Joshua Ramo who was moderating a panel at the Atocha summit asked the question, is the world more democratic since 9/11. Clearly most people thought no. One person in the audience stepped up and said that the elections in Iraq were a good sign and that Iraq was more democratic. A young man from Iraq jumped in and said that he didn't believe that the elections had made Iraq more democratic citing the low turnout and the problems they were having getting started. Then a young Iraqi woman who was working on monitoring elections jumped in and said that she believed it was getting more democratic and that it would take time and people had to be patient. What was striking was the passion that both of these young Iraqi's had and the strength of their words which were based on experience rather than analysis or speculation.
One of the problems with the question about whether the world is more democratic or not is that it is very difficult to measure and the word "democratic" has so many meanings and is ill-defined. What is more interesting, which Kenneth Roth from Human Rights Watch pointed out was to talk about human rights. He made the point that the Bush administration talks about liberty, freedom and democracy, but avoids talking about human rights. Liberty, freedom and democracy are very fuzzy words, but human rights is very specific. It would be easy to define terrorism as attacks against human rights and international humanitarian law forbids attacks against innocent non-combatants which is often the definition used for terrorism. Roth points out that the US has a terrible position on human rights in the name of the war on terror. He pointed out that Alberto Gonzales told the Senate committee the Senate Convention Against Torture treaty doesn't prohibit the use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading" tactics, which makes the US the only country which is not upholding the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment as a matter of official policy. How can a country which is not upholding basic human rights expect to be respected and supported internationally?
One of the people in the audience mentioned that it was too easy to waste time Bush bashing and maybe there was a bit too much of that. However, someone noted that at yesterday's summit only George Soros criticized George Bush by name.