Written by Memri.org
Al-Sharq Al-Awsat Editor: 'Post-Saddam Iraq was Not in Need of Superficial Democracy... It Needs a Strong Ruler, from the Army... or an Iraqi Ataturk'
On August 4, 2010, the website of the London-based Arabic daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat published an English-language column by its editor, Tareq Al-Homayed, titled "Why Did You Topple Saddam Hussein?" In the article Al-Homayed argues that the U.S. was short-sighted to promote Western-style democracy in Iraq, and that the country instead requires a benevolent but strong non-democratic leader in order to confront the challenges that it faces.
The following are excerpts from the article (slightly edited for clarity):
Al-Maliki is Refusing to Hand Over Power, Just Like Saddam Would Do
"... While the U.S. president confirms his country's determination to withdraw its troops from Iraq by the end of the month, the Iraqi Prime Minister is continuing to cling to power despite his recent electoral defeat, and Iran is defending him by saying: accept al-Maliki or else we'll hit you over the head!
"We say that this is strange because an observer can do nothing but ask: in this case, what is the difference between Nouri al-Maliki and Saddam Hussein? Al-Maliki is saying that Allawi won the elections by only one vote, and that he does not consider this to be an election defeat, while Saddam used to say that the Iraqis had elected him with 100 percent of the vote; therefore what is the difference between them? The most important question that must be asked here is, in this case, why did the U.S. forces even topple Saddam Hussein, if they are going to allow another Saddam - Nouri al-Maliki - to rise up and appear to us and the people of Iraq, but this time with democratic cover?"
The U.S. was Wrong in Predicting that Democracy in Iraq would Spread Throughout the Middle East
"Washington justified its invasion of Iraq by saying that it was searching for weapons of mass destruction - which it did not find - although the most dangerous weapons were those figures that were governing Iraq under the leadership of Saddam Hussein. The Americans later said that toppling Saddam Hussein would result in a democratic spring emerging not just in Iraq, but the region as a whole; however what is happening today is the opposite of this. The suffering of the Iraqis is on the increase, and the danger that is hanging over Iraq - and the region - is a warning that the gates of hell are opening.
"For all the American talk about the democratization of Iraq, and the necessity of the Iraqi people managing their own national issues, this is nothing more than beautiful talk that is a good excuse for the ugly reality, for what is the difference between Saddam and al-Maliki? What is the situation in Iraq today in comparison with yesterday?"
"It is the Americans Who Corrupted Baghdad ... [They] Focused on How to Topple [Saddam], without Putting in Place Any Clear Plans for what would Happen Afterwards"
"What is the extent of the potential risk from Iraq, and within it, following the U.S. withdrawal, in comparison to the risk Iraq represented during the Saddam era? We ask this not out of a desire for the occupiers to remain, but ... it is up to those who corrupted and destroyed Baghdad to fix this. It is the Americans who corrupted Baghdad, and it has become clear that all of their plans - prior to the invasion of Iraq - focused on how to topple the Saddam Hussein regime, without putting in place any clear plans for what would happen afterwards.
"Therefore Iraq's democracy is like somebody who has kidnapped a child from its family, and then abandoned this child in a tough neighborhood... The cultivation [of democracy] must always be accompanied by a parallel effort to construct [the country]. This is what Iraq is lacking, as democracy was imposed upon the country in a completely superficial manner.
"To sum up what the Americans did in the country, they entered Iraq, which was suffering from old age during the Saddam Hussein regime, and subjected it to an extremely difficult surgical operation, and then they asked Iraq on the day after the operation to get up and run a thousand meter relay-race in a region full of wolves!
"Post-Saddam Iraq was not in need of superficial democracy, but rather it was - and continues to be - in need of a strong ruler, from the army, in the ilk of a benevolent autocrat or an Iraqi Ataturk. Such a ruler would prepare the country for the post-Saddam era, ensuring institution building, and guaranteeing that Iraq does not fall into the hands of greedy powers, whilst also protecting the country from sectarianism and in-fighting, and ensuring that Iraq reaches a stage where it a country made up of genuine democratic institutes, rather than a country of sectarian rulers who cannot see farther than the ends of their own noses..."
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