The Mideast Burns
by Eric Margolis
by Eric Margolis: Baby
Doc Is Back!
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.
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.
where the current Arab uprising began, the army has so far stayed
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
© 2011 Eric Margolis
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