Do you believe that Druze leader Walid Jumblatt may have been opportunistic when he said that the Mideast's "process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq"? If so, here is the liberal Arab journalist Mona Eltahawy on the same subject.
Eltahawy has been a consistent critic of the war and of American aims in the region. As she put it in Sunday's WaPo, "There is a way to talk about the effect of the Iraq war on the rest of the Arab world without actually supporting that war. This time last year and the year before, I marched in demonstrations in New York against the war on Iraq, which I did not believe was launched in the name of democracy and freedom. But we would be lying to ourselves if we didn't acknowledge that the U.S. occupation of Iraq is a major catalyst for what has been happening lately, be it in Egypt, Lebanon or Saudi Arabia."
"The invasion of Iraq," she writes, "was the equivalent of a bucket of freezing water thrown in the face of an Arab world in deep slumber." Eltahawy wants the anti-dictatorship efforts of Arab activists (who received little support from past U.S. administrations) to be recognized as well.
The overthrow of Iraq's Baathist regime has led many Arabs to question their own systems; the war, she says, has sparked a "domino effect" of such questions. As an example, Eltahawy offers an Egyptian's point of view. "The U.S. invasion," that source told her, "revealed the ability to overthrow one of the worst tyrants around and led to this question: If this regime collapsed, why not the others? Why shouldn't Syria leave Lebanon? Why shouldn't we change the Egyptian regime? Isn't it enough (kifaya) already?"
In fact, quotes much like this have been around for some time. The Syrian filmmaker Omar Amiralay told the NYT on March 20, 2004 what the overthrow of Iraq's regime meant to him: "The myth of having to live under despots for eternity collapsed."
"When you see one of the two Baath parties broken, collapsing, you can only hope that it will be the turn of the Syrian Baath next," he told reporter Neil MacFarquhar. Indeed, Amiralay soon started working on a documentary film with the working title, "Fifteen Reasons Why I Hate the Baath" (the harsh critique was eventually called A Flood in Baath Country). Watching the overthrow of the Iraqi regime, he told the NYT, "gave me the courage to do" the film.
Amiralay, by the way, made the only documentary about Rafiq Hariri, L'Homme aux semelles d'or.