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Fwd: NYTimes.com Article: In Search for Democracy, U.S. Is Rejected as a Guide
by Threehegemons
29 September 2002 02:26 UTC
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This article is so clear about the likely impact of a war with Iraq on the natural friends of the US in the Mideast that you almost have to wonder what the reporter was thinking.

Steven Sherman

This article from NYTimes.com 
has been sent to you by swsystem@aol.com.

In Search for Democracy, U.S. Is Rejected as a Guide

September 28, 2002


AL AIN, United Arab Emirates, Sept. 23 - Logically, the
women in the political science class at the university here
should be among America's best friends in the Arab world. 

They live in an oil-rich nation whose leaders have recently
bought billions of dollars in American high-tech weapons.
Under their long black Islamic robes, they wear stylish
clothes. They speak fervently of wanting democracy, and
chafe under the tradition of autocratic rule. 

But like many educated people in the more open Persian Gulf
nations, they say any war against Iraq would be a war
against them, not for them. Although they refer to Saddam
Hussein as a dictator, they resent Washington's supposition
that a liberated Baghdad will result in democracy for Iraq,
as well as for them. 

Most emphatically, they insist that a conflict will breed
more extremism, not less. They are no longer sure whether
America is friend or foe. 

During an animated discussion in the cool of an
air-conditioned classroom on the desert campus here of the
United Arab Emirates University, Thamina al-Sheraifi, 22,
summed up: "The war will create the same thing as Sept. 11.
It will create more Osama bin Ladens. America didn't learn
from Sept. 11. They can't understand that what happened is
because of their ugly policies in this region." 

Many of the Arabs who normally consider themselves well
disposed toward the United States say they have become
increasingly alienated in the past six months. Point by
point, they struggle with the main tenets of the Bush
arguments on Iraq: pre-emption, disarmament and democracy. 

They argue with passion, their views sharpened by what
they consider the unquestioning American support of Israel
against the Palestinians in a conflict that has been
dramatized on televisions in Arab living rooms. 

America versus Iraq will surely result in more bloody
images, they say, making plain where their feelings will
lie: with the Iraqi people. 

"I respect the United States," said Hamda el-Mari, 22.
"People in the United States have rights. In my country, we
can't have rights. I would like to vote. But our culture,
our religion is different. We don't want an imposed
democracy. We want a democracy according to our culture." 

Al-Otaiba Rowda, 22, a fluent English speaker who recalled
a visit to San Francisco with affection, said: "It seems
America always needs an enemy. Now Islam is the enemy." 

Their professor, Ebitsam Suhail al-Kitbi, was most
concerned about the doctrine of pre-emption. 

"The war against Iraq will set the example," said Mrs.
Kitbi, who spent several months last year on a Fulbright
scholarship at George Washington University in Washington.
"If America doesn't like a regime in the area, it will
change it. If the regime is not suitable for American
policy, they will change it." The result: "There will be
more extremists - either Islamic or nationalist." 

The Emirates is one of the least repressed societies in the
gulf region. With the flashy port city of Dubai and a
capital of hereditary riches at Abu Dhabi, it is also one
of the wealthiest nations. It ranks third, after Saudi
Arabia and Iraq, in oil reserves, according to the
Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. 

Women are allowed to drive, and some hold good jobs. The
three million residents - three-quarters of them foreign
workers - are ruled by a monarchy that last year paid $6.4
billion for 80 Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets. The
nation seeks to use American technology to protect itself
against Iran, its traditional foe. 

But like other small gulf countries, including neighboring
Bahrain, the Emirates is only edging toward change. Women
have not yet been appointed to the National Consultative
Assembly, and after a free-wheeling discussion in the
classroom, the students declined to have their photographs
taken. "They will kill us," one exclaimed, referring to the
university authorities. 

In Bahrain, which is home to the United States Navy Fifth
Fleet, there is also sharp opposition to the White House's
war plans. The State Department director of policy
planning, Richard N. Haass, who is touring the Arab world
this week to listen to Arab views, has included Bahrain on
his itinerary. He is likely to get an earful, several
Bahrainis said. 

"A war will prepare the ground for more hatred toward the
United States," said Sabika al-Najjar, secretary general of
the Bahrain Human Rights Society. "It will create more than
one bin Laden. From the ruins of the war, feeling against
the United States will increase." 

Dr. Najjar said she doubted the American military would be
able to avoid extensive civilian casualties. Mr. Hussein
will try to ensure the worst, to play on regional Arab
sympathies, she added. 

"They are our people," she said of the Iraqis. Of the
pre-emption doctrine, she said: "We are not defending
Saddam Hussein. But it's not for the American government to
decide whether he goes or not." 

There is widespread skepticism about the threat from Mr.
Hussein's weapons, and questions about why he was a target
now, 11 years after the 1991 Persian Gulf war. 

"We're not kids to be told every two days, `We have the
evidence but we can't show you now,' as though we are not
to be trusted," said Habib Toumi, the assistant editor of
The Bahrain Tribune, an English-language newspaper. In high
school Mr. Toumi spent time in New Jersey as an exchange

People said they were uneasy about the approach of their
rulers - who would publicly deny their support for the
United States but in the end would go along. The reasons
were stark: the small nations feel preyed upon by their
bigger neighbors, they said. 

A cartoon in a Bahraini paper this week summed up these
feelings of inadequacy. The cartoonist sketched an outsized
pistol pointed at the United States. On closer inspection,
the weapon was a water pistol. A few drops dripped from the

"Arab weakness encourages the United States to attack
Iraq," said the outspoken political science student, Ms.
Sheraifi. "We can use the oil weapons, we can use
diplomacy. But there is no unity." 


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