"I descended 55 steps into the labyrinth of Muammar el-Qaddafi’s mind. The glow of cellphones and a feeble flashlight lit a passage into the darkness. A netherworld unfolded — bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, even saunas — linked by tunnels with six-inch-thick metal doors agape at their mouths."
Cohen proceeds to construct an analogy between his bunker visit and the need to illuminate the Middle East:
"So, having been in Tunisia and Egypt and now Libya during this Arab Spring, I say, Shine a light — into Qaddafi’s bunkers and everywhere. Let people out of their dark houses. Allow them to participate in the making of their societies."
These are indeed bold words from a journalist who spent some six months writing op-eds from Iran in 2009, yet never deigned to "shine a light" on the brutal oppression of Iran's Baha'is, while declaring that Iran is "not totalitarian".
Similarly, Cohen failed to "shine a light" on Iran's persecution of its Kurdish minority, its stoning to death of alleged adulterers (mostly women), or its hanging of homosexuals.
Yes, Cohen was recently in Egypt, but did he "shine a light" on the violence perpetrated upon Egypt's Coptic Christian minority, which has persisted even after the uprising?
Did Cohen "shine a light" on the brutal subjugation of women in Egypt, where 97% of its women have undergone female genital mutilation?
Did Cohen "shine a light" on the vile practice of honor killings perpetrated against women in Egypt and elsewhere throughout the Muslim Middle East?
Then, too, there are the statistics released by the Pew Research Center on December 2, 2010 (http://pewglobal.org/2010/12/02/muslims-around-the-world-divided-on-hamas-and-hezbollah/), which also deserve scrutiny:
"At least three-quarters of Muslims in Egypt . . . say they would favor making each of the following the law in their countries: stoning people who commit adultery, whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery and the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim religion."
As per the Pew data, unshackled Egyptian "democracy" would see the ongoing brutalization of women, who are inevitably the primary victims of stoning, and hordes of limbless waifs. Also without freedom of religion, this brave new world, expressing the will of the majority emerging from "their dark houses" and actively "participat[ing] in the making of their societies," would be distant from anything approximating Western ideals.
"Take the disgruntled and give them opportunities."
But what of women, Baha'is, Kurds, Christians, homosexuals and so-called "apostates" (i.e. persons who have abandoned Islam) in Cohen's "evolving Middle East"? Don't they also deserve their freedom and dignity?
I have never understood why he has chosen to ignore them, and in order to arrive at the reason, perhaps we would need to descend 55 steps into the labyrinth of Roger Cohen's mind.