Revolt of the Arab Masses Unnerves imperialists
How does longevity in power affect the behaviour of rulers is a question that should best be asked in the context of Arab rulers. Almost all of those who have been ruling Arab countries, from one end of its spectrum to the other, for decades happen to be autocrats and used to treating their peoples like serfs. No wonder that the revolt of these oppressed peoples makes the world tremble because it’s a phenomenon that few in the outside world thought would ever be witnessed.
Now that the oppressed people have stood up to those who have been tormenting them for so long the earth is literally shaking under the feet of the autocrats. The brave Tunisian youths were the trail-blazers who uprooted their tyrant, Zeinel Abedien Bin Ali, with remarkable efficiency and alacrity, setting a worthy example for their compatriots elsewhere in the Arab ‘family of nations.’ So their trend seems to be catching on at a pace that few would have ever thought possible. Algeria showed the earliest symptoms of borrowing a leaf out of the Tunisian book. But for the moment Egypt, Yemen and Sudan look poised for major upheavals and likely to be followed, perhaps sooner than later, by Jordan.
Egypt, by any stretch of definition is the biggest prize a people suppressed for so long, so brutally and so rampantly could aspire to attain. However, whereas the Tunisian despot, Ben Ali, didn’t drag his feet much once he could see the writing on the wall, and ran for exile, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak is adamantly refusing to budge, even under the intense protest mounted by the Egyptian people.
That’s where the autocrat’s longevity in office appears to be the hand moving-or not moving-the dictator. Ben Ali had been in power for ‘just’ 23 years. That’s small change compared to, for example, Muammar Qaddafi, of Libya, being in the driver’s seat for nearly 42 years. Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Yemeni strongman, has been ruling the roost for 32 years. Hosni Mubarak, the modern-day Egyptian pharaoh, has been at the helm for almost 30 years.
Little wonder that Mubarak is proving a harder nut to crack for his people than the relative ease and speed with which the Tunisians were able to get rid of their tin-pot dictator. Mubarak has been unchallenged and undisputed ‘pharaoh’ of modern Egypt for three decades, but before ascending to the top slot, he had been vice-president under Anwar Sadat for 11 years. So, all told, he has been in power for more than four decades and understandably reluctant to step down. What they say about power being the ultimate aphrodisiac seems so very true and pertinent in the case of Hosni Mubarak.
And Egypt, of course, is also not Tunisia. Egypt is the largest and most populous state of the Arab ‘family.’ It has traditionally been the trend-setter in the Arab world. It has been the seat of the Arab League from the very inception of that august body. It’s a different matter, though, that the Arab League has been sapped of its strength and capacity to act on behalf of all its member states largely because of the rise of Titans in the Arab camp, epitomized by Egypt, who thought of themselves as above any criticism or advice.
So one shouldn’t feel surprised that Hosni Mubarak is so keen to hang on to power, even by the skin of his teeth, and in the face of a massive popular revolt that has been snowballing with the passage of days; Pharaohs were not known, even in Egypt’s history of antiquity, for giving up easily. The one who ruled the land in the time of Moses had to be drowned by Providence in order to pave the way for Moses and his people to flee from his clutches.
But Mubarak’s mulish obstinacy and resistance to go the way Ben Ali relented is creating a scenario hard to stomach even for those who pampered and patronized him for so long.
In an ironic turn of events, it’s the Americans, who molly-coddled the ‘pharaoh’ for so long and showered him with more than a billion dollars a year-largely in military aid and weapons that have been used with impunity to crush the Egyptian people-have turned against him and are publicly demanding of him to let go of the reins he has held for so long, so tightly.
Morally, of course, it must be galling even to the most gullible to see the Americans changing, or trying to, their stripes overnight, apparently under the massive backlash of the Egyptian protestors on the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and other cities and towns. For thirty long years the Americans, or Europeans for that matter, had no qualms, no regrets that Mubarak wielded an iron fist and kept his people in chains. These friends and mentors of the dictator were happy and contented that their ‘moderate’ protégé was keeping the area secure for them and their Zionist entity in Israel to promote their agenda. It was then deemed quite legitimate for these gurus of democracy to insist that security must trump people’s rights and freedoms.
However, now Senator John Jerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has no qualms of conscience and appears before the cameras with a long face to remonstrate that Mubarak’s sham democracy is just ‘window dressing’ which will not satisfy the Egyptians any longer.
Hypocrisy has apparently no limits in Washington. So Obama and his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, both are advising Mubarak to relent and honour his people’s demands. And yet they want all this to be stage-managed, so that transition to a new era is smooth and ‘orderly.’
But even these crocodile tears being shed in western capitals-EU has also chimed in to raise the tempo of the chorus from both sides of the Atlantic-seem designed as a ruse to disrupt the momentum created by the Egyptian people’s loud and vociferous demand for an early political demise of their tormentor. Because demands on Mubarak to go, and go immediately, are being made raucously in U.S. and Europe, it’s causing an affront to many in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world. What right have these outsiders to interfere in what is arguably the sole concern of the Egyptians and a matter of domestic concern to them and them alone.
The backlash against this well-orchestrated and loud campaign from western capitals to dictate the terms and pace of the people’s revolution in Egypt is quickly polarizing the situation. And a power-addicted Mubarak reluctant or purblind to see the writing on the wall is using this gambit to rally support for himself among those of the Egyptians who made hay during his authoritarian rule. It was, therefore, not surprising to keen observers of the Egyptian scene that Mubarak’s goons were quickly let loose on Tahrir Square of Cairo to challenge those calling for Mubarak to go.
However, the Arab peoples have by now become sufficiently sophisticated and well-experienced about western imperialistic tactics and shenanigans to be taken in or deceived by them. Their rulers may still be hopelessly hooked to the apron strings of their western masters, despite seeing so starkly that western powers’ support to their autocratic rule and abuse of power is what could only be attributed, for want of a better metaphor, to the ‘Kleenex habit.’ You don’t keep a used Kleenex; it must be discarded as soon as it has been used. The same goes true about U.S. or any other power, for that matter, using an Arab potentate to serve their agenda: get rid of him as soon as his utility is over. Tragic it is that Arab rulers are still prepared to bet their future on the patronage of their western overlords.
But not so with the Arab peoples. They know that the west is not their friends. They have the history of the past, starting with the Crusades a millennium ago but more pointedly commencing with WWI when the Arabs were used as pawns to upset the Ottoman rule over Arab lands. Inspired by viciously rabid imperialists like Winston Churchill, the trap was laid for the Arabs to rise in revolt against the Turks. The poor and ill-informed Arab leaders of the day were mesmerized by a spy like Lawrence of Arabia; they were promised power and sovereignty over all the lands to be liberated from the Ottoman ‘yoke’ and they blindly fell for the bait. Little did they know that behind their backs the arch imperialists, like France and Britain, had secretively drawn up plans to carve up the Ottoman lands and grab them as trophies of the war.
That fruits of that great revolt of the Arabs, in early 20th century, were denied to them. They were cheated out of their rightful reward and saddled, instead, with authoritarian rulers who abused their trust and treated them like chattels. Hosni Mubarak is a personification of that long line of Arab autocrats who served the west with utmost loyalty and trampled the rights of their people under their feet.
So this great uprising of the Egyptians, or the Tunisians before them, or those of the Yemenis, the Jordanians, the Algerians et al. to follow, for certain, is focused on wresting back from the grubby hands of western acolytes and agents in their ranks the power, the dignity and honour that rightly belongs to the people.
The Arab man-on-the-street as well as the intelligentsia has no cobwebs of perception. They know, without any ambiguity, that the west has no love for them or their system of government. The track record of the western powers, vis-à-vis the democratic aspirations of the Middle Eastern peoples is animated by open disdain for their rights. It’s a record of conspiracy against ME democracies. Starting with the subversion of Dr. Mossadaq’s democratic government in Iran, in 1953, the west has conspired against the people’s choice and sided with anti-democratic autocrats because they served the west at the cost of their people’s will. Hamas, the most representative party of the Palestinian people, which came to power through the ballot, is a pariah to the west because it empowers the people and refuses to become slaves of Israel. The same animus rules the western calculus in regard to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Pan-Arabism was targeted because it sought to rally the Arabs on one platform. Instead, the west adopted as its battle-plan Henry Kissinger’s anti-Arab manifesto to divide the Arabs and pick them up one by one. Anwar Sadat fell for it at Camp David and Hosni Mubarak, after him, donned the mantle of the main policeman of western and Israeli interests in the region.
That’s the mantra he’s still trying to infuse a new life into and refusing to bow out gracefully on the plea that chaos would follow if he vacated the scene at this stage. So blinded he’s as to be unable to see that he’s the cause of the chaos and not the solution to it.
And to add spice to his argument, he’s also unabashedly appealing to the Islamophobia of his western mentors by articulating his fear that the much-maligned Muslim Brotherhood (Al-Ikhwan al-Muslimoon) would seize power in the event of his premature departure from the scene.
This is exactly what his ‘ally’ and friend, the Zionist Benjamin Netanyahu has been wailing ever since the popular protest in Egypt. Netanyahu is raising the alarm because he knows there are many takers of his wolf cry in the bastion of Israel’s blind support in U.S, where fellow Zionists and neocons are already crying themselves hoarse about the prospect of the Brotherhood, banned by every autocratic Egyptian ruler since Nasser, coming to power in post-Mubarak Egypt.
That’s exactly the ruse the French and the Americans had used two decades ago in Algeria to thwart the ascendency of a democratic Front for Islamic Salvation (FIS) which was slated to come to power by the ballot box. That high pope of Islamophobia in the west, Bernard Lewis, had then raised the vicious and rabidly anti-Islamic slogan still being cited in support of the anti-Islamic parties in the Arab world by the Zionists, the evangelicals and the neo cons: “yes, political Islam will submit to free and fair elections. But once and once only. And once in power it will never let go.” So the spin masters and engineers are out to checkmate the Ikhwan with the crude arm-twisting that went into ostracizing Hamas in Palestine.
Netanyahu has, in fact, started a campaign to twist Obama’s arm as well. He and on cue from him the anti-Obama maniacs in U.S. are beating their drums that Obama’s hostility to Mubarak is putting fear into the hearts of America’s ‘friends and allies’ in the Arab world. Simultaneously with that, the snide campaign of Obama being a closet-Muslim is being reignited with zest. The aim is to put Obama on the defensive and force him into relinquishing whatever sympathy or support he has been exerting on the side of the Egyptian people. They would want him to follow Netanyahu’s agenda in which strategic partnership with an Egypt ruled by a tyrant is sacrosanct.
The Egyptians, or Arabs of any provenance, should have no doubt that the western and Israeli imperialistic agenda has no room to accommodate their democratic ambitions for a free life outside the clutches of tyrant authoritarians. But this Arab awakening will be hard to muzzle or suppress. This is 21st century of free peoples not slaves.