Category Archives: Jordan

The Vice Presidential Debate and National Liberation

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The following article below was originally published as a Facebook Note, but I’ve been asked not to link back, nor to include the author’s name: 

October 12, 2012

Libya’s Col. Muammar Gaddafi (left) and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad (right)

There were two discernible moments in last night’s Vice Presidential debate that I thought were the most telling and most important moments we’ve seen in the two confrontations between the Obama-Biden and Romney-Ryan tickets. It wasn’t Congressman Ryan’s brilliant swipe at Vice President Biden’s long history of gaffes. It wasn’t Biden’s blistering attack on Romney’s 47% comment or his rock-solid defense of the Administration’s tax plan, in which he pointed out that 97% of small business owners don’t make more than $250,000 per year. These were all interesting moments, although by my own standards of debate – cultivated from four years of competing in high school and three years of coaching in college – Biden won the arguments.

But the moment I’m referring to was more important than all of that. I get that this election is about jobs and the economy in the minds of voters so I don’t use ‘important’ to mean ‘election-altering’. I mean that for progressive-minded people, organizers, and activists in this country, these two moments told us a lot more about the country we live in and the policies we organize against than anything said on the campaign trail.

The two moments I’m referring to were the Libyan embassy question at the beginning of the debate and the Syria question near the end.

First on Libya: Ryan targeted the Obama Administration for not labeling the embassy attack as “terrorism” earlier and not being prepared. Biden countered by saying that Ryan’s budget had cut security funding for embassies by millions of dollars and short-changed the staff there. Romney and Ryan clearly want to win this election, so why do they – let alone the supposedly “free” and “investigative” press – not point out the obvious: NATO, under the direction of the Obama administration, funded, armed, and brought to power the same Libyan ‘rebels’ that attacked the US embassy in Benghazi on September 11th.

We can quibble as to whether or not the attackers were literally “the same rebels,” but NATO commanders and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton all admitted that a large section of the rebels that they supported in Libya last year were members of al-Qaeda or other Islamist extremists. When NATO was criminally murdering Libyans through their bombing campaigns, they didn’t distinguish between “good rebels” and “bad rebels.” They armed the rebellion by any means necessary – the rebellion that systematically lynched black African migrants; the rebellion that attacked hospitals and schools for children with Down-syndrome; the rebellion that, with NATO’s air strikes, killed more civilians than Libya’s national army; the rebellion that sodomized and murdered Colonel Muammar Qaddafi without trial; and ultimately the rebellion that was directed on the ground by al-Qaeda and Islamist militants.

Qaddafi was a bulwark against radical Islamists, much like Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Al-Qaeda committed terrorist attacks against Libyan targets and Qaddafi showed no tolerance for their indiscriminate violence, so much so that he opportunistically joined the war on terror in 2005. Just as it doesn’t matter in Syria today, though, Washington’s short-term interests in acquiring oil overrode any possible problem they had with materially supporting the same people that attacked the US on 9/11. The Obama administration knew it and they did it anyway.

So fast-forward to 9/11 in 2012. Al-Qaeda attacks the US embassy in Libya right after receiving aid from the US and NATO in 2011. With the amount of support they received, there is a good chance that the same weapons used to breach the embassy were provided by the US, much like how many of the same arms given to the mujahedeen in Afghanistan by the US in the 1980s are now used by the Afghani resistance against US troops today.

Why doesn’t Romney or Ryan bring this up? Why don’t they hammer Obama and Biden on the biggest hole of all in the White House’s sketchy narrative on the embassy attack? Even in catering to the racist and Islamophobic base of the Republican Party, why don’t they point out that the Obama administration, in this case, literally armed al-Qaeda and Islamist extremists?

The answer is because they don’t fundamentally disagree on what happened in Libya. Republican or Democrat, neither one of them has an interest in laying the real question before the American people: Why did we bomb the hell out of Libya and arm our so-called enemy against a government that didn’t threaten the United States? Outside of the Ron Paul clique, nary a critical word was thrown at the President for the crimes his administration committed against the Libyan people.

The two parties can posture all they want over tax policies or Medicare reform, but let’s make one thing clear: When the rubber hits the road and we’re talking about dropping bombs on civilian targets that suck the oxygen out of a mother’s lungs before her and her child are charred by the flames; when we’re talking about black African migrants who are strung up on light poles and disemboweled because of the color of their skin; when we’re talking about a school, where children with Down-syndrome go to learn and are cared for every day, being obliterated by firebombs; when we’re talking about real people dying – who you and I will probably never meet – the two candidates are one and the same.

Isn’t that deeply unsettling? I have conversations with Obama supporters to whom I bring this up and they dismiss it out of fear that it might play into Romney being elected. They then proceed to lecture me on how there are differences between the candidate’s domestic policies. And then for the closer, they turn these concerns on their head and ask me why I care so much about foreign policy when there are people hurting in this country.

I just grow weary of it, folks. I get that Romney’s policies on a lot of economic and social issues are more reactionary than Obama’s – although I would follow it up by saying, “Not by much. They’re both reactionaries.” What I don’t get is the national chauvinism that pervades the lesser-of-two-evils progressive community that writes off foreign policy as if it’s some separate sphere to evaluate candidates.

The mother charred by fire from NATO’s death machines in Libya doesn’t care that Obama’s tax policy only affects 3% of small businesses. Frankly, she doesn’t even care that Romney’s policy will raise taxes on workers in this country. She was living a normal life with her family, raising her children, working a productive job, and putting food on the table in one form of another until her country was invaded. Violence was committed against her, and it was done in the name of the United States – violence, for no honest reason; violence, for no positive outcome; violence, completely divorced from any semblance of justice; violence, that even the most opportunistic and hateful critics of the President in this country cannot condemn, especially at the Vice Presidential debate.

For the hanged black migrant, for the dead Libyan infant, for the wounded Syrian bus driver, and for any oppressed person around the world, this election is literally meaningless and tonight’s debate proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Now someone’s ready to protest, “But we’re not Libyans. We’re not Syrians. We’re Americans who live in this country and have to deal with the consequences of this election.” Yes we are. And if those consequences guide progressives to vote to defeat Romney – however they think they can best do that in their respective states – they should absolutely do so.

But I want people to understand that there is only one way to vote for the President and not have Libyan and Syrian blood on your hands: Resistance. Whether Obama or Romney win on the evening on November 6th, progressives must issue a declaration of independence, not just from both parties but from the entire system of imperialism. We have to commit to organizing our communities, our workplaces, our classrooms, and our places of worship to resist the attacks that come down on us and on oppressed people around the world. We have to build a new movement – not an anti-war movement like we saw under Bush, but an anti-imperialist movement that recognizes that the crimes perpetrated on the Libyans are made possible by the crimes committed against workers and oppressed people in this country, and vice versa.

That’s all anti-imperialism is. It takes the anti-war movement and joins it with the battle against budget cuts, the fight against bosses on the shop floor, the struggle to keep collective bargaining rights, the campaigns for affordable public education, and the continued war against racism, national oppression, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and every other phobia that oppresses people here and around the world. It recognizes that the struggle of Libyan freedom fighters against NATO and the Islamist rebels is intertwined with the struggles that we wage here in the US against anti-union laws, foreclosures, budget cuts, racist violence, and attacks on women’s rights.

Imperialism is a system that oppresses people domestically to commit untold horrors against entire nations internationally. And it’s a system we have to fight and dismantle if we’re serious about wanting freedom in our lifetime.

Clearly it won’t happen through the ballot box. The Vice Presidential debate showed us that. If we hope to achieve that freedom, we have to fight for it in the streets.

Lincoln, Assad & the Vice Presidential Debate

Now onto Syria: The second moment that stood out to me in last night’s Vice Presidential debate was downright awkward and embarrassing for Ryan. Trying desperately to distinguish the Romney campaign’s position on Syria from Obama’s position, he fumbled around and could not answer the moderator’s question, which was, “What would you do differently?” About all he could muster was the flaccid jab at the Obama administration for calling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “a reformer.”

Except Obama never said that, and neither did Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for that matter. Clinton made a statement in March 2011 that “many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer,” but her agenda was the same as Romney and Ryan’s from the beginning: Use the civil unrest, which later became a civil war, to topple the Syrian government at any cost.

All things considered, Biden knocked it out of the ballpark in terms of honesty. He noted that the US hasn’t worked through the UN on the question of Syria, having never endorsed or accepted Kofi Annan’s peace plan, and began aiding the so-called “rebels” directly in the early stages of the civil war. He candidly admitted that the US was completely aligned with the oppressive Turkish government and the reactionary Saudi and Qatari monarchies, all of whom are funneling arms – most likely provided by the United States – to the Syrian “rebels.” About the only thing he left out in his effort to bolster the Obama administration’s “Tough on Assad” credentials was the White House’s announcement last week to put troops on the Jordanian border with Syria.

For their part, neither candidate endorsed a US military operation in Syria under the current conditions. I take this to mean that both tickets understand how unpopular the idea of another war is with voters, which by extension means that the Syrian government has at least until December to put down the rebellion before the threat of a Libya-style NATO intervention comes back on the table. This is the good news.

The bad news is that both candidates agreed to a disturbing caveat, stated not-so-eloquently by Ryan: “Well, we agree with the same red line, actually, they do on chemical weapons, but not putting American troops in, other than to secure those chemical weapons.” If there’s one thing that the past two Presidents have taught this generation about justifications for this type of preemptive war, it is that a targeted government doesn’t have to have actual weapons (Iraq) or plan to use them on the population (Libya) to still launch full-scale military operations. What Biden and Ryan – and ultimately Obama and Romney – are really saying is that they won’t exercise military force until after November 6th.

Realize too that when Ryan said, “[our strategy with Syria] means like embargoes and sanctions and overflights, those are things that don’t put American troops on the ground,” he is talking directly about the type of intervention that NATO launched in Libya. Save for some military advisors, US troops were not “on the ground” in Libya in the same way they are today in Afghanistan. It’s horrifying, of course, that drone and aerial warfare allows the US to victimize thousands of people without having to weigh the consequences of physical risk. There are no longer any counter-weights or human cost calculations that go into setting up no-fly zones, which Ryan calls “overflights.”

Between Libya and Syria – and Afghanistan and Iraq, despite how Biden may have postured to pretend like he didn’t vote to put the same two wars “on credit cards,” like Ryan did – we have to admit that we don’t have a choice in the US Presidential elections. If you even have a semblance of sympathy for the women, men, and children who will bear the full brunt of war in these countries, then you have to admit that there’s nothing democratic about the choice that voters will make on November 6th. The candidates are in full agreement that the United States should continue to build its empire, declare war on smaller nations for their resources, and do so in the most brutal and efficient manner possible. This is one area – probably the most major area, if we are honest with ourselves as human beings – where there is literally no difference between a second-term President Obama and a President Romney.

Immediately after the debate, CNN aired the second trailer for the new Steven Spielberg film, Lincoln, which has Daniel Day-Lewis portraying the Great Emancipator himself, President Abraham Lincoln. The juxtaposition of both candidates’ characterization of Assad “turning guns on his own people” coupled with this exciting movie trailer hit me pretty hard. Most Americans in 2012 revere Lincoln as a national hero, and the film’s Thanksgiving release date all but guarantees it will be the movie event of 2012.

But why is that? Most people in the 21st century view the American Civil War as a totally just war and condemn slavery as an institution – though it should be noted that a disturbing number of reactionary Republican lawmakers are beginning to come out as slavery apologists – but it wasn’t always seen that way. Neither was Lincoln enshrined as “the Great Emancipator” by mainstream American canon until relatively recently (read: the last forty years).

For a large portion of the country, Lincoln was remembered as a brutal tyrant who “turned guns on his own people” and grossly violated their constitutional rights. He was remembered as a radical who forcibly expropriated the “property” of the rich – namely slaves – and waged a brutal civil war on the American people. His unwillingness to compromise on the issue was not touted as a virtue as it is today; rather it was seen as the stubbornness of a dictator whose decisions cost hundreds of thousands of Americans their lives. He was seen as divisive, conniving, and wicked by a large section of the country.

Most Americans probably do not think of it this way, but a great number of atrocities were committed during the Civil War, and by no means were they limited to the racists in the Confederacy. Thousands of people – many of whom never owned slaves – were put into prison camps, forced to work without pay, starved, took ill, and died. For the first two years of the war, the Union Army, under the direction of the scoundral George McClellan, refused to liberate slaves in the South, leaving them under the bondage of the white slaveowners. Not least of these victims were the freed slaves, who received second-class treatment when they were allowed to join the Union Army and received unequal compensation.

Indeed, Lincoln’s policies and military draft program were so divisive that they led to massive riots in the North that left hundreds dead, most of whom were black residents targeted by racist pogroms. The media was not silent on these matters either. The Chicago Times in 1863 was topped with the headline, “DICTATOR PROCLAIMED, for the Proclamation can never be carried out except under the iron rule of the worst kind of despotism.”

But here’s the simple and undeniable truth: Lincoln was a hero, the Union was on the right side of history, and the American Civil War was not just justifiable, but necessary and honorable. As Americans in 2012, most of us wouldn’t think twice about making that judgment because we instinctively understand that slavery was a wicked instrument of oppression and the Confederacy was an evil empire seeking its preservation and expansion. All of Lincoln and the Union Army’s actions that were viewed as tyrannical by some people in 1860 are worthy of praise in 2012 because we understand what the conflict meant to oppressed people; so worthy of praise that a legendary director and actor are teaming up for a film honoring President Lincoln.

This should all sound familiar in the context of Syria: Here we have a leader, a President no less, waging a civil war to hold the country together. Opposite him and the Syrian Army is an unholy alliance of neo-liberals seeking to sell Syria’s resources and labor to the West at a profit, militants of al-Qaeda, and other radical Islamists. Assad fights for secular government against theocratic tyranny; he fights for a self-determined Syria against a puppet regime that will prostitute the Syrian people to Western corporations; he fights for an independent country in a region occupied and dominated by the United States and Israel; and now he fights for the self-determination of the Kurdish people in the northern part of Syria.

That last point is particularly salient in the comparison with Lincoln. The Syrian government has by no means consistently stood for Kurdish self-determination or nationhood, and Kurds have in the past faced oppression in Syria. Similarly, the United States government was the chief perpetrator in the crime of slavery against the black Africans kidnapped from their homes to work under the whip in North America. However, just as Lincoln realized that the question of winning the American Civil War was inseparable from the question of emancipation, Assad realizes that winning the Syrian Civil War is impossible without Kurdish independence. And just as the Union Army could not have won the war without the emancipated and slaves liberating themselves, Assad will have the Kurds to thank if he succeeds in putting down the rebellion.

When the Vice Presidents talked last night about the possibility of intervening in Syria, it made me think of the Trent Affair during the Civil War. Oligarchs in France and Britain considered intervening on behalf of the Confederacy. Though the countries were officially neutral, they engaged the Confederacy on possibly intervening on their behalf in the American Civil War and were only dissuaded by the Union victory at Antietam.

As an American, would you have tolerated British or French intervention in the American Civil War, especially on behalf of the Confederacy? I wouldn’t have. Most of us would like to say we would have supported President Lincoln, but I think all of us could agree that foreign intervention would have been wrong.

President Assad will be remembered by Syrians much in the same way President Lincoln is by Americans. Both leaders are fighting a civil war to hold their country together in the face of threats of foreign intervention – in Assad’s case, this is a more likely and greater threat than it was for the Union – and basic questions of freedom and oppression are at stake in the war’s outcome. From every indicator, a majority of the Syrian people supports the government, and it’s only a small band of traitors calling for military intervention.

As progressives, I don’t think it’s sufficient to just call for “Hands Off Syria.” That’s a start, of course, but in 21st century hindsight, “Hands Off America” would have fallen drastically short in 1862. Anti-imperialism means doing what we can to stop the government we live under from violently attacking another nation, but it is also a call to support those forces who are on the right side of history; those forces who find themselves struggling for independence and liberation; those forces who are most threatened by the kind of slaughter we witnessed in Libya last year. And those forces are President Assad and the Syrian people.

When people go to watch Spielberg’s film in November, voters will have already elected a new President. Last night’s debate showed us that the election won’t determine what happens in Syria because both sides are in agreement. Two factors can turn the tide, though: The first is an overwhelming victory for the Syrian people against the terrorist rebellion. And though I pray that happens, we need to begin exercising the second factor: American resistance to war with Syria.

Libya and the Arab revolt in perspective

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By the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL)
FEBRUARY 24, 2011

Imperialism has nothing to offer the Middle East

The Arab world

“From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli, we fight our country’s battles in the air, on land, and sea.” So begins the official hymn of the U.S. Marines, setting out in one short sentence the long history of U.S. expansionism and intervention across the globe. Tripoli, the current capital of Libya, has a special place in this history because of the Barbary Wars, the first wars waged by the U.S. government in the early 1800s to protect its commercial interests in the Mediterranean Sea.

Starting in the 1940s, the Middle East and North Africa—which hold two-thirds of the world’s known oil reserves—again assumed a central place in U.S. foreign policy and geopolitical strategy. Reading statements from the State Department and the White House, one might think that all Washington cares about is peace, democracy, human rights and freedom of speech. They have continuously expressed “alarm” and “disapproval” at the incidents of violence.

A quick review of U.S. foreign policy in the region reveals that the government has never had an interest in peace, democracy or universal rights. They care not one whit about the Arab masses. Every word out of their mouths, no matter how it is sugar-coated, flows from their desire to retain U.S. political and economic hegemony.

To maintain access to the region’s vast natural resources, the U.S. government has propped up the most violent dictatorships of all kinds, from secular to religious. It has poured in hundreds of millions of dollars to buy politicians and influence elections. It has carried out countless covert operations—sabotage, assassinations, infiltration—to undermine popular figures and movements that have resisted U.S. domination. It has armed the colonial-settler state of Israel to the teeth, allowing it to strike out against its Arab neighbors and suppress the Palestinian people’s struggle for self-determination. It has helped divide nations, artificially created new ones, fought against all attempts at real Arab unity, and worked tirelessly to prevent any strong, independent countries from emerging in the region.

Washington imposed sanctions that took the lives of over one million Iraqis, including hundreds of thousands of children before 2003. Well over 1.3 million Iraqis have died as a result of the current war and occupation. In addition, there are 2 million people displaced inside of Iraq, and 2.5 million who are refugees in neighboring Syria and Jordan.

There are no figures available for the number of Iraqis wounded, but the most conservative estimate would be twice the number killed. Altogether, nearly one in three Iraqis have been killed, wounded or displaced since 2003. The spirit of resistance has not died in the Iraqi people, but their nation has been torn apart.

A third wave of Arab revolution

What is taking place across the Middle East and North Africa is the third great wave of revolts and revolutions against colonialism, neo-colonialism, and the regimes installed and sustained by imperialism. It is a reaffirmation that there is indeed an Arab Nation divided into many countries. While there are many differences between (and often within) Arab countries, there are also powerful elements of shared nationhood: language, common territory, culture and so on. How else can it be explained that the upheaval that started in Tunisia in January has spread to at least 10 other countries in the Arab world—and none outside?

The first revolutionary wave following World War I fought the takeover and division of the Middle East by British and French imperialism. The revolts were so strong in Egypt and Iraq that the British granted nominal independence to Egypt in 1922 and Iraq in 1932, while in reality retaining colonial control of both.

The second wave followed World War II with the overthrow of the old dependent regimes and monarchies in Syria, Egypt, Iraq and Libya in the 1950s and 1960s, the victorious anti-colonial wars in Algeria and Yemen in the 1960s, the rise of the Palestinian revolutionary movement in the late 1960s, and the civil war in Lebanon in the 1970s, where the progressive Lebanese National Movement/PLO alliance was on the verge of victory until Syria intervened against it. There were also mass Palestinian intifadas in 1936-39, 1987-1991 and 2000-2002.

During these first two waves, the U.S. government and its allies were able to preserve the police-state hereditary monarchies in Jordan, Morocco, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and, above all in their estimation, Saudi Arabia. Starting with Anwar Sadat, and especially with his successor Hosni Mubarak, the U.S. government was able to buy off Egypt and bring it decisively into their sphere of influence.

These states became strategic beachheads for U.S. imperialism, especially important in checking the influence of Iran after its popular, nationalist revolution of 1979.

Taken collectively, the protest movements and uprisings today in the Arab world have threatened this whole arrangement of power. They have proven once again—to the dismay of Washington—that it is the masses of people who make and change history. The U.S. government is not in control of events, but is desperately trying to influence them behind the scenes to guarantee the preservation of its political and economic interests.

Yemen and Bahrain

While the U.S. government now speaks about “universal rights” and “freedom of expression” in Yemen, just last year they were bombing it with drone attacks. In 2009, special-operations commandos began training President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s security forces—the same forces now firing on protesters.

In 2010, the U.S. government pumped in $155 in military aid to help the Yemeni president fight against two separate rebel movements. While all of this was justified under the “war on terror,” the U.S.-backed airstrike in December 2009 killed 42 civilians, the vast majority of whom were women and children. A released Wikileaks cable from 2009 revealed that Saleh gave the Pentagon an “open door” to launch bombing assaults on any person or group deemed a “terrorist” by Washington.

The absolute monarchy in Bahrain has been fully backed by Washington for its entire existence.

Bahrain was a long-time protectorate of Britain, which exerted all of its pressure to keep the country from holding democratic elections. The majority Shia population occupies the lowest rungs in the Bahraini economy and is disenfranchised in every way. Until 2002, women could not vote. All political opposition has been suppressed. But the United States has protected the kingdom throughout. Why? Because of Bahrain’s oil wealth, its increasingly important role in regional and world finance, and its location on the geo-strategic Persian Gulf.

Does Washington care about democracy in the Middle East? Hardly!

The White House declares its concern for the protesters only to protect their own image and mythology. In reality, it is an enemy of the Arab masses who have taken it upon themselves to reclaim their countries and their destinies. To the extent that the people succeed in defeating the dictatorships and replacing them with freer and more just societies, they will have to confront the Empire. It will not, and cannot, be an honest partner in this process. The Arab people, of course, know this all too well. From Tunisia to Yemen, the deep skepticism and hostility toward Western governments is well-deserved.

Western powers bring death and destruction, nothing else

This must be a starting point for activists located in the United States and Europe when it comes to the Libyan revolt.

Unlike in Egypt, where it was clear that all of society with the exception of a tiny comprador elite opposed Mubarak, there is comparatively little information about the remaining base of support for Col. Moammar Gaddafi. If it is substantial, the country could fall into civil war with a scale of violence that far exceeds that seen in Egypt. If such a tragedy ensues, a variety of political forces—from liberal to neoconservative—will begin to call for the United States government to “do something.” This could take the form of sanctions, U.N. intervention, or the imposition of no-fly zones.

Already some, like neoconservative Paul Wolfowitz, an architect of the Iraqi genocide, are advocating for such a “pro-active” approach. Sen. John Kerry, another pro-imperialist politician, is calling for sanctions, despite the horrific toll such a policy took on the Iraqi people during the 1990s.

Such threats must be absolutely rejected by progressive people. For one, the West would love to get boots on the ground in the region, with which they could influence and pressure the emerging Arab revolution. Secondly, these measures would be perceived as, and amount to, acts of war. The “peacekeeping” missions of the United States in Somalia and Yugoslavia were nothing other than bloody and destructive wars that widened conflict instead of solving it. Ask the people’s movements in Haiti or Palestine if the United Nation’s blue-helmeted occupations are any better.

The language of “we have to do something” is based on a fundamental misconception; the U.S., U.N. and NATO militaries are not “ours” to begin with, so “we” cannot use them for progressive aims.

The Libyan revolt

The revolt in Libya appears to have started among the long-time opposition to Gaddafi in the city of Benghazi. Initial reports indicated that the movement in Libya was not primarily composed of youth, as in Egypt and elsewhere, but of lawyers, judges, doctors and police officers. Very early on, it appeared that the defection of police and military units provided the anti-Gaddafi movement with arms. The fact that they have now reportedly “seized” entire cities in both the east and west of the country reflects a high degree of military sophistication.

Libya sits between Tunisia and Egypt, and it was only natural that the Arab revolt would draw in and inspire discontented youth in Libya. Their protest against Gaddafi undoubtedly has different roots than that of the middle-class opposition, which for decades resented Gaddafi’s formerly anti-imperialist stances. Like their counterparts elsewhere, they are in the streets because of high unemployment, inequality, and to demand a more open political system. The Libyan state’s military response—which, according to Al-Jazeera, included indiscriminate bombing of certain sections of Tripoli where protesters had gathered—appears to have only intensified opposition to the regime. As we write, the revolt appears to have control over broad sections of Libyan territory.

At present, the revolt has not produced any organizational form or leader that would make it possible to characterize it politically. It does not appear to be led or directed by “foreign forces.”

The National Front for the Salvation of Libya, an exile group that has been interviewed constantly by foreign media as a leading opposition force, was for decades trained by the CIA. They are loudly demanding that the imperialist countries “take action” against Gaddafi, and have appeared frustrated that the West has so far only issued statements. It is unclear what the NFSL has on the ground in Libya, and what role they are playing in the revolt.

Protesters have hoisted Libya’s first national flag, that of the exploitative, U.S.-backed monarch King Idris (1951-1969) over the areas they have seized. Some in the Libyan exile community consciously call for the return of the Idris monarchy, but it is unclear how deeply this sentiment runs among those in revolt.

Until the 1969 revolution, Libya was home to the U.S. Wheelus Air Force base—the largest airbase in the world at the time—and the average Libyan lived in dire poverty. For these reasons, there was essentially no resistance when Gaddafi and other military officers overthrew Idris. To return to such a kingdom—the goal of opportunistic monarchists in exile—could only be considered a step backward for the Libyan people, and would stand opposed to those striving for democracy.

During its leftist phase after 1969, the Libyan government used the country’s vast oil resources to carry out profound economic and social development, including in the fields of education, health care, nutrition, and a massive water project. In its proclamations, the Libyan government placed the country’s development within a radical and populist context, and promoted semi-socialist political and economic concepts.

Whereas in the 1950s over 80 percent of the population could not read or write, illiteracy was almost completely wiped out by the early 1970s. The Gaddafi government also provided significant aid to neighboring states and to national liberation movements around the world. Libya is still ranked the highest among African countries in the Human Development Index—which includes such factors as living conditions, life expectancy and education.

It was during the 1970s and 1980s that Libya was demonized, sanctioned and attacked by the U.S. government and its allies. In 1986, President Reagan ordered the bombing of downtown Tripoli in an attempt to assassinate Gaddafi. Gaddafi survived, but his infant daughter and more than 300 others were killed this murderous assault. Many more were maimed and wounded.

Although the Libyan regime appealed to the popular masses in its political program, the regime also included bourgeois forces within both the military and civilian sectors. Over time and under relentless pressure from western imperialism, these bourgeois forces—many of whom looked to the West—strengthened. In recent years, inequality has increased as the Libyan government has ushered in neoliberal reforms that have stripped social programs and subsidies for the poor and increasingly turned over the country’s oil wealth to foreign corporations.

Gaddafi is not a puppet of imperialism like Mubarak was, but he has decisively broken with the Arab popular liberation movements and has made many concessions to imperialism over the past decade. He has dismantled Libya’s weapons programs, officially supported the U.S. “war on terror,” and grown increasingly close to Italy, the former colonizer. In 2008, Gaddafi signed an accord with right-wing Italian leader Sergio Berlusconi to stop African immigrants from entering Italy in exchange for $5 billion in assistance over 25 years. While continuing to condemn Israel rhetorically, he expelled Palestinian migrant workers in the 1990s.

Gaddafi praised the popular uprising in Egypt, while also praising Tunisia’s former dictator Ben Ali after he was overthrown.

The developments in the last decade have greatly and understandably diminished his credibility among progressive and anti-imperialist forces in the region, almost all of which have declared their solidarity with the Libyan revolt.

While the U.S. media is in a particular frenzy against Gaddafi—speaking very suggestively about military intervention—Washington’s official line on Libya is at present similar to their messages regarding their puppets in Bahrain and Yemen. But as the revolt continues, taking on the characteristics of a civil war, U.S. policy may be shifting.

President Obama said about Libya on Feb. 23: “I have also asked my administration to prepare the full range of options that we have to respond to this crisis. This includes those actions we may take and those we will coordinate with our allies and partners or those that we’ll carry out through multilateral institutions.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton echoed this: “Everything will be on the table. We will look at all options.”

While the U.S. policymakers dream about owning Libya outright, and replacing Gaddafi with a client regime, their main concern is now, as it has always been, stable and guaranteed control over Middle East oil resources. To the extent Washington becomes more “pro-active” against Libya, it will mean they have devised a plan—or found someone better—to do that job.

As the third wave of revolution spreads, deepens, and faces new contradictions, it is the people of Libya and the Arab world who will determine their future. For activists here, our main task is to mobilize in opposition to any and all U.S. threats against Libya and the other countries of the Middle East and North Africa.

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Noam Chomsky: “This Is The Most Remarkable Regional Uprising That I Can Remember”

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February 02, 2011

Part 1

In recent weeks, popular uprisings in the Arab world have led to the ouster of Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the imminent end of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s regime, a new Jordanian government, and a pledge by Yemen’s longtime dictator to leave office at the end of his term. We speak to MIT Professor Noam Chomsky about what this means for the future of the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy in the region. When asked about President Obama’s remarks last night on Mubarak, Chomsky said: “Obama very carefully didn’t say anything… He’s doing what U.S. leaders regularly do. As I said, there is a playbook: whenever a favored dictator is in trouble, try to sustain him, hold on; if at some point it becomes impossible, switch sides.”

AMY GOODMAN: For analysis of the Egyptian uprising and its implications for the Middle East and beyond, we’re joined now by the world-renowned political dissident and linguist Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, author of over a hundred books, including his latest, Hopes and Prospects.

Noam, welcome to Democracy Now! Your analysis of what’s happening now in Egypt and what it means for the Middle East?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, first of all, what’s happening is absolutely spectacular. The courage and determination and commitment of the demonstrators is remarkable. And whatever happens, these are moments that won’t be forgotten and are sure to have long-term consequences, as the fact that they overwhelmed the police, took Tahrir Square, are staying there in the face of organized pro-Mubarak mobs, organized by the government to try to either drive them out or to set up a situation in which the army will claim to have to move in to restore order and then to maybe install some kind of military rule, whatever. It’s very hard to predict what’s going to happen. But the events have been truly spectacular. And, of course, it’s all over the Middle East. In Yemen, in Jordan, just about everywhere, there are the major consequences.

The United States, so far, is essentially following the usual playbook. I mean, there have been many times when some favored dictator has lost control or is in danger of losing control. There’s a kind of a standard routine—Marcos, Duvalier, Ceausescu, strongly supported by the United States and Britain, Suharto: keep supporting them as long as possible; then, when it becomes unsustainable—typically, say, if the army shifts sides—switch 180 degrees, claim to have been on the side of the people all along, erase the past, and then make whatever moves are possible to restore the old system under new names. That succeeds or fails depending on the circumstances.

And I presume that’s what’s happening now. They’re waiting to see whether Mubarak can hang on, as it appears he’s intending to do, and as long as he can, say, “Well, we have to support law and order, regular constitutional change,” and so on. If he cannot hang on, if the army, say, turns against him, then we’ll see the usual routine played out. Actually, the only leader who has been really forthright and is becoming the most—maybe already is—the most popular figure in the region is the Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan, who’s been very straight and outspoken.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam, I wanted to play for you what President Obama had to say yesterday.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We have spoken out on behalf of the need for change. After his speech tonight, I spoke directly to President Mubarak. He recognizes that the status quo is not sustainable and that a change must take place. Indeed, all of us who are privileged to serve in positions of political power do so at the will of our people. Through thousands of years, Egypt has known many moments of transformation. The voices of the Egyptian people tell us that this is one of those moments, this is one of those times. Now, it is not the role of any other country to determine Egypt’s leaders. Only the Egyptian people can do that. What is clear, and what I indicated tonight to President Mubarak, is my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now.

AMY GOODMAN: That was President Obama speaking yesterday in the White House. Noam Chomsky, your response to what President Obama said, the disappointment of many that he didn’t demand that Mubarak leave immediately? More importantly, the role of the United States, why the U.S. would have any say here, when it comes to how much it has supported the regime?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, Obama very carefully didn’t say anything. Mubarak would agree that there should be an orderly transition, but to what? A new cabinet, some minor rearrangement of the constitutional order—it’s empty. So he’s doing what U.S. leaders regularly do. As I said, there is a playbook: whenever a favored dictator is in trouble, try to sustain him, hold on; if at some point it becomes impossible, switch sides.

The U.S. has an overwhelmingly powerful role there. Egypt is the second-largest recipient over a long period of U.S. military and economic aid. Israel is first. Obama himself has been highly supportive of Mubarak. It’s worth remembering that on his way to that famous speech in Cairo, which was supposed to be a conciliatory speech towards the Arab world, he was asked by the press—I think it was the BBC—whether he was going to say anything about what they called Mubarak’s authoritarian government. And Obama said, no, he wouldn’t. He said, “I don’t like to use labels for folks. Mubarak is a good man. He has done good things. He has maintained stability. We will continue to support him. He is a friend.” And so on. This is one of the most brutal dictators of the region, and how anyone could have taken Obama’s comments about human rights seriously after that is a bit of a mystery. But the support has been very powerful in diplomatic dimensions. Military—the planes flying over Tahrir Square are, of course, U.S. planes. The U.S. is the—has been the strongest, most solid, most important supporter of the regime. It’s not like Tunisia, where the main supporter was France. They’re the primary guilty party there. But in Egypt, it’s clearly the United States, and of course Israel. Israel is—of all the countries in the region, Israel, and I suppose Saudi Arabia, have been the most outspoken and supportive of the Mubarak regime. In fact, Israeli leaders were angry, at least expressed anger, that Obama hadn’t taken a stronger stand in support of their friend Mubarak.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about what this means for the Middle East, Noam Chomsky. I mean, we’re talking about the massive protests that have taken place in Jordan, to the point where King Abdullah has now dismissed his cabinet, appointed a new prime minister. In Yemen there are major protests. There is a major protest called for Syria. What are the implications of this, the uprising from Tunisia to Egypt now?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, this is the most remarkable regional uprising that I can remember. I mean, it’s sometimes compared with Eastern Europe, but that’s not much of a comparison. For one thing, in this case, there’s no counterpart to Gorbachev among the—in the United States or other great powers supporting the dictatorships. That’s a huge difference. Another is that in the case of Eastern Europe, the United States and its allies followed the timeworn principle that democracy is fine, at least up to a point, if it accords with strategic and economic objectives, so therefore acceptable in enemy domains, but not in our own. That’s a well-established principle, and of course that sharply differentiates these two cases. In fact, about the only moderately reasonable comparison would be to Romania, where Ceausescu, the most vicious of the dictators of the region, was very strongly supported by the United States right up ’til the end. And then, when he—the last days, when he was overthrown and killed, the first Bush administration followed the usual rules: postured about being on the side of the people, opposed to dictatorship, tried to arrange for a continuation of close relations.

But this is completely different. Where it’s going to lead, nobody knows. I mean, the problems that the protesters are trying to address are extremely deep-seated, and they’re not going to be solved easily. There is a tremendous poverty, repression, a lack of not just democracy, but serious development. Egypt and other countries of the region have just been through a neoliberal period, which has led to growth on paper, but with the usual consequences: high concentration of extreme wealth and privilege, tremendous impoverishment and dismay for most of the population. And that’s not easily changed. We should also remember that, as far as the United States is concerned, what’s happening is a very old story. As far back as the 1950s, President Eisenhower was—

AMY GOODMAN: Ten seconds in the segment, Noam.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Pardon?

AMY GOODMAN: Ten seconds left in the segment.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Oh.

AMY GOODMAN: Make your point on Eisenhower.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Yeah, shall I go on?

AMY GOODMAN: Five seconds. If you could—we’ll save that for our web exclusive right afterwards. We’ve been speaking with Noam Chomsky. You can go to our website at democracynow.org, and we’ll play more of our interview with him tomorrow on Democracy Now!

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Part 2

AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, you were just talking about the significance of what’s happening in the Middle East, and you were bringing it back to President Dwight Eisenhower.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, in 1958, Eisenhower—this is in internal discussions, since declassified—Eisenhower expressed his concern for what he called the “campaign of hatred against us” in the Arab world, not by the governments, but by the people. Remember, 1958, this was a rather striking moment. Just two years before, Eisenhower had intervened forcefully to compel Israel, Britain and France to withdraw from their invasion of Egyptian territory. And you would have expected enormous enthusiasm and support for the United States at that moment, and there was, briefly, but it didn’t last, because policies returned to the norm. So when he was speaking two years later, there was, as he said, a “campaign of hatred against us.” And he was naturally concerned why. Well, the National Security Council, the highest planning body, had in fact just come out with a report on exactly this issue. They concluded that, yes, indeed, there’s a campaign of hatred. They said there’s a perception in the Arab world that the United States supports harsh and brutal dictators and blocks democracy and development, and does so because we’re interested in—we’re concerned to control their energy resources.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam, I wanted to go for a minute to that famous address of the general, of the Republican president, of the president of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower.

PRESIDENT DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER: My fellow Americans, this evening I come to you with a message of leave-taking and farewell and to share a few final thoughts with you, my countrymen. We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Three-and-a-half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. The total—economic, political, even spiritual—is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development, yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

AMY GOODMAN: That was President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his farewell address in 1961. Special thanks to Eugene Jarecki and his film Why We Fight, that brought it to us in the 21st century. Noam Chomsky, with us on the phone from his home near Boston, Noam, continue with the significance of what Eisenhower was saying and what the times were there and what they have to teach us today about this Middle East uprising.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Yeah, the military-industrial complex speech, the famous one, was after what I’ve just been talking about. That was as he was leaving office and a important speech, of course. Needless to say, the situation he described not only persists but indeed has amplified.

It should be mentioned that there’s another element to the military-industrial complex issue, which he didn’t bring up. At that time, in the 1950s, as he certainly knew, the Pentagon was funding what became—a lot of Pentagon funding was going into creating what became the next phase of the high-tech economy at that time: computers, micro-electronics, shortly after, the internet. Much of this developed through a Pentagon subsidy funding procurement, other mechanisms. So it was a kind of a cover for shifting—for a basic theme of contemporary economic development. That is, the public pays the costs and takes the risks, and eventual profit is privatized, in the case of computers and the internet, after decades. So that’s another aspect of the military-industrial complex which is worth keeping in mind.

But Eisenhower was speaking particularly about the military aspect, what’s called “defense,” though in fact it’s mostly aggression, intervention, subversion. It doesn’t defend the country; it harms it, most of the time. But that’s separate from the—not, of course, unrelated, but distinct from the Middle East problem. There, what Eisenhower and the National Security Council were describing is a persistent pattern. He was describing—they were describing it in 1950. And I’ll repeat the basic conclusion: the United States does support brutal and harsh dictatorships, blocks democracy and development; the goal is to maintain control over the incomparable energy resources of the region—incidentally, not to use them. The U.S.—one of the things that Eisenhower was doing at exactly the same time was pursuing a program to exhaust U.S. energy reserves, rather than using much cheaper Middle East energy, for the benefit of Texas oil producers. That’s a program that went on from the late ’50s for about 15 years. So, at the time, it was not a matter of importing oil from Saudi Arabia, but just ensuring the maintenance of control over the world’s major energy resources. And that, as the National Security Council concluded correctly, was leading to the campaign of hatred against us, the support for dictators, for repression, for violence and the blocking of democracy and development.

Now, that was the 1950s. And those words could be written today. You take a look at what’s happening in the Middle East today. There’s a campaign of hatred against the United States, in Tunisia against France, against Britain, for supporting brutal, harsh dictators, repressive, vicious, imposing poverty and suffering in the midst of great wealth, blocking democracy and development, and doing so because of the primary goal, which remains to maintain control over the energy resources of the region. What the National Security Council wrote in 1958 could be restated today in almost the same words.

Right after 9/11, the Wall Street Journal, to its credit, did a—ran a poll in the Muslim world, not of the general population, of the kind of people they are interested in, I think what they called the moneyed Muslims or some phrase like that—professionals, directors of multinational corporations, bankers, people deeply embedded in the whole U.S.-dominated neoliberal project there—so not what’s called anti-American. And it was an interesting poll. In fact, the results were very much like those that were described in 1958. There was tremendous—there wasn’t a campaign of hatred against the U.S. among these people, but there was tremendous antagonism to U.S. policies. And the reasons were pretty much the same: the U.S. is blocking democracy and development; it’s supporting dictators. By that time, there were salient issues that—some of which didn’t exist in 1958. For example, there was a tremendous opposition in these groups to the murderous sanctions in Iraq, which didn’t arouse much attention here, but they certainly did in the region. Hundreds of thousands of people were being killed. The civilian society was being destroyed. The dictator was being strengthened. And that did cause tremendous anger. And, of course, there was great anger about U.S. support for Israeli crimes, atrocities, illegal takeover of occupied territories and so on, settlement programs. Those were other issues, which also, to a limited extent, existed in ’58, but not like 2001.

So that—and in fact, right now, we have direct evidence about attitudes of the Arab population. I think I mentioned this on an earlier broadcast, strikingly not reported, but extremely significant. Now, last August, the Brookings Institute released a major poll of Arab opinion, done by prestigious and respected polling agencies, one of them. They do it regularly. And the results were extremely significant. They reveal that there is again, still, a campaign of hatred against the United States. When asked about threats to the region, the ones that were picked, near unanimously, were Israel and the United States—88 percent Israel, about 77 percent the United States, regarded as the threats to the region. Of course, they asked about Iran. Ten percent of the population thought Iran was a threat. In the list of respected personalities, Erdogan was first. I think there were about 10. Neither Obama or any other Western figure was even mentioned. Saddam Hussein had higher respect.

Now, this is quite striking, especially in the light of the WikiLeaks revelations. The most—the one that won the headlines and that was—led to great enthusiasm and euphoria was the revelation, whether accurate or not—we don’t know—but the claim, at least, by diplomats that the Arab dictators were supporting the U.S. in its confrontation with Iran. And, you know, enthusiastic headlines about how Arab states support—the Arabs support the United States. That’s very revealing. What the commentators and the diplomats were saying is the Arab dictators support us, even though the population is overwhelming opposed, everything’s fine, everything’s under control, it’s quiet, they’re passive, and the dictators support us, so what could be a problem? In fact, Arab opinion was so antagonistic to the United States in this—as revealed in this poll, that a majority of the Arab population, 57 percent, actually thought the region would be better off if Iran had nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, the conclusion here, and in England and the continent, was it’s all wonderful. The dictators support us. We can disregard the population, because they’re quiet. As long as they’re quiet, who cares? People don’t matter. Actually, there’s an analog of that internal to the United States. And it’s of course the same policy elsewhere in the world. All of that reveals a contempt for democracy and for public opinion which is really profound. And one has to listen with jaws dropping when Obama, in the clip you ran, talks about how, of course, governments depend on the people. Our policy is the exact opposite.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, I wanted to read to you what Robert Fisk has written from the streets of Cairo today. Robert Fisk, the well-known reporter from The Independent of London. He said, “One of the blights of history will now involve a U.S. president who held out his hand to the Islamic world and then clenched his fist when it fought a dictatorship and demanded democracy.” Noam Chomsky, your response?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, Fisk’s reporting, as usual, has been inspiring and phenomenal. And yeah, he’s exactly right. And it is the old pattern. As I say, it goes back 50 years right there in Egypt and the region, and it’s the same elsewhere. As long as the population is passive and obedient, it doesn’t matter if there’s a campaign of hatred against us. It doesn’t matter if they believe that our official enemy can perhaps save them from our attacks. In fact, nothing matters, as long as the dictators support us. That’s the view here.

We should remember there’s an analog here. I mean, it’s not the same, of course, but the population in the United States is angry, frustrated, full of fear and irrational hatreds. And the folks not far from you on Wall Street are just doing fine. They’re the ones who created the current crisis. They’re the ones who were called upon to deal with it. They’re coming out stronger and richer than ever. But everything’s fine, as long as the population is passive. If one-tenth of one percent of the population is gaining a preponderant amount of the wealth that’s produced, while for the rest there 30 years of stagnation, just fine, as long as everyone’s quiet. That’s the scenario that has been unfolding in the Middle East, as well, just as it did in Central America and other domains.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam, I wanted to ask you if you think the revelations from WikiLeaks,—right?—the U.S. diplomatic cables, before that, Iraq and Afghan war logs, this massive trove of documents that have been released, Julian Assange talking about the critical issue of transparency—have played a key role here. I mean, in terms of Tunisia, a young university graduate who ended up, because there were no jobs, just selling vegetables in a market, being harassed by police, immolates himself—that was the spark. But also, the documents that came out on Tunisia confirming the U.S. knowledge, while it supported the Tunisian regime, that it was wholly corrupt, and what this means from one country to another, Yemen, as well. Do you think there is a direct relationship?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, actually, the fact of the matter is that WikiLeaks are not really telling us anything dramatically new. They’re providing confirmation, often, of reasonable surmises. Tunisia was a very interesting case. So the ambassador did have a—one of the leaks comes from the ambassador, July 2009, and he describes Tunisia. He says it’s a police state with little freedom of expression or association, serious human rights problems, ruled by a dictator whose family is despised for their corruption, robbery of the population and so on. That’s the assessment of the ambassador. Not long after that, the U.S. singled out Tunisia for an extra shipment of military aid. Not just Tunisia, also two other Arab dictatorships—Egypt and Jordan—and of course Israel—it’s routine—and one other country, namely Colombia, the country with the worst human rights record in the western hemisphere for years and the leading recipient of U.S. military aid for years, two elements that correlate quite closely, it’s been shown.

Well, this tells you what the understanding was about Tunisia—namely, police state, a bitterly hated dictator and so on. But we send them more arms afterwards, because the population is quiet, so everything’s fine. Actually, there was a description by—a very succinct account of all of this by a former high Jordanian official who’s now director of Middle East research for the Carnegie Endowment, Marwan Muasher. He said, “This is the principle.” He said, “There is nothing wrong. Everything is under control.” Meaning, as long as the population is quiet, acquiescent—maybe fuming with rage, but doing nothing about it—everything’s fine, there’s nothing wrong, it’s all under control. That’s the operative principle.

AMY GOODMAN: He’s a former Jordanian diplomat.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Former Jordanian official, high official.

AMY GOODMAN: What about what’s happening now in Jordan, what you think is going to happen, and also in Saudi Arabia, how much it drives this and what you feel Obama needs to do and what you think he actually is doing?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, Jordan, the prime minister was just replaced. He was replaced with an ex-general who seems to be—is claimed to be moderately popular, at least not hated by the population. But essentially nothing changed. There are changes of the Jordanian cabinet frequently, and the basic system remains. Whether the population will accept that, whether the Muasher principle will work—nothing’s wrong, everything’s under control—that, we don’t know.

Saudi Arabia is an interesting case. Saudi Arabia—the king of Saudi Arabia has been, along with Israel, the strongest supporter, most outspoken supporter of Mubarak. And the Saudi Arabian case should remind us of something about the regular commentary on this issue. The standard line and commentary is that, of course, we love democracy, but for pragmatic reasons we must sometimes reluctantly oppose it, in this case because of the threat of radical Islamists, the Muslim Brotherhood. Well, you know, there’s maybe some—whatever one thinks of that. Take a look at Saudi Arabia. That’s the leading center of radical Islamist ideology. That’s been the source of it for years. The United States has—it’s also the support of Islamic terror, the source for Islamic terror or the ideology that supports it. That’s the leading U.S. ally, and has been for a long, long time. The U.S. supported—U.S. relations, close relations, with Israel, incidentally, after the 1967 war, escalated because Israel had struck a serious blow against secular Arab nationalism, the real enemy, Nasser’s Egypt, and in defense of radical Islam, Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia and Egypt had been in a proxy war just before that, and there was a major conflict. And that’s quite typical.

Probably the most—going back to WikiLeaks, maybe the most significant revelation has to do with Pakistan. In Pakistan, the WikiLeaks cables show that the ambassador, Ambassador Patterson, is pretty much on top of what’s going on. There’s enormous—the phrase “campaign of hatred against the United States” is an understatement. The population is passionately anti-American, increasingly so, largely, as she points out, as a result of U.S. actions in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, the pressure on the Pakistani military to invade the tribal zones, the drone attacks and so on. And she goes on to say that this may even lead to the—what is in fact the ultimate nightmare, that Pakistan’s enormous nuclear facilities, which incidentally are being increased faster than anywhere else in the world, that these—there might be leakage of fissile materials into the hands of the radical Islamists, who are growing in strength and gaining popular support as a result of—in part, as a result of actions that we’re taking.

Well, this goes back to—this didn’t happen overnight. The major factor behind this is the rule of the dictator Zia-ul-Haq back in the 1980s. He was the one who carried out radical Islamization of Pakistan, with Saudi funding. He set up these extremist madrassas. The young lawyers who were in the streets recently shouting their support for the assassin of the political figure who opposed the blasphemy laws, they’re a product of those madrassas. Who supported him? Ronald Reagan. He was Reagan’s favorite dictator in the region. Well, you know, events have consequences. You support radical Islamization, and there are consequences. But the talk about concern about the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, whatever its reality, is a little bit ironic, when you observe that the U.S. and, I should say, Britain, as well, have traditionally supported radical Islam, in part, sometimes as a barrier to secular nationalism.

What’s the real concern is not Islam or radicalism; it’s independence. If the radical Islamists are independent, well, they’re an enemy. If secular nationalists are independent, they are an enemy. In Latin America, for decades, when the Catholic Church, elements of the Catholic Church, were becoming independent, the liberation theology movement, they were an enemy. We carried out a major war against the church. Independence is what’s intolerable, and pretty much for the reasons that the National Security Council described in the case of the Arab world 50 years ago.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, I wanted to read to you what two people are writing. One is Ethan Bronner in the New York Times, saying, “Despite [Mr.] Mubarak’s supportive relations with Israel, many Israelis on both the left and right are sympathetic [to] the Egyptians’ desire to rid themselves of his autocracy and build a democracy. But they fear what will follow if things move too quickly.” He quotes a top Israeli official saying, “We know this has to do with the desire for freedom, prosperity and opportunity, and we support people who don’t want to live under tyranny, but who will take advantage of what is happening in its wake?” The official goes on to say, “The prevailing sense here is that you need a certain stability followed by reform. Snap elections are likely to bring a very different outcome,” the official said.

And then there’s Richard Cohen, who’s writing in the Washington Post. And Richard Cohen writes—and let me see if I can find this clip. Richard Cohen writes that—let’s see if I can find it—”Things are about to go from bad to worse in the Middle East. An Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement is nowhere in sight.”

Noam Chomsky, your response?

NOAM CHOMSKY: The comment of the Israeli official is standard boilerplate. Stalin could have said it. Yes, of course, the people want peace and freedom, democracy; we’re all in favor of that. But not now, please. Because we don’t like what the outcome will be. In fact, it’s worth bearing—in the case—it’s the same with Obama. It’s more or less the same comment. On the other hand, the Israeli officials have been vociferous and outspoken in support of Mubarak and denunciation of the popular movement and the demonstrations. Perhaps only Saudi Arabia has been so outspoken in this regard. And the reason is the same. They very much fear what democracy would bring in Egypt.

After all, they’ve just seen it in Palestine. There has been one free election in the Arab world, exactly one really free election—namely, in Palestine, January 2006, carefully monitored, recognized to be free, fair, open and so on. And right after the election, within days, the United States and Israel announced publicly and implemented policies of harsh attack against the Palestinian people to punish them for running a free election. Why? The wrong people won. Elections are just fine, if they come out the way we want them to.

So, if in, say, Poland under Russian rule, popular movements were calling for freedom, we cheer. On the other hand, if popular movements in Central America are trying to get rid of brutal dictatorships, we send—we arm the military and carry out massive terrorist wars to crush it. We will cheer Václav Havel in Czechoslovakia standing up against the enemy, and at the very same moment, elite forces, fresh from renewed training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, under command of the military, blow the brains out of six leading Latin American intellectuals, Jesuit priests, in El Salvador. That passes in silence. But those are the—that’s exactly the pattern that we see replicated over and over again.

And it’s even recognized by conservative scholarship. The leading studies of—scholarly studies of what’s called “democracy promotion” happen to be by a good, careful scholar, Thomas Carruthers, who’s a neo-Reaganite. He was in Reagan’s State Department working on programs of democracy promotion, and he thinks it’s a wonderful thing. But he concludes from his studies, ruefully, that the U.S. supports democracy, if and only if it accords with strategic and economic objectives. Now, he regards this as a paradox. And it is a paradox if you believe the rhetoric of leaders. He even says that all American leaders are somehow schizophrenic. But there’s a much simpler analysis: people with power want to retain and maximize their power. So, democracy is fine if it accords with that, and it’s unacceptable if it doesn’t.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam, there’s a sign, a big banner that people are holding in the square, in Tahrir, that says, “Yes, we can, too.”

NOAM CHOMSKY: Let’s what? I’m sorry, I didn’t hear.

AMY GOODMAN: The banner says, “Yes, we can, too.”

NOAM CHOMSKY: Oh, “Yes, we can, too.” Yeah. You know where they got that from. Well, except that they mean it. Whether they can or not, no one knows. I mean, the situation has—we should recognize, has ominous aspects. The dispatch of pro-Mubarak thugs to the square is dangerous and frightening. Mubarak, presumably with U.S. backing, feels that—clearly feels that he can reestablish control. They’ve opened the internet again. The army is sitting by. We don’t know what they’ll do. But they might very well use the conflicts in the streets, caused by the pro-Mubarak gangs that have been sent in, to say, “Well, we have to establish military control,” and they’ll be another form of the military dictatorships that have been, you know, the effective power in Egypt for a long time.

Another crucial is how long the demonstrators can sustain themselves, not only against terror and violence, but also just against economic crisis. Within a short time, maybe beginning already, there isn’t going to be bread, water. The economy is collapsing. They have shown absolutely incredible courage and determination, but, you know, there’s a limit to what human flesh can bear. So, amazing as all this is, there’s no guarantee of success.

If the United States, the population of the United States, Europe—if there is substantial vocal, outspoken support, that could make a difference. Now, remember the Muasher principle: as long as everyone’s quiet, everything’s under control, it’s all fine. But when they break those bonds, it’s not fine. You have to do something.

AMY GOODMAN: If you were president today, what would you do right now, president of the United States?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, if I were—if I had made it to the presidency, meaning with the kind of constituency and support that’s required to be a president in the United States, I’d probably do what Obama’s doing. But what ought to be done is what Erdogan is doing. Turkey is becoming the most significant country in the region, and it’s recognized. Erdogan is far and away the most popular figure. And they’ve taken a pretty constructive role on many issues. And in this case, he is the one leading public figure, leader, who has been frank, outspoken, clear, and says Mubarak must go now. Now is when we must have change. That’s the right stand. Nothing like that in Europe, and nothing like that here.

AMY GOODMAN: And what do you think of the role of the U.S. corporations? We spoke to Bill Hartung, who wrote this book, Prophets of Power, P-R-O-P-H-E-T-S, about Lockheed Martin. The overwhelming amount of money, the billions, that have gone to Egypt, haven’t really gone to Egypt; they’ve gone to U.S. weapons manufacturers, like General Dynamics, like Lockheed Martin, like Boeing, etc. In fact, Boeing owns Narus, which is the digital technology that’s involved with surveillance of the cell phone, of the internet system there, where they can find dissident voices for the Egyptian regime. And who knows what they will do with those voices, just among others? But these corporations that have made such a killing off the repression, where are they standing right now in terms of U.S. policy?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, they don’t issue press releases, so we have to speculate. But it’s pretty obvious that they have a major stake in the dictatorships, not just Egypt. So, for example, a couple of months ago, Obama announced the biggest military sale in history to Saudi Arabia, $60 billion worth of jet planes, helicopters, armored vehicles and so on and so forth. The pretext is that we have to defend Saudi Arabia against Iran. Remember that among the population, if anyone cares about them, 10 percent regard Iran as a threat, and a majority think the region would be better off if Iran had nuclear weapons. But we have to defend them against Iran by sending them military equipment, which would do them absolutely no good in any confrontation with Iran. But it does a lot of good for the American military-industrial complex that Eisenhower was referring to in that clip you ran a while back. So, yes, William Hartung was quite right about this.

In fact, a part of the reason why there is such strong support for Israel in the military lobby, in the military-industrial lobby in the United States, is that the massive arms transfers to Israel, which, whatever they’re called, end up essentially being gifts, they go from the U.S.—the pocket of the U.S. taxpayer into the pocket of military industry. But there’s also a secondary effect, which is well understood. They’re a kind of a teaser. When the U.S. sends, you know, the most advanced jet aircraft, F-35s, to Israel, then Saudi Arabia says, “Well, we want a hundred times as much second-rate equipment,” which is a huge bonanza for military industry, and it also recycles petrodollars, which is an important—a necessity for the U.S. economy. So these things are quite closely tied together.

And it’s not just military industry. Construction projects, development, telecommunications—in the case of Israel, high-tech industry. So, Intel Corporation, the major—the world’s major chip producer, has announced a new generation of chips, which they hope will be the next generation of chips, and they’re building their main factory in Israel. Just announced an expansion of it. The relations are very close and intimate all the way through—again, in the Arab world, certainly not among the people, but we have the Muasher principle. As long as they’re quiet, who cares? We can disregard them.

AMY GOODMAN: And the significance of Mubarak in the Israel-Palestine-Egypt axis? I mean, going back to 1979, if you could briefly remind people why he’s so important, as the media keeps saying he has meant peace and stability with Israel, he gives the U.S. access to their air space, he guarantees access to the Suez Canal. Talk about that and what the change would mean.

NOAM CHOMSKY: We should actually go back a little further. In 1971, President Sadat of Egypt offered Israel a full peace treaty in return for withdrawal from the Occupied Territories. He cared about the Sinai, not—but Israel considered it, rejected it. Henry Kissinger, national security adviser, supported the rejection. State Department then supported Sadat. And Israel—it was a fateful decision. That’s the point at which Israel quite explicitly chose expansion over security. They were then expanding into the Sinai, planning to build a city of a million people, Egyptian Sinai, settlements driving farmers out into the desert and so on. Well, that was the background for the 1973 war, which made it clear that Egypt can’t simply be dismissed. Then we move on to the negotiations which led, in 1979, to the U.S. and Israel pretty much accepting Sadat’s offer of 1971: withdrawal from the Sinai in return for a peace treaty. That’s called a great diplomatic triumph. In fact, it was a diplomatic catastrophe. The failure to accept it in 1971 led to a very dangerous war, suffering, brutality and so on. And finally, the U.S. and Israel essentially, more or less, accepted it.

Now, as soon as that settlement was made, 1979, Israeli strategic analysts—the main one was Avner Yaniv, but others, too—recognized right away that now that Egypt is excluded from the confrontation, Israel is free to use force in other areas. And indeed, it very soon after that attacked Lebanon, didn’t have to worry about an Egyptian deterrent. Now, that was gone, so we can attack Lebanon. And that was a brutal, vicious attack, killed 15,000, 20,000 people, led finally to the Sabra-Shatila massacre, destroyed lots of—most of southern Lebanon. And no defensive rationale. In fact, it wasn’t even pretended. It was an effort to—as it was said, it was a war for the West Bank. It was an effort to block embarrassing Palestinian negotiation, diplomatic offers, and move forward on integrating the Occupied Territories. Well, they were free to do that once the Egyptian deterrent was gone. And that continues. Egypt is the major Arab state, the biggest military force by far, and neutralizing Egypt does free Israel—and when I say Israel, I mean the United States and Israel, because they work in tandem—it frees them to carry out the crimes of the occupation, attacks on Lebanon—there have been five invasions already, there might be another one—and Egypt does not interfere.

Furthermore, Egypt cooperates in the crushing of Gaza. That terrible free election in January 2006 not only frightened the U.S. and Israel—they didn’t like the outcome, so turned instantly to punishing the Palestinians—but the same in Egypt. The victor in the election was Hamas, which is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. That was very much feared by the Egyptian dictatorship, because if they ever allowed anything like a free election, the Muslim Brotherhood would no doubt make out quite well, maybe not a majority, but it would be a substantial political force. And they don’t want that, so therefore they cooperate. Egypt, under Mubarak, cooperates with Israel in crushing [Gaza], built a huge fence on the Egyptian border, with U.S. engineering help, and it sort of monitors the flow of goods in and out of Gaza on the Egyptian side. It essentially completes the siege that the U.S. and Israel have imposed. Well, all of that could erode if there was a democratic movement that gained influence in Egypt, just as it did in Palestine.

I should mention that there’s one other semi-democratic election in the Arab world, regularly. Now, that’s in Lebanon. Lebanon is a complex story. It’s a confessional democracy, so the Shiite population, which is the largest of the sects, is significantly underrepresented under the confessional system. But nevertheless the elections are not just state elections under dictatorships. And they have outcomes, too, which are suppressed here. So, for example, in the last election, the majority, a popular majority, was the Hezbollah-led coalition. They were the popular majority in the last election. I think about 53 percent. Well, that’s not the way it was described here. If you read, say, Thomas Friedman, he wrote an ode about the election about—he was practically shedding tears of joy at free elections, in which Obama won over Ahmadinejad. Well, you know, what he meant is that in the representation under the confessional system, which seriously underrepresents the Shiite population, the pro-U.S. coalition won the most seats. That again reflects the standard contempt for democracy. All we care—we don’t care that the majority of the population went the other way, as long as they’re quiet and passive. And interestingly, Hezbollah quietly accepted the outcome, didn’t protest about it at the time. But since then, their power has increased, and now there’s a serious threat in Lebanon, which we should not overlook.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam, finally, as we wrap up, I’ve asked you a lot about what this means for the Middle East, this rolling revolution, from Tunisia to Egypt, what we’re seeing in Jordan, in Yemen and beyond. But what about what these mass protests mean for people in the United States?

NOAM CHOMSKY: I think they mean a lot, and I’ve been trying to hint about that. The doctrine that everything is fine as long as the population is quiet, that applies in the Middle East, applies in Central America, it applies in the United States. For the last 30 years, we have had state-corporate policies specifically designed—specifically designed, not accidentally—to enrich and empower a tiny sector of the population, one percent—in fact, one-tenth of one percent. That’s the basic source of the extreme inequality. Tax policies, rules of corporate governance, a whole mass of policies, have been very explicitly designed to achieve this end—deregulation and so on. Well, for most of the population, that’s meant pretty much stagnation over a long period. Now, people have been getting by, by sharply increasing the number of work hours, far beyond Europe, by debt, by asset inflation like the recent housing bubble. But those things can’t last.

And as soon as Obama came into office, he came in in the midst of the worst crisis since the Depression. In fact, Ben Bernanke, we know from recent testimony that was released, head of the Fed, said it was even worse than the banking crisis in 1929. So there was a real crisis. Who did he pick to patch up the crisis? The people who had created it, the Robert Rubin gang, Larry Summers, Timothy Geithner, basically the people who were responsible for the policies that led to the crisis. And it’s not surprising. I mean, Obama’s primary constituency was financial institutions. They were the core of the funding for his campaign. They expect to be paid back. And they were. They were paid back by coming out richer and more powerful than they were before the crisis that they created.

Meanwhile, the population, much of the population, is literally in depression. If you look at the unemployment figures, among the top few percent, maybe 10, 20 percent, unemployment is not particularly high. In fact, it’s rather low. When you go down to the bottom of the income ladder, you know, the lower quintiles, unemployment is at Depression levels. In manufacturing industry, it is at Depression levels.

And it’s different from the Depression. In the Depression, which I’m old enough to remember, it was very severe. My own family was mostly unemployed working class. But there was a sense of hopefulness. Something is—we can do something. There’s CIO organizing. There’s sitdown strikes, that compelled New Deal measures, which were helpful and hopeful. And there was a sense that somehow we’ll get out of this, that we’re in it together, we can work together, we can get out of it. That’s not true now. Now there’s a general atmosphere of hopelessness, despair, anger and deep irrationality. That’s a very dangerous mix. Hatred of foreigners, you know, a mix of attitudes which is volatile and dangerous, quite different from the mood in the Depression.

But the same governing principle applies: as long as the population is—accepts what’s going on, is directing their anger against teachers, you know, firemen, policemen, pensions and so on, as long as they’re directing their anger there, and not against us, the rulers, everything’s under control, everything’s fine. Until it erupts. Well, it hasn’t erupted here yet, and if it does erupt, it might not be at a constructive direction, given the nature of what’s happening in the country now. But yes, those Egyptian lessons should be taken to heart. We can see clearly what people can do under conditions of serious duress and repression far beyond anything that we face, but they’re doing it. If we don’t do it, the outcome could be quite ugly.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Noam, author, Institute Professor Emeritus at MIT, and most recent book, Hopes and Prospects, has written more than a hundred books.

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With uprising in Egypt, national liberation struggles intensify in the Middle East

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Chicago protest in solidarity with people of Egypt (Fight Back! News/Chapin Gray)

The following analysis by Kosta Harlan is from Fight Back! News:

History is unfolding before our eyes in Egypt this week, as millions of Egyptians take to the streets to demand the ouster of Hosni Mubarak and fundamental democratic reforms. The future is unwritten, but there is no doubt that the Jan. 25 movement marks a turning point in the struggle for national liberation in the Middle East. For what the Egyptian people are proving as they march through the streets demanding justice and pushing back against police forces wielding tear gas and live ammunition, is that the people are stronger than their oppressors.

Jan. 25 – The Day of Anger

The uprising began with protests called by a number of opposition groups for Jan. 25 and followed on the heels of rigged parliamentary elections in late 2010. The core demands were for President Hosni Mubarak to step down and for democratic reforms to the political system. Egypt has been hard hit by the global economic crisis and economic concerns have been an important factor in mobilizing people to demonstrate. Tens of thousands took to the streets in Cairo’s Tahrir (Liberation) Square, while thousands more marched in Alexandria, Mahallah and other cities across Egypt.

What followed exceeded the expectations of all forces involved. Instead of backing down in the face of intense, heavy-handed police repression, thousands more demonstrators took to the streets on Jan. 26. Police used live ammunition on protesters in Suez, where government buildings and the police station were set on fire.

Jan. 27 was more subdued, as people prepared for what was to take place on Jan. 28. As Friday prayers ended, hundreds of thousands took to the streets demanding that Mubarak leave the country.

Fierce battles took place between riot police and demonstrators, many of them youth, who hurled stones and set up barricades to defend their positions. Government buildings across the country, including the ruling National Democratic Party headquarters in Cairo, were set ablaze. Armed with stones and sticks, the protesters have time and time again succeeded in overwhelming thousands of well-armed and deadly riot police. The heroism, dedication and self-sacrifice of the Egyptian youth has inspired millions of people around the world who are watching this epic struggle for liberation and democracy play out in the streets of Cairo, Suez and other cities in Egypt.

On Jan. 29, faced with open rebellion in the streets, Mubarak responded by dismissing the government and appointed Omar Suleiman, the head of Egyptian intelligence, as vice president.

Conflicting reports have emerged on the role of the army. In some places, there are reports that the army has fired on protesters, while in many other places, including Tahrir Square, reports indicate that army commanders have sided with the protesters and are protecting them from the riot police.

In the course of the last five days, at least 102 people have been killed, 2000 injured and nearly 1000 people have been detained.

U.S. SUPPORT FOR THE EGYPTIAN REGIME

As the first day of protests revealed that the Egyptian people would not retreat in the face of intense police repression, including rubber bullets, tear gas and live ammunition, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.”

In other words, the U.S. initially intended to back Mubarak against the wave of mass protests.

This is because the fall of Mubarak and the replacement of the oligarchy’s dictatorship with a national democratic government would present serious problems for U.S. interests not just in Egypt, but across the Middle East.

As a worried article in the Israel paper Ha’aretz put it, the fall of Hosni Mubarak’s government “leaves Israel in a state of strategic distress.” The author of the article continues, “Without Mubarak, Israel is left with almost no friends in the Middle East.” (In fact, the only other ‘friends’ would be the now thoroughly discredited Palestinian Authority and Jordan, which is witnessing its own mass protests calling for the ouster of the Jordanian government.)

Since the Camp David Accords of 1978, Egypt’s government under Hosni Mubarak has consistently backed Israel’s apartheid regime, betrayed the struggles of the Palestinian people for freedom and been an ally to the U.S. in its plans to exert control over the oil-rich countries of the Middle East.

Unsurprisingly, the Israeli flag no longer flies in Cairo, as the embassy has been evacuated and the Israeli Labor MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, was left to lament, “Israel cannot do anything about what is happening there. All we can do is express our support for Mubarak and hope the riots pass quietly.”

ECONOMIC INTERESTS

The United States also has substantial economic interests at stake in Egypt. Egypt’s 25 million-strong workforce is one of the largest in the Middle East. The United States is Egypt’s number one trading partner for both exports (9.67%) and imports (11.7%). According to the CIA World Factbook, Egypt is the U.S.’s largest market for wheat and corn sales, in exports that value $1 billion annually and which account for about half of Egypt’s total wheat and corn imports. Egypt’s textile and agricultural industries are important for the region.

The Suez Canal, where violence has been among the heaviest – at the time of this writing, 28 people in Suez are known to have been killed by police – is critical to the global economy. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) describes it as a “chokepoint.” As the EIA notes, “The international energy market is dependent upon reliable transport. The blockage of a chokepoint, even temporarily, can lead to substantial increases in total energy costs.”

According to the EIA, about 1.8 million barrels of crude oil and refined petroleum passed through the Suez Canal each day in 2009. 35,000 ships transited through the Canal in 2009. If the Suez Canal were to be closed, tankers would have to be diverted around the southern tip of Africa, which would add 6000 miles and two to three weeks to the transit time. This would result in a major rise in oil prices.

U.S. MILITARY AID TO EGYPT

For these key reasons – Mubarak’s support for Israel, the economic interests at stake and the Suez Canal – it is no surprise that Egypt is the number two recipient of military aid from the United States. Only Israel receives more money from the United States.

In 2004, a hearing on the future of U.S.-Egyptian Relations at the House of Representatives noted that since the Camp David Accords, Egypt received $1.3 billion per year in military aid, while between 1975 and 2002, the U.S. Agency of International Development provided over $25 billion dollars. The hearing also heard that, “Under our Foreign Military Sales programs, the U.S. has provided jet fighters, tanks, armored personnel carriers, Apache helicopters, anti-aircraft missile batteries, surveillance aircraft and other equipment.”

It is no accident, then, that the thousands of tear gas canisters fired by riot police at demonstrators this week have “Made in U.S.A.” stamped on them.

CLASS STRUGGLE IN THE EGYPTIAN REVOLUTION

The course of events indicates that Mubarak will likely be forced to flee Egypt, just as Tunisia’s ex-President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled in the face of that country’s national-democratic revolution.

The key question is what will come next. If Mubarak flees, what will become of the oligarchy that has ruled Egypt with him? And what will become of the western dominated economy and the organs of state repression that have held down the Egyptian people for so many years?

One thing is for certain: the U.S. will do everything in its power to ensure that events turn out to its benefit. We can be sure that U.S. diplomats are in frantic communication with leaders in the Egyptian Army and the ruling National Democratic Party to pick a suitable leader that appears to provide substantial reform, while remaining loyal to the core U.S. interests in the region.

International solidarity will be critical to ensuring that the Egyptian people can choose their own destiny and determine their own futures. Progressive people everywhere have been demonstrating in front of U.S. and Egyptian embassies, demanding that Mubarak exit Egypt.

Even more encouraging, mass demonstrations in Jordan, Palestine and Yemen echo the calls of the Tunisian and Egyptian peoples, with their demands for democratic reform, independence and liberation.

At the end of the day, however, it is the Egyptian people who will determine their future. Their revolutionary struggle for democracy and liberation has redefined the limits of what is possible. The 25 million Egyptian workers will play a key role in determining the outcome of this revolution. Will this movement end with the ouster of Mubarak, or will it transition into a broader struggle to transform the economic and political structures that result in 40% of Egyptians living in poverty?

No matter what happens, the events of the last week have shown once and for all that the masses of Arab people are fed up with foreign domination, corrupt dictatorships that bow to U.S. interests and that when they dare to struggle, they can and will win.

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Jordanians protest government policies

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Fri Jan 28, 2011

Protesters demand that the prime minister be democratically elected rather than appointed by the King.

Thousands of Jordanians have marched against the government’s political and economic policies, demanding the prime minister’s resignation.

The demonstrations, which were held following the Friday prayers in the capital Amman and other major cities, were organized by the country’s main political opposition group, the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. It was the third consecutive Friday of protests in Jordan.

The demonstrators denounced Prime Minister Samir Rifai’s economic policies, saying reforms introduced by him, which led to cuts in subsidies for basic commodities, have caused the soaring food and fuel prices, unemployment and poverty.

“Rifai go away, prices are on fire and so are the Jordanians,” protesters chanted.

Protesters have also demanded that the prime minister be democratically elected rather than appointed by the King.

Today’s protests came while the prime minister and the country’s ruler King Abdullah II have promised to make reforms.

On Wednesday, following two weeks of anti-government demonstrations in various cities across Jordan against high commodity prices and government policies, King Abdullah II announced that it is time to bring about more political and economic reforms in the country.

“Abdullah II insisted on the need to move forward with clear and transparent programs of political and economic reform, which will allow the kingdom to overcome the economic challenges, and assure Jordan and Jordanians the decent future they deserve,” the royal palace cited the king as saying.

“The king underlined the need for senators and all officials to be in constant contact with the people in all provinces of the kingdom to hear their grievances and open a completely frank dialogue with them on their ambitions, their interests and the issues of the day,” it added.

Jordan’s prime minister has also announced a pay increase for civil servants and retirement pensions as well as the expansion of a state subsidy program.

The measures, however, failed to stop anti-government demonstrators from taking to the streets.

Inspired by the Tunisian revolution, Jordanians say they will press ahead with their campaign until their demands are met.

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