International

Middle East democracy watch (continued)

The Washington Post provides more evidence that the Bush administration’s dedication to promoting democracy in the Arab world is still a hit-and-miss proposition.

For example:

In Tunis yesterday, [Secretary of State Colin] Powell urged new political openings, but also praised the “excellent partnership” between Tunisia and the United States, and said he was a “great admirer of Tunisia and the progress that it has seen under President [Zine Abidine] Ben Ali.” Ben Ali has been in office for 16 years and won reelection in 1999 with 99.44 percent of the vote.

That’s better than the humiliating 97 percent Bashar Assad won when he ran for President of Syria, but heartbreakingly shy of the 100 percent Saddam Hussein won after his hard-fought and final campaign for reelection.

Nowhere is the balancing act more apparent than in Egypt, which is the second-largest recipient of U.S. aid but is also ruled by one of the Arab world’s most autocratic governments.

Egypt’s government has a veto over what Egyptian institutions can get U.S. aid, a provision that effectively blocks funding of human rights groups and government critics. For years, not one penny of U.S. aid to Egypt has gone to the Arab world’s most outspoken democracy advocate, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, or his Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies in Cairo. Funds labeled by Washington as promoting democracy ended up being used for projects such as sludge removal.

Can’t Washington make it a condition for receiving any aid that funds labeled as promoting democracy end up being used to promote democracy?

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