Friday, March 17, 2006

Wise words from an American friend of Egypt

I found in the Middle East Times a column by William Fisher called "How to Lose Friends and Encourage Extremists." Fisher is a former AID official and an associate of a number of leading Egyptian democracy activists. He recounts how he was always proud this time of year when the State Department released its human rights report. His Egyptian colleagues would excitedly read about how the report brought political and moral authority to their cause, denouncing abuses and calling for reform.

No more. The report is still strong on many aspects of human rights and democratic reform, although as I note there's a huge gap when it comes to torture and forcible renditions in the war on terror, especially in incidents in which U.S. officials are implicated.

But to Fisher, what has changed is the moral and political context. The report may be the same, but after Abu Ghraib, European Black Sites, allegations of torture and other malfeasance's, what authority and influcence can we be in to bring to human rights criticism?

Fisher concludes by quoting a Middle Eastern friend: "We used to have someone we could count on to show our leaders how to lead by setting an example of good governance without the iron fist. It was America. Now that's gone. Now, the only people who are motivated by what America is doing are the very people it's trying to defeat - Muslim extremists."


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