CAIRO: US President George Bush believes history will judge his actions in the Middle East as a contribution to peace and democracy, he said in an interview with Egyptian TV presenter Mona El-Shazli.
The presenter of “Al-Ashera Masa’an, Dream TV’s popular nightly television newsmagazine, was granted a short interview with Bush in the White House, and has come under intense fire from the state media before the program aired Tuesday night.
Asked if history will be on his side Bush responded, “I think history will say George Bush clearly saw the threats that keep the Middle East in turmoil, and was willing to do something about it, was willing to lead, and had this great faith in the capacity of democracies and great faith in the capacity of people to decide the fate of their countries; and that the democracy movement gained impetus and gained movement in the Middle East.
“Yeah, I think people will say, he had a difficult set of circumstances to deal with, and he dealt with them, with a sense of idealism, he continued.
The interview sent tongues wagging in parts of the state press, namely Rose Al Youssef and Al-Gomhouria, who have labeled Shazli an “American agent.
Rumors abounded about who funded the trip of Shazli and her crew to Washington to conduct the interview, with some newspapers insinuating that it was paid for by the American government. Shazli refuted this rumor to the press stating that all expenses were paid for by the satellite channel.
The popularity of Bush in the Arab world leaves a lot to be desired, and Arab sentiment was further inflamed by Bush’s visit to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Israel’s statehood.
For Palestinains, the same day commemorates the Nakba, the day Palestinians lost their land and were forcibly exiled from it.
Yet Bush believes he is helping the Palestinians more than any of his predecessors. “I’m the first President ever to have articulated a two-state solution, two states living side by side in peace, he told Shazli.
Part of the interview centered on democracy in Egypt, a sore spot with the government who consider it a purely domestic affair and bemoan what they consider foreign intervention.
“Nobody wants the big influential guy to come from the outside and tell them what to do. I’m sensitive to that, Bush said, “On the other hand, I do believe it’s important for a leader in a country to adhere to certain values, universal values.
He continued, “I think the idea of giving people a chance to vote and a chance to participate freely in society is a universal value. I try to balance, on the one hand, my beliefs, and on the other hand, a friendship with the government and friendship with President Mubarak.
Bush described democaracy in Egypt as moving in “fits and starts; good news and bad news.
He alluded to a fear of the Muslim Brotherhood as the reason for the erratic path of democracy in Egypt, stating that the regime desired it.
It “reflects the nature of the administration and their… on the one hand, their desire for democracy, on the other hand, their concerns about different movements, he said.
As he nears the end of his second term in office, Bush believed he had made progress on issues concerning the Middle East – even if he was aware that most people disagreed – and urged its people to let history decide whether he contributed to peace or not.
“There’s an advent of a young democracy in Iraq. Ask those people what it’s like to live under a freer society, rather than the thumb of a tyrant or a dictator; or the people that we’re trying to help in Lebanon by getting the Syrians out through a UN Security Council resolution; or the Palestinians who – for whom I’ve articulated a state.
“In other words, I understand people’s opinions. All I ask is that when history is finally recorded, judge whether or not I’ve been a contributor to peace or not.