Events in parts of North Africa and the Middle East have been heralded as ‘revolutions’. The levels of optimisms surrounding political restructuring apparently crafted by the ‘people’ themselves are defining. Some observers have even gone to the extent of declaring these mass movements as byproducts of Facebook and Twitter activists.
In a world craving sensationalistic news, these demonstrations have more than provided for the fodder. In times of large-scale global political corruptions, these protests are being characterized as new hopes. In our continued saga of drab and visionless compromises with oppressive status quo, these uprisings are revolutions, romanticized.
However, if peoples’ history is any teacher, not everything might be as rosy or revolutionary in the recent events. Of course, two out of 17 countries where people took to the streets, witnessed regime changes within just a couple of months; and there might be even more such upheavals, no doubt. But clubbing all these countries together into one imaginary crisis block whose people are purportedly revolting to break free and that, they are desiring to adopt values of ballot boxes and freedom of speech models, is actually a convenient method of analysis that at its best, culturally stereotypes and homogenizes an otherwise radically different groups of people, and at its worst, endorses the infamous “Eisenhower Doctrine” calling for American interventions at any cost in an effort to redefine human freedom.
Beyond Oriental Fixations:
We are constantly informed that the series of demonstrations in few countries now being more closely observed constitute some sort of Arab World Revolution. This “Arab World” imagination goes back to the days of Eisenhower Doctrine (on 9 March, 1957) which laid out that “the United States regards as vital to the national interest and world peace the preservation of the independence and integrity of the nations of the Middle East”.
Under the guise to protect the sovereignty of the Arab World, CIA in fact prepared grounds for overthrowing the government of Syria, which had, according to American National Security Council (NSC), “increased Communist penetration of government and army”. CIA intended to install Adib Shishakly, former right-wing dictator of Syria after a “revolution” was to be orchestrated to eliminate leftist forces there. Colonel Sarraj, the Syrian head of intelligence exposed CIA’s officers who had bribed his office and in Washington, the State Department bitterly embarrassed expelled Syrian ambassador – the first time since 1915 that the US had ousted a chief of mission of a foreign country.
In blatant disregard to Euro-American interests in the region, Syria and Egypt announced their plans to unite and came to be known as the United Arab Republic (UAR) in 1958. In response, America brought its allies Iraq and Jordan to form Arab Union. However, this coalition collapsed when the 14 July Revolution in Iraq overthrew the Hashemite monarchy which was being supported by Britain and America. It was a major blow to Western sphere of influence in the Arab World. Pan-Arabism which had manifested itself as a massively anti-colonial force of resistance under Egypt’s Colonel Nasser had inspired another group of “Free Officers” who took over Iraq, and the nationalists who united to quash the neocolonial expansionistic motives, only continued to grow in presence and influence.
Egypt and Syria were instances of what neutralism/”leftism” that was to bother American administrations for a long time. John F Kennedy and British Prime Minister Macmillan also pursued their interventionist tactics when they agreed on official declarations of “Penetration and cultivation of disruptive elements in the Syrian armed forces, particularly in the Syrian army, so that Syria can be guided by the West”.
Revolutions and Counter-revolutions:
History is replete with uninspiring coups and fundamentally radical revolutions. It is crucial to distinguish both categories. What Nasser exemplified was a revolution. It led not only to an end to British colonial imaginings; it gave birth to a series of fundamental changes in the Middle East and elsewhere. Iraqi liberation from the British was inspired by “Free Officers”, and so was Libyan liberation from King Idris, led by Colonel Gaddafi. More importantly, Gaddafi and Nasser – along with Tito and Nehru – were architects of the Non-Aligned Movement – the most vocally responsible union of the free countries in the world history. Likewise, the 14 July Revolution in Iraq gave birth to the most progressive government coalition in the land headed by Abdul Karim Kassem (who pioneered OPEC as a powerful association to oppose Western oil monopolies).
Not surprisingly, all these important landmarks in world history have been relegated to the dustbin of ruling class history texts as “coups”. The greatest of revolutions that took shape right inside North Africa and Middle East throughout the last century unfailingly denounced apartheid, crushed the colonial empires of the West under the mighty will of socialistic solidarities, and generated unprecedented pride among people who newly acquired freedom from hundreds of years of oppressive regimes.
And yet, in the West, these revolutionaries needed to be battled so that the favored dictators and the loyal monarchs be reallocated powers. With the masses in the Middle East actively united in taking over and nationalizing imperialistic corporate interests in their countries, it was crucial to rebuild capitalism under different names. One of the ways, as official documents have vastly suggested, had to take help of cultural cues.
Since gains of socialistic revolutions prominently included an end to religiously fundamentalist forces, America and its allies extended supports to any militant groups which could spread anti-communist sentiments throughout the Secular Arab world by means of religious instructions. Not only were communist parties systematically abolished in several countries in Africa and Middle-East, massive amount of American aid were fueled into these countries with the sole purpose of eradicating progressive forces. Although Taliban became the most influential of such forces created to singlehandedly destroy secular movements in Afghanistan, it was not the first one. Christian leader Camille Chamoun had been assisted with huge American aid to suppress socialist/secular movements in Lebanon almost five decades ago.
Western aids have funded religious counter revolutionaries in nearly every country in the world, more so, in the regions of Africa and the Middle East, for obvious reasons. Rich in natural resources and oil, these countries have inadvertently been constant victims of neocolonial expansionist projects. After the passage, ouster, or demise of early revolutionaries, these countries have been ruthlessly exploited via interventionist policies of NATO forces. Throughout years of civil wars, Gulf wars and plain colonization and plunders, these nations have faced irreplaceable damages.
Ongoing Eisenhower Doctrine:
In the early years of Nasser’s Egypt, nationalist sentiments had united the people and empowered them with Arab consciousness. This was duly supported by progressive forces all around, just as Pan-Africanism had found immense support from Latin-American revolutionaries. But over the time, via active propaganda and intense funding processes, NATO forces have either installed vicious dictators or religious forces in these lands as their puppet representatives.
As a result, Arab leaders, once the stalwarts in furthering world socialist progresses and social justice movements against evils of imperialism, have now been replaced by a bunch of sycophants reporting to American diplomats to gain financial favors, Hosni Mubarak among them. With corruptions rife, unemployment high and national priorities low, today’s Arab lands have been converted exactly into the kinds that Eisenhower had once desired.
Most countries in North Africa and the Middle East are at brinks of despair, and without any progressive leaderships and socialistic visions, most imaginations have been surrendered to the commands of religious preachers and Islamist forces. Evangelists such as Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi are at the helm of mass movements of frustrations and anger, otherwise being depicted as revolutions. Organizations such as “Muslim Brotherhood” which are communal in nature, inciting illogical religious solutions to human problems are now leading the so-called revolution in Egypt.
An uncritical acceptance of street tactics in Egypt will be a historical fallacy. The romantic notions of revolutionaries as hopeful future is one thing; a false ascription to a group of religious mischiefs as social justice fighters is yet another. The most recent instances of popular uprisings may well have been a continuation of protests on part of the people to end brutal regimes world over. But it would be akin to adopting truly convoluted manners if we defy geopolitical logic (although it strengthens diplomatic doublespeak intended to bolster American hegemony in the Middle East) to suggest, as the mainstream international media are doing, that the random protests in Iran are also part of the same “revolutionary” activities that are being witnessed in Egypt.
In Iran, the Islamists are already ruling the country. In Egypt, they are just about to rule. It is rather strange in a macabre fashion that the world rejects the former, while eagerly anticipates the latter. Muslim Brotherhood is suddenly being projected as some kind of nonviolent movement and its spiritual leader al-Qaradawi is being portrayed as a wise and scholarly man. The political strategist Mohamed ElBaradei who is endorsed by Muslim Brotherhood, and quite naturally, also by the American administration, to lead Egypt following this “revolution” has predictably enough, won Nobel Peace Prize, and more importantly, is in the privileged company of Carnegie, Bill Gates and George Soros. And as the Director General of IAEA, he is a crucial person for the West, as far as the “unruly” Iran is concerned. If history is any teacher, Muslim Brotherhood, which had conspired to assassinate Nasser with its so-called nonviolent principles, and its wealthy friends from America are going to take over Egypt, finally, away from all legacies of anti-colonial struggles, and to preserve Eisenhower’s dream of establishing freedom in the Arab World.
The countries modeled after the “Free Officers” shall now emerge as the official Islamist police states. All thanks to the ongoing Chevrolet Revolution, via Facebook and Twitter, the American Way…
(Saswat Pattanayak, 2011)