Sunday, January 16, 2011

From “I Have A Dream” To Dealing With Our Growing Global Nightmare!

From “I Have A Dream” To Dealing With Our Growing Global Nightmare!


An FBI agent reportedly issued a death threat against a U.S. citizen traveling abroad, according to the January 13 New York Times. The American, 19-year-old Gulet Mohamed, also alleges beatings and sleep deprivation in his interrogations since his arrest by Kuwaiti authorities in late December. 

After he was detained by Kuwaiti authorities, "Mr. Mohamed said the agents began yelling the name 'Anwar al-Awlaki' at him," the Times reported, "prompting Kuwaiti officials to intervene and request that the agents end the interrogation." New Mexico-born Anwar al-Awlaki is an American citizen and Islamic cleric who has emigrated to Yemen and advocated jihad against America, and President Obama has reputedly put him on an assassination list of U.S. citizens for when he is found.

Making a death threat against a defenseless prisoner is a crime of felony torture under the U.S. criminal code, and the jurisdiction of the crime for federal agents is anywhere in the world. The U.S. Code, Title 18, Section 2340 defines felony torture as follows: "torture means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control," including "the threat of imminent death."

The New York Times story added that after Gulet Mohamed's arrest and while under FBI interrogation,

[H]e said ... he was severely beaten, deprived of sleep and questioned about his travels to Yemen and Somalia.... He said the agents never presented evidence that he made contacts with militants. "They wanted me to lie about myself, and pushed me to lie about things I had done," he said.

Although President Obama campaigned as a candidate against the use of torture, little has apparently changed in this regard since the Bush administration.

The President's assassination list of U.S. citizens has been public since the Washington Post reported it on January 27, 2010.  While the Washington Post later corrected a few details of its original story, the existence of the assassination list was verified when John O. Brennan, White House senior adviser on counterterrorism, told the Washington Times June 24, 2010 that

To me, terrorists should not be able to hide behind their passports and their citizenship, and that includes U.S. citizens, whether they are overseas or whether they are here in the United States. What we need to do is to apply the appropriate tool and the appropriate response.

Brennan then stressed:

If an American person or citizen is in a Yemen or in a Pakistan or in Somalia or another place, and they are trying to carry out attacks against U.S. interests, they also will face the full brunt of a U.S. response. And it can take many forms.

But the difference is that Anwar al-Awlaki has not been accused of participating in actual attacks against American forces abroad. He has been accused of merely justifying and encouraging them with his words.

Thus, it's perhaps surprising that CIA Director Leon Panetta told ABC News' Jake Tapper back in June 2010,

Awlaki is a terrorist who has declared war on the United States. Everything he's doing now is to try to encourage others to attack this country[.]  [T]here's a whole stream of intelligence that goes back to Awlaki and his continuous urging of others to attack this country in some way. You can track Awlaki to the Detroit bomber. We can track him to other attacks in this country that have been urged by Awlaki or that have been influenced by Awlaki. Awlaki is a terrorist and yes, he's a U.S. citizen, but he is first and foremost a terrorist and we're going to treat him like a terrorist. We don't have an assassination list, but I can tell you this. We have a terrorist list and he's on it.

Panetta's ludicrous statement that one person can "declare war" against a whole country (Can a single person really "declare war"?) is emblematic of the absurdity to which government officials will go to rationalize their attack on the Bill of Rights. While Panetta denied that the Obama administration has an "assassination list," it's more than clear that the Obama administration has one and that Panetta was just contesting which term is most descriptive of that list. U.S. policy is to kill terrorists.

When he was still a candidate for President, Obama (in an interview with the Boston Globe) denied that the President has the power under the Constitution to detain U.S. citizens without trial — and yet Gulet Mohamed remains detained without trial in Kuwait.

The torture and detention without trial of U.S. citizen Gulet Mohamed at the hands of the Obama administration comes at the same time that the President is lecturing in favor of "more civility in our public discourse" and against "discourse [that] has become so sharply polarized -– at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do -– it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds."

But no true patriot can be civil about the blatantly unconstitutional torture (which violates the Eighth Amendment) and detention without trial (which violates the Fifth and Sixth Amendments) of his fellow citizens at the hands of an executive who defines his powers outside the limits of the U.S. Constitution.

President Obama needs to be taught that only actions such as government torture wound, not words. In fact, only very uncivil words can lead to healing of the bodily wounds inflicted upon citizens and upon the U.S. Constitution.

Some people question the use of militaristic jargon by peace activists. There are several reasons that we choose to refer to ourselves as soldiers building an Army to fight a war for justice on behalf of the oppressed Peoples of the world. The first is that we must understand our enemy and develop strategies to counter the international corporate terrorists that profit from war. This is a very real war in the sense that people are dying because of the ruthless methods that the Corporatocracy uses in its quest for dominance of all the world’s resources. In a time of increasing conflict in America and the world, we are fighting a war in a very real sense, but one that depends on avoiding resorting to violence.

While all veterans involved in the movement hope that the day will come that we won’t study war no more, that day has yet to arrive. Until it does, we must study the ways by which an increasingly militaristic network of governments working for Empire achieve its goals through economic warfare, bribery of corrupt junior partners, murder of leaders who resist and intimidation of the rest through the threat of endless war at the whim of the Puppet masters of the US government.

The war on the Peoples of the world has come home to the United States, though few Americans seem to understand that the economic depression that has turned American against American will not end without fundamental changes that our government clearly will not make until forced to do so. Too few in America understand that the real enemy is the corporate network that dominates the electoral process through the contributions to campaigns for members of Congress. These politicans have become Meat Puppets who consciously or unwittingly surrender their duty to the People in favor of keeping themselves in power. 

Citizens United brought home this message, generating the anger of nearly 80% of both self-identified liberals and conservatives who all understand that corruption in the United States government is a clear and present danger to democracy itself. We can use this common understanding to create the overwhelming force that will flank and destroy the media forces of media propaganda only be abandoning media-created distinctions that politicians use to maintain the illusion that either Party is working in the interest of the People.

In terms of military strategy, the enemy has exposed itself to a coordinated attack in the belief that we cannot organize to fight it. The corporatocracy has a simple strategy to keep the Peoples of all nations fighting each other where some semblance of democracy exists and buying the loyalty of ruthless strongmen where it does not. If we unite to fight this war together, our numbers are overwhelming. The leadership of the drive for world domination are the Anglo-American fascists in government and industry who see the 21stcentury as the advent of a New World Order that will be maintained through increasingly oppressive and violent means. It must be they and not each other who we target.

The “alternative” media has helped these psychopathic individuals unwittingly. In continuing to portray the battle for the soul of America in stark terms of sensible Americans versus those with no concern for the welfare of others, these gatekeepers of the Left keep alive the myth fostered by the corporate media that somehow the other side is “un-American.” They do not have to use this term to rally the troops to do battle with the “other side.” 

Almost universally, the best known of the leaders in the “progressive” media give publicity only to Democrats and Independent Bernie Sanders, hoping in vain that somehow a minority of our Representatives in Congress can impose its will on the growing number of Americans who rightly fear the power of a government controlled by a majority in both Houses of Congress. The steady drift toward the goals of the corporate agenda is obvious. 

We do not have time in an age of the threats to human civilization by continual environmental crises, economic devastation leaving millions suffering and the threat of endless war to wait for a miracle that will force either Party to see the consequences of its failure to follow their moral duty. We must be the change that we want to see in the world by looking inward to find our higher self that exists independently of our fears, anger and narrow perceptions of self-interest.

It matters little which of the corporate parties is in the majority. Neither party is led by men and women who are willing to challenge the corporate power that keeps them in their privileged positions. When the liberal media focuses on what the Republicans are doing, they serve as yet another echo chamber for the right, because those Americans who support the other side of the corporate Duopoly are offended by the insulting rhetoric of the Left. The “liberal” media continually presents an increasingly corporate-dominated Democratic Party as the only alternative to the even worse Republican Party.

This ignores recent history, including the fact that it is the critical middle that elected Barack Obama in the clear hope that this relative unknown with the calm manner would somehow create the change that he constantly told us we ourselves must be.

The critical mass of Americans who see through the myth that either party is fighting for the People react to this hypocrisy by alternately punishing one side or the other in what appears to be an irrational reaction to partisans of either party. We must work together to educate the general public that there is a simple solution to ending the un-Civil War that has turned increasingly violent. Only by reaching out to all Americans can we expect to build the “Army” we need to end corporate control of our government. 

Soldiers For Peace International was founded to help develop an increasingly interconnected network of all Americans who are sick of a government that is no longer one of the People, by the people and for the People. It is international in scope because we cannot win this war against fascism until the Peoples of the world see that they too are being manipulated by the Empire to fight each other rather than those who would enslave them in the quest for world domination. 

We are all in this together and only by reaching out to each other as citizens of our nations and of the world, we can exercise the power of the People to end injustice of every kind. The principle battle is being fought in the heart of Darkness, the jungle of America where the dreams upon that nation was founded have been forgotten and history is being rewritten so that the corporate media can replace it with the nightmare that is fascism.  Americans must remember that irrelevant distinctions were set aside during the Revolution that led to the American experiment in democracy. 

We can forge a consensus on a future that guarantees our inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness only by working together on a cause that should unite all Americans: The abolition of corporate personhood. Only by making it illegal for corporations to buy the loyalty of those who hold the fate of the nation in their hands can we hope to ensure justice not only for all Americans, but all Peoples of the world suffering under the yoke of Imperialism that is threatening to destroy America itself.

I urge those who feel that the Democratic or Republican Party is the only bulwark against enslavement by “the other side” learn to talk to each other in terms of mutual respect. There is a solution to the problem of corporate control of the US government, but we can only achieve it together. We cannot expect either party in the corporate duopoly that has led us to the brink of fascism in America to save us. Former partisans are increasingly acknowledging that both are controlled by the very corporations that have already stripped the carcass of the American economy of nearly all of its flesh. 

We can challenge the Parties by running truly independent candidates through a united third-party movement. When we succeed, we will teach the cynical psychopaths a lesson that they will ignore at their peril. Those who have allowed the United States government to fall into the hands of a plutocracy with no concern for the Peoples of America or the world will finally understand the power of a People united in the common cause of freedom and justice for all.

You can read more about to form an anarchical movement to restore democracy to America as a means to achieving peace in the world by reading the online book of essays Stop the Madness: The Diary of a Soldier For Peace in the War to Take Back America. It is linked to the website of Take Back America for the People”

Your comments here or at the linked website of the book itself are appreciated.


S Africa groups seek Livni arrest
Pro-Palestinian groups seek arrest warrant for Tzipi Livni, who heads Israel's Kadima party, for alleged war crimes. Two South African groups have launched ...See all stories on this topic »-

Danish figure: Israel committed war crimes in Gaza
Abdul Wahid Pederen called for the trial of Zionist criminals, adding “Whoever commits war crimes should be tried in international courts”. ...See all stories on this topic »-

Many, but not all of 'kill team' files released
It was rejected on the grounds that the Army is still investigating the suspected war crimes. Outside observers say it's in the Army's interest to release ...See all stories on this topic »

Spain Requests Warrant For Alleged Nazi War Criminal | Morrison ...
By admin
A Spanish court is requesting an arrest warrant for alleged Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk. In a ruling dated January 7 but released Friday, Spanish Judge Ismael Moreno Chamarro said Demjanjuk is accused of being “an accomplice to the ...
Morrison World News -

Connecting the Dots in the New World Order: US War Criminals ...
By DotConnector
US War Criminals : Where Are They Now? Madeleine Albright. Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. ...
Connecting the Dots in the New... -

US War Criminals : Where are they now? Madeleine Albright « KADAITCHA
By Jinjirrie
This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jinjirrie, Jinjirrie and others. Jinjirrie said: US War Criminals : Where are they now? Madeleine Albright O7XGnd #wikileaks #warcrimes #Iraq #genocide [...] ...KADAITCHA -

War Criminal: Donald Rumsfeld accused of torture « The Global ...
By theglobalawakening
War Criminal: Donald Rumsfeld accused of torture. Leave a Comment Posted by theglobalawakening on January 15, 2011. Friday January 14th. former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. A US rights group has filed a lawsuit charging ...
The Global Awakening -

"When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men,
they create for themselves,
in the course of time,
a legal system that authorizes it,
and a moral code that glorifies it.”
– Political economist Frederic Bastiat, The Law [1850]

“I used to think of Wall Street as a financial center.
I now think of it as a crime scene.”
– Filmmaker Danny Schecter, Plunder (2009)

Is America ‘Yearning for Fascism’?

Posted by Good German on January 15, 2011 - Cynthia McKinney

To add to the discussion started by Danny Schechter’s post Does Fascism Lurk Around The Corner In The USA?, here is the beginning of Chris Hedges’ column from March of last year, Is America ‘Yearning for Fascism’?:

The language of violence always presages violence. 

I watched it in war after war from Latin America to the Balkans. 

The impoverishment of a working class and the snuffing out of hope and opportunity always produce angry mobs ready to kill and be killed. 

A bankrupt, liberal elite, which proves ineffectual against the rich and the criminal, always gets swept aside, in times of economic collapse, before thugs and demagogues emerge to play to the passions of the crowd. 

I have seen this drama. I know each act. I know how it ends. I have heard it in other tongues in other lands. I recognize the same stock characters, the buffoons, charlatans and fools, the same confused crowds and the same impotent and despised liberal class that deserves the hatred it engenders.

“We are ruled not by two parties but one party,” Cynthia McKinney, who ran for president on the Green Party ticket, told me. “It is the party of money and war. Our country has been hijacked. And we have to take the country away from those who have hijacked it. The only question now is whose revolution gets funded.”

The Democrats and their liberal apologists are so oblivious to the profound personal and economic despair sweeping through this country that they think offering unemployed people the right to keep their unemployed children on their nonexistent health care policies is a step forward.

They think that passing a jobs bill that will give tax credits to corporations is a rational response to an unemployment rate that is, in real terms, close to 20 percent. They think that making ordinary Americans, one in eight of whom depends on food stamps to eat, fork over trillions in taxpayer dollars to pay for the crimes of Wall Street and war is acceptable. They think that the refusal to save the estimated 2.4 million people who will be forced out of their homes by foreclosure this year is justified by the bloodless language of fiscal austerity. The message is clear.

Laws do not apply to the power elite. Our government does not work. And the longer we stand by and do nothing, the longer we refuse to embrace and recognize the legitimate rage of the working class, the faster we will see our anemic democracy die.

The unraveling of America mirrors the unraveling of Yugoslavia. The Balkan war was not caused by ancient ethnic hatreds. It was caused by the economic collapse of Yugoslavia. The petty criminals and goons who took power harnessed the anger and despair of the unemployed and the desperate. They singled out convenient scapegoats from ethnic Croats to Muslims to Albanians to Gypsies.

They set in motion movements that unleashed a feeding frenzy leading to war and self-immolation. There is little difference between the ludicrous would-be poet Radovan Karadzic, who was a figure of ridicule in Sarajevo before the war, and the moronic Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin. There is little difference between the Oath Keepers and the Serbian militias. We can laugh at these people, but they are not the fools. We are.
Read more at Truthdig.

New Wikileaks: US Knew Tunisian Gov. Rotten Corrupt, Supported Ben Ali Anyway

Posted on 01/16/2011 by Juan

The Norwegian newspaper Aftenpost released a series of US diplomatic cables from 2006 on massive and pervasive corruption and nepotism in Tunisia and its effect on economic development and social problems. The cables show that the United States government was fully aware of the dangerous and debilitating level of corruption in Tunisia, and its anti-democratic implications. But they raise the question of whether Washington was wise to make Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, despite his clear foibles, the pillar of its North Africa policy because of his role, as a secular strongman, in repressing Muslim movements.

The US embassy in Tunis noted the contradictions of what was once called ‘the Tunisian miracle’– relative stability and security and 5% growth a year, but with Mafia style corruption on the part of ruling cliques that was discouraging foreign investment and contributing to failing banks and high unemployment.

Most debilitating, and destabilizing, has been high levels of unemployment, especially for college graduates:

‘ Unemployment, however, is a growing concern and is one on which every GOT official is focused. Official unemployment figures leveled off at 14 percent in 2005, after a steady declines dating from 1999s 15.8 percent. Even at 14 percent, however, this figure is consistently challenged as too optimistic by first hand accounts of university graduates unable to find jobs and reports of increasing numbers of ever-more qualified applicants seeking Embassy jobs.’

It was in some important part the college-educated unemployed and their sympathizers that brought down Ben Ali’s regime.

The cables recognize the pervasiveness of government corruption, and the scandals around it gave rise to. The cables estimate that 50% of the country’s economic elite was somehow related to President Ben Ali, and warn that they were increasingly showing off their opulence in public, raising the hackles of the poor and unemployed. Among those mentioned in the survey of nepotism was Imed Trabelsi, favored nephew of former first lady Leila Ben Ali, who was stabbed to death on Saturday in the course of the popular uprising.

‘ In early 2006, Tunisias Arab Institute of Business Leaders and the Young Entrepreneurs Center released separate investment climate surveys that pointedly criticize Tunisias declining levels of business confidence, suggesting the “good connections required for business success” is a chief culprit (reftel). A “cumbersome administration” and difficulty accessing capital are also notable obstacles for businesses here. ‘

The cables are eloquent about the corruption of the Ben Ali and Trebulsi clans (the relatives and in-laws of the president) and the way it had begun dragging down the economy. The key was a kind of regime insider-trading. The dictator Ben Ali approved all new projects, and:

This arrangement has permitted President Ben Alis extended family (siblings, in-laws, and distant relatives) to become aware of, to assert interests in, and to carve out domains in virtually every important sector of the Tunisian economy.

The Family was alleged to have been especially advantaged in real estate deals and importation of foreign goods. In addition, the corruption got to the point where it greatly weakened the financial system, because the Family threw lots of bank loans (presumably on favorable terms) to cronies who never paid them back:

‘ The weak financial system has also been manipulated. One local financial expert blames the Family for chronic banking sector woes due to the great percentage of non-performing loans issued through crony connections, and has essentially paralyzed banking authorities from genuine recovery efforts.’

A corrupt, closed economic elite that grabs most of the new income arriving in the country and acts so irresponsibly that it even weakens the foundations of the banking system? Does any of that sound familiar to American readers?

The pervasive and high-level corruption in Tunisia badly hurt foreign investment, which in turn hurt employment. There was even an attempt to shake down McDonald’s, which had spent 7 years making costly preparations to enter the Tunisian market, what with licences, real estate leases, finding local partners and suppliers, etc.:

These tactics have also negatively impacted U.S. investment — the prime example of which is McDonalds unsuccessful seven-year effort to invest in Tunisia in the 1990s…. Their investment, however, was scuttled by a last minute intervention by First Family personalities who reportedly told McDonalds representatives that “they had chosen the wrong partner.” The implication was clear: either get the “right” partner or face the consequences: McDonalds chose to pull out completely at great cost.

The extent of the corruption involving the Ben Ali and Trabelsi clans was so great that it not only had bad economic effects, but impeded democratization efforts:

‘ Today, elite Tunisians boldly, if not publicly, denounce Ben Ali and the Trabelsi family as uneducated and uncultured nouveaux riches whose conspicuous consumption is an affront to all patriotic Tunisians. Some fear that this new phenomenon is sucking the life-blood out of Tunisia — leading to a spiraling educational, moral, social and economic decline. Worse, many civil society activists speculate that corruption — particularly that of First Lady Leila (Trabelsi) Ben Ali and the broader Trabelsi clan — is the fundamental impediment to meaningful political liberalization. ‘

Despite its vast extent and potentially severe consequences, the cables say, the corruption of the First Family was a red line for the press and could not be publicly discussed in the newspapers. At least one major prosecution of a journalist for political slander was pursued when he slammed the Trabelsis.

(In this regard, the inability of the regime to shut down millions of Twitter and Facebook accounts or to control YouTube was not entirely inconsequential.– Juan)

Four and a half years ago, the US embassy was sanguine about the situation continuing, because it thought the Tunisian public mired in apathy:

‘ However, the lack of Tunisian political activism, or even awareness, seems to be a more serious impediment. While frustration with the First Familys corruption may eventually lead to increased demands for political liberalization, it does not yet appear to be heralding the end of the Ben Ali era.’

January 15, 2011 Global Freedom Of Information Rallies

Global rallies were held on Saturday, January 15, for Freedom of Information and in support of Wikileaks. Here are some of the protests that were held yesterday, primarily organized by Anonymous and Free Wikileaks (Europe).

Sydney, Australia: More than a thousand in attendance. Here are some Photos. In addition, there is a video of the Pirate Party's own Rodney Serkowski speaking: Video. (Stick around for the written message from Phillip Adams--you won't regret it!)

Vancouver, Canada: The number of protesters was much lower than in Sydney, but rest assured that their passion made up for their numbers. Read about it!

Seattle, U.S.A.: Several protesters show up in the rain: (Video) Now that's dedication! Thank you Washington!

Calgary, Canada: Freedom of the press and government transparency at the University of Calgary. Go Calgary! We're very proud of those who came. Send us some video and images!

San Francisco, U.S.A.: "A Media Intervention for Wikileaks" (Video). Very powerful: "We have never been more empowered to right back than we are right now." Thank you San Francisco!

Global Freedom of Information rallies were an absolute success, and further success stories are coming, to be updated right here as they roll in. Please send us video or images so that we might put our strength and numbers on display! Send these as attachments or links to: ke[at]WLCentral[.]org
Thank you, world! This is just the beginning.

Soldiers have been deployed on the streets of Tunisia amid chaotic scenes following the popular ousting of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the president.
Troops were patrolling Tunis, the capital, on Saturday and a state of emergency was in force after Ben Ali, president for more than 23 years, fled the country in the wake of widespread protests.

The main train station in Tunis has been torched, while gunfire was heard as soldiers intervened in attempts to stop looting in the city. 

The Reuters news agency reported that squads of men in civilian clothes were driving through Tunis at high speed, shooting randomly at buildings and people.

Soldiers and plainclothes security personnel dragged dozens of suspected looters out of their cars at gunpoint and took them away in lorries, according to a report from the AFP news agency.

"The army is all over the place in Tunis, they are trying to check cars and control people going by," Youssef Gaigi, a blogger and activist based in Tunisia, said.

'Militia' fears

There are fears that some of the violence is being carried out by a armed factions allied to Ben Ali, with Reuters quoting an unnamed military source as saying: "Ben Ali's security is behind what is happening."

Gaigi, who had been part of the protests that brought down Ben Ali, indicated that the army's presence was required because the police force had broken down.

"Several militias, which are actually doing some of the looting are part of the ministry of the interior, or police members, and they are co-ordinated by heads of police and intelligence in Tuisia," he said.

"We heard the army have captured some of these people but there is still a lot of work to be done."

Reports on Saturday said that General Ali Seryati, a senior advisor to Ben Ali and the former head of his security, had been seized by civilians.

Elsewhere in Tunisia, dozens of inmates at a prison in Monastir, eastern Tunisia, were killed when a prisoner started a fire at the facility.

Witnesses told Al Jazeera that other prisoners had escaped and reports said that some prisoners had been shot as they made their escape bid. 

Breakouts were also reported at three other prisons and a report from The Associated Press news agency said that an official at one facility had let 1,000 inmates escape following protests at the prison.

Amid the turmoil, Tunisians have organised themselves to protect their neighbourhoods, Amine Ghali, a democracy advocate in Tunisia, told Al Jazeera.

"There is a serious security issues, but people are getting organised. They are standing in front of their neighbourhoods, forming neighbourhood committees ... they are trying to be as calm as possible and trying to help the military," he said.

'Historic events'

In the past month, protests have swept across the country over unemployment, food price rises and corruption.

Ben Ali conceded power on Friday after a giant rally against him in Tunis but his departure, a key demand of the demonstrators, has failed to calm the unrest.

Public television station TV7 broadcast phone calls from residents of working-class neighbourhoods on the capital's outskirts who described attacks on their homes by knife-wielding assailants.

Thousands of tourists have been evacuated from the Mediterranean nation following the unrest.

The president fled to Saudi Arabia amid the protests and Fouad Mebazaa, the speaker of the lower house of parliament, has taken over as caretaker president.

Arab nations have been largely silent on the Tunisian protests, but the Arab League on Saturday released a statement calling for calm an unity in the country.

"These are historic events by any standard," Hesham Youssef, the chief of cabinet for the Arab League's secretary-general, told Al Jazeera.

"The important thing is that the current period will be a transition period, and we hope that the political forces in Tunisia will unite in the call for change in order for them to have elections as soon as possible, in order to move ahead."

(Cables From American Diplomats Portray U.S. Ambivalence on Tunisia)

One sign read "Game Over". But in fact, the game has barely started.

The Facebook generation has taken to the streets and the "Jasmin Revolt" has become a revolution, at least as of the time of writing. And the flight of former President Ben Ali to Saudi Arabia is inspiring people across the Arab world to take to the streets and warn their own sclerotic and autocratic leaders that they could soon face a similar fate.

As the French paper Le Monde described it, scenes that were "unimaginable only days ago" are now occurring with dizzying speed. Already, in Egypt, Egyptians celebrate and show solidarity over Tunisia's collapse, chanting "Kefaya" and "We are next, we are next, Ben Ali tell Mubarak he is next." Protests in Algeria and Jordan could easily expand thanks to the inspiration of the tens of thousands of Tunisians, young and old, working and middle class, who toppled one of the world's most entrenched dictators. 

Arab bloggers are hailing what has happened in Tunisia as "the African revolution commencing... the global anti-capitalist revolution."

The birth of a human nationalism?

Around the turn of the new millennium, as the Arab world engaged in an intense debate over the nature of the emerging globalised system, one critic in the newspaper al-Nahar declared that an "inhuman globalisation" has been imposed on the Arab world when its peoples have yet even to be allowed to develop a "human" nationalism. Such a dynamic well describes the history of Tunisia, and most other countries in the Arab/Muslim world as well.

And so, if the people of Tunisia are lucky, they are in the midst of midwifing the Arab world's first human nationalism, taking control of their politics, economy and identity away from foreign interests and local elites alike in a manner that has not been seen in more than half a century.

But the way is still extremely treacherous. As a member of the Tajdid opposition party told the Guardian, "Totalitarianism and despotism aren't dead. The state is still polluted by that political system, the ancient regime and its symbols which have been in place for 55 years."

Indeed, the problem with most post-colonial nationalisms - whether that of the first generation of independence leaders or of the leaders who replaced (often by overthrowing) them - is precisely that they have always remained infected with the virus of greed, corruption and violence so entrenched by decades of European colonial rule. Tunisia's nascent revolution will only succeed if it can finally repair the damage caused by French rule and the post-independence regime that in so many ways continued to serve European and American - rather than Tunisian - interests.

A region's tipping point

The stakes could not be higher. The "Tunisian Scenario" could lead either to a greater democratic opening across the Arab world, or it could lead to the situation in Algeria in the early 1990s, where democratisation was abruptly halted and the country plunged into civil war when it seemed that an Islamist government might come to power. We can be sure that leaders across the Arab world are busy planning how to stymie any attempts by their people to emulate the actions of Tunisia's brave citizenry. But at this moment of such great historical consequence what is the US doing about the situation?

The timing couldn't have been more fortuitous, as Secretary of State Clinton was in the Middle East meeting with Arab political and civil society leaders at the moment events took their fateful turn. Yet when asked directly about the protests the day before Ben Ali fled her answer said volumes about the mentality of the Obama administration and the larger US and European foreign policy establishments to the unfolding situation.

"We can't take sides."

A more tone deaf response would have been hard to imagine. This was a moment when the Obama administration could have seized the reins of history and helped usher in a new era in the Arab/Muslim world world. In so doing it could have done more to defeat the forces of extremism than a million soldiers in AfPak and even more drone strikes could ever hope to accomplish. And Mrs. Clinton declared America's attention to remain on the sideline.

Obama's Reagan moment

Can we imagine that President Reagan, for whom Obama has declared his admiration, refusing to take sides as young people began dismantling the Iron Curtain? Indeed, even when freedom seemed a distant dream, Reagan went to Berlin and challenged Gorbachev to "tear down this wall!"

It's not as if the Obama administration doesn't understand what kind of regime it was dealing with in Tunisia. As the now infamous WikiLeaks cable from the US Ambassador in Tunis to his superiors in Washington made clear, "By many measures, Tunisia should be a close US ally. But it is not." Why? "The problem is clear: Tunisia has been ruled by the same president for 22 years."

Indeed, WikiLeaks did Clinton and Obama's job: It told the truth, and in doing so was a catalyst for significant change in the country - yet another example of how the release of all those classified documents has helped, rather than harmed, American interests (or at least the interests of the American people, if not its political and economic elite), even if the Obama administration refuses to admit it.

What is clear is that if the massacre in Tuscon last week might have provided Obama with his "Clinton moment", as he eloquently led the country on the path towards unity and healing, the Jasmin Revolution has handed him his Reagan moment. Obama needs to stop playing catch up to events, lay aside hesitation and throw his support behind radical change in the region, behind young people across the Middle East and North Africa who could topple the regimes who have done more to increase terrorism that Osama bin Laden could dream of accomplishing.

Decades of support despite repression

The US has understood and even welcomed this very dynamic in Tunisia for the last half century. A 1963 Congressional report on "US Foreign Aid to 10 Middle Eastern and African Countries" stated positively about Tunisia that "Tunisia has been known for its internal political stability and unity... This fact, unique in a ME country, can be explained by the existence of an unopposed single-party rule... Under the vigorous leadership of President Bourguiba, Tunisia offers a favourable and stable political climate, progressive in its outlook, in which to bring about economic development. 

US aid should be continued at the same or higher level," the report advised.

In recent years the US position has been little different. The Tunisian regime was supported by the United States because it was secular, cooperated on the "War on Terror" and followed, at least on the surface, liberal economic reforms. And European support for Ben Ali was even stronger, with successive French governments openly declaring their preference for stability and cooperation against illegal immigration and the threat of terror to supporting the kind of democratic transformation that would have gone much farther to securing those goals.

During the Bush administration, then Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick rebuffed attempts by local journalists to get him to admit to a double standard in calling for human rights without actually supporting them in countries like Tunisia and Egypt. The Bush administration supported draconian anti-terrorism laws that were clearly used to repress any opposition to the regime.

Today, Clinton declares that in fact the US doesn't have much power in the region. "We can't force people to do what we want," she explained in Doha at the Forum of the Future earlier this week, emphasising reforms that were focused far more on "economic empowerment, rather than political change," according to the Washington Post. Clinton never even mentioned the word democracy in her prepared remarks, or human rights for that matter.

And while she preached the gospel of reform and civil society, Clinton praised the record of another despotic regime, Bahrain, whose foreign minister participated in the forum with her. This even though the country's record of censorship and political repression lags little behind Tunisia's, if at all, as the annual Human Rights Reports of Clinton's State Department clearly show.

Taking history's reins

The WikiLeaks cable that by many accounts helped encourage the protests that have now toppled the Ben Ali regime had the virtue of being honest, as it explained that the incredibly deep and endemic corruption up through the very top of a regime that had completely "lost ouch with the Tunisian people" produced an untenable situation.

It's clear, then, that the US understood the problems plaguing Tunisia, so why didn't Clinton speak as openly as her ambassador in Tunis? Imagine what support she would have gotten from the people of Tunisia if she only stated what everyone already knew? If at the very least she had, as her ambassador urged in the then classified communique, declared America's intent to "keep a strong focus on democratic reform and respect for human rights," words that the US would not utter directly and openly until Ben Ali had fled the country.

The question now is, does Obama have the courage, the "audacity", to use one of his favourite words, to seize the moment?

Once Ben Ali had fled the country, the President did salute "brave and determined struggle for the universal rights", applauded "the courage and dignity of the Tunisian people", and called on the Tunisian government "to respect human rights, and to hold free and fair elections in the near future that reflect the true will and aspirations of the Tunisian people".

But unless there is a stick behind this call, there is every reason to believe, as so many Tunisians and other commentators worry, that the country's corrupt and still powerful elite will find a way to remain entrenched in power once the situation calms down. Indeed, Obama's call to "maintain calm" is counter productive. While violence is of course deplorable, the worst thing for Tunisians to do would be to remain calm, to tone down their protests and leave the streets.

Now is the time for Tunisians to ensure that the revolution that is just sprouting is not cut off or co-opted. The protests need to continue and even expand until the foundations of the regime are uprooted and other senior officials removed from power and sent into exile as Ben Ali has now been.
What is President Obama going to do if they emulate their colleagues in Iran and ruthlessly suppress further protests? If he and other world leaders don't lay out the scenario to the Tunisian people and the elites still trying to contain them now, so everyone understands what the United States will do to support the people, what incentive will those seeking to retain power have to take another route?

Crucial next steps

While the United States and the international community should not directly intervene unless the military begins killing or arresting large numbers of people, there are a number of steps Obama could take immediately to ensure that this nascent democratic moment takes root and spreads across the region.

First, the President should not merely urge free and fair elections. He must publicly declare that the United States will not recognize, nor continue security or economic relations, with any government that is not democratically elected through international monitored elections. At the same time, he must freeze any assets of Tunisia's now ex-leadership and hold them until they can be reclaimed by the Tunisian people.

Second, he should declare that the young people of Tunisia have shown the example for the rest of the Arab world, and offer his support for a "Jasmin Spring" across the Arab world. Obama should demand that every country in the region free all political prisoners, end all forms of censorship and political repression, and fully follow international law in the way they treat their citizens or the people's under their jurisdictions.

Furthermore, the President should call on every country in the region to move towards free, fair, and internationally monitored elections within a specified time or risk facing a similar cut-off of ties, aid and cooperation. Such demands must be made together with America's reluctant European allies.

Of course, such a call would apply to Israel as much as to Egypt, to Morocco as well as to Saudi Arabia. There would be one standard for every country from the Atlantic to the Indian ocean, and the US would pledge to stand with all people working to bring real democracy, freedom and development to their peoples and countries and to oppose all governments that stand in their way.

Imagine what would happen to America's image in the Muslim world if the President took such a stand? Imagine what would happen to al Qaeda's recruitment levels if he adopted such a policy (in fact, al Qaeda has been equally behind the 8-ball, as it was only Friday that the leaders of the movement's so-called Maghrebian wing declared their support for the protests in Tunisia and Algeria).

Imagine how hard it would be for so-called "supporters" of Israel to attack the President for finally putting some teeth behind his criticism of Israeli policy (which Clinton in Doha incredulously said the US could do nothing to stop) if he could reply that he was only holding Israel to the same standard as everyone else and that his policies were actually protecting America's core interests and security?

Sinking in the sand

In Doha, Clinton poetically spoke of regimes whose "foundations are sinking into the sand" and who will, it is assumed, disappear unless "reform" occurs. The reality is that US foreign policy towards the Middle East and larger Muslim world is equally in danger of sinking into the sands if the President and his senior officials are not willing to get ahead of history's suddenly accelerating curve. 

It is the US and Europe, as much as the leaders of the region, who in Clinton's words are in need of "a real vision for that future."

Clinton was eloquent in her closing remarks at the Forum for the Future, where she declared:

"Let us face honestly that future. Let us discuss openly what needs to be done. Let us use this time to move beyond rhetoric, to put away plans that are timid and gradual, and make a commitment to keep this region moving in the right direction. People are looking for real leadership in the 21st century, and I think it can be provided, and I know that this is the moment to do so."

She couldn't be more right, but it will only happen if the United States, and not the Arab world's aging and autocratic leadership, takes her sage advice.

Mark LeVine is a professor of history at UC Irvine and senior visiting researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University in Sweden. His most recent books are Heavy Metal Islam (Random House) and Impossible Peace: Israel/Palestine Since 1989 (Zed Books).


No comments: