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Resources updated between Monday, June 04, 2007 and Sunday, June 10, 2007

Friday, June 08, 2007

The Prague Democracy and Security Conference concluded this week with the adoption of the "Prague Document" - an attempt to set in motion a shared agenda among the world's dissidents and a process for nurturing the democratic principles required to liberate them. President Bush, who came to make common cause with this unique band of lifelong activists and foot soldiers for freedom, repeated the grand-vision characteristic of the major addresses of his presidency. "[T]he United States is committed to the advance of freedom and democracy...I pledge...America to the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world... My message to all those who suffer under tyranny is this: We will never excuse your oppressors. We will always stand for your freedom."

In response, the dissidents, the tortured, the former prisoners, the refugees, and the ones who had lost their loved ones in freedom's cause gave "the leader of the free world" a very warm reception. There was applause, hand-shaking, and reportedly a lot of tears shed in a private session which followed.

There is no doubt that this president can talk the talk. But will he walk the walk? Richard Perle, the former chairman of the Defense Policy Board in the early years of the Bush administration, put it bluntly when he addressed the dissidents just prior to their meeting with the president: "This president is a dissident within his own administration, which is often as unresponsive to his vision as your governments are to you. Your message to him must include an urgent appeal to close the gap between what he says and what he does."

This group of listeners knew only too well how to separate fact from fantasy. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam is a Sudanese Muslim who has been detained for months on and off for the last 15 years; while in prison he staged hunger strikes to protest solitary confinement without charge or access to a lawyer. Zainab Al-Suwaij is a Muslim woman who took up arms against Saddam Hussein in 1991, and bears a bullet scar on her face from the experience. Mohamed Eljahmi is a brother of jailed Libyan dissident Fathi Eljahmi, who has been held in solitary confinement for more than two years. Amir Abbas Fakhravar, an Iranian dissident who was first imprisoned when he was 17, spent five years in prison, where he was tortured. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, is an Egyptian professor and human-rights activist who was arrested, jailed, and sentenced to seven-years imprisonment, for charges which were later dropped. Cheol-hwan Kang spent ten years in a horrific detention camp in North Korea - starting at age nine. Irina Krasovskaya is a Belorusian activist who lost her husband in 1999 and is still kept in the dark about his disappearance. Aliaksandr Milinkevich is the opposition leader in Belarus who has endured arrest while his supporters have been beaten. Eugeniusz Smolar was imprisoned in 1968 while protesting the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Their collective wisdom should be taken seriously.

From dissident to their legal counsel, political to academic activist, the message was remarkably coherent:

Former chief of the British Secret Service Richard Dearlove: "the potency of the democratic message is demonstrated by the virulent resistance to it."

Palestinian human-rights activist Bassam Eid: "the Arab world today is in trouble and is not helped by the fact that the international community applies a double-standard to it - refusing to insist that the society, including Palestinian society, must ready itself for democracy before handing millions to the security forces of autocracies."

Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, Sudan: "democracy is a universal human value, not a Western construct; U.N. handling of the Sudanese government has legitimized it regardless of the fact this government is killing its own people. Western states are sending the wrong message - that democracy is primarily about elections, whereas it requires much more - good governance, a free press, the rule of law..."

Professor Martin Kramer, Israel's Adelson Institute: "pro-democracy forces must make people feel more secure or they will lose popular support [among their intended beneficiaries]."

Garry Kasparov, Russia: "Russia today is a police state masquerading as a democracy where elections are theater. The problem is that the G-8 treats Putin as an equal, but democrats in Russian need the free world to treat him as a pariah." "Putin must be sent a message that he cannot act like a Alexander Lukashenko [President of Belarus] or Robert Mugabe [Zimbabwe] and be treated like a democrat. The ruling elite are listening."

Christian Schmidt, German Parliamentary State Secretary, Minister of Defense: "the success of democratization depends on its constituents having security and seeing an added value."

Junning Liu, Institute of China Studies, Beijing: "Elections must be free and open to count, which is not the case in China. In China a transition to democracy will not happen without external pressure."

Richard Perle: "it is not necessary to work with and legitimize oppressive regimes in the name of the war against terrorism; it is not always better to talk to officials - it is sometimes better to talk to those who don't wield power."

Natan Sharansky: "Democracy is on the march, but dictatorships are also on the march. There must be mutual reinforcement between the leader of the free world and dissidents. The most dangerous thing for a dissident is to be ignored; only the solidarity of the world makes it possible for dissidents to continue their struggle. Today there are dissidents in many different contexts but the underlying battle is the same - freedom versus fear. We improve our influence by uniting as dissidents against totalitarians regimes."

Iranian Amir Abbas Fakhravar: "Freedom is not free."

Saad Eddin Ibrahim, Egypt: "As freedom fighters we ask you to stop supporting dictators in our countries; we ask Western democracies to stop supporting dictatorships and the darkness of theocrats in the name of stability and continuity."

Powerful stuff. Almost powerful enough to plant a seed in the most hardened cynic. But there was an elephant in the room that dominated conversations in the coffee breaks and the halls - Iran, its genocidal ambitions, its mad dash towards acquiring nuclear weapons, and its familial relationships with terrorists prepared to use them while screaming the suicide bombers closing argument of choice: Allah Akbar.

The disconnect, therefore, was disconcerting. The president announced he is certain that freedom will win out: "Freedom can be resisted, and freedom can be delayed, but freedom cannot be denied." The problem with this rallying cry is that whereas in years gone by six million Jews and another 56 million others on the Allied side of World War II died waiting, nuclear weapons threaten to destroy the fabric of civilization before freedom "succeeds." This worry explained a serious unease in the conference halls. Very presidentially, Mr. Bush proclaimed: "free nations must do what it takes to prevail." Which begged the very unpresidential question, so what the hell are we waiting for?

One possible answer drew a shared guffaw - the United Nations - the peace and security organization which can't define terrorism and is busy running out the clock on the Iranian side. The best answer to those who urge America to cede its national security to an institution with no democratic pre-conditions for membership and a human rights agenda controlled by non-democracies, came from Iraqi parliamentarian, Mithal al-Alusi. He said bluntly, the enemy of democracy and freedom "doesn't care if you are Muslim, Jewish or Christian...the only thing they believe in is "kill, kill, kill"; ...it is very clear Iran wants to buy time, but why should we wait?"

Such a call to action comes from someone who is a living testament to honor, truth and human dignity. In September 2004 I had the privilege of sharing a stage with al-Alusi at a counterterrorism conference held in Herzliyah, Israel. His very presence was electrifying and we gave him the ovation he so richly deserved. Five months later he paid the ultimate price for the quest for freedom when his two sons were murdered in Baghdad because of their father's courage.

President Bush ended his remarks in Prague on this note: "It is the truth that guides our nation to oppose radicals and extremists and terror and tyranny in the world today. And it is the reason I have such great confidence in the men and women in this room. I leave Prague with a certainty that the cause of freedom is not tired, and that its future is in the best of hands. With unbreakable faith in the power of liberty, you will inspire your people, you will lead your nations, and you will change the world."

Mr. President, the truth is that one of the most evil regimes in the world as we know it is on the verge of acquiring the most powerful weapon in the world as we know it. And the future is in your hands. The clear message from Prague was that you have friends around the world, even if not in your administration. You have the power to protect our nation and freedom for all people everywhere. You lead your nation now. And without exercising that leadership, with no further pretense that the U.N. has the authority to deny the necessities of America's national defense, the triumph of hate over hope will be laid at your door.

This article originally appeared in the National Review Online.

Anne Bayefsky

The Prague Democracy and Security Conference concluded this week with the adoption of the "Prague Document" - an attempt to set in motion a shared agenda among the world's dissidents and a process for nurturing the democratic principles required to liberate them. President Bush, who came to make common cause with this unique band of lifelong activists and foot soldiers for freedom, repeated the grand-vision characteristic of the major addresses of his presidency. "[T]he United States is committed to the advance of freedom and democracy...I pledge...America to the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world... My message to all those who suffer under tyranny is this: We will never excuse your oppressors. We will always stand for your freedom."

In response, the dissidents, the tortured, the former prisoners, the refugees, and the ones who had lost their loved ones in freedom's cause gave "the leader of the free world" a very warm reception. There was applause, hand-shaking, and reportedly a lot of tears shed in a private session which followed.

Democracy-Building 2007, Part III Editor's Note

Dumisani Kumalo

The UN's Big Lie: The UN marked the 40 year anniversary of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war by yet another attempt to push the UN's big lie. In 1967 the Jewish state saved itself from another Arab attempt to annihilate it. But according to the UN, the Israeli "occupation of the Palestinian Territory .... is the root cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." Actually, it is an Arab-Israeli conflict, the Palestinians being the front for a wall of Arab rejectionism which cannot be ignored if there is ever to be real peace. And furthermore, as South African UN Ambassador Kumalo made plain, it is the rejection of Israel's very existence that is the "root cause" of the Arab-Israeli conflict: "Dumisani Kumalo (South Africa) said that the Palestinian people had been leading an intolerable life for more than 60 years." This was not a technical error. This lie results in real men, women and children targeted in Israel for what is in effect the UN-created crime of being a Jew in a Jewish state.

Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People Marks 40 Years of Occupation of Palestinian Territory, "Expansionism," and "'Judaization' of Jerusalem" (Press Release) Development

June 7, 2007

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

June 4 marked the 18th anniversary of Tiananmen Square, when Chinese thugs cracked down on a fledgling pro-democracy movement. The movement was effectively buried, and it has never risen from that grave. So it was an appropriate day to open the Prague Democracy & Security Conference and to remember those who still live in captivity and fear around the world.

Gathered together with former prisoners of conscience Václav Havel and Natan Sharansky, along with former Spanish Prime Minister José Maria Aznar, were dissidents from 17 states; they were young and old, veterans of horrible prisons, and many still living on the edge in places where their lives are constantly at risk. These brave souls from places like Sudan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and China, along with academics and politicians from five continents, came to press forward democracy-building in our time - in a city where democracy was once only a pipe-dream and in a room where the Warsaw Pact itself was dissolved.

They don't think of themselves as wild-eyed radicals or permanently naïve and aging hippies. The carefully deliberated message was one of responsibility, as well as urgency. Senator Joe Lieberman, whose wife Hadassah was born in Prague and whose family of Holocaust survivors emigrated to America before the Communist stranglehold was complete, described the participants as fighters who believed in the transformative power of freedom, justice, and democracy. He insisted they were on the right side of history. Lieberman challenged both moral relativists among Democrats and isolationist Republicans when he took issue with those who question putting a national commitment to freedom at the center of American foreign policy.

The president of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, blasted the often prevailing wisdom that belonging to a democratic club was an entitlement and not a privilege. Membership itself confers legitimacy where none may be deserved. Then he pointed the finger directly at Russia and insisted that principled isolation of wayward states must be a serious option. Why, he asked, should we tolerate Russia's membership in the G-8 when its president threatens to target its neighbors militarily? Ilves also asked the central question among a group with many Europeans and Americans: Will we democracies stand by each other?

Natan Sharansky, former Soviet prisoner and Israeli politician, pleaded for two fundamental requisites: moral clarity and conditionality - the need to link economic ties with the protection of democratic rights and freedoms.

In a single night, they fashioned a light at the end of a dark tunnel. The plan? Democracies must:

1. provide moral clarity;

2. deny undemocratic states and governments legitimacy;

3. link freedom and democracy with economic relationships;

4. ensure democracies work together, not against each other; and

5. commit to freedom as a central part of the foreign policy of all democratic states - because it is the right thing to do, and necessary for our security and prosperity.

Yes, Iraq was mentioned - but not as an insurmountable impediment to the cries of so many others around the world.


This article originally appeared in the National Review Online.

Anne Bayefsky

June 4 marked the 18th anniversary of Tiananmen Square, when Chinese thugs cracked down on a fledgling pro-democracy movement. The movement was effectively buried, and it has never risen from that grave. So it was an appropriate day to open the Prague Democracy & Security Conference and to remember those who still live in captivity and fear around the world.

Gathered together with former prisoners of conscience Václav Havel and Natan Sharansky, along with former Spanish Prime Minister José Maria Aznar, were dissidents from 17 states; they were young and old, veterans of horrible prisons, and many still living on the edge in places where their lives are constantly at risk. These brave souls from places like Sudan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and China, along with academics and politicians from five continents, came to press forward democracy-building in our time - in a city where democracy was once only a pipe-dream and in a room where the Warsaw Pact itself was dissolved.

Democracy-Building 2007, Part II Editor's Note

June 5, 2007

Monday, June 04, 2007

Dozens of dissidents and current and past political leaders who have championed their liberation, including U.S. President George W. Bush, begin a conference today in Prague to take stock of the effort to spread democracy and protect human dignity across the globe. Last week the president foretold his message to Europeans, including to the G-8 Summit on Wednesday, June 6, in a speech casting America as "a compassionate nation." Such a nation will seek to reduce chaos and suffering abroad because "our conscience demands it" and it "is in our interest" -- benefiting both "this economy and our security."

While rose-colored glasses may be fashionable in the vicinity of the Rose Garden, the Prague pro-democracy dissidents, activists, and politicians will be faced with some obvious rifts currently pitting America (and Israel) against European forces. Can the moral leverage of a group which includes some of the world's most celebrated former political prisoners like Václav Havel and Natan Sharansky and the spouses of others lost along the way, open a common causeway to defeat the mortal enemies of freedom everywhere?

In most international fora dedicated to human-rights protection the focus of discussion turns sooner or later to the evils of American intervention in Iraq and the alleged root cause of Islamist terrorism -- the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. This week's 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War, for example, is not being remembered as the date Israel succeeded in staving off the latest annihilation plans of its neighbors, which began in earnest the minute of Israel's birth in 1948. Instead, June 5, 1967, has been cast as the start date for another failed attempt at Western colonialism.

According to the president, however, colonialism is not on our agenda. Compassionate Americans are merely striving to tie development assistance to democratic reform -- which to him "seems like a fair deal." But compassionate Europeans are equally busy pushing any American agenda to the periphery, allowing a European kingmaker to rise between "extremists" on both sides. In the result, Americans find themselves begging for European support to take more aggressive action against Sudan and Iran. Europeans use U.N. platforms like the Human Rights Council to water down resolutions critical of Sudan and appear content to spin out the negotiations with Iran until it's too late. The African Union gets the mixed message, and two days ago put more roadblocks in the way of a beefed-up peacekeeping force for Darfur. Iran just issues another nonchalant up-yours.

The verbiage associated with the spread of democracy and the international protection of human rights is, therefore, utterly incoherent. The U.N. touts "the responsibility to protect" -- but just not by America and not in Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and so on. America is the problem; the U.N. is the solution. On May 31, the Egyptian Chief of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed ElBaradei, called anyone thinking of preventing Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons by the use of force, regardless of whether all other avenues had failed, the "new crazies." Of course, this is the same man who has run interference for Iran for years, only last week claiming Iran should be allowed to enrich uranium under his watchful gaze.

The background paper for the Prague conference, written by Marc Plattner, editor of The Journal of Democracy, argues against isolating all nondemocracies and granting instead "a certain degree of respect and recognition to their governments. For these reasons, there is a clear need for all-inclusive international organizations such as the United Nations." How ironic that the most powerful weapon in the arsenal of the enemies of liberal democracy today is the U.N. - the mechanism by which democracies are constantly driven apart in a desperate attempt at coalition-building aimed to trump the greatest democracy of our time, the United States.

The challenge for this group of disparate and genuine do-gooders will be to overcome the one-upmanship so characteristic of European-based governmental get-togethers and the blame-America-first syndrome that is the calling card of every major human-rights nongovernmental organization today.


This article originally appeared in the National Review Online.

Anne Bayefsky

Dozens of dissidents and current and past political leaders who have championed their liberation, including U.S. President George W. Bush, begin a conference today in Prague to take stock of the effort to spread democracy and protect human dignity across the globe. Last week the president foretold his message to Europeans, including to the G-8 Summit on Wednesday, June 6, in a speech casting America as "a compassionate nation." Such a nation will seek to reduce chaos and suffering abroad because "our conscience demands it" and it "is in our interest" -- benefiting both "this economy and our security."

While rose-colored glasses may be fashionable in the vicinity of the Rose Garden, the Prague pro-democracy dissidents, activists, and politicians will be faced with some obvious rifts currently pitting America (and Israel) against European forces. Can the moral leverage of a group which includes some of the world's most celebrated former political prisoners like Václav Havel and Natan Sharansky and the spouses of others lost along the way, open a common causeway to defeat the mortal enemies of freedom everywhere?

Democracy-Building June 2007 Editor's Note