01 February 2011

The Crisis in Egypt Thus Far...

We just finished watching president Obama's primetime speech. It's always interesting to see the leader of the United States stand up and speak as an emperor and then for the sake of appearance, backtrack. Mubarak needs to begin the transition NOW, but America doesn't decide who a country's rulers are. We're the nice empire.

Right. If past is precedent, the CIA and Mossad are in overdrive on the phone and the ground trying to stir up the right support and dissuade the wrong. The State Department is negotiating with Al Baradei and the Mubarak regime trying desperately to come up with a plan that will get the people off the streets and buy time. Elections are easy enough to throw. The CIA wrote the book on it. What they don't want is riots, looting, and Mubarak jumping on a plane to Saudi Arabia or Kuwait in the middle of a bloodbath. And I'm sure several American Generals are on the phone with their Egyptian counterparts. Military ties are very important in American relationships with their satellites. This also empowers the American Military and makes it with its corporate partners very powerful players in the Washington power structure.

I remember walking on a base in Texas and asking the guy next to me, "Why are all these Egyptian officers here?"

The big turning point seems to have happened. When the United States says 'Mubarak is done,' then that means they've read the writing on the wall. Rather than stick with him, they've moved onto the next phase. Mubarak has said he won't run again, meaning his rule would end around September, but that's not going to fly. They'll keep tinkering with the equation until they get the people on the street to calm down.

Democracy in the Middle East terrifies American policymakers. It put Hamas in Gaza and placed the current government in Turkey despite the objections and apparent actions of the Turkish military. Like it or not, the Muslim Brotherhood is going to have a role to play in Egypt's future. The United States can only blame itself. They don't need to fear radical Islam coming into power. That's not what the Brotherhood is about. Instead they may find in time a self-confident, moderately Islamic, and sophisticated regime akin to what we find in Turkey. Like Turkey it may sign treaties, retain partnerships, and outwardly maintain reasonably good relations with America and Israel. But it will not prove subservient and will...yes, it's shocking...seek its own interests. Time will tell. Egypt like Turkey has the potential to serve as a powerful pivot or bridge state. But it will have to make some serious strides to catch up with Turkey.

When Ferdinand Marcos was driven out of power in the Philippines in the 1980's, the United States was able to temporarily deflect public anger by 'switching sides' and backing the new candidate for democracy...Corazon Aquino. She was not as open of a pawn as Marcos, but she was quietly steered into power by American interests within the Philippines. It was a very successful example of Damage Control. What could have been ugly ended up with feet up on the desks and lit cigars. Of course, all the American public got out of it from our media was...yes, Imelda's shoes. What else does anyone remember?

It didn't work out in the end. The United States ended up having to mostly walk away from a country that had been in America's grip for almost a century. The public knows nothing of the guerrilla war and the brutal past. All we remember is the shoes and MacArthur's return. It was his fault the American's lost the island in the first place, but that's another story.

Kudos to Al Jazeera. Their reporting and analysis has been grade A. Tonight they had a former advisor to the Israeli government providing good, realistic commentary. I chuckled when the Anglo-Saxon White House correspondent (obviously an Al Qaeda agent) referred to Mubarak's 'pro-America' stance. You're not supposed to put it that way. That's why Al Jazeera is accused of being anti-American. They speak bluntly and say the things everyone knows is true, but are not allowed to say. She didn't make use of the proper euphemisms, the Newspeak we all know so well.

As the Israeli commentator put it...Tel Aviv is in a state of hysteria. America's primary ally Israel, the nation in the Middle East that most shares our values is very fearful of something....it's called democracy. No irony there. As the commentator put it... The long period of Israeli impunity may be coming to an end.

I'm sure the prophecy 'experts' are tripping all over themselves in trying to set up possible scenarios. The Dispensational heresy has blinded them and led them to support a regime that in any other locale and at any other time would be regarded as brutal, thuggish, and criminal. The sad tale of the Jewish people marches on. As is evident in the powerful, gripping and morbid accounts of Holocaust survivors, as well as the saga of the modern state of Israel....fallen man is a moral fool and cannot learn lessons from history. You can take the most persecuted and empathetic people in the history of the world, give them power, and if able or empowered they will turn right around and treat others in the same manner. That's the Christian Worldview applied to history.

The Peace Process is certainly over at present. John Hagee will be so happy. But it remains to be seen what will happen in the days ahead. The fallout from these events have the potential to lay the foundations for a good portion of the historical narrative in the 21st century. Margolis hints at this in comparing it to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. That was such an iconic symbol and as Americans we had so much emotion invested in the Cold War, that when those events took place it took our breath away and rightly brought tears to our eyes. What's beginning to happen in the Middle East is approaching the same level of significance, but since these countries and issues are less familiar we are not being stirred in the same way we were in 1989. For those in the Middle East, this is huge. Maybe at last the history of the Middle East in the 20th century can be told openly. We shall see.

America will try to ensure a moderate like Al Baradei ends up in power, and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be put to the test. If he deals with a new regime in Cairo the way he has dealt with the Palestinians, his Likud government will likely implode. I'm certain the Obama administration wouldn't mind that. An Israeli leader like Ehud Barak, an American president like Barack Obama, and a new regime in Egypt might actually lead to something positive.

But will they be able to put the lid on the anger in the Arab Street? If Yemenis, Jordanians, or Syrians start taking to the streets, the only guarantee will be $6 gasoline at the local pump.

Very interesting. Regardless of the outcome, this won't soon be forgotten. Let us pray for peace and truth.

Here's the link to the latest from Margolis.

His commentary is always helpful even when I don't agree with him 100%. I'm not the expert. That's why I include these links. I'm not ignorant of what's happening, but I rely on others past and present to help me understand. What I'm trying to do is add comments writing specifically as a Christian. I wish I had more time! There are not enough hours in the day. At least I can be thankful that I have a job that allows me to listen to news, lectures, and podcasts. I am thankful for that.
The Mideast Burns

by Eric Margolis

When I wrote my latest book on the way America dominates the Mideast, I chose the title, American Raj, because this modern US imperium so closely resembled the famed Indian Raj – the way the British Empire ruled India.

As I predicted in this book, and in a column last April, Egypt was headed for a major explosion. America’s Mideast Raj is now on fire. Whether it survives or not remains to be seen.

One cannot escape a sense that we may be looking at a Mideast version of the 1989 uprisings across Eastern Europe that brought down its Communist regimes and then the Soviet Union. Americans should be uneasy seeing crowds of Egyptians pleading for freedom and justice watched over by US-supplied tanks.

There are indeed certainly strong similarities between the old Soviet East Bloc and the spreading intifada across the police states of America’s Mideast Raj. Corrupt, repressive governments; rapacious oligarchies; high youth unemployment and economic stagnation; widespread feelings of fear, frustration, hopelessness and fury.

But there is also a big difference. The principled Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, and the Communist rulers of Eastern Europe, refused to turn their army’s guns against the rebelling people.

In Tunisia, where the current Arab uprising began, the army has so far stayed admirably neutral.

But in other Arab states now seething with rebellion – Egypt, Algeria, Yemen, Morocco, Libya, Jordan – there may be no such reservations. Their ruthless security forces and military could quickly crush the uprisings unless the soldiers refuse to shoot down their own people – as happened in Moscow in 1991.

As of this writing, Egypt’s 450,000-man US-equipped and financed armed forces are poised for action against that nation’s popular uprising, but its generals are undecided whether to shoot down their own people and earn universal hatred, overthrow President Mubarak’s regime, or openly seize power. Mubarak’s newly named vice president, Gen. Suleiman, controls the hated and feared secret police, or mukhabarat, but is unloved by the army.

Somewhere in the ranks of Egypt’s armed forces must be a group of officers like Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser and his Young Officers who seized power in 1952 to end foreign control of Egypt. Nasser, adored by most Egyptians was the first authentic native-born leader in 2,000 years. Look for a resurgence of Nasserism.

Washington is watching this growing intifada in its Mideast Raj with alarm and confusion. Ignore the Obama administration’s hypocritical platitudes urging "democracy." All of the authoritarian Arab rulers now under siege by their people have been armed, financed and supported for decades by the US. The US has given Egypt $2 billion annually, $1.4 billion of which goes to the military. Almost all the tanks and armored vehicles deployed in Cairo’s streets came from the US.

Washington has previously lauded Mubarak for "moderation" and "stability." These are code words for faithfully following US policies and crushing all opposition. Moderate opposition groups across the Mideast have been jailed and tortured, leaving only outlawed underground movements. The same thing happened in Iran.

Egypt’s armed forces were configured to keep Mubarak’s military regime in power, not to defend the nation’s borders. The US keeps Egypt’s armed forces short on munitions and spare parts so it cannot fight a war against Israel for more than a few days.

The brutal, sadistic secret police and other security forces of Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan and Yemen were all trained and equipped by the US or France. The CIA taught them "interrogation techniques," just as it did to the Shah of Iran’s secret police, Savak. We have reaped the whirlwind in bitter US-Iranian relations.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urges "restraint" on both sides. One supposes she means those being beaten by clubs, raped, or tortured by electric drills must show proper restraint. Washington simply does not understand that this kind of hypocrisy turns even more people in the Muslim world against the United States.

Egypt, as this column has long said, has long been a ticking bomb. Half of 85 million Egyptians subsist below the UN’s $2 daily poverty level. A third of all the Arab World’s people are Egyptian. A well-connected oligarchy grows rich while the rest of the country struggles for basic food.

In fact, the US Congress still supplies Egypt with large amounts of wheat and other foodstuffs. Israel thus holds a whip hand over Egypt by being able to get its supporters in Congress to shut off food aid to Egypt, an act that would provoke massive food riots as occurred in the 1970’s. Small wonder Husni Mubarak is Israel’s closet ally in the Arab world.

Mubarak has ruled Egypt with an iron fist since the assassination of another US-installed leader, Anwar Sadat, in 1981. All violent and peaceful opposition to Mubarak’s regime has been crushed. But now Mubarak’s time is running out. Nobel-Prize Laureate Mohammed al-Baradei has agreed to lead a resistance coalition that includes the Muslim Brotherhood, the best-organized movement in Egypt.

The Brotherhood is not an Iranian-style extreme Islamic movement, contrary to alarms being spread by neocons and the often poorly-informed US media.

In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood has long eschewed politics to concentrate on social, religious and educational issues. If anything, it has been ultra-conservative, even stodgy and timid. But it also represents the Washington’s best potential ally if Egypt’s military regime falls. We should not be misled by self-serving warnings about Islamic bogeymen.

So far, none of the intifadas across the Arab world have produced effective leadership. But this could soon change. The most important North African Islamic movement leader and theorist, Rashid Gannouchi, just returned from exile to Tunisia, where the intifada began.

Further inflaming Arab opinion, the bombshell "Palestinian Papers" leaked to al-Jazeera has exposed Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority as an eager collaborator with Israel and its West Bank occupation. The endless Israeli-Palestinian "peace talks" are shown to be a fraud. Israel’s Mossad and its Palestinian Quislings have worked closely to destroy the militant but democratically elected Hamas government in Gaza.

We also learn from these papers that in 2008, US State Secretary Condoleezza Rice actually proposed shipping millions of Palestinian refugees to Latin America. This after Israel, financed by the US, imported one million Russian settlers, many of them not even Jewish. One is reminded of British proposals in the 1930’s to move Germany’s endangered Jews to Kenya.

The Mideast uprisings are poorly understood by most North Americans. The US media frame news of the regional intifada in terms of the faux war on terror, and a false choice between dictatorial "stability" and Islamic political extremism. Much of what’s happening is seen through Israel’s eyes, and is distorted. Burning Cairo should show how misguided we have been in our understanding of the Arab world.

Platitudes aside, there is little concern in the US about bringing real democracy and modern society in the Arab world. Washington still wants obedience, not pluralism, in its Mideast Raj, and primacy for Israel in the Levant. As with the British Empire, democracy at home is fine – but it’s not right for the nations of the Arab world.

January 31, 2011

Eric Margolis [send him mail] is the author of War at the Top of the World and the new book, American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World. See his website.

Copyright © 2011 Eric Margolis

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