Mona Charen
Dear Arab protesters,

From Tripoli to Sanaa, and from Cairo to Damascus, you are taking to the streets to topple your governments. The fabled "Arab street" has, after many predicted eruptions that failed to materialize, at last been heard from.

There is still a great deal we don't know about you -- though we do know that you've displayed tremendous courage, particularly in Libya and Syria, where the regimes are firing on and murdering peaceful demonstrators by the score. Some of you are Islamists, who would usher in even worse regimes than the ones you hope to replace. Some of you are clearly hoping for economic change.

As for those of you who shout "Freedom! Freedom!" -- like the demonstrators in Syria -- we deeply hope that you mean what we mean by freedom -- a pluralistic, Western-style society.

But one thing is pretty clear: You take a dim view of your current leaders' honesty. You've been lied to for so long and so thoroughly that rumor and gossip are more readily trusted than official pronouncements.

Little wonder. Saif el-Islam Gaddafi, son of Libya's oil-rich and blood-soaked ruler, has told the world that protesters in his country are "mercenaries" and "anarchists" who are "on drugs." Muammar Gaddafi has told the world that the people of Libya "love" him.

Just in the past several weeks, as the regime in Syria has killed at least dozens and perhaps hundreds of demonstrators (and as regime thugs have prevented the wounded from reaching hospitals for treatment), Bashar al-Assad has claimed that those protesting against his government are "armed gangs" and "saboteurs." The Ministry of the Interior, which began firing on demonstrators during the first week of peaceful marches, issued a statement declaring that "there is no more room for leniency or tolerance."

Assad also gave an interview to The Wall Street Journal a couple of months before demonstrations began in Syria, offering the dictator's interpretation of unrest in Egypt and Tunisia. He let fall a cascade of gobbledygook like this: "This current will lead to repercussions of less creativity, less development, and less openness. You cannot reform your society or institution without opening your mind. So the core issue is how to open the mind, the whole society, and this means everybody in society including everyone." But in the midst of the dense mud that passes for thought from Assad, there were one or two howlers.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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