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Is Bush Right?

Whether Arab democrats will credit Bush is another issue, Kuttab says. The administration's pro-Israeli policies still give them pause. While the American president's campaign for democracy "echoes deep seated demands that have gone unnoticed in the entire region," Arab democrats also believe that Palestinians "deserve the same democratic independence from the Israeli occupation that they [are] seeking from their autocratic regimes."

The unhappy truth, says Kuttab, is that Arabs find themselves living under occupation in Iraq and Palestine and living under autocracy in 21 other countries.

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"But despite this miserable state of affairs, a glimmer of hope has finally emerged giving lovers of peace democracy and human rights something to celebrate," he writes.

Rami G. Khouri, editor and columnist for the Daily Star in Beirut says Arab democrats and Bush policymakers both deserve credit.

In Egypt, Lebanon and Palestine, he writes, established power structures are "being compelled to change by the force of will of their own people -- people in the streets who risk imprisonment, retributive punishment, or even death by challenging and resisting their prevailing power elite."

At the same time, Khouri goes on, "the presence of the U.S. and other foreign forces in Iraq also certainly has played a role in focusing the minds of various Arab leaders on their need to change and modernize quickly."

"The urgent, significant, unprecedented political reality" is that ordinary Arabs and the U.S. government "share mutually advantageous common goals," he writes. Those goals include replacing dictatorships, forging a just Israeli-Palestinian peace and establishing diplomacy and the rule of law in the region.

"This has never happened in recent memory, which is why it is important now to focus on what needs to be done by all concerned parties, rather than argue about who started the ball rolling. We both did."

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