Hat Tip to Dubya

The Freedom to Describe Dictatorship

By Jackson Diehl
Monday, March 27, 2006; Page A15

Following the first day of Egypt's deeply flawed parliamentary election last November, the country's largest newspaper, the state-controlled al-Ahram, appeared with an equally flawed headline: 'The Fairest Parliamentary Elections in 50 Years.' Its sister, al-Gumhuriya, proclaimed to its readers that 'Egyptians Spoke Yesterday -- They Chose True Democracy Rather Than Slogans and Heeded President Hosni Mubarak's Call.'

But for the first time in the 24 years of Mubarak's rule, there was another voice that day on the newsstands. The newspaper al-Masri al-Yom, or the Daily Egyptian, reported 'death threats, bribes, violence and partisan security forces.' It said that 'the elections were marred by irregularities and violations carried out by a large number of [Mubarak's] National Democratic Party and independent candidates and their militias, which prevented people from entering polling stations.'
And why is that cause for praising W?

Well, let's just say that this is one subject on which I'll be sparing in any hyperbolic descriptions of a pol's actions. But please, read on.

Al-Masri al-Yom was launched in June 2004. Though the first months were rocky, the paper took off as Mubarak opened his campaign for another term as president a year ago. Early on, it covered an anti-Mubarak protest with the once-unthinkable headline, "Angry Demonstrations Demand Information on President's Health." The next day Kassem brushed off the inevitable threats from the mukhabarat , or state security, and never looked back. In the past year the paper's daily circulation has grown from 3,000 to a peak of 40,000. Meanwhile, other opposition papers are springing up, including several that attack Mubarak so unmercifully that even Kassem is put off.

How did this space for press freedom open? Kassem doesn't hedge: "U.S. pressure on the Mubarak regime has been the catalyst for most of the change we have seen," he said. He traces the turning point to an April 2004 summit between Mubarak and President Bush in Crawford, Tex., at which the aging Egyptian strongman heard for the first time from an American president that political liberalization would be necessary to maintain good relations. After stalling a few months in the hope that Bush would lose the 2004 election, Mubarak reluctantly concluded that he must take some visible steps, Kassem says. One was the allowance of greater press freedom; another was the conversion of his reelection from a referendum into a multi-candidate competition.
So here is my hat being tipped to President George W Bush; an ignorant and fascist-leaning theocratic wannabe dictator in the cause of Freedom and Democracy. It may be done somewhat sarcastically, and I may have a slight sneer on my face as I type it, but I do mean it sincerely and with hope in my heart.

I have never thought the man was completely, or even remotely irredeemably, evil. He's just wrong about what our Democratic Republic needs for Security and Prosperity, and abusive of the ways he has used his power as a means to accomplish some halfway honorable and efficacious ends.

Ya gotta give credit where credit is do though, eh.


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