From Washington DC we hear brave talk about Uncle Sam leading the charge for democracy across the Arab world, and thus restoring himself to high esteem in Arab eyes as something other than the sponsor of tyranny and torture by neoliberalism, the electrode and the waterboard.
The only people the Washington crowd fooled by this kind of talk are themselves. Barack Obama may have zig-zagged his way towards some tougher talk to tyrants, but there was no shilly-shallying about the lonely US Feb. 18 veto in the UN Security Council of resolutions condemning Israeli settlements. You think al-Jazeera did not broadcast that across the world?
(Washington invokes Twitter and Facebook, made-in-America tools in the struggle for democracy in the Middle East. Compared in significance to al-Jazeera they are like a couple of ticks on the rump of a water buffalo.)
Back in the fall of 2001, Osama bin Laden habitually cited among al Qaeda’s motives for the September 11 attacks the following: America’s oppression of the Muslim world, most specifically at that time of Iraq with sanctions (Albright’s “we think the price is worth it” was the single greatest recruiting line in the history of Terror) and bombing; the condition of Saudi Arabia as a satrapy of the American empire; and Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians.
Unroll the map of the Middle East and North Africa ten years later. As Vijay Prashad puts it in our new CounterPunch newsletter:
“The US war in Iraq handed the country over to a pro-Iranian regime. In late January, the Hezbollah-backed candidate (Najib Mikati) became Prime Minister of Lebanon, and Hamas’ hands were strengthened as the Palestine Authority’s remaining legitimacy came crashing down when al-Jazeera published the Palestine Papers. Ben Ali and Mubarak’s exile threw Tunisia and Egypt out of the column of the status quo states — [i.e., satrapies of Empire]. Libya’s Qaddafi and Yemen’s Saleh have been loyal allies in the War on Terror.”
And here’s the Saudi King, watching al-Jazeera and looking out at the encirclement: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon. Yemen unstable, Bahrein very dodgy, with all those Shia the other side of the causeway.
But are the Arab masses rallying towards a new Caliphate, as tremulously advertised by Glen Beck? Of course not. As Prashad writes:
“As the status quo withered, its loyal dogs tried out the old chant about the threat of Islamic Fundamentalism. Mubarak’s chorus about the Muslim Brotherhood was off key. When Sheikh Yusuf al Qaradawi returned from his exile in Qatar, he did not play the part of Khomeini. The Sheikh opened his sermon in Tahrir Square with a welcome to both Muslims and Christians. Qaddafi’s shrieks about a potential al-Qaeda in the Maghreb being formed in the eastern part of Libya repeated the paranoid delusions of the AFRICOM planners.”
I imagine Osama is happy enough at the present turmoil, and we can add to Prashad’s list the growing US desire to cobble together some kind of excuse to get out of Afghanistan, with plans dissected by our dashing and very well informed former brigadier, Shaukat Qadir, also in our current newsletter. Petraeus is a fading force. Want to see a general with more brains and less gold braid and medals?
Those signs of solidarity and mutual support in Tahrir Square and around the Capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin have a solid economic underpinning. The boost in confidence, respect and self-esteem the Empire of Capital got from the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991 is relentlessly deflating as neoliberalism creates its hundreds of billionaires and its billions of paupers across the world.
As Andrew Levine writes in our new newsletter, apropos the importance of Madison:
“What is at stake is the endgame of the so-called Reagan Revolution. A victorious assault on organized labor would settle the matter once and for all. Scott Walker and his ilk know what the stakes are. Thanks to his predations, workers and their allies now know too … the financialization of contemporary capitalism, the globalization of manufacturing and trade, and, more generally, the world-wide assault on social and economic advances gained at great cost over the past century and a half. The problem, in short, is that to survive, capitalism must expand — and, with so few areas left for expansion, the public sphere has become a target too tempting to resist. What is under attack is the public sphere itself. Public unions are its first (and last?) line of defense.”
What would have been good to see around the Capitol building in Madison would be signs — maybe I missed them – of support for the students of the University of Puerto Rico who have endured military occupation, imprisonment and beatings for their strikes against higher fees and increasing privatization. Amid the upsurge in Egypt students and faculty went on strike for the second time in a year and forced the governor, attending the Republican CPAC conference in Washington to return and pull the military off the campus.
I always thought the Piven-Cloward 60s recipe for bankrupting capitalism by everyone going on welfare was reformist battiness. Capital could figure out that one. End welfare! Put in Bill Clinton to wipe out AFDC and then have that nice black man Obama to square up to Medicare and maybe Social Security. Osama had a better idea. Let war bleed the Empire dry. Think of that confetti on Petraeus’s left breast as the growth of the military budget since Eisenhower’s modest decorations.
The next Petraeus churned up the ladder of promotion will have to have an aide haul a tailor’s dummy behind him to accommodate all the medals symbolizing the US military budget as it will look a decade or so down the road. ¥¥