The Rise of People Power in the Middle East
Readers reacted positively to our March 14 cover story on the fledgling democratization of the Middle East. But they overwhelmingly objected to giving President Bush the credit. "Democracy is not due to Bush's foresight," one said. "It only surfaced as a convenient excuse once bin Laden and WMD hadn't been found." Another reader reached back in history. "Like Napoleon, George W. Bush uses foreign adventures to mask the erosion of liberty and financial stability at home." One woman said that freedom doesn't "come free or overnight," adding, "We all basically want the same thing: to raise our families in freedom, and peace on earth. Unfortunately, there is a cost." Another reader urged caution: "Let's not start back-slapping so soon, if at all. Iraq is still an unfinished book, and only the opening chapters are being written on the rest of the area."
The Seeds of Democracy
Fareed Zakaria's argument that the core concerns of Middle Easterners are "not global but local" represents a short-range view of events and only one side of the coin ("What Bush Got Right," March 14). The opposite is equally true and necessary to understand Middle Eastern realities. Arab countries' import of modern technologies, Iran's nuclear plans, Israel's security strategy and Turkey's quest for European membership all point to the importance of regional and global matters. The youth wish to immigrate to the West, whereas the traditionalists wish to secure their beliefs and practices from Western values. "People power" demonstrations in Lebanon, Egypt and elsewhere are influenced by the need to be free. Voices for and against Western influence on programs on Al-Jazeera and other satellite outlets have fed imaginations and place many between the rock of tradition and the chip of modernity and globalization. These have also illuminated the difference between treatment at home and the way others live around the world. Hence the dissonance, dysfunction and need for change, including standing tough against excessive privilege and power, religious extremism and special interests. The freedom challenge is serious.
Prof. Saliba Sarsar
Dept. of Political Science, Monmouth University
West Long Branch, N.J.
President George W. Bush has taken the risks for greatness. Not since the Reagan presidency facilitated the demise of the Soviet Union has a U.S. president put forth a vision backed by policies for lasting global change. This administration, along with the courage and sacrifices of our armed forces and their families, has set in motion changes toward democracy across the Middle East. While no one realistically expects full Jeffersonian democracy or a complete cessation of terror, the energy for paced, positive change and opportunity is clear. This, coupled with Bush's consistent and persistent drive, will allow the global community to successfully confront our world's most grave danger, a nuclear Islamic republic of Iran.
Aliso Viejo, Calif.
I am Syrian and agree with Fareed Zakaria that Syria should move out of Lebanon. Unfortunately, it's not that simple. I can assure your readers that Bush has nothing to do with the courage that Arab people have recently shown. This courage has been building up very slowly over the past five years, since the death of Syrian President Hafez Assad and other events. The assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri was the last straw. The younger generation is informed by the media and the Internet, which have been a huge influence and have improved the way people learn. Arab people are incapable of being bystanders to world events. It has become harder and harder for authoritarian presidents to control the media, and that has caused reluctant change. This is a dangerous time. It will take a lot of education for people to know how to be free.
Nahed Sammani Stefany
Fareed Zakaria's unabashedly pro-Bush article spends more time talking about how "heartening" Bush's second term is in comparison with his "stubborn" first term than it does about what Bush has done wrong. Perhaps Zakaria hasn't read the study that found that the risk of violent death in Iraq has been 58 times higher in the period since the U.S. invasion. Or that an estimated 100,000 Iraqi civilians are dead because of the invasion. Or that 400,000 Iraqi children now suffer from malnutrition, a rate that is far higher than in Third World countries like Uganda. And almost 80 percent of Iraqis now say they have "no confidence" in either the U.S. civilian authorities or military forces.
Warren C. Jaycox
Canoga Park, Calif.
President Bush stumbled onto this "democracy" thing to justify the war in Iraq, and I find it more than a little ironic to hear him lecture Syria against foreign powers' interfering in the affairs of other countries. But if genuine seeds of freedom and democracy are being planted in the Middle East, we should give the president his due and join in the celebration. Even more important, though, we should force a conversation in our own country about what freedom and democracy really mean: elections that are fair and reliable; allowing other countries to make their own choices even if we do not like the result; an underlying respect for individuals and their choices and beliefs, including religious beliefs; an optimistic vision of people working together for the good of all.
When I read the photo caption "Sealing a ballot box in Riyadh after the first real Election Day in Saudi history," I felt a blow to my gut. With those words, you have allowed a tyrannical society to silence half its population. You perpetuate the farce that an election involving no women is an election at all.
Beating Cancer With Courage
As a three-year survivor of stage III breast cancer, I applaud the humor and attitude that Geralyn Lucas showed in her March 14 My Turn, "Showing Off a Little (Inner) Cleavage." Although I didn't do the going-hatless route because it is just too cold in Nebraska in the winter, I took advantage of dramatic eye makeup to show my "inner cleavage." Courage is an absolutely necessary component of survival, and it is still needed when treatment is done and the uncertainty of the survival stage takes over. When I went back to teaching I was concerned about how the students would react to my stubbly hair growth. One bored junior said, "Nah, we've had teachers with spiked hair before." But the best comment came from a class discussion when I mentioned that the character of a well-known book had the same name as my oncologist. A bright-eyed female said, "You don't look like you need an oncologist anymore." Then I knew the real courage for recovery would be there for me.
Thank you so much for sharing Geralyn Lucas's astonishing story of inner beauty. The next time I change in the locker room at my health club, I won't be ashamed to show my breasts or my 18-inch scar. However, I don't change in the women's locker room; I am a man. Two years ago, at 47, I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. After a radical prostatectomy, chemotherapy and two years of hormone treatments, I now have enlarged breasts, a disfiguring scar and, as the commercials constantly remind me, sexual dysfunction. I also have a wonderful wife and three terrific children, and, as the doctor gently reminded me, "you have to be alive to have sex anyway." Nine months after finishing chemotherapy, I ran and completed my first marathon. For this coming April I was given a special exemption to the Boston Marathon. Don't ever give up!
Should Felons Vote?
George Will questions liberals regarding what he sees as their inconsistency in advocating voting rights for felons while denying felons the right to own guns ("Give Ballots to Felons?" March 14). Message to Will: guns kill people; votes don't. Government has a duty to protect its citizens from those who threaten their lives. That's why, for example, states deny driver's licenses to those who make a habit of driving drunk. And that's why gun-control measures make sense. Voting hurts nobody and helps everybody. If felons are more likely to vote for one party over another, so be it. We all have a right to participate in government, regardless of the errors we have committed. And our system is better for it.
Bala Cynwyd, Pa.
Felons, by virtue of their deeds, are stripped of civic and other benefits as part of the penalty for their actions. I prize my privilege to vote. Giving felons a vote degrades that privilege. Democrats should stop dipping into the bottom of the barrel.
Lyle E. Holmgren
George Will does not attach much value to the democratic process if he thinks it's acceptable for states to permanently disenfranchise American citizens over a felony conviction. Marijuana possession can be a felony. So if you're caught smoking weed in a state that bars felons from voting even after they have served their time, you lose the right to vote for the rest of your life. File sharing is a felony, too. If you're caught nabbing an MP3 off Kazaa, you would also lose the right to vote. Is that acceptable in the world's greatest democracy? Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones say no, and they're right to do so. I thank them for their courage and moral clarity. I'd be more than happy to see a few more members of Congress with their "monomaniac" commitment to the democratic process.
President Bush has said we are a nation of second chances. Apparently George Will agrees only if you agree with his politics. It was a nice touch for him to add the scare tactic by asking if liberals would support giving felons gun rights as well as voting rights. Common sense would answer no. As a felon myself, I have heard no logical reason why restoring my voting rights puts the community at risk. What is accomplished by treating felons who have served their sentences as second-class citizens? It sounds like the same partisan politics that Will accuses the Democrats of.
Bowling Green, Fla.
In "Rove: Rhymes With 'Love'?" (Periscope, Feb. 28) we reported that Karl Rove spoke at the Conservative Political Action Committee's annual conference. We should have said he spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference. NEWSWEEK regrets the error.