March 12, 2011
The hand is a tool; the body is only a larger tool. If the mind
changes, humans would make miracles -- Abdurrahman Moneef
Although surprising to all, the revolutions currently sweeping through the Arabic countries were imminent. The tranquil conditions present in these countries in December of 2010 were only the silence before the storm. But one would ask: Why these revolutions? How did they happen? And who is doing what?
Twenty-six years old, Tunisian street vendor Mohammad Bouazizi wrote to his mother on December 15, 2010, before setting himself on fire to
protest the confiscation of his fruits and his assault by Tunisian police:
"Forgive me mother for I am leaving and blame will not stop me. Forgive me as I will be lost in a path that was not my choice. Forgive me for not obeying your wishes, and do not blame me. Blame the time that we live in. I will be leaving without coming back. I cried too much, but without tears"
Mohammad's action sparked an explosion all across Tunisia, then spread to the rest of the Arab world, bringing down, so far, Zain Alabedeen Ben Ali, and Hosni Mubarak. The unrest is now rocking Qaddafi of Libya, Ali Saleh of Yemen, and Ben Issa of Bahrain. Not one single Arabic ruler is feeling immune.
While it is true that Arabs are one united nation in language, religion, culture, and history -- despite the efforts of the colonial powers of the west to dismember them -- Arabs are also united in misery, humiliation, and low self-esteem, for a number of reasons:
First, Arabs were subjected to many depleting wars brought by the US and western European powers. These wars used superior weapons and military power against the sovereignty and civilian infrastructure vital to the well-being of society. These wars were waged by the false justifications of spreading democracy, the need to confront regimes which threatened peace, fighting terrorism, and protecting Israel. The real reasons behind these wars were to protect the strategic interests of the western powers: natural resources, strategic water paths, and markets. These wars have lasted for decades.
Second, the western powers established local client regimes to ensure that their interests were well protected. These regimes were typically made up of a ruler, his family members, and compradors made up of businessmen, intelligence personnel, and military leaders. Repression and corruption have been the principal means by which these rulers governed their states. The hypocrisy of western powers supporting these regimes is illustrated in the west’s covering up of non-democratic, brutal, and repressive practices for many long years. Qaddafi has been in power for over 42 years, Sultan Caboose of Oman has been in power for 40 years, Ali Saleh of Yemen has been in power for 33 years, Hosni Mubarak was in power for 30 years and Zain Ben Ali of Tunisia was in power for 23 years. Development, prosperity, education, and the welfare of the people were totally forgotten by these regimes.
Third, the Arabic masses were left with a heavy burden that directly affected their social, economic, and personal lives. Freedom of expression was not allowed when it came to critical views of the ruling regime, Israel, and the US wars. Political prisoners filled jails, and activists were harassed in their freedom to travel, work, study, and socialize. In some cases political activists were arrested during their wedding ceremonies. Some disappeared completely from the face of the planet, and loved ones were abducted or assassinated to pressure them. Corruption reached a point where these states became states of corruption rather than corrupted states. Of the 178 members of the International Transparency Agency, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and Lebanon rank among the worst. The gross domestic product is very low for most of the Arab states including, surprisingly, the mineral rich Gulf States of Bahrain, Oman, and Saudi Arabia. Demographically, young people represent 45-60% of the population. They are mostly uneducated, and unemployed. In Yemen their percentage of the population exceeds 70%.
Fourth, western powers instituted policies of collective punishment
against Arabs worldwide based on ethnicity and religion. Such measures were evident in the so-called "war on terror" which targeted the culture, religious practice, heritage, identity, and character of Arab people. The Arabic regimes were instrumental in aiding this war. Israel's illegal and provocative presence, its mass killing, displacement, and racist policies against Palestinians and other Arabs for over 60 years has been another method of collective punishment of Arab and Muslim people. The outright crimes committed by Israel against Arabs were excused by the western powers as Israel's “right to self defense.” Arab civil resistance to Israel was viewed as aggression and terrorism. Arabic regimes were instrumental in preventing the Arabic people from coming to the help of their follow Palestinians or Lebanese as they faced one attack after another by the Israelis.
Fifth, the so-called "creative chaos" invented by the US and introduced to the Arab and Muslim world added unbearable conditions of bloody division between ethnic and religious sects such as Sunni and Shiites. Further, the tactics of soft power intelligence operations, assassinations of activists or scientists or just ordinary people, and high-profile bombings, all caused division among the citizens of a state. Examples are the killing of Hariri in Lebanon Feb 14, 2004, and the destruction of the Iraq Shiite holy mosque known as Marqad Al-Imammian in Samarra. Many other covert activities fueled the anger of ordinary Arabic people, causing general resentment and bitterness toward the ruling regimes because of the regimes’ partnership with the US government.
All of the above made the Arabs a destitute, impoverished people suffering every minute and every day a process of deliberate humiliation. Finally, the Arabs had enough. The Tunisian, Egyptian, Libyan, Yemeni, Omani, Iraqi, and other people of the Arab world are in the midst of totally genuine popular movements composed of ordinary people who were not politically organized or involved with the token local oppositions which existed before. It is truly a picture of ordinary people believing in themselves and finding enough solidarity and strength to face their oppressors. Most of these people are young and fearless. This resistance is not something new, as witness the Iraqi resistance against the US occupation of Iraq, the Lebanese and Palestinian resistance against Israel, the first Palestinian Intifada, and the Algerian revolution against the French colonizers.
We also remember Arab attempts at change by means of democratic or popular revolution, such as the Iranian revolution led by Mossadeq during the 1950’s. That revolution was sacked by a counter-coup lead by Roosevelt. Also, the democratically won elections by the Islamists in Algeria during the early 1990’s were by crushed by the army based on a green light from the western powers. Hamas’s winning of the elections in 2006 brought "legal sanctions" against the Gaza Strip which continue up to today. The Lebanese popular revolution in 1975 was converted into a civil war which dragged on for over 15 years.
The west in general and the US in particular were shocked and taken by surprise at the uprisings of 2011. The US response fell into two categories:
Plan A: Yield for the storm and come back later with a counter-coup; meanwhile, help steer change onto a favorable direction that does not threaten its interests. In both Tunisia and Egypt, in cooperation with the national armies of both states (already infiltrated and directed by the US), the heads of the regimes were sacrificed in an attempt to deceive people into thinking that the revolutions had succeeded and that changes were made. This would keep the existing establishment and structure of presidency, prime ministry, secret service, and intelligence agencies unaffected. This plan focused on establishing an electoral process that would have the appearance of democracy, but keep control in the hands of the regime and therefore the western powers. The revolutions represented a chance for the western powers to repair their image as pro-democratic. The only expense was letting go the heads of states who had given them such dedicated service. They found no trouble in doing so, condemning both Ben-Ali and Mubarak. But the new leadership in both Tunisia and Egypt is obviously working in a very smart way to protect the revolution by insisting on a "COMPLETE CHANGE" of the regimes.
The US also has a Plan B: Divide and Steal. A vast country like Libya with enormous oil resources and very little population (less than five million) is considered a prime prize in the eyes of the west. While official announcements coming from the west are condemning Qaddafi and promising help to the Libyan revolution, the actual approach for now is to hold the stick from the middle. Qaddafi accused the rebels of being "al-Qaeda" and "eastern Libyan tribes" that seek to break away from Libya and establish a separate state. He claimed that this would lead to civil war, and inviting colonial powers to occupy Libya as they have interest in its resources. The talk from the west about arming the rebels and imposing a “no-fly zone,” or striking some targets of the dictatorship, plays into the hands of what Qaddafi claimed, and discredit the legitimacy of the rebels as collaborators with foreign power. This creates division among the Libyans seeking to oust Qaddafi, and allows Qaddafi to attack the poorly armed rebels with full force. Ironically, the battles now are being fought around the oil port of "Ras Minoof" half way between west and east Libya. The eastern part, controlled by the rebels, has most of the oil reserves. It is clearly an unequal fight, which prepares the way for a quick outside intervention. Also, the US is allowing secretive talks with Qaddafi through a Portuguese official channel -- talks having to do with future contracts and cooperation. Proving once again that there are no two sides of its mouth that the US can’t talk through, Obama is calling for an end to the rule of Qaddafi and Ms. Clinton is denouncing Qaddafi as a war-criminal. According to "The Financial Times," the revenues from oil sold to Europe and the US continue to be paid to the Libyan regime.
There is one more thing the west hopes will happen in Libya -- that is, to make the level of repression and violence committed by the regime an example to the other revolutions: for anyone who dares to think about making a change, the consequences will be serious violence, partition, and tribal ethnic cleansing
If the Libyan revolution wins its fight against the west and Qaddafi, the train of revolutions will continue forward to create a major tidal wave that will sweep repression and corruption out of the Arab world.