The following is an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government:
Men in Saudi Arabia voted this week in Riyadh in the first of three municipal elections. Though Saudi women were excluded, the voting could be a first step toward democratic change.
On January 30th, the Iraqi people also demonstrated their commitment to democratic change. They voted for two-hundred-seventy-five members of a transitional national assembly that will choose a new government and draft a constitution. And on January 9th, Palestinians voted for a new president in an election that President George W. Bush called "a key step toward building a democratic future."
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says that, in the Middle East, "the nature of the political conversation is changing. Ordinary citizens are expressing thoughts and acting together in ways that they have not done before. These citizens," says Ms. Rice, "want a future of tolerance, opportunity, and peace -- not repression":
"Today's radical Islamists are swimming against the tide of the human spirit. They grab headlines with their ruthless brutality, and they can be brutal."
"But," says Ms. Rice, the radical Islamists "are dwelling on the outer fringes of a great world religion; and they are radicals of a special sort. They are in revolt against the future:"
"The face of terrorism in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, called democracy 'an evil principle.' To our enemies, 'Liberte, Egalite and Fraternite' [Liberty, Equality, Fraternity] are also evil principles. They want to dominate others not to liberate them. They demand conformity, not equality. They still regard difference as a license to kill. But they are wrong. Human freedom will march ahead, and we must help smooth its way."
President George W. Bush says, "The United States has no right, no desire, and no intention to impose our form of government on anyone else. That is one of the main differences between us and our enemies." The U.S. aim, Mr. Bush says, "is to build and preserve a community of free and independent nations, with governments that answer to their citizens and reflect their own culture."