Hijacking the Arab revolution

April 11, 2011 - 0:0

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, the West isn't fighting ‘Islamist terrorism' in Libya or is looking for the non-existent weapons of mass destruction. The mission now is to ‘save lives' and take out the monster who refuses to fade away like the other friendly, neighborhood dictators.

He must hang on in there like a bad dream, an evil spell over Libya. Those who thought Muammar Gaddafi would soon follow his fellow travelers into the sunset were clearly mistaken. The author of the Green Book seems to sincerely believe he's God's gift not just to the people of Libya but to mankind. But he isn't the only one to inhabit this make-believe world.
There are many out there who have persuaded themselves that their leadership is crucial to the survival of their people and their departure would bring on the end of the world. Après moi le deluge. (After me, the deluge!) Such is the power of conceit. You tend to believe you are at the centre of the 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 must perpetually reassure themselves about their own power.
Some of the 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 adore themselves and expect their people to do so. So Gaddafi must kill his people if need be as he's been doing all these years, to govern them.
After three decades of absolute power, Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen believes his people are still not ‘ready' to govern themselves or determine their own good. Bashar Al Assad — he and his father between themselves have ruled Syria for nearly half a century — insists he and his people are ‘on the same page.' There's no problem whatsoever.
What about those angry demonstrations? And why are Syrian troops killing protesters? Of course, it's the doing of ‘conspirators and outsiders,' you know. There's no trouble in the Baathist paradise. In fact, a government spokesperson recently told CNN's Hala Gorani with a straight face, President Al Assad has wanted to introduce ‘reforms' since he took over 11 years ago. Then why hasn't he? What are we waiting for? End times or another crusader coalition?
Truth be told, whether it's Libya or Syria or numerous other Arab republics, they have all suppressed 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 share one distinction: repressing 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, the founder of Muslim Brotherhood Hassan Al Banna was assassinated and his successor Sayyid Qutb was executed, and thousands of its activists were incarcerated and tortured for years for believing in a better world.
The Muslim world's most admired grassroots movement has been banned and suppressed for half a century. It's 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 the Muslim Brotherhood. The memories of the Hama massacre are still fresh.
Reign of terror
And who could forget how Algeria's veteran revolutionaries dealt with the Islamic Salvation Front when it swept the first ever democratic elections in 1991-92? The regime not just annulled the historic vote and the verdict it threw up, but also unleashed a reign of terror against the Islamists for taking the democratic path to change. Nearly 300,000 people died in the subsequent civil war whose wounds are yet to heal. History repeated itself when Hamas wrested power from Fatah in 2006. The Palestinians are still paying the price for that cardinal sin.
All this, of course, wouldn't have been possible without the active support and cooperation of our western masters. Even as they have endlessly praised democracy, they have aided their allies to crush and destroy those foolish enough to believe in their rhetoric. If the region remains a black hole of tyranny in the 21st century, you know who to thank for.
So it's rather touching to see Uncle Sam and his cohorts come around to cheer on the juggernaut of change. The folks who are working with Israel to wipe out an entire nation in its own land have no qualms in pontificating about people's right to freedom and choose their destiny.
Those who have propped up and protected the Mubaraks and Bin Alis all these years see no irony in claiming credit for the Arab revolution. Talk of running with the hares and hunting with the hounds! Some even hail the Cowboy Crusader, who gave us Afghanistan and Iraq, sending a million people to their death, for the winds of change.
Is there no limit to western hypocrisy? 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 big powers will ignore it at their peril. Those who have the courage to throw out their despots can confront their masters too. Most Arabs and Muslims have no sympathy for Gaddafi. They are breathlessly waiting for his exit -- and that of others like him. But they aren't going to welcome Janus-faced friends of their tormentors either. So expect no roses in Tripoli for the liberators!
Aijaz Zaka Syed is a widely published columnist based in the Persian Gulf