On Sunday January 13, 2008, President George Bush addressed a nation. True to Bush form, his speech opened with an arrogance few would suppose, “I am honored by the opportunity to stand on Arab soil and speak to the people of this nation and this region.” This opening sentence should give those in attendance the first hint that the intended audience was not for the people of the Arab world, but rather for the American people. Much the same as pre-Iraq rhetoric, the words that slithered from Bush’s mouth were as hollow as they were untrue.
Apparently oblivious, Bush spoke only as the leader of the free world should. He spoke of greatness, freedom, and democracy, “In my country, we speak of these developments as the advance of freedom. Others may call it the advance of justice. Yet whatever term we use, the ideal is the same. In a free and just society, every person is treated with dignity. In a free and just society, leaders are accountable to those they govern. And in a free and just society, individuals can rise as far as their talents and hard work will take them.”
As Bush has stated on many occasions, he does not bother to read polls, nor does he make decisions based on polling results. Perhaps it is this lack of attention to the will of the people he claims to bring democracy to that has led to the worst blunder in American history. A blunder that has increased terrorism and anti-American sentiment around the globe. Recent polling data shows that over 80% in the Arab world believe that US policies are the largest threat they face personally and the largest threat to stability in the region. Indeed, Bush denounces such stability in exchange for freedom, “For decades, the people of this region saw their desire for liberty and justice denied at home and dismissed abroad in the name of stability.” It has been the very will of the people in Iraq Bush himself has denied these freedoms. In June of 2007 the Iraqi Parliament voted to have Americans set a timeline for withdraw, which was largely ignored in American media and completely ignored by Bush himself. Clearly, discussion of people governing themselves is reserved only for those of us fortunate enough to have been born here, not over there.
One can only wonder what any Arab listening to the president’s speech today thought? The main argument used for US policy in the Middle East is democracy promotion. However, as Oxford Analytica, notes, the invasion of Iraq has undermined the credibility of U.S. democracy promotion programs. After the failure to find weapons of mass destruction, the United States and United Kingdom described the invasion as bringing democracy to Iraq, in turn having a domino effect of democratization in the wider Middle East. Bush also ignorantly goes on to tout the United Arab Emirates as an example for the rest of the Middle East to follow, however, he ignores the fact that it was only after the UAE was free from British occupation that it was able to realize its move towards a more democratic state.
Perhaps if US policy in the Middle East were to take the shape of Bush’s words instead of his actions, one might find themselves feeling hopeful, but sadly for the next year, the people of the Middle East can only hold their breath and wait for the next bomb to drop.