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There was a shortcut for Britain and the United States to demonstrate their care for the well-being of the Arab people. They could have forced Israel to implement long outstanding UN Security Council resolutions calling for its withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza, and helped the Palestinians build a modern democratic state, and then people all over the Arab world, and beyond, would by now have been bestowing their benediction on President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain.

Instead, the American and British leaders are persistently saying that it is their war on Iraq that will herald the arrival of freedom and democracy in the Middle East. One of these countries, Britain, has experience of trying to bring democracy to Iraq. But its record is hardly encouraging.

For centuries Iraq was divided into competing tribes, clans, cities and religious sects. With the rising tide of Arab nationalism and the final collapse of Ottoman rule in 1918, the idea of the nation-state appealed to educated Iraqis, who joined in the popular 1920 uprising against Britain. After crushing the revolt, Britain proceeded to create an Iraqi state, partly in response to the demands of these nationalists, mainly to cement its own interests in the region.

The paper model of the new Iraqi state strongly resembled any Western democratic state of that time: It had a constitution, a cabinet, a Parliament, political parties, free elections and an impressive number of newspapers and periodicals. However, the model bore little resemblance to reality and little resemblance to a viable democratic state.


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      Update:   2012 09 21
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