Muammar Gaddafi is not the only Arab tyrant using deadly violence against his people when they speak out against the destitution, repression and corruption that plague their country. In Iraq, the sectarian thugs put into power by American invaders are gunning down citizens in the streets.
The BBC reports that at least five people have shot and killed by security forces so far today, as the corrupt elite tries to keep the Arab Awakening from spilling into the war-ravaged land. But protests against the atrocious living conditions inflicted on most Iraqis by the client lords of the American occupation have broken out across the country.
Maliki, just like Gaddafi, has ordered troops into the streets to shut down the nation's capital city and stifle popular discontent against his rule. And just like Gaddafi, he has blamed "al Qaeda" for organizing protests against his benevolent rule -- without offering any proof at all for his wild assertions. He has, so far, refrained from actually bombing the populace like his Libyan counterpart, but the situation presents a curious contrast in reactions from the poobahs on the Potomac.
Deadly violence against peaceful protestors in other lands has been sternly (if often belatedly) denounced by the Nobel Peace Laureate in the White House and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (who prefers roughing up elderly, silent, non-violent protestors who dare stand up in her presence). But what will our stalwart defenders of freedom and human rights say about the killing of ordinary civilians by security forces in a country controlled by tens of thousands of American soldiers? And will these soldiers be called in to defend "stability" if it looks as if Maliki will go the way with Mubarak?
At least five people have been killed in anti-government protests in Iraq as thousands take to the streets in cities across the country for a "day of rage". Baghdad has been virtually locked down, with the authorities banning traffic in the city centre and deploying several thousand soldiers on the streets. ..
Iraqi army helicopters buzzed overhead, while Humvees and trucks took up posts throughout the square, where a group of about 2,000 flag-waving demonstrators shouted "No to unemployment," and "No to the liar al-Maliki," referring to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
The protests stretched from the northern city of Mosul to the southern city of Basra, reflecting the widespread anger many Iraqis feel at the government's seeming inability to improve their lives.
A crowd of angry marchers in the northern city of Hawija, 150 miles north of Baghdad, tried to break into the city's municipal building, said the head of the local city council, Ali Hussein Salih, prompting security forces to open fire killing three people and injuring 15, according to the Hawija police chief, Col. Fattah Yaseen.
In Mosul, hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the provincial council building, demanding jobs and better services, when guards opened fire, according to a police official. A police and hospital official said two protesters were killed and five people wounded. ...
In the south, a crowd of about 4,000 people demonstrated in front of the office of Gov. Sheltagh Aboud al-Mayahi in the port city of Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, 340 miles southeast of Baghdad. ...
... Around 1,000 demonstrators also clashed with police in the western city of Fallujah 40 miles west of Baghdad clashed with authorities, witnesses said. [For more on the glorious American legacy in Fallujah, see this recent piece.]
Justin Raimondo gives an apt description of what America's bipartisan elite have wrought in Iraq: "A sectarian regime dominated by Shi’ite fanatics has been handed power by the US occupiers, and there is no electricity, no regular supply of water, and certainly no "democracy" or anything vaguely resembling it."
And of course, the bitter, horrible irony of it all is that the tide now sweeping long-entrenched dictators from power in the Middle East would almost certainly be carrying off Saddam Hussein as well, if indeed he had not been removed by his own people before now. Hussein, who spent much of his career being aided to power and coddled in power by the American elite -- especially the Bush-Reagan-Rumsfeld wing -- would likely have chosen the Gaddafi exit strategy, with much attendant suffering; but this would have paled, by several orders of magnitude, before the million innocent people slaughtered as a result of the American aggression, the displacement of four million people from their homes, and the wholesale destruction of Iraqi society, once one of the most modern, secular and cosmopolitan in the Middle East, and now a sinkhole of murder, fear, violence and religious extremism.
But the old order of imperial domination, directly and by proxy, is crumbling before our eyes. It may be that the American aggression against Iraq was its high-water mark -- and its fatal overreach. The currents of the world are slipping out of the hands of the elites who believed they could always control them. I don't think people have yet realized the nature and extent of the youthquake we are seeing. There are more young people in the world than ever before, by far; the world belongs to them now, and they are taking hold it and reshaping it in ways no one can foresee. Again and again these days, Bob Dylan's words from almost half a century ago keep ringing in the mind: "Your sons and daughters are beyond your command;/Your old road is rapidly aging./Please get out of the new one if you can't lend your hand./O the times they are a-changin'."
It is not just a movement of the young, of course; many generations are adding their wisdom, energy and spirit (and across the Middle East, their bodies as well) to the fight. Here's an old campaigner, John Pilger, offering his perspective on one key aspect of our changing times:
The revolt in the Arab world is not merely against a resident dictator but a worldwide economic tyranny designed by the US Treasury and imposed by the US Agency for International Development, the IMF and World Bank, which have ensured that rich countries like Egypt are reduced to vast sweatshops, with half the population earning less than $2 a day. The people’s triumph in Cairo was the first blow against what Benito Mussolini called corporatism, a word that appears in his definition of fascism.
How did such extremism take hold in the liberal West? "It is necessary to destroy hope, idealism, solidarity, and concern for the poor and oppressed," observed Noam Chomsky a generation ago, "[and] to replace these dangerous feelings with self-centred egoism, a pervasive cynicism that holds that [an order of] inequities and oppression is the best that can be achieved. In fact, a great international propaganda campaign is under way to convince people – particularly young people – that this not only is what they should feel but that it’s what they do feel."
Like the European revolutions of 1848 and the uprising against Stalinism in 1989, the Arab revolt has rejected fear. An insurrection of suppressed ideas, hope and solidarity has begun. In the United States, where 45 per cent of young African-Americans have no jobs and the top hedge fund managers are paid, on average, a billion dollars a year, mass protests against cuts in services and jobs have spread to heartland states like Wisconsin. In Britain, the fastest-growing modern protest movement, UK Uncut, is about to take direct action against tax avoiders and rapacious banks. Something has changed that cannot be unchanged.