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February 28th, 2005 - 11:44 am

Hitchens on where “the Arab street” went:

In retrospect, it’s difficult to decide precisely when this annoying expression began to expire, if only from diminishing returns. There was, first, the complete failure of the said “street” to detonate with rage when coalition forces first crossed the border of Iraq, as had been predicted (and one suspects privately hoped) by so many “experts.” But one still continued to hear from commentators who conferred street-level potency on passing “insurgents.” (I remember being aggressively assured by an interviewer on Al Franken’s quasi-comedic Air America that Muqtada Sadr’s “Mahdi Army” in Najaf was just the beginning of a new “Tet Offensive.”) Mr. Sadr duly got a couple of seats in the recent Iraqi elections. And it was most obviously those elections that discredited the idea of ventriloquizing the Arab or Muslim populace or of conferring axiomatic authenticity on the loudest or hoarsest voice.

Of course, the Arab street was also going to rise up against us when the Afghan War began. And when Israel put Arafat under virtual house arrest. And when Saddam was captured, etc.

What Hitch leaves out is, where the Arab street is rising up in anger: In tiny Lebanon, in protest against their Syrian overlords. And quietly, in Iraq, during last month’s election. With some trepidation, in Egypt, as free elections are promised. Anyway, you get the idea.

The Arab street is marching against homegrown oppression, not against American “imperialism.”

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