoil they created?

  3. It is a frightening thought- in this week's TIME, there's an article on the possibility of Bush getting a Nobel Peace Prize (although another smart blogger did mention the diminishment of the prize's value since Arafat got one). Like everyone else, I hold out hope for positive change, since like you say, not all change is good change but change is certainly needed in the area.

    But at the same time, I just hope that history shows what I've been trying to say all along- that Arabs, endowed with millenia of history in struggle and revolt, will have succeeded despite what has been done to them, rather than because of it.

    BTW, Blogger don't let me edit no comments, so your "their" will have to stay. Sorry . . .