Yalla Peace: Freedom, democracy and ulterior motives

Protesters rallying to oust dictators are too busy to notice democracy might not work in the region – support structures just aren't there.

By RAY HANANIA
March 1, 2011 22:44
3 minute read.
Protesters at a demonstration in Beirut, yesterday

Lebanon protests_311 Reuters. (photo credit: REUTERS/STR New)

Events have been moving so fast, it might be better to step back and look at the bigger picture.

The demonstrations taking place from Tunisia to Bahrain only serve to underscore the error of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, which was viewed by most Arabs as a move to grab Iraq’s oil resources under the false charge that it was a haven for terrorists linked to September 11, 2001, and that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

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What should have been done? The US should have continued to support dissidents in Iraq under Hussein and shown the people support. Instead, American politicians put their sights on the country’s oil and squeezed it for every penny possible through Halliburton, run by Dick Cheney before he became vice president.

Not only has the Iraq experience soured Arab faith in US intentions in the area, making it more difficult for America to be an honest peace broker anywhere, it has resulted in a failed democracy in Iraq.

Protesters rallying to oust dictators are too busy to notice that democracy might not work properly in the Middle East – not because they don’t want it to, but because the support structures needed are just not there.

The main support structure is the US, the “leader of the free world.”

Its leaders don’t act like leaders, and often do not support freedom in other countries.

That might explain the differences in how America responded to the protests in Tunisia and Egypt and how it reacted to protests in Libya.

President Barack Obama was hesitant to support the demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt, waffling the entire time and worrying about diplomatic language.

But when it came to Libya, he jumped headfirst.

Why? This goes back to America’s policy of embracing dictators who support its foreign policy and oil needs, and opposing those who do not. The American media are no different, and journalists have come up with a term to explain the differences between Libya and Egypt.

Libya, they say, is a brutal dictatorship. Egypt was a friendly dictatorship. A better way of saying this would be to say Egypt’s dictator Hosni Mubarak did America’s bidding, while Libya’s tyrant Muammar Gaddafi did not.

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer spoke delicately about the turmoil in Egypt, as it had implications that went beyond simply seeking democracy. But when it came to Libya, Blitzer, like many in the mainstream American media, was asking why the US just didn’t send in a strike force to kill Gaddafi? Blitzer illustrated how convenient government and media have become in whitewashing certain dictators and villifying others.

ANOTHER FACTOR is the American-Israeli relationship. The more willing an Arab country is to accept the status quo, the less the US is eager to see it go (yes, that rhymes).

Why is there no revolt in Syria? Because Bashar Assad is more powerful? Or because Syria is viewed as a frontline state in the fight against Israeli policies? It’s more difficult, I imagine, for an Arab citizen living under military dictatorships in Arab countries like Syria to rally protesters when the dictator has been so outspoken in condemnation of Israel. Hamas, which is based in Damascus, would not support the protests, so don’t expect anything there soon.

But in the West Bank, Hamas activists are trying to fan protests against the government of Mahmoud Abbas, hoping the same thing that happened in Egypt will happen there. Yet Palestinians cannot have any kind of real democracy while their people are under occupation.

Small groups of radicals are trying to organize protests against the PA in some Arab countries, and even in the US, but they are driven not by democracy but rather by the goal of undermining the only Palestinian government willing to support peace based on a two-state solution.

These protesters who are targeting PA President Mahmoud Abbas really want Hamas in power to oppose any peace with Israel and ramp up their campaigns to boycott all of Israel rather than focusing on products made in the West Bank.

What the protesters really need is leadership dedicated to achieving the civil rights of people regardless of which country they live in.

So far, no such leadership exists. So the protesters are on their own, and face not only the power of their tyrants, but also the hypocritical policies of the so-called “free” world.

The writer is an award-winning columnist and Chicago radio talk show host. www.YallaPeace.com


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