Posts about Mideast

Iraqi democracy

I will fully confess that I have been remiss in not linking to reports of the Iraqi constitutional vote. My fault.

But I will link to reports that voter turnout is even higher than it was in January and that there was opposition — what democracy does not? But it appears the constitution will pass.

These are a people who are dying to build a democracy. And we continue to have an obligation to help them. How we got there is not an excuse to abandon them and their quest to secure their freedom.

Deals with devils

Ruth emails me appropriate outrage over this news:

President Bush decided Wednesday to waive any financial sanctions on Saudi Arabia, Washington’s closest Arab ally in the war on terrorism, for failing to do enough to stop the modern-day slave trade in prostitutes, child sex workers and forced laborers.

What do we stand for?

Dear Cindy,

Clifford May, the head of the Foundation to Defend Democracies — a private charity that got Department of State funding — writes an open letter to Cindy Sheehan.

So let me suggest an alternative: Come visit with me. Our meeting probably won’t get much publicity but I can promise you an interesting discussion. I’ll invite to join us some of the many Iraqi freedom fighters with whom I’ve been working for the past several years – many of them women — as well as democracy and human rights activists from Syria, Iran, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon and other countries.

You say you want to know, “What is the noble cause that my son died for?” They would answer: Your son died fighting a war against an extremist movement intent on destroying free societies and replacing them with racist dictatorships.

The Iraqis will want to tell you what life was like under Saddam Hussein – the mass murders of hundreds of thousands, the women and girls who were gang-raped by Saddam’s cronies, the creative forms of torture that were ignored by the “international community.”

I know several Baghdadi businessmen whom Saddam suspected of disloyalty. He had their right hands amputated. Want to meet them? The doctors who were forced to perform these amputations are worth chatting with as well.

The letter will run as a full-page ad in Waco’s paper.

The FDD also has a blog (full disclosure; a friend and former colleague helped them put it together); it includes ongoing commentary on the Iraqi constitution.

Do not build that. Not there.

The NY Daily News exposes another questionable angle on the International Freedom Center that is still insisting it should be part of the memorial at the World Trade Center. The News says the IFC had…

…”drawn inspiration” and received “important practical advice” from the International Coalition of Historic Site Museums of Conscience.

Now before we get to the advice this coalition has given, let’s make this clear: What we build at the World Trade Center is not a “musuem of conscience.”

If you want to build museums of conscience regarding terrorism, go franchise them in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan and Pakistan and all over the Middle East.

What we build at the World Trade Center should be a memorial.

This coalition joins museums at places where evil was concocted and executed: apartheid, the Holocaust, gulags.

The evil of 9/11 was not concocted at the World Trade Center. Innocents died there that day because of an evil born elsewhere.

That is why it is so inappropriate to turn the place into a why-they-hate-us pavillion, to import political debate about unrelated ills: about slavery or concentration camps.

The World Trade Center is the place where 3,000 heroes and innocents died and the role of a memorial is to remember them and tell their story.

Further, if you go to to the coalition’s site, they do not list terrorism — only “state terrorism” — as a “contemporary human rights issues.”

So I don’t know why the IFC is seeking not only advice from but also inviting exhibits and debates from this coalition.

Now here’s some of the advice that coalition is giving to the IFC:

“Don’t feature America first,” the IFC has been advised by the consortium of 14 “museums of conscience” that quietly has been consulting with the Freedom Center for the past two years over plans for the hallowed site. “Think internationally, where America is one of the many nations of the world.” …

“No one in the civilized world would ever defend what happened on 9/11,” said Sarwar Ali, the coalition’s chairman and a trustee of the Liberation War Museum in Bangladesh.

“But what happened after 9/11 – with restrictions placed on human rights and the cycle of revenge and the allegations of human rights abuses in prisons – must also be explored,” Ali said in a call from London.

Coalition members gathered for their annual conference at a Holocaust site in the Czech Republic in July 2004 – and assailed the United States for “reasserting its power in an arrogant way,” the conference report shows.

Among its suggestions for the place where the United States was attacked and nearly 3,000 innocents massacred: “The Freedom Center must signal its openness to contrary ideas.”

Philip Kunhardt, the Freedom Center’s editorial director, was in attendance at a session called Bringing Conscience to Ground Zero and was given this advice:

* “Help distinguish between American people and the U.S. government in exhibits …”

* “Use reports from human rights organizations to examine contemporary abuse of rights.”

* “Involve the United Nations, UNESCO and other international bodies.”

* “Use the museum as a venue for international meetings, where all views are welcomed and considered.”

At the conference, the coalition also leveled barbs at the IFC: “The Freedom Center is a caricature of the typical American response to everything [telling every story from an American viewpoint].”

Members of the coalition also expressed these concerns:

* “It seems that whatever Americans want, Americans get!” the conference report states. “Is the definition of the ‘struggle for freedom’ simply defined by the victors, or also by those engaged in ongoing struggles? Will Americans really create a balanced vision of freedom?”

* “The WTC was attacked because it was a symbol of power and influence. In building the Freedom Tower, the U.S. reasserts its power in an arrogant way: Does this mean the U.S. will not only build the biggest building, but also define freedom for the world?”

* “Many nonsecular Muslims may be very skeptical about the intent of this museum (e.g. the average Bangladeshi condemns the Sept. 11 attacks, yet at the same time feels his/her human rights have been violated by the U.S.).”

Kunhardt, an ordained Episcopal minister and the writer of the PBS series “Freedom: A History of Us,” mostly listened. He agreed with some things that were said, disagreeing with others, an observer said. He didn’t return calls.

The News also editorializes against this offensive insanity.

I’ve been saying that the IFC should be built, just not at the World Trade Center. And if someone wants to build this thing, they should build it. But judging by the company they keep, I can’t say that I’ll ever see any good reason to go there.

The Lower Manhattan Develoment Association is waiting until Sept. 23 to decide the fate of the IFC at Ground Zero. I agree with Take Back The Memorial: We must not wait until then. To have this hanging over the memorial events on the fourth anniversary of the tragedy would be an insult to the memory of those who died that day.

Kudo

I complained a few days ago that the only narrative I’ve been seeing of the Gaza pullout story, especially on TV, was of wailing settlers, making it look as if all Israel was protesting this move.

NPR, to its credit, is rounding out the narrative. Last night, All Things Considered presented reports that showed support and perspective in Israel. And this morning, I heard a good report on On The Media summing up media reaction in Israel and in the Arab world with, again, much more perspective.