NPR claims nonexistent US support for Middle East democracy


Dear NPR News,

This morning, Bob Edwards declared that the United States “has been encouraging democratic reforms in the Middle East.”

This was in the introduction to a report on legislative elections to be held in Bahrain.

This is a shocking and extraordinary statement. While it is completely in tune with official propaganda, I cannot think of one single example of the United States “encouraging democratic reforms” in that part of the world.

On the contrary, the United States has an unbroken record of supporting monarchs and military dictators throughout the region from Saddam Hussein to Turkish generals to the medieaval monarchs of the Gulf. Of all the countries routinely described as “moderate” US allies, from Egypt to Saudi Arabia, not one can be described as a democracy, and none has been the subject of any serious US effort to promote democracy.

Since the United States went to war to remove Iraqi forces from Kuwait more than ten years ago, there has been absolutely no US pressure for “democratic reforms” in either Kuwait or Saudi Arabia. The “Reagan Doctrine” which still forms the backbone of US policy in the Gulf actually commits the United States to go to war to defend the Saudi monarchs currently in power.

In Iraq the United States is planning to put in place a military dictator if recent press reports are to be believed, and American support for Israel’s military dictatorship over three million Palestinians who are not even citizens of the country that rules them is solid and unshakeable.

Even signs of media liberalization, such as the increased debate brought about by the satellite TV channels are perceived as a threat. Last year the US put pressure on Qatar’s rulers to rein in Al-Jazeera, and have followed that with the creation of new US propaganda broadcasts to counteract the effect of this liberalization.

Actually, the United States government perceives democracy in the Arab world and the Middle East more generally as a true threat. Because if such democracy existed, there would never be support for US military bases expanding throughout the region, nor support for myriad other policies that US client governments have been forced to accept.

What the US supports in the Middle East is “stability” and militarization. Anyone who is deluded enough to think that the United States supports democracy, or has done anything but discourage and undermine it, needs only visit the region.

Edwards’ statement was all the more extraordinary because it actually had nothing to do with the subsequent report. It appears to have been nothing but egregious editorializing by whoever wrote it.


Ali Abunimah