Ayatollah Theodore

Step aside everyone, my man – my main man – and the front runner for the Man of the Year award, is the Iranian born Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Husaini Sistani, the spiritual leader of Iraqi Shia's. He is the acknowledged religious leader of 60% of the population that Mr. Bush recently happened to “free” while looking for WMD's.

Liberating people is a sensitive subject; especially when you have been telling them all along about human rights, democracy and the right of self-determination. You simply cannot put them back in a cage and have a Mobarak look-alike run the show. It is almost like trying to score a home run on the first date while promising matrimony. Sure, you might score from time to time, but only for a few runs; sooner or later your ass is dumped.

Characteristically, the xenophobic neo-cons are trying to score again. “No Way Jose, Iraq can't sit on top of all that oil and be a democracy,” they're quietly murmuring. Why not have appointed caucuses instead, so that the American viceroy can pick “the good guys” instead.

Well, let's not hold our breath, there still may be a home run in the making, but one man is ensuring a quick three strikes soon after.

Our old chap Theodore Roosevelt coined the phrase “speak softly and carry a big stick”. He would have indeed been awfully pleased with the way Sistani is speaking and hovering a giant Shia stick above Paul Bremer's head.

Indeed what an extraordinary time it is. We all survived the latest “orange” alert to see the day that a religious leader – from the Islamic world; an Ayatollah no less – calls for free and fair elections while the Americans huff 'n' puff and refuse to allow them.

Now, I am not familiar with Mr. Sistani's disposition, nor am I confident that we would be sharing a cup of coffee any time soon, but it is ever so delightful to witness such a turn of events.

With his insistence for a free and fair election now, Sistani is showcasing the insincere promises and shortcomings of the West. There go all those belittling speeches about how the West should teach the semi-barbaric Easterners life as a democracy. There go all the demeaning observation teams dispatched from Carter Center and Amnesty International to teach the 1-2-3's of free elections.

Let's not deceive ourselves, as the recent free elections in Iraq demonstrate, the concerned pleas from all western institutions (governmental, international organizations, NGO's and the media) that the East (namely the Middles East and China) should democratize is a disingenuous one. It is economic interest that dictates policy in the West, not a fundamental belief in democracy. In other words, it's all about the home run, not matrimony.

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