Saturday, 19 February 2011

From Cairo to Madison

Someone was bound to compare the enraged throngs shutting down the Wisconsin state legislature to the millions of Egyptians busily overthrowing their dictatorship, and whether it was a favorable or an unfavorable parallel is beside the point. There is something inherently seditious about taking to the streets to demand political change; it always carries the faint whiff of insurrection, the hint that direct action by the masses is a stand-by option.

We’re getting a real poly sci lesson from our sofas these days as the fed-up peoples from the Gulf to the shores of Tripoli test and challenge the varieties of illegitimacy on display in the Arab world. While the Egyptian revolt was based in economics, it’s curious now to see how the oil-rich nations that can and did bribe the masses into a grumbling acquiescence for so long are also facing rebellion in the name of freedom and liberty, of all things.

Bush talked about that a lot en route to conquering Iraq and exposing its inhabitants to slaughter, and Obama added his own cool, professioral endorsement of the concepts. So are they happy now that people are in the streets risking their lives to make it reality? Not so much.

Washington is emitting ambiguous tones, to say the least, even though they coaxed the genie out of the bottle to wish first for democracy and then for democracy of a non-Islamic character, upon which the Egyptian, Tunisian, Bahraini, Libyan and Yemeni peoples said, Great. Now the Americans have only one wish left.

Unless I’m mistaken, they will use it, like the guy in the 1001 Nights fable, to blow everything. I’m guessing domestic politics will trump principle, and the money boys, the Israeli lobby and the weapons manufacturers will convince Obama to take up residence on the wrong side of history, assigning him the task of dressing up their venal self-interest as moderate, nuanced, adult good sense.

One strong indication that I am right came this week as the U.S vetoed a Security Council resolution condemning the continued theft of Palestinian land by the Zionist settler enterprise. It’s marvelous to see Obama try to fit the round peg of his fairness-and-decency rhetoric into the square hole of our main ally’s race-based religious empire.

US ambassador Susan Rice said the veto should not be construed as an endorsement of the settlements even though we pay for them through our decades of taxpayer-funded subsidies of the Israeli project. Rice lives in an Alice-in-Wonderland world where a word means ‘exactly what I say it should mean’ and nothing else.

Unfortunately for Susan and her boss, the Bahrainis and Libyans aren’t in a philological mood just now. They may pay more attention to what the Americans do and not so much to what they say everyone else should think about it.

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