Monday, March 28, 2005
"Oust Mugabe peacefully: Archbishop," Herald Sun, 29 March 2005, http://www.heraldsun.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5478,12683192%255E663,00.html.
Democracy may be coming to Zimbabwe (old South Rhodesia), if Archbishop Ncube has his way
A Zimbabwean church leader has called for a Ukranian-style, peaceful, popular uprising against President Robert Mugabe.
Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube made his call less than a week from the national poll.
Archbishop Ncube told The Sunday Independent he hoped for a mass uprising against Mugabe, his country's controversial long-time leader who seems set to romp to victory in Thursday's poll.
"I hope that people get so disillusioned that they really organise against the government and kick him (Mugabe) out by a non-violent, popular, mass uprising," the archbishop said.
Zimbabwe has a history of positive Church involvement in liberation. Bishop Muzorewa was a vital bridge between colonialism and local control. It looks like Archbishop Ncube is just as good.
Will the Big Bang echo in Harare? Let's hope!
Saturday, March 26, 2005
"Mass March Urges Reform in Bahrain," Reuters, 26 March 2005, http://xtramsn.co.nz/news/0,,11965-4230769,00.html (from Informed Comment).
The Shia Nova rolls on, this time in an important U.S. ally. A large Shia demonstration against the government of Bahrain gathered a crowd of 80,000, this in a country as populous as South Dakota.
Tens of thousands have marched in one of Bahrain's largest opposition demonstrations to demand democratic reforms in the pro-Western Gulf Arab state.
Bahrain is a small Kingdom in the Persian Gulf
Nearby are predominately Shia Iran, Iraq,
and Saudi-Occupied East Arabia
Friday's peaceful march, called by the Shi'ite-led opposition, follows unsuccessful talks with the government on constitutional reforms to give greater powers to parliament's elected assembly, which is on an equal footing with a state-appointed chamber.
Bahrain, the Gulf's banking hub and home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, has introduced some reforms, but the opposition, led by the country's majority Shi'ite Muslims, want more rights in the small Sunni-ruled island state.
As ghastly as it is, I have to agree with Ur-Left blogger Juan Cole. This is great news. Cole gives some background, showing it to be basically a disagreement over the last election and its rules. And the rally leaders seem like good guys.
Shaikh Ali Salman, the clerical leader for the rally, addressed the crowd and demanded that parliament be permitted to legislate on its own account and that there be a genuine separation of powers.
Salman emphasized that the reform movement is peaceful and has the best interests of the nation at heart. He said it wants Bahrain to go ahead with hosting the Formula 1 race early in April, and will refrain from demonstrating during it.
My kind of Muslims!
Now, how will America respond? Bahrain is a stable state and a good ally, so we have to treat the government well. But no one can deny the rights of the people. Dr. Cole explains
The US has a naval base in Bahrain and its king has been a helpful ally. Will George W. Bush support Shaikh
Salman or King Hamad? Bush spoke out forcefully against the Syrian presence in Lebanon and in favor of Lebanese democracy. Will he speak out in favor of majority rule and popular sovereignty in Bahrain?
And if he doesn't, won't the rest of the Middle East assume he is just hypocritically hiding behind catch phrases like "democracy" to make trouble for the countries in the region like Syria and Iran, which Bush does not like, and which are seen as threats by his expansionist friends in Israel's Likud party?
I hope Bush uses this to further democracy in Iraq, Lebanon, Iran, and East Arabia. This may be very good news.
Update: Dawn's Early Light links to Publius's reaction. Publius, in turn, sends his users over to Chan'ad Bahraini's protest pictures. Sadly, no Bahrain protest babes.
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
"When Camels Fly," by Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/20/opinion/20friedman.html, 22 February 2005.
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Tom Friedman continues to be a terrific columnist for the New York Times. From his latest:
It's good news, bad news time again for the Middle East. The good news is that what you are witnessing in the Arab world is the fall of its Berlin Wall. The old autocratic order is starting to crumble. The bad news is that unlike the Berlin Wall in central Europe, the one in the Arab world is going to fall one bloody brick at a time, and, unfortunately, Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa and the Solidarity trade union are not waiting to jump into our arms on the other side.
No one is more pleased than I am to see the demonstration of "people power" in Iraq, with millions of Iraqis defying the "you vote, you die" threat of the Baathists and jihadists. No one should take lightly the willingness of the opposition forces in Lebanon to stand up and point a finger at the Syrian regime and say "J'accuse!" for the murder of the opposition leader Rafik Hariri. No one should dismiss the Palestinian election, which featured a real choice of candidates, and a solid majority voting in favor of a decent, modernizing figure - Mahmoud Abbas. No one should ignore the willingness of some Egyptians to demand to run against President Hosni Mubarak when he seeks a fifth - unopposed - term. These are things you have not seen in the Arab world before. They are really, really unusual - like watching camels fly.
Something really is going on with the proverbial "Arab street." The automatic assumption that the "Arab street" will always rally to the local king or dictator - if that king or dictator just waves around some bogus threat or insult from "America," "Israel" or "the West" - is no longer valid. Yes, the Iraq invasion probably brought more anti-American terrorists to the surface. But it also certainly brought more pro-democracy advocates to the surface.
Call it the "Baghdad Spring."
But we have to be very sober about what is ahead. There will be no velvet revolutions in this part of the world. The walls of autocracy will not collapse with just one good push. As the head-chopping insurgents in Iraq, the suicide bombers in Saudi Arabia and the murderers of Mr. Hariri have all signaled: The old order in this part of the world will not go quietly into this good night. You put a flower in the barrel of their gun and they'll blow your hand and your head right off.