CAIRO: Arab commentators on Wednesday dismissed U.S. President George W. Bush s appeal for democracy directly to the people of the region as a patronizing and doomed effort to give a new face to Washington s reviled policies. In a speech at the UN General Assembly Tuesday, Bush conveyed his message by addressing the people of the region directly but papers and analysts predicted moderates would at best turn a deaf ear while radicals would likely see more evidence of the West s crusade against Islam. Public opinion in Arab and Muslim countries these days is much more right-wing than the regimes themselves. Find me an Iranian who will listen to the Great Satan in chief himself and go topple his government, said Egyptian analyst Emad Gad. Bush scolded the Iranian regime in his speech, telling the people of Iran that the main obstacle standing between them and the better future they deserve was their rulers. The U.S. president extended a similar message to the Syrian population and also spoke directly to the people of Darfur and the Palestinian territories. The Lebanese daily As-Safir noted that Bush used his speech to address the Lebanese people, whose country he hopes to turn into a model of democracy. But when you see what is happening in Iraq, this word translates into bloodshed, violence and civil war, read an article entitled Bush the Inquisitor Divides World Between Good and Evil.
Taher Adwan, editor-in-chief of the independent Jordanian daily Al-Arab Al-Yawm, lashed out at what he said was Bush s patronizing tone. U.S. President George W. Bush appeared yesterday like a school teacher admonishing and threatening his students while they, the pupils, unable to respond directly to him, pledged to themselves to continue challenging him, he said. President Bush cannot be seen as the leader of the world, Adwan added. And when Bush talks about the Middle East we feel deep concern about the future and more so about the future of the United Nations because Washington has proved that it is an expert in launching wars and crises and unable to make . peace in the Middle East, he said. Bush was critical of the world body, saying it failed to prevent tens of thousands of deaths in Sudan s Darfur region and warning that its credibility hinged on the rapid deployment of a UN peacekeeping force there. Anti-U.S. feelings have not receded in the Middle East since the invasion of Iraq, with a large part of public opinion resenting Washington s unwavering support for Israel. The perception that Washington s agenda is a crusade against Islam and an attempt to extend its military and economic influence is deeply entrenched in the region. Paris-based Lebanese analyst Joe Bahout warned that in the current context, some Arabs may want to link Bush s speech to the pope s remarks.
Pope Benedict XVI caused an uproar in the Muslim world by using a medieval quotation describing some of the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed as evil and inhuman during a lecture in Germany last week. Bahout pointed out that Iran s supreme leader Ali Khamenei had described the pope s remarks as the latest link of the chain in a conspiracy engineered by the United States and Israel. The Egyptian daily Roz Al-Youssef, which has close links to the government, said Bush s speech would only fuel Muslim anger against the West. Through their fascist and violent remarks, the U.S. president and the pope have both chosen the camp of irresponsibility and recklessness, the newspaper wrote. In a speech last month, Bush said his country was at war with Islamic fascists. The U.S. president adopted a more reassuring tone Tuesday, stressing the distinction between extremists and moderates, a leitmotiv in his speech. My country desires peace. Extremists in your midst spread propaganda claiming that the West is engaged in a war against Islam, Bush said. Egyptian political analyst Diaa Rashwan argued that Bush was trying to give his failed regional policies a more human and maybe more pragmatic face. In general, his speech was more moderate than others he has given on the region … but I don t think people and even officials will be easily convinced by such speeches, he added. AFP