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Arab Ripples
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A friend pointed me to this Washington Post article summing up some of the Arab news reaction to the toppling of Saddam's regime. Granted, the writer primarily mentions on-line publications, in English. I would be curious to see if the Arabic editions were anything close to the commentary in the English ones, but it's still an interesting read.

We get paragraphs like this, from the Gulf News:

It was not only the regime that came tumbling down, but all the institutions as well. And a stark reality was revealed: that these institutions were virtual phantoms as far as the people were concerned. They were under the complete command of the regime. The people were not allowed to participate in the establishment and running of these institutions.

Meanwhile, in Baghdad we now have a city freed from Ba'athist tyranny, wading through a rough, but hopefully brief, phase of anarchy. There are signs that some sense of control and order are slowly returning, but it seems only reasonable to expect a fair amount of confusion and lawlessness and to practice some small amount of patience in the coming weeks and months.

Some Iraqis, however, are not patient, and they took to the streets in protest:

Scores of Iraqi protesters outraged by the lack of security gathered on Monday outside the Palestine Hotel - where much of the international media are based - for a demonstration against the US presence in the city.

And this, I think, is wonderful. Not their frustration or its underlying cause, but the fact that for probably the first time in the modern era, Arabs can take to the streets in an open display of free speech. It wasn't organized by an Arab government, and it damn sure wasn't repressed by one. Iraqis got out on the street and bitched at the American forces, and nobody rounded them up, tortured them or their families, or shot them in the back of the head.

This is probably one of the truest public expressions in the Middle East in a very long time, and that's a very good thing.

Of course, the underlying problems need to be remedied as soon as possible. But more rough patches lie ahead. Establishing order and helping establish a functioning public system in Iraq will take some time. But it will be worth the time, money, effort, and blood that has been shed.

We need to keep tabs on all involved, but we also need to support them. Who in their right mind wants to see efforts to democratize and empower Iraq politically and economically fail?

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