Oh, Sister ...06/21/2005
Condoleeza Rice is not your father's Secretary of
State. When I saw the FOX headline today, "Rice To Syria: Knock It Off,"
I figured it was a little tabloid-style flourish by
the fair and balanced network. But it wasn't. That's
exactly what she said - reacting to the assassination
of the anti-Syrian Lebanese politician George Hawi.
"I do not
know who was responsible for this and I don't
want to say that I know who was responsible,
because I don't," Rice said. "But there
is a context and an atmosphere of instability.
Syria's activities are a part of that context and
that atmosphere and they need to knock it
More dramatic, however, and certainly more
important in the long run, was her speech in Cairo, Egypt, on
Monday. It's not a speech that I could imagine Colin
Powell giving, somehow - let alone Madeline Albright
or Warren Christopher. This is a Secretary of State
who is clearly comfortable going full-bore and
risking (egads!) the discomfit of her hosts and
America's erstwhile Arab "allies." Some
For 60 years,
my country, the United States, pursued stability
at the expense of democracy in this region here
in the Middle East -- and we achieved neither.
Now, we are taking a different course. We are
supporting the democratic aspirations of all
We know these advances will not come easily, or
all at once. We know that different societies
will find forms of democracy that work for them.
When we talk about democracy, though, we are
referring to governments that protect certain
basic rights for all their citizens -- among
these, the right to speak freely. The right to
associate. The right to worship as you wish. The
freedom to educate your children -- boys and
girls. And freedom from the midnight knock of the
In Saudi Arabia, brave citizens are demanding
accountable government. And some good first steps
toward openness have been taken with recent
municipal elections. Yet many people pay an
unfair price for exercising their basic rights.
Three individuals in particular are currently
imprisoned for peacefully petitioning their
government. That should not be a crime in any
Now, here in
Cairo, President Mubaraks decision to amend
the countrys constitution and hold
multiparty elections is encouraging. President
Mubarak has unlocked the door for change. Now,
the Egyptian Government must put its faith in its
own people. We are all concerned for the future
of Egypts reforms when peaceful supporters
of democracy -- men and women -- are not free
from violence. The day must come when the rule of
law replaces emergency decrees -- and when the
independent judiciary replaces arbitrary justice.
Government must fulfill the promise it has made
to its people -- and to the entire world -- by
giving its citizens the freedom to choose.
Egypts elections, including the
Parliamentary elections, must meet objective
standards that define every free election.
groups must be free to assemble, and to
participate, and to speak to the media. Voting
should occur without violence or intimidation.
And international election monitors and observers
must have unrestricted access to do their jobs.
Those who would
participate in elections, both supporters and
opponents of the government, also have
responsibilities. They must accept the rule of
law, they must reject violence, they must respect
the standards of free elections, and they must
peacefully accept the results.
Middle East, the fear of free choices can no
longer justify the denial of liberty. It is time
to abandon the excuses that are made to avoid the
hard work of democracy. There are those who say
that democracy is being imposed. In fact, the
opposite is true: Democracy is never imposed. It
is tyranny that must be imposed.
There are those who say that democracy is for men
alone. In fact, the opposite is true: Half a
democracy is not a democracy. As one Muslim woman
leader has said, "Society is like a bird. It
has two wings. And a bird cannot fly if one wing
is broken." Across the Middle East, women
are inspiring us all.
women protested to win their right to vote,
carrying signs that declared: "Women are
Kuwaitis, too." Last month, Kuwaits
legislature voiced its agreement. In Saudi
Arabia, the promise of dignity is awakening in
some young women. During the recent municipal
elections, I saw the image of a father who went
to vote with his daughter.
cast his vote himself, he gave the ballot to his
daughter, and she placed it in the ballot box.
This small act of hope reveals one mans
dream for his daughter. And he is not alone.
And so it is that the evil imperialist American
hegemonists continue wreaking their havoc and ruining
the world, with this insistence that everyone should
be able to "vote" and "choose"
their leaders - even in countries where the current
dictators do their bidding anyway. What wily scheme
are they hiding behind this message of
"freedom" and "basic rights?" I
smell a secret pipeline, or at a minimum another
ginned-up war to distract the American people from
the problems of rising ATM fees and runaway brides.
It certainly couldn't be that this Condi Rice is
really saying that the United States has broken with
six decades of purely pragmatic self-interest and is
now gambling on supporting the ideals of its own
founding across the world, even at the risk of
unfriendly governments being elected?
Why, if that were the case, surely those old
liberals in the U.S. Senate, like Ted Kennedy, would
be heartily supporting it, instead of attempting to
throw a wrench into the Bush Administration's foreign
policy by blocking his nominee for the ambassadorship
to the United Nations (John Bolton).
The truth is that Condoleeza Rice is advocating
and expressing a foreign policy based on a
combination of high principle ("certain
inalienable rights") and genuine far-sighted
self-interest (a Middle East without repressive
governments that foster sick resentments amongst
their most idle citizens), and it is a potent mixture
that, with the grace of God and the hard work and
sacrifice of some unbelievably brave people, gives us
all the best chance of avoiding a true clash of
civilizations - one that would make the current war
look like a skirmish.
And she's doing it with style.
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