Another Arab nation’s corrupt leadership is being toppled—first Tunisia, now Egypt, Yemen and Jordan are rising up as well. Though thousands have been beaten and arrested and probably tortured by those states’ security forces (the ruler of Yemen immediately offered a pay raise to the police—way to deal with your people’s problems!), what is heartening is that all-out civil war has not broken out in these countries. It has been peaceful, relatively speaking. The ouster of the Tunisian despot was done without the country descending into all-out civil war. Tell that to the folks who were beaten and tortured, I know, but compare it to El Salvador or Nicaragua, where the U.S. financed and supported wars to reinstall friendly dictators—instigating decades of massacres and armed conflict. So, though not exactly a Velvet Revolution (Czechoslovakia), or even People Power (Philippines), it’s not as bad as it could be—as far as bloodshed.
Wisely, the U.S. is at least refraining from continuing to back the bad guys in most of these uprisings—or so it seems (at least so far). The U.S. isn’t exactly supporting the protesters though; we espouse democracy, but let others make it happen. As some of the protesters said in an interview on Al Jazeera—they don’t need the U.S., they can do this themselves.
This from one of the demonstrators in Cairo—via Huffington Post:
The military made no attempt to disperse some 5,000 protesters gathered at Tahrir Square, a plaza in the heart of downtown that protesters have occupied since Friday afternoon. They have violated the curfew to call for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak's regime, which they blame for poverty, unemployment, widespread corruption and police brutality.
Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei appeared in the square around 7 p.m.
"You are the owners of this revolution. You are the future," he told the cheering crowd. "Our essential demand is the departure of the regime and the beginning of a new Egypt in which each Egyptian lives in virtue, freedom and dignity."
This guy’s sign says, “Game over.”
What is mentioned in every story over the last couple of weeks, is that the U.S. has been supporting and propping up these criminal dictators for decades (most of them have been in power for at least 30 years). The rationale for support is that these dictators are our allies in the battle against Islamic fundamentalism. The Egyptian president encourages fear regarding the Islamic Brotherhood and insures backing from the US as a result. The Islamic Brotherhood is not a terrorist organization, but given its name it is easily portrayed as one in the West.
In decades past, we backed monsters because they professed to be anti-Communist. Now the slightest lip service that they are anti-terrorist and they get weapons and excuses from Hillary Clinton (the latest in a very long line of excuse makers). This is truly counterproductive. Supporting repressive regimes is what gives rise not only to young advocates for reform, but also to the very organizations that are planting bombs and teaching hatred. Both the reformists and the radicals share a distrust for the U.S.—unfortunately a common bond. The people in those countries know that their rulers have been supported by the U.S.—they’re not ignorant, they know way more about it that most Americans.
Needless to say, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran aren’t in love with the U.S. either—the dominoes are falling. The whole region is changing political shape, and we should be encouraging reform, not funding its repression anymore. The principal oil states—Saudi Arabia, Russia and Nigeria—speak for themselves: corrupt oligarchies, monarchies or just plain corrupt. Even W knew we had to get off the oil tit ASAP. Instead of wasting billions making enemies, we should be investing those billions in our children’s future (education) and funding alternative energy models. Whole towns in Sweden have reduced their carbon footprint to zero—it can be done, it’s not a utopian pipe dream.
The amounts being spent for no positive results in Afghanistan and Iraq are mind-boggling—to believe that there is no connection between a nation with a growing level of mostly financial-based unrest (that’s the U.S.), and the money spent on illegal wars without end, is to not see history being remade. These U.S.-led wars are financed by money borrowed from China (who holds much of the U.S. debt)—any wonder the Chinese are zooming ahead? I suspect the Chinese will begin some serious arm twisting soon, as they’ll want to be sure their debts can be paid back. And if they see a nation in financial disarray that can’t pay its bills, the Chinese may start dictating how we get our house in order—as any bank would do to a loan holder in danger or default.
Anyway—exciting, thrilling days. Who would have expected all this to grow from a single street vendor who refused to pay bribes?