Thursday, December 16, 2004

THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN: Bush Administration Holding Up Arab Human Development Report

New York Times/THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN: "Holding Up Arab Reform": December 16, 2004 (Registration required.)

The third Arab Human Development Report was due in October. "It was going to be pure TNT, because it was going to tackle the issue of governance and misgovernance in the Arab world, and the legal, institutional and religious impediments to political reform. These are the guts of the issue out here. I waited. And I waited. But nothing.

"Then I started to hear disturbing things - that the Bush team saw a draft of the Arab governance report and objected to the prologue, because it was brutally critical of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the Israeli occupation. This prologue constitutes some 10 percent of the report. While heartfelt, it's there to give political cover to the Arab authors for their clear-eyed critique of Arab governance, which is the other 90 percent of the report.

"But the Bush team is apparently insisting that language critical of America and Israel be changed - as if language 10 times worse can't be heard on Arab satellite TV every day. And until it's changed, the Bush folks are apparently ready to see the report delayed or killed altogether. And they have an ally. The government of Egypt, which is criticized in the report, also doesn't want it out - along with some other Arab regimes.

"So there you have it: a group of serious Arab intellectuals - who are neither sellouts nor bomb throwers - has produced a powerful analysis, in Arabic, of the lagging state of governance in the Arab world. It is just the sort of independent report that could fuel the emerging debate on Arab reform. But Bush officials, along with Arab autocrats, are holding it up until it is modified to their liking - even if that means it won't appear at all."

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