Senate Majority Project

Monday, December 19, 2005

Freedom Isnt Free

Spin, However, Comes Cheap at the RNC

A release from the Republican National Committee hot off the wire touts a Freedom House Survey, pronouncing 2005 a “success.” The actual report, however, is much less rosy, particularly when it comes to the Administrations chief concern of the moment, Iraq.

To begin with, here’s how the group’s research director characterized what the RNC determined was a “successful year.”
"Among other things, the past year has been notable for terrorist violence, ethnic cleansing, civil conflict, catastrophic natural disasters, and geopolitical polarization. That freedom could thrive in this environment is impressive."
You can almost hear the corks popping.

Meanwhile, the group determined that Iraq merited no improvement in its rating over the past year. In fact, Freedom House issued chilling cautions that whatever small gains occurred could be easily lost. And Freedom House earlier expressed reservations about the Iraqi constitution even calling the effort a “waste:”
Freedom House is very concerned that the emerging constitution will seriously undermine the prospects for democracy and the safeguarding of human rights in the new Iraq. After all the American blood and treasure that has been expended to bring freedom to Iraq, it would be worse than a shame if the new constitution were to enshrine the triumphalist vision of a minority within a particular sect, rather than reflect a national consensus on a democratic framework; it will have been a waste.
Of the gains in Iraq over the last year, the group seemed to express some skepticism that the presence of American troops was helpful to the process, and whatever gains occurred could be fleeting:

Indeed, some have argued that the rise in anti- American sentiment has tarnished the democratic idea in the minds of ordinary Arabs, although several of their countries have taken steps towards expanded freedom.

It is also clear that some of the gains noted in this year’s survey are fragile and could be reversed in the future. Gains made in Iraq could be wiped out if the current level of violence escalates into outright civil conflict among Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds.
And the big successes touted by Bush are represented by Freedom House as “small gains” in “modestly successful” elections.

In addition, Freedom House has spoken out strongly against the Bush Administration’s own growing involvement in torture:
Among others opposing American involvement in torture are the American Civil Liberties Union, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, members of the 9-11 Commission itself, the American Bar Association, Human Rights First, Freedom House, and Amnesty International. A joint statement signed by some of these groups emphasizes that the torture provisions "undermine the credibility of U.S. efforts to promote human rights and democracy in the Arab world, which President Bush has identified as a key element in the Administration's long-term strategy to combat terrorism . . . "

Advances in Democracy should be welcomed, but clearly the Mission is not quite Accomplished.