Hijacking The Arab Revolution – OpEd


By Aijaz Zaka Syed

SO it has come down to this. After Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, Libya now finds itself in the line of fire of the Coalition of the Willing.

Of course, unlike Afghanistan and Iraq, the West is not fighting “Islamist terrorism” in Libya or is on the quest of the holy grail called Weapons of Mass Destruction. The mission now is to “save lives” and take out the monster that just refuses to fade away like the other friendly, neighborhood dictators in Tunisia and Egypt.

He must hang on in there like a bad dream, an evil spell over Libya. Those who thought Muammar Qaddafi would soon follow his fellow travelers into the sunset were clearly mistaken. The demented author of the Green Book seems to sincerely believe he’s God’s gift not just to the people of Libya but to the whole of humankind. But then Col. Qaddafi, distinctly delusional that he is, isn’t the only one to live in this make-believe world.

There are many out there who have persuaded themselves their leadership is crucial to the survival of their people and their departure would bring on the end of the world. Such is the power of delusions of grandeur. You tend to believe you are at the center of universe.

Those larger than life statues, from Baghdad to Benghazi, are not the celebration of a monstrous ego but the manifestation of a perennial insecurity of the powerful. They have to constantly reassure themselves about their own power.

Some of the biggest and most obscene tributes to human vanity are found in Muslim lands. Islam came to banish all man-made idols and we have replaced them with men who view themselves as divine. They worship themselves and expect their people to do so. Qaddafi is not the only one to believe in his immortality and his right to rule Libya forever. He must kill his people, if need be as he has been doing all these years, to govern them.

There are others out there who have convinced themselves that if they deprive their people of their noble leadership, they will all perish and go to hell. Après moi le déluge, After me the deluge!

After four decades of absolute power, Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen believes his people are not still “ready” to govern themselves or determine what’s good or bad for them. ‘I am prepared to step down,’ he reasons, ‘provided people of Yemen prove they have a capable leadership to take over from me.’ Touche!

Bashar Assad of Syria, who and his father between themselves have ruled Syria for nearly half a century, doesn’t fit the description of a tyrant. He insists he and his people are “on the same page.” There’s no problem whatsoever.

What about those angry demonstrations? And why are the Syrian troops firing on peaceful protesters?

Of course, it’s the doing of “conspirators and outsiders,” you know. There’s no trouble in the Baathist paradise of Syria. In fact, a Syrian government spokesperson told CNN’s Hala Gorani with a straight face, President Assad himself has wanted to introduce “reforms” since he took over from his father 11 years ago. Then why hasn’t he? What are we waiting for? End times or another crusader coalition?

Truth be told, whether it is Libya or Syria or numerous other Arab republics, they have all suppressed, abused and persecuted their people for decades — or the lifetime of a tyrant. In addition to perpetual abuse of power and all-pervasive corruption, they all have one thing in common. They’ve all repressed popular democratic movements that turn to Islam for guidance and inspiration, rather than dance to the tunes of London and Washington. And they have all done this with the blessings of Western champions of democracy and freedom.

In Egypt, both Hasan Al Banna, the legendary founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, and his successor Sayyid Qutb were assassinated by the powers that be, not to mention the thousands of its activists who were incarcerated and tortured for years for believing in a better world. From Gamal Nasser to Anwar Sadat to Hosni Mubarak, the most admired grass-roots movement in the Arab world has remained banned and suppressed for half a century.

This is the same story all across the Arab world. From Egypt and Yemen to Syria and from Algeria and Tunisia to Libya, the Islamists have been hunted like animals for decades. In 1982, Syrian forces massacred thousands in the city of Hama in a crackdown on Ikhwan. The memories of Hama massacre are still fresh.

And who could forget how Algeria’s veteran revolutionaries dealt with the Islamic Salvation Front when it swept the first ever multi-party democratic elections in 1991-‘92? The regime not just annulled the historic vote and the verdict it threw up, it unleashed a reign of terror against the Islamists for daring to take the democratic path to change. Nearly 300,000 lives perished in the subsequent civil war whose wounds are yet to heal.

History repeated itself when Hamas wrested power from the corrupt and clueless elites of Fatah in 2006. The Palestinians are still paying the price for this cardinal sin, locked away as they are in the largest prison on the planet.

All this of course wouldn’t have been possible without the active support and cooperation of our Western masters. Even as they have endlessly sung hosannas to the deity of democracy, they have aided and abetted their ever obliging allies to crush and destroy those foolish enough to believe in their rhetoric. Indeed, if the Middle East is still stuck with tyranny in 21st century and men in khaki rule forever, you know who to thank for.

So it’s rather touching to see Uncle Sam and his cohorts come around cheering on the juggernaut of change that is on the march in the Middle East. The folks who are still working with a racist and terrorist regime to wipe out an entire nation in its own land have no shame in pontificating about a people’s right to choose their destiny.

Those who have protected and pampered the Mubaraks and Ben Alis all these years see no irony in coming forward to claim credit for the tide that has turned the Arab world around. Talk of hunting with hares and running with hounds! Some Western pundits even have the cheek to thank the “Cowboy Crusader,” who gave us Afghanistan and Iraq and sent more than a million people to their death, for the Arab revolt.

Is there no limit to Western hypocrisy and duplicity? Why do they think they can fool all the people all the time? Don’t they see the writing on the wall? The tide has turned in the Middle East and Western powers will ignore it at their own peril. For those who have the courage to throw out their corrupt despots are capable of confronting their masters too.

A whopping majority in the Muslim world has no sympathy for Qaddafi whatsoever. They are waiting for his imminent fall and will celebrate his exit — and of others like him — just as they rejoiced over the departure of Ben Ali and Mubarak. But they aren’t going to welcome Janus-faced friends of their tormentors either. So expect no roses in Tripoli Mr. Obama and Mr. Sarkozy and Mr. Cameron!

— Aijaz Zaka Syed is a widely published columnist based in the Gulf. Write to him at [email protected]

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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