"We want to elect the American president"

Syrian journalist Yassin Al-Haj Saleh says out loud what many Middle Easterners think: they would a say at who is going to be the next president of the US, since he is going to have such a hold over their lives.

We ought to take seriously the findings of a recent global opinion poll in 23 countries and consider joining the citizens of the world in electing the next American president. Making this proposition a reality should be very simple since it rests on a fundamental and democratic tenet: decisions taken by the resident of the White House affect the destiny of countries, peoples and individuals all over the world. In other words, the latter is the president of the world and it is only right for those who are at the receiving end of any authority's decisions to express their opinion and participate in its election.
The decisions of Mr. Bush or Kerry will affect the future of my country as well as my own destiny as a member of the Syrian and Arab democratic opposition, and this will manifest itself most evidently in the next few months. I therefore see American policies as coming from the corner of power and hegemony rather than those of solidarity with the weak and in defense of the persecuted. I do not need to witness the daily killings of Palestinians to dismiss any illusions I might have concerning the American project in our region, for those who want to see justice in Iraq and Syria cannot at the same time lend support to a professional killer's work in Palestine. That is why I see American policy in the "Middle East" (this terminology itself does not give due recognition to the peoples of this region) as being the other face of the Syrian ruling elite that does not recognize the right of the Syrian people to make up their own mind and decide on their own future. American policies in the area therefore are a mixture of dictatorship and cultural condescension, as was manifested in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal a few months ago.
It seems to me that to democratize the Middle East we need to liberate ourselves from not one but three authorities: autocratic power structures throughout the region; the authorities above the law, i.e. Israel; and the most overreaching authority of all, the United States of America. None of these authorities, as far as the "Middle East" is concerned, is genuinely democratic.
U.S. policies in the region always had a far greater impact on our destiny than the Americans ever dared to admit, and this impact is only second to that of the local ruling dictatorships that could always count on the support of the U.S. as long as they carried out their designs and fulfilled their every request. Today the latter wants to control us under the pretext of liberating us, and the former want to preserve their power under the pretext of standing steadfast in the face of external threats.

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.