Spreading the seeds of democracy

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"Spreading the seeds of democracy", the phrase employed by George W. Bush and the Bush administration as justification for the war in Iraq, has managed to elicit a variety of responses.


  • June 6, 1984, on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, France, President Ronald Reagan delivered the memorable words:
"When our forces marched into Germany they came not to prey on a brave and defeated people, but to nurture the seeds of democracy among those who yearned to be free again."
  • Spring 1999: Azizah Y. al-Hibri, "Islamic and American Constitutional Law: Borrowing Possibilities Or a History of Borrowing?" in Journal of Constitutional Law, University of Pennsylvania: "Having lost their Prophet, many Muslims reverted to traditional authoritarian forms of leadership. The Qur'an recognized this potential problem when it referred to those of weak faith. The Prophet understood it as well. Nevertheless, he sowed the seeds of democracy by taking, against all odds, the first few steps of what turned out to be a long historical journey for Muslims. By doing so, he irrevocably established democratic tradition as part of his sunnah, and provided yet one more example of the Qur'anic philosophy of gradualism."


  • 1995: Christopher Kedzie, in Chapter Six of the RAND Corporation publication "International Implications for Global Democratization," writes: "Increasingly, formal and informal e-mail assist relationships in transcending national frontiers. Universal e-mail in the United States with abundant international connections can help to spread the seeds of democracy even to nondemocratic lands. Global democratization is critically important to the future of democracy in America. According to scholars such as Samuel P. Huntington (1984) and Charles S. Maier (1994), the prospects for democracy here are inexorably linked to the state of democracy worldwide and our national commitment to global democratization."

Action & Reaction

  • 7 May 2002: Akram Yosri, while "campaigning to be the first American Muslim member of the U.S. Congress," said "'My view has been very clear. The sanctions have been in place for over a decade and they have not worked and not produced the desired results. ... [We] must restore dignity to Iraqi people by removing the tyrant regime. And we must bring Iraq back into the international community and alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people,' Yosri continued. ... 'Make no mistake about it. I want to spread the seeds of democracy in Iraq, the entire Middle East and the world.'"
  • 22 October 2002: John Yaukey, in his Gannett News article "Palestinian camps could explode into violence," wrote: "In its campaign against Saddam Hussein, the Bush administration has talked about spreading the seeds of democracy across Arabia, starting with Saddam's replacement. But right now, little would take root in a progressive, Western-friendly way."
  • 27 February 2003: Scott Lindlaw, AP: "Toppling Saddam Hussein would do more than protect America, it would sow seeds of democracy and peace in the Middle East, President Bush says."
  • 28 February 2003: Winston Smith, "Seeds of chaos and war: Bush's sanctimonious double-speak," LA Indymedia: "This whole scenario, even the historically unprecedented worldwide peace demonstrations, is beginning to feel like we are living in a script or best-selling novel, say 1984? Are people actually asking each other if war is peace?"
  • 1 March 2003: According to Rifaat Said, a "member of the Egyptian Parliament from a small liberal party. ... When President George W. Bush argues that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein could spread the seeds of democracy across the Arab world, Said scoffs, naming autocratic Arab countries the United States has long supported as strategic allies, including Egypt. 'Why do they continue to support Saudi Arabia?' Said said in his office in the centre of Cairo. 'Why do they support the prince of Qatar? Why did they support Saddam Hussein in the past? Why do they believe that democracy will create a paradise in Egypt?' Even those who might benefit most from democracy in Egypt -- people like Said or Essam Erian, whose political organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, is officially banned -- argued that the imposition of democracy by force in Iraq would be viewed as American repression, not liberation. 'By destroying Iraq,' said Erian, a pathologist who has spent six years in prison under Egypt's emergency laws, 'you are opening the door not to democracy, but to hell.'" International Herald Tribune (USA), 1 March 2003.
  • 3 March 2003: Bobby Eberle "wrote" for GOPUSA: "Military action will also liberate the Iraqi people, and the opportunity to spread the seeds of democracy in a region such as the Middle East will add to the long-term stability of the area."
  • 29 March 2003: Jean-Christophe Peuch wrote in a Radio Free Europe article: "More recently, Bush argued that Saddam's overthrow would help spread the seeds of democracy across the region. These latest comments have shocked Iraq's Arab neighbors, which now suspect Washington of nurturing plans to remodel the Middle East's geopolitical balance."
  • 12 May 2003: Richard S. Durham, et al., in BusinessWeek wrote: "While the Bush Administration struggles to plant the seeds of democracy in the scorched earth of Iraq, the neoconservative thinkers who provided the intellectual firepower for military action against Saddam Hussein are already looking beyond Baghdad. Convinced that as the sole superpower, America has both the means and the manifest destiny to promote democratic reform around the globe, neocons inside and outside the Bush Administration are eager to press forward with their muscular foreign policy. Toppling Saddam, they argue, is just a prelude to large-scale regime change in the Persian Gulf and beyond."
  • 6 November 2003: George E. Condon, Jr., Sign On San Diego: "President Bush, declaring that the Middle East is at a critical 'turning point,' Thursday launched a new American push to develop democracies across the troubled region, further raising the stakes for what happens in postwar Iraq. ... He singled out for cautious praise several Muslim countries where he said the seeds of democracy have taken root, including Morocco, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Yemen, Kuwait, Jordan and even Saudi Arabia, whose leaders he said have taken the 'first steps toward reform'."
  • 6 November 2003: politik 7 blog: "At the 20th anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy on Nov. 6, the president gave a commendable speech on the future of the Middle East The republican pundits hailed the speech as a monumental turning point for the future of American policy in the Middle East. They pointed to the president's statement that 'the establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution.'
"I tend to agree with the president on this issue. While this was the real reason to go to war, the American people would not have bought that argument as the legitimate reason to fight. The administration had to create fear in the hearts of people before they could put in place their plan.[1]
"The basis of Bush's speech was to start to spread the seeds of democracy in the Middle East. His plan to do this involves nurturing democracy in the region to build security for the United States and its allies. While this is a noble cause the president has actually touted one policy of diplomacy while carrying out another in Iraq."
  • 13 November 2003: The Standard (Hong Kong): "The Bush administration's policy on Iraq is an unmitigated disaster. Last week the administration cobbled together strategy which will see much of the political process handed back to the Iraqis in a matter of months. The United States would have us believe that it has sown the seeds of democracy. It's done nothing of the sort."
  • 26 November 2003: A BuzzFlash News Analysis stated: "Bush makes eloquent speeches about spreading the seeds of democracy around the world, while he is doing everything that he can to dismantle it at home."
  • 28/29 February 2004: Dr. Jim Eckman, Issues in Perspective, writes: "Bernard Lewis, Princeton University historian and author of more than 20 books on Islam, argues that the US military invasion of Iraq is a key policy to sew the seeds of democracy in the Middle East. His argument has made a major contribution to President Bush’s policy on Iraq."
  • 2 April 2004: On CNN's Crossfire, Representative Gary Ackerman D-NY said: "This is the biggest bait-and-switch scheme in the history of the world. We didn't go over there and lose over 800 of our bravest, most wonderful young men and women in order to spread the seeds of democracy. The president isn't Johnny Appleseed in this case.
"We went there to prevent an imminent attack on the United States from Iraq from people who are not about to attack the United States from that country. This has nothing to do with the war on international terrorism. And we are now, the administration now, trying to justify our presence, justify our losses. And they will not be able to do that because they don't have a clue and they don't have a plan."
  • 26 April 2004: Stan Crook, et al., wrote in Newsweek: "It's high noon in Iraq. The U.S. campaign to spread the seeds of democracy through the Middle East is in serious danger."
  • 3 September 2004: Dan Balz, Washington Post: "Bush is a politician who prefers the bold stroke over the workaday plan, and his speech wrapping up the Republican National Convention was a model of inspiring rhetoric, well-turned phrases and big themes, from planting the seeds of democracy in one of the most troubled regions of the world to remaking some of the largest areas of domestic government to meet the realities of family life in 21st-century America."
  • 7 September 2004: Bill Gallagher, in the Niagara Falls Reporter, wrote: "In his acceptance speech, he promised that his recipe of war, machismo and unilateralism will 'build a safer world.' Bush knows our enemies, what's right and what's wrong, and his decisive leadership is beyond criticism or question. Marching a Christian army into the heart of Islam and building military bases for an indefinite occupation to protect the raid on Iraqi oil, and then saying that will help spread the seeds of democracy in the Middle East is, well, absurd. George W. insists we must stick with him and his imperial designs, ask for God's blessing and -- presto! -- this 'will be liberty's century'."
Re "President George W. Bush's plan for the democratisation of the Middle East and North Africa. Bush first launched the idea in a speech in Washington in 2002. Last June he presented a more structured plan at the G-8 summit in Sea Island, Georgia.
"Next month the plan will be discussed at a joint meeting of G-8 foreign and finance ministers with their Arab counterparts at a conference in Rabat, the Moroccan capital.
"According to the meeting's agenda, the aim is to examine ways of 'consolidating the commitment of Middle East and North Africa to fruitful co-development and the harmonious strengthening of the process of political, economic ad social reform.' Ooops!
"This is, of course, diplomatic code language. What the president means is more straightforward: the Middle East and North Africa region is virtually the only part of the world still out of the mainstream of democratisation we have witnessed since the end of the Cold War."
"If, by the end of Bush's final presidential term, there are more democracies in the region, he could claim that he has achieved some success. If not, he will have to admit failure."
  • 13 January 2005: Remarks by Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge at the European Policy Centre: "Dismantling the terrorist threat is not possible unless we make the necessary investments to root out and stop terrorism at the source. ... And through the seizure of terrorist assets, disruption of cells, a continuation of the arrests in which the European community has been so active, and the sacrifices of brave soldiers who are liberating the oppressed and transforming terrorist havens with the seeds of democracy...together we are making significant inroads...together we are getting it done."
  • 29 January 2005: Editorial: "On Sunday Iraq will hold a general election to choose its constitutional assembly. The vote takes place one year and 11 months after the United States invaded the country. ... It is very likely that this election will intensify the divisions and chaos in Iraq, rather than serve to spread the seeds of democracy. ... Voters will go to the polls not even knowing candidates' faces, and mostly will vote for their religious and tribal factions. The results are already as good as determined, no matter what the voting rate is."

SourceWatch Resources

Bush administration article for links

External links

Alternate phrases: "spread seeds of democracy", "planting the seeds of democreacy", "sow seeds of democracy".