Saturday, February 5, 2011

Viewpoint from Vancouver

Just down the road from me is Tariq Ramadan giving an interview to Al Jazeera about the situation in Egypt:

It is interesting that...
Tariq Ramadan is the son of Said Ramadan and Wafa Al-Bana, who was the eldest daughter of Hassan al Banna, who in 1928 founded the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
If you watch 11:20 into the video the key question is asked: Why did the US take the staged demonstration of a handful of people in Baghdad pulling down a Saddam Hussein statue as a validation of a "revolution" and the fact that the US invasion was to "save the people". Meanwhile, you get a million people in Tahrir square in Cairo demanding Mubarak go and the Americans dither about whether this "really" demonstrates a revolution and the will of the Egyptian people. They have put their finger on it: the US stance toward "democracy" is pure hypocrisy.

It is tragic that Barack Obama is an enemy of democracy. The US wants to enjoy its wealth and liberty and keep it secure by making sure the rest of the world remains in chains. Will that work in the long term? I don't think so. A true democrat welcomes democracy. A true democrat doesn't tell people in the street to be "patient" and accept the dictator "for now".

Americans should ponder the year 1780 when Lafayette returned to the US with news that France would support their revolution. What Obama and the Americans are saying today is that the French should have worried about their "security" and refused to provide any aid to the American revolutionaries. They would have told the Americans to embrace King George III because of the need for "security" and "stability".

Also on the video is Slavoj Žižek, who has written an article in the UK's Guardian newspaper:
"Why fear the Arab revolutionary spirit?"

The western liberal reaction to the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia frequently shows hypocrisy and cynicism

What cannot but strike the eye in the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt is the conspicuous absence of Muslim fundamentalism. In the best secular democratic tradition, people simply revolted against an oppressive regime, its corruption and poverty, and demanded freedom and economic hope. The cynical wisdom of western liberals, according to which, in Arab countries, genuine democratic sense is limited to narrow liberal elites while the vast majority can only be mobilised through religious fundamentalism or nationalism, has been proven wrong. The big question is what will happen next? Who will emerge as the political winner?


Even in the case of clearly fundamentalist movements, one should be careful not to miss the social component. The Taliban is regularly presented as a fundamentalist Islamist group enforcing its rule with terror. However, when, in the spring of 2009, they took over the Swat valley in Pakistan, The New York Times reported that they engineered "a class revolt that exploits profound fissures between a small group of wealthy landlords and their landless tenants". If, by "taking advantage" of the farmers' plight, the Taliban are creating, in the words of the New York Times "alarm about the risks to Pakistan, which remains largely feudal," what prevented liberal democrats in Pakistan and the US similarly "taking advantage" of this plight and trying to help the landless farmers? Is it that the feudal forces in Pakistan are the natural ally of liberal democracy?


If the situation is eventually stabilised so that the old regime survives but with some liberal cosmetic surgery, this will generate an insurmountable fundamentalist backlash. In order for the key liberal legacy to survive, liberals need the fraternal help of the radical left. Back to Egypt, the most shameful and dangerously opportunistic reaction was that of Tony Blair as reported on CNN: change is necessary, but it should be a stable change. Stable change in Egypt today can mean only a compromise with the Mubarak forces by way of slightly enlarging the ruling circle. This is why to talk about peaceful transition now is an obscenity: by squashing the opposition, Mubarak himself made this impossible. After Mubarak sent the army against the protesters, the choice became clear: either a cosmetic change in which something changes so that everything stays the same, or a true break.

Here, then, is the moment of truth: one cannot claim, as in the case of Algeria a decade ago, that allowing truly free elections equals delivering power to Muslim fundamentalists. Another liberal worry is that there is no organised political power to take over if Mubarak goes. Of course there is not; Mubarak took care of that by reducing all opposition to marginal ornaments, so that the result is like the title of the famous Agatha Christie novel, And Then There Were None. The argument for Mubarak – it's either him or chaos – is an argument against him.

The hypocrisy of western liberals is breathtaking: they publicly supported democracy, and now, when the people revolt against the tyrants on behalf of secular freedom and justice, not on behalf of religion, they are all deeply concerned. Why concern, why not joy that freedom is given a chance? Today, more than ever, Mao Zedong's old motto is pertinent: "There is great chaos under heaven – the situation is excellent."

The hypocrisy of western liberals is breathtaking: they publicly supported democracy, and now, when the people revolt against the tyrants on behalf of secular freedom and justice, not on behalf of religion, they are all deeply concerned. Why concern, why not joy that freedom is given a chance? ...

Where, then, should Mubarak go? Here, the answer is also clear: to the Hague. If there is a leader who deserves to sit there, it is him.
Obama has a lot of smart guys around him. He isn't dragging his feet because he doesn't understand what Žižek is saying. He is dragging his feet because the US has always sided with the dictators. The US has no love for democracy. It simply wants to control the rest of the world for its "national interest". But that builds a powder keg that will explode. The 6 billion people beyond America's borders don't see their role in life as that of "easing" life for Americans. They have their own aspirations and democratic needs. So long as America crushes those aspirations, revolts and wars will break out and America will go down that path of all empires: it will exhaust itself trying to stamp out revolt. And at the same time America is corrupting the world because under this American regime of "security" only the worst of the worst can successfully revolt. You get fundamentalist crazies and leftists crazies and right wing dictators as the only successful local "leaders" because they are willing to spread as much blood as needed to wrest local control away from America.

Obama and America is spreading the seeds of decades of petty wars and violence in the name of "security" for Americans. What a tragedy.

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