[Marxism] US rulers know: "Arab Spring" spelled trouble Greenwald item)

Fred Feldman ffeldman at verizon.net
Sun Aug 21 18:16:11 MDT 2011

SUNDAY, AUG 21, 2011 07:22 ET
U.S. Mideast policy in a single phrase

Photo caption: Egyptians chant hold Egyptian and Palestinian flags to 
protest the death of Egyptian security forces killed in a shootout 
between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants on Thursday.

The CIA's spokesman at The Washington Post, columnist David Ignatius, 
recently announced that the glorifying term "Arab Spring" is no longer 
being used by senior intelligence officials to describe democratic 
revolutions in the Middle East. It has been replaced by the more 
"neutral" term "Arab transition," which, as Ignatius put it, "conveys 
the essential truth that nobody can predict just where this upheaval is 
heading." Note that what was until very recently celebrated in American 
media circles as a joyous, inspirational awakening of "democratic birth 
and freedom" has now been downgraded to an "upheaval" whose outcome may 
be odious and threatening.

That's not surprising. As I've written about several times, public 
opinion in those nations is so strongly opposed to the policies the U.S. 
has long demanded -- and is quite hostile (more so than ever) to the 
U.S. itself and especially Israel -- that allowing any form of democracy 
would necessarily be adverse to American and Israeli interests in that 
region (at least as those two nations have long perceived of their 
"interests"). That's precisely why the U.S. worked so hard and expended 
so many resources for decades to ensure that brutal dictators ruled 
those nations and suppressed public opinion to the point of complete 
irrelevance (behavior which, predictably and understandably, exacerbated 
anti-American sentiments among the populace).

An illustrative example of this process has emerged this week in Egypt, 
where authorities have bitterly denounced Israel for killing three of 
its police officers in a cross-border air attack on suspected Gaza-based 
militants, and to make matters worse, thereafter blaming Egypt for 
failing to control "terrorists" in the area. Massive, angry protests 
outside the Israeli Embassy in Cairo led to Egypt's recalling of its 
Ambassador to Israel and the Israeli Ambassador's being forced to flee 
Cairo. That, in turn, led to what The New York Times called a "rare 
statement of regret" from Israel in order to placate growing Egyptian 
anger: "rare" because, under the U.S.-backed Mubarak, Egyptian public 
opinion was rendered inconsequential and the Egyptian regime's 
allegiance was to Israel, meaning Israel never had to account for such 
acts, let alone apologize for them. In that regard, consider this 
superbly (if unintentionally) revealing phrase from the NYT about this 

By removing Mr. Mubarak's authoritarian but dependably loyal government, 
the revolution has stripped away a bulwark of Israel’s position in the 
region, unleashing the Egyptian public's pent-up anger at Israel over 
its treatment of the Palestinians at a time when a transitional 
government is scrambling to maintain its own legitimacy in the streets.

That word "loyal" makes the phrase remarkable: to whom was Mubarak 
"loyal"? Not to the Egyptian people whom he was governing or even to 
Egypt itself, but rather to Israel and the United States. Thus, in the 
past, Egypt's own government would have sided with a foreign nation to 
which it was "loyal" even when that foreign nation killed its own 
citizens and refused to apologize (exactly as the U.S. did when Israel 
killed one of its own citizens on the Mavi Marmara and then again over 
the prospect that Israel would do the same with the new flotilla: in 
contrast to Turkey which, acting like a normal government, was bitterly 
furious with Israel --- and still is -- over the wanton killing of its 
citizens; in that sense, the U.S. is just as "dependably loyal" as the 
Mubarak regime was).

But as remarkable as it is, that phrase -- "authoritarian but dependably 
loyal" -- captures the essence of (ongoing) American behavior in that 
region for decades: propping up the most heinous, tyrannical rulers who 
disregard and crush the views of their own people while remaining 
supremely "loyal" to foreign powers: the U.S. and Israel. Consider this 
equally revealing passage from The Guardian:

Israel fears that the post-Mubarak regime will be more sympathetic to 
Hamas and could even revoke the 1979 peace treaty with Israel. "They 
feel the need to respond to the [Arab] street," said an Israeli 
government official. "Instead of calming things down, they are being 
dragged." The Egyptian statement was "a very dismal development", he said.

"Arab street": the derogatory term long used to degrade public opinion 
in those nations as some wild animal that needs to be suppressed and 
silenced rather than heeded. That's why this Israeli official talks 
about "the need to respond" to Egyptian public opinion -- also known as 
"democracy" -- as though it's some sort of bizarre, dangerous state of 
affairs: because nothing has been as important to the U.S. and Israel 
than ensuring the suppression of democracy in that region, ensuring that 
millions upon millions of people are consigned to brutal tyranny so that 
their interests are trampled upon in favor of "loyalty" to the interests 
of those two foreign nations.

This is why American media coverage of the Arab Spring produced one of 
the most severe cases of cognitive dissonance one can recall. The 
packaged morality narrative was that despots like Mubarak -- and those 
in Tunisia, Bahrain and elsewhere -- are unambiguous, cruel villains 
whom we're all supposed to hate, while the democracy protesters are 
noble and to be cheered. But whitewashed from that storyline was that it 
was the Freedom-loving United States that played such a vital role in 
empowering those despots and crushing the very democracy we are now 
supposed to cheer. Throughout all the media hate sessions spewed toward 
the former Egyptian dictator -- including as he's tried for crimes 
against his own people -- how often was it mentioned that Hillary 
Clinton, as recently as two years ago, was saying things such as: "I 
really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family" 
(or that John McCain, around the same time, was tweeting: "Late evening 
with Col. Qadhafi at his 'ranch' in Libya - interesting meeting with an 
interesting man.")? Almost never: because the central U.S. role played 
in that mass oppression was simply ignored once the oppression could no 
longer be sustained.

And, of course, it wasn't the case that the U.S. Government decided to 
cease its democracy-crushing, or that the American media one day decided 
to denounce the U.S.-backed Arab tyrants and celebrate democracy. They 
had no choice. These events happened against the will of the U.S., and 
only once their inevitability became clear did the American government 
and media pretend to suddenly side with "democracy and freedom." Even as 
they indulge that pretense, they continued -- and continue -- to try to 
render the "democratic revolutions" illusory and to prop up the 
tyrannies that are still salvageable. In sum, American discourse was 
forced by events to denounce the very despots the U.S. Government 
protected and to praise the very democratic values the U.S. long destroyed.

This is what Ignatius means when he decrees that the U.S. should not try 
to be on "the right side of history" but rather, "what should guide U.S. 
policy in this time of transition is to be on the right side of 
America's own interests and values" and, most critically, that 
"sometimes those two will conflict." The U.S. has always subordinated 
its ostensible "values" (democracy, freedom) to its own "interests" in 
that region, which is why it has crushed the former in order to promote 
the latter. As we prepare to celebrate the reportedly imminent fall of 
Gadaffi just as we once celebrated the fall of Saddam -- Juan Cole is 
already declaring large parts of Libya "liberated" -- that behavior 
should be kept firmly in mind; whether a country is truly "liberated" by 
the removal of a despot depends on who replaces it and what their 
"loyalties" are: to foreign powers or to the democratic will of that 
nation's citizens.

For Americans in such consensus to celebrate the fall of evil Arab 
tyrants without accounting for the role the U.S. played in their 
decades-long rule was bizarre (though typical) indeed. That "senior 
intelligence officials" are regarding these fledgling, potential 
democracies with such suspicion and longing for the days of the 
"dependably loyal" dictatorial regimes tells one all there is to know 
about what we have actually been doing in that part of the world, and 
have been doing for as long as that part of the world was a concern to 
American officials.

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