25 January 2011

Margolis on Tunisia, and Western Media's Failure in Africa

Another worthwhile read from Margolis.....a few comments first.

When you stop and look at Western involvement in Africa over the past two centuries, or even just within the framework of Africa post World War II, one has to wonder at some point if the people of the African continent won't turn to violence within Western nations.

Though one continent, Africa is really two entirely different worlds. The North is part of the Middle East...if there is such a thing as the Middle East. And the south or Sub-Saharan African is a vast a complex region of its own.

Though quite separate, they are not always unrelated. The Sahara is an impressive geographical divider, but we see North and South coming together...clashing, in places like Nigeria and Sudan. The line, as most is fluid and when you look at alliances and membership in international organizations, it becomes even less clear. Sub-Saharan nations are not divorced from what is happening in the north.

Africa has played the role of pawn for a long time. Maybe we could even call it the gameboard for a vast game between many players. Sadly it's no game for the people living there.

At what point will Africa say enough?

Of course we've already seen something of this coming out of Egypt, Sudan, and nations around the Horn. And a generation ago the French dealt with the blowback from their policies in Algeria. This led to a somewhat modified way in which Western powers like America deal with countries they wish to control. Client-States, Puppet Regimes, and Satellites are more practical models than proper colonies.

But with reference to the rest of Africa, when you consider the fruit of Western policies in Sub-Saharan Africa at what point will there be a backlash? If these nations and peoples are ever able to truly unify, and consolidated nationalist movements arise....it would not surprise me if they take an aggressive posture toward countries like the United States, France, and Britain.

Dictators ruling in resource dependent states don't need popular support. Their revenue is not derived from taxation but from foreign industry and interests purchasing their resources. They don't have to answer to the people...they rule them. This is true throughout much of Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia...hence you end up with strong-arm regimes and basically disenfranchised people.

In the Middle East, the political anger is shrouded with religious fervour....jihad. In Sub-Saharan Africa they grab AK-47's, machetes and head into the bush or the jungle.

In the Middle East the anger is directed at two tiers....the corrupt regime, and its backer.

So far in Africa...the backers, the geo-political godfathers haven't felt the anger and backlash. I wonder if that will change? When Belgium started to feel it in the Congo, they quickly left. But at what point will Africans adopt American policy and take the battle to the enemy?

The Second Scramble for Africa is on. Desperate for resources, China is trying to do business with countries in Africa and the United States is doing everything it can to stop them. Who suffers as a result? The people. Corrupt governments stay in power because they're backed by American support and nonconformists are ousted through CIA intervention. China is guilty as well, but they don't put the moral spin on it that American media does. Again, that's why I write about these issues.

The American narrative is not one of pragmatism and Imperial power-politics...it's propaganda line is one of moral authority and altruism, and this plays out with the theology embraced by many in the American Church. That nexus is the problem. Because all of this takes on a spiritual dimension...and when you have Christians and Churches waving flags on Sunday morning, we can't look at American policy in the same way we would look at China's or Austria's.

At some point the people are going to say enough. It's called Blowback. That's what gave us 9/11 and I have to say the American public and in particular the Church, learned absolutely nothing from those events. The question of Why was determined invalid by the establishment media...the same media that praises people like Richard Holbrooke. And yet for the people who have suffered as a result of Imperial policy, they can tell you why. But since they're not Americans....Americans refuse to listen.

It also doesn't help that you have the American Christian Right involving itself in the affairs of some of these countries.

And often enough there is a nexus between the financial and ideological backers of the Christian Right and some of the power-brokers in the Intelligence, Energy, and Defense realms. I'm not saying the Christian Right is calling the shots, but there are cases of overlapping interests. More often than not....I am convinced....the Christian Right serves the twin role of dupe and bankroll for some of these geo-political interests. The Church and para-Church have extensive bureaucracies which provide convenient outlets for un-named backers often with complex interests to funnel their money....lots of money. In some cases, like with Pat Robertson, he's not just a backer, he's a player. Friend to dictators, he tries to help their causes within the American State Department, while he gets rich in the process.

Recently there's been quite a bit of news about The Family's (a Christian Right Organization) involvement in Uganda. They're trying to force a Theonomic agenda on the people of that country. Of course, The Family isn't just a group of Christian people trying to change society....they're intimately tied in with huge power brokers and numerous politicians who in turn are owned (I don't think that's too strong a word) by corporate, energy, industrial, and military interests.

It's not a unified conspiracy or agenda....it's overlapping and mutual interests. But as I constantly talk about....there are real dangers when the Church involves itself with the Babel project. The Church loses sight of what it's supposed to be, ends up being used, and actually can end up bringing harm to itself....not for the gospel, but because without realizing it...the Church has taken up the sword. The sword comes in many forms. There are many ways to wage war in a modern world.

When the Church wields the sword of the Spirit and suffers for it...it's glorifying to God.

When the Church wields the sword of Babylon and suffers for it...it's a shame and reproach.

All these things considered....at what point will the people of Africa in both the Saharan and Sub-Saharan regions say...Enough! It's starting in the Muslim north, because it's part of the Greater Middle East and has cultural ties to the issues in the larger theatre. But if Sub-Saharan Africa can ever get on its feet...it may become hostile ground for anyone with an American passport. Of course, some would argue part of the goal is to never let Africa get on its feet...at least as long as there are resources to exploit, and that's Africa's curse (in one sense,) she has lots of resources. Divide and Conquer is an old saying that comes to mind.

And when the subways blow up in New York City or American missionaries are killed, the people here will say...what did we ever do to them?

Some of this has already happened of course, but our 'liberal' media never contextualizes any of it. I was thinking about North Africa and the Algerian fight against France, the commando raids in France, and the CIA's involvement with the French nationalist OAS in attempting to assassinate DeGaulle. And the American public is so shocked that the French don't just acquiesce to every American demand? Of course they don't know anything about Franco-American relations. Our 'liberal' media like a good government lapdog won't report it. The American public thinks Paris was liberated just last week and nothing has happened since then.

So the latest spot is Tunisia and again you have to turn to alternative media to learn anything of the back story. You're not going to get it from any of the major news outlets. The corporate interests that govern them are interested in making money, not telling the truth. They'll tell the truth when it sells, or if it helps them to get an edge in market share over their competitors, but they will never risk alienating either investors or access into the Capitol or White House.

Here's the link to the Margolis story and the text follows:


January 17, 2011

Oops! Something has gone terribly wrong with Washington’s plans for regime change in the Mideast. Wasn’t there supposed to be a US and British engineered revolution against Iran’s mullahs, followed by installation of a cooperative pro-western government and a bonanza for western oil companies?

The revolution came, all right, but in the wrong place. The explosion of popular fury in Tunisia that ousted its dictator of 23-years is sending shock waves across the Arab world and has alarm bells ringing in Washington.

Pay no attention to President Barack Obama’s pious bromides welcoming the revolution in Tunisia. The US, France and their Arab satraps are deeply worried that Tunisia’s popular revolution could spark similar uprising against the dictatorships or monarchies in other members of America’s Mideast Raj, notably Egypt.

It has come to light that Tunisia’s ruling elite had dinners and wine flown in from Paris at government expense for lavish parties in their beachside villas. Shades of the Iranian revolution, when women of the ruling elite in Tehran used to send their dirty laundry to Paris for hand washing, or fly to Paris to have their hair done for a soiree.

In a zesty bit of irony totally lost on the US media, just as a people’s revolution was ousting Tunisia’s brutal US-backed regime, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Qatar piously lecturing local oil monarchs on good government and the need to promote democracy.

Tunisia has not had much strategic importance since Carthage – whose ruins and great war harbor lie in a residential suburb of Tunis – fought Rome in the three Punic Wars. During World War II’s North Africa campaign, Tunisia was battled over by the British, Germans and Italians.

Since then, little Tunisia has been a backwater, known mainly for sunshine, cheap beach vacations, and as a refuge for Italian crooks.

In 1957, Tunisia “gained” independence from former colonial master, France. But it was a sham independence. The French put their own stooge, Habib Bourguiba, in power, who ran the country for France.

After Bourguiba went senile in 1987, the army commander, General Zine Ben Ali, overthrew him and seized power with the blessing of Paris. Ben Ali as ruled with an iron first for the ensuing 23 years.

The US and France have always hailed Tunisia as a poster-boy for “moderation, stability, and democracy. ”

Translation: 1. moderation: following orders from Washington and making nice to Israel; 2. stability: crushing all opposition, particularly Islamist-oriented parties, muzzling the media, and paving the way for US business; 3. democracy: holding fake elections every few years. The US media soft-soaped Ben Ali and gushed over Tunisia’s “moderate” virtues. They did the same for Egypt’s Anwar Sadat.

America’s other “moderate” Arab clients, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, Oman and some of the Gulf states, followed precisely the same model of ersatz elections, ferocious internal oppression, and absolute obedience to Washington.

Tunisia closely resembled other Arab non-oil states in having very high unemployment, social and intellectual stagnation, lack of free speech or expression, and no hope for the future unless one had links to the rapacious, self-serving, western-backed ruling oligarchy. On top of this, in most Arab states, over 60% of the population is under 25.

Gen. Ali’s extended family and business cronies followed a pattern of malfeasance, nepotism and plundering public assets common to most Arab nations. In the Mideast, such oligarchies are commonly called “mafias.” Their secret police are notorious for torture, murder, mass arrests and sadism. Arab armies are designed to cow their people, not protect the nation’s borders.

After the Bush and Obama administrations felt obliged to make a token appeal to their Arab clients for the appearance of at least sham democracy, General Ali obliged by winning his most recent rigged election in 2009 by “only” a razor-thin 89% victory, rather than his usual 94% or 95% win.

Tunisians are known as an easy-going, even-tempered people. US and French aid was supposed to keep a lid on the country and defuse popular unrest. So just about everyone was caught by surprise when Tunisia went critical.

In a heart-warming finale to Gen. Ben Ali’s brutal dictatorship, he fled to France seeking asylum. France’s president, Nicholas Sarkozy, showing remarkable ingratitude even for this notorious ingrate, refused this faithful, long-time French servant refuge. Two other former western plantation overseers who were dying of cancer, Congo’s late Gen. Mobutu and the ousted Shah of Iran, were similarly refused refuge by their American patrons.

As of this writing, Tunisia is in turmoil. There may be a military takeover, which would greatly please Washington, Paris and Cairo, or further convulsions.

The leader of the most important Islamic-oriented party that was outlawed, Rashid Gannouchi (not to be confused with the current figurehead prime minister of the same name), is due to return and is calling for genuine democratic elections. His party, Nahda, would likely win any free elections. So would Islamist parties in every other Arab country, if the west ever allowed them to hold free elections, which it won’t.

In the only two cases in modern Arab history where truly honest elections were held, moderate Islamists won in Algeria, and the Hamas movement won in Gaza. The Algerian army, backed by Paris and Washington, crushed the election and imposed martial law. After Hamas won the Palestinian election, the US, Israel and Egypt locked up Hamas under siege in Gaza and sought to overthrow it using Palestinian mercenaries.

Mainstream Islamist parties in the Mideast have nothing to do with al-Qaida (which barely exists any more) or anti-Western programs. Their primary concern is getting rid of the western-backed oligarchies that keep the Muslim world backwards and in thrall. Their platform is sharing resource wealth, social welfare, education, uprooting thieving oligarchies and fighting endemic corruption.

The big question now is will Tunisia’s dramatic events be a harbinger of other explosions across the volatile Arab world? All eyes are on Egypt, the home of a third of all Arabs. Egypt’s 83-year old military ruler, Husni Mubarak, is a giant version of Tunisia’s Gen. Ben Ali.

Mubarak was engineered into power by the US after the killing of longtime CIA “asset” Anwar Sadat. Gen. Mubarak and has ruled Egypt like a modern-day pharaoh ever since, crushing both violent extremist and legitimate political opposition. Mubarak’s rigged elections, winked at by Washington, are every bit as egregious as Tunisia’s.

So could the flames of Tunisia’s revolution spread to Egypt? Mubarak’s regime is tottering. Egyptians are as restive and disgusted as their Tunisian neighbors. Egyptians, too, are a famously passive, amiable lot, but Egypt’s repression, grinding poverty and rapacious western-aligned elite have enraged most ordinary people.

Tunisia’s neighbors Libya, Algeria and Morocco are similarly unstable and racked by unemployment, a high birth rate, and ferocious repression by their regimes. Col. Khadaffi’s oil-rich Libya is particularly fertile ground for a major convulsion after five decades of eccentric government.

All these authoritarian regimes have crushed opposition, leaving only underground revolutionaries to replace them when revolution inevitably comes. Islamists will be the last men standing. By encouraging repression and thwarting the emergence of democracy in the Arab world, the US has sown the dragon’s teeth of further violence and rises.

We are now seeing what the “stability” and “moderation” so beloved of Washington in the Arab world really brings. The mighty American Raj is built on such euphemisms that really mean dictatorship, corruption, torture, and subservience.

If Washington really wants to foster the democracy that it preaches, then it should help Tunisia’s people create a truly democratic government rather than engineering yet another cooperative general and his grasping family into power as it has done so often since the 1950’s.


copyright Eric S. Margolis 2011

1 comment:

Protoprotestant said...

I enjoyed listening to Obama spin the Tunisia revolt in tonight's State of the Union.

They were happy to see the dictator thrown out? I don't think so. America has made supporting dictators into an art form.

This was their guy. But Obama, like every other American president can bank on the fact the majority of the people know nothing about it...hey, for that matter the majority of people sitting in Congress probably don't know much about it.

Well, it gave me an opportunity to explain 'spin' to my son.