Wise man William Pfaff speaks the truth like rolling thunder here:
The struggle is under way to re-establish American control over the successors to those despots whom popular uprisings have ousted from Tunisia and Egypt, threatening the careers of still other abusive absolute monarchs and presidents-for-life (and their offspring).
The report that Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh is to be thrown to the crocodile crowds by the American government, allowing for bids by the CIA for a successor, was “leaked” (meaning not announced at a press conference) to The New York Times. His fault, in American officials’ eyes, is not so much the killing and other violence he has deployed against citizen protestors of his rule, tolerable until now (as in the earlier cases of Presidents Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Ben Ali in Tunisia), as it is the failure of this violence to suppress popular uprising. These figures are not disqualified by despotism but for unsuccessful despotism.
…The authentic sources of revolutionary unrest were deeper than perceived in Western government offices. Obviously there was social distress, callous maldistribution of wealth and arbitrary rule through powerful security establishments. However, these are not “underdeveloped” nations. To apply that term to Lebanon or Syria, or to pre-2003 Iraq, or Iran, or to Egypt, the most ancient and sophisticated civilization of all, is preposterous.
Their political problem might be described as overdevelopment; these civilizations have seen everything.
The Arab states created out of the Ottoman Empire in the 1920s were assigned artificial frontiers that often disregarded established ethnic, sectarian, historical, dynastic, and tribal interests and realities. Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Libya are all cases of political artificiality and Western intervention to suit European colonial interests. Into this, the new and non-Arab, non-Islamic state of Israel was imposed in what was historic Palestine, ostensibly to right the atrocity of the Holocaust, a European crime for which Islamic civilization bore no responsibility whatever. The notion that the U.S. and the European states automatically possess solutions relevant to all of this is absurd.
…The worst outcome is, however, the one that seems most likely: a new American effort to manage the region through chosen political clients and favorites, in the self-deluding belief that this is “democratization”—the identical policy that has already given the region wars in or around Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the threat of war with Iran and now the Libyan intervention.
Pfaff nails it cold. The American imperium has indeed found its feet after being stunned for a few weeks by the outbreak of the Arab Awakening. Now it is moving full-speed ahead on a variety of fronts to strangle the regional uprising against corrupt, oppressive elites. Pfaff outlines one approach being taken: wait until ordinary people have been killed in droves seeking a better life for themselves and their families, then turn on your client dictator — and replace him with another.
In Yemen, the administration of the Nobel Peace Laureate is backing extremist military figures to step in for the inefficient despot, Saleh, as As’ad AbuKhalil notes:
The Arab (Israeli-supported) Counter-Revolution is gaining strength. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are now mid-wifing the change in Libya, and House of Saud are now in charge of Yemeni transition at the behest of US. The lousy corrupt Gen. Ahmar (who was the sponsor of Bin Ladenites in Yemen) is now receiving Saudi support and attempting to hijack the opposition movement.
Meanwhile, in Egypt, after Mubarak’s despotic attempt to quell the uprising was unsuccessful, the Laurel-Bearer decided to throw him over, and bring in a military junta — that promptly cleared the streets and “restored order.” The Egyptian Awakening was too powerful to quell completely, and heroic attempts continue to forge a better system. But even as these efforts continue — in the face of the still-entrenched elites of the Mubarak era — the American Imperium is moving swiftly to yet another reliable weapon in its arsenal: economic warfare. AbuKhalil — an absolutely indispensible voice for anyone who cares to understand what’s going on in the region — points us to a telling article in the Washington Post, where a series of the serious are trotted out to tell us of the American elite’s earnest concern for Egypt’s economic “reforms,” now that Mubarak and his presumptive heir, son Gamal, are gone:
“Corruption investigations against former president Hosni Mubarak and other former high-ranking officials and business figures are proceeding as part of the country’s political transition. But they have also raised questions about whether the economic reforms championed by those such as Gamal Mubarak, the ex-president’s son who is due to be questioned in a corruption probe next week, will give way to a more government-oriented economy less open to global corporations and capital.”
Oh dearie me, it might not be open season for the privatization vultures, the Shock Doctrinaires who sweep to feast on the chaotic ruin left behind by fallen regimes! What a terrible fate, for a fat-cat somewhere to lose even a single drop of cream! The Post story notes, in passing, one of the most significant aspects of these post-collapse lootings: “capital flight” — i.e., corrupt elites sending their ill-gotten gains out of the country as fast as they can, just in case anything like a genuine democracy pledged to real economic justice might take hold. We saw the same thing in Russia, as hundreds of billions of dollars were siphoned out of the country — where they could have been invested in building a vibrant new society (or at least keep alive some of the millions of people who died premature deaths as the Shock Doctrine ravages took hold). Where did this money go? The same place the Egyptian elite are parking their money now: in the highly respectable financial institutions of the West.
The Post also notes, sadly, that the Imperium’s strongarm outfit, the IMF, has not yet been called in to rescue the poor, primitive Egyptians; but they’re circling round and round over Tahrir Square, don’t you worry:
Egypt has not requested help from the IMF, but Egyptian Finance Minister Samir Radwan in recent days has openly discussed the country’s possible need for outside assistance to prop up an economy suffering multiple shocks: growth undercut by a still-unsettled political crisis, a sharp drop in its foreign reserves, an outflow of wealth, and exorbitant borrowing costs. …
In Egypt “the macroeconomic situation was not that bad before the crisis. But it’s a country, like many in the Middle East, where beyond the macro figures the distribution was a big issue,” IMF Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said Tuesday. “The increase in prices of food and fuel understandably creates the temptation to help with subsidies. A big change is happening there with the push towards democracy; at the same time they must be careful not to create problems for their fiscal sustainability.”
Oh my gosh: subsidies to help people eat! Please, dear God in Heaven, please help the Egyptians avoid such a terrible temptation. One mustn’t let silly scruples about hunger, heat and clothing “create problems for fiscal sustainability.”
Meanwhile, the Wreathed One’s staunch anti-democratic allies, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, are quietly turning the latter into a locked-down Stasi state. You won’t hear much about this in the American press, but as you might expect, AbuKhalil has been all over it like a duck on a June bug, with reports directly from Bahrain, such as this one:
A source sent me this: “It seems like the Bahraini government has finally succeeded in their crackdown. Yesterday they closed down Al Wasat Newspaper – the country’s only opposition newspaper and then reopened it with a new editor that is pro-government … Everyone in Bahrain is silent now. No one is talking. Human rights activists, journalists and bloggers who under their real named have completely disappeared. Many have been jailed whilst others are in hiding. Mohammad Al Masqati, a human rights activist who is in his mid 20s, has been in jail for the past 5 days. He was first threatened by a member of the royal family on twitter and then he got arrested. His family has apparently only spoken to him once so far. Businessmen and CEOs are also being interrogated and threatened for not firing striking workers and cutting their wages. Most are no longer in control of their companies and now mass firings have begun. Most are not willing to take any stance because they are too scared. … Shia families living in mixed neighborhoods are moving out because they are being threatened either by letters sent to their houses telling them to leave or in checkpoints. … We are definitely back in the 90s but it is worse because the army is more brutal and there is disguising sectarianism and blatant discrimination against shia. … The media is completely silent and the Obama administration has completely stopped commenting on Bahrain.”
Well, why should they comment? After all, Bahrain — backed by American-armed Saudi troops now fraternally occupying the country — has killed, beaten and bullied its people back into submission. The Saudi people were warned early on, in no uncertain turn, that they would be cut down without mercy if they dared utter a peep of protest against one of the most repressive regimes on earth.
These are shining examples of successful despotisms. That’s why the Commander-in-Chief-of-Peace-on-Earth has nothing to say about them.