Hundreds of Thousands of Arabs Protest their Governments

On Friday, the US Congress endeavored to decide whether American democracy has irretrievably broken down because the representatives of the Billionaires refused to compromise with the representatives of the People (“cutting spending” while “cutting taxes” means “shifting the cost of running society to the middle class from the filthy rich”). The answer was that it had not, as long as the representatives of the People showed sufficient deference to the Billionaires, shuffling, keeping their eyes down, and obediently emptying their pockets. The middle class, successfully distracted by racial and religious hatreds and by attempts to impose patriarchal fundamentalism, was wreathed in vapid smiles as the billionaires sent movers to their homes to pick up the belongings they had just fleeced from them via their enforcers, the tea baggers.

As Americans rushed to surrender their constitutional rights, the peoples of the Middle East rose up from Libya to Iraq to demand those very rights for themselves– freedom of speech, religion, the press, and assembly, as well as safeguards against a secret police state that engages in routine unreasonable search and seizure and imposes cruel and unusual punishments while keeping prisoners hidden, denied habeas corpus, and often denied a speedy civil trial or even a trial at all.

In Iraq, masses began converging from the south and from Diyala province in the east on Baghdad, heeding the call of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr for a million-person demonstration to mark what the Sadrists and many Sunnis see as 8 years of American military occupation. April 9 is commemorated by the pro-American politicians as the day Saddam fell, but the Sadrists and Sunni oppositionists see it as a black day on which Iraq lost its independence to Washington. Small Sunni crowds in Falluja and in Adhamiya in Baghdad got a head start by rallying on Friday, chanting against the United States and saying it had imposed Iranian rule on Iraq (yes). Among the demands of the largely Shiite demonstrators planning to come out on Saturday is that no US troops remain in Iraq after Dec. 31, 2011, and that there be no US bases in that country. Despite falling out of the news in the United States only 6 years after this country was electrified by the parliamentary elections that brought the Shiite Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution to power, Iraq has continued to be a hot news story. Just a few days ago, Sunni Arab guerrillas set off a bomb that killed 55 persons in front of the provincial government building in Salahuddin Province, north of Baghdad in the Sunni Arab belt.

In Syria, some 27 demonstrators were killed on Friday by security forces, and the government alleges that 19 police were killed by gunmen wearing ski masks. Rallies were held in Damascus, Douma, Deraa, Homs, Hasika, Qamishli and Banias, among other places. President Bashar al-Asad’s attempts to placate the 2 million Syrian Kurds by restoring citizenship rights to 100,000 of them were not entirely successful, since some 3000 Kurds nevertheless marched on Friday, insisting on a transition to full democracy. Deraa, the southern city which has seen frequent big demonstrations, was active again on Friday. Discontents there have to do in part with the government’s poor management of water resources and consequent lack of water. But Sunni fundamentalism opposed to the secular Arab nationalism of the Baath Party, which is dominated by the folk-Shiite Allawite sect, probably also plays a part.

Aljazeera English has video:

In Yemen, hundreds of thousands marched in cities throughout the country, demanding that President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down. He refused. In Taizz security forces killed three persons. In the capital of Sanaa, supporters of Saleh dueled with his detractors in rival demonstrations.

In Egypt, some 100,000 protesters gathered in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, demanding that deposed president Hosni Mubarak be put on trial for corruption. Some also chanted against interim military leader, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, calling for him to step down. Tantawi had been close to dictator Hosni Mubarak. On Saturday morning, the army cleared those still remaining from the square with tear gas and by firing over their heads.

Euronews has video:

A small crowd of 2000 demonstrated in front of the Israeli embassy in Cairo against Israeli air strikes on Gaza and the continued blockade of the Gaza Strip. The mainstream of Egyptian politics, however, continues to cling to the Camp David peace accords with Tel Aviv. The air strikes, which killed civilians were provoked in part by the militant party-militia Hamas firing rockets into Israel, including one that hit a school bus and seriously injured an Israeli teenager.

In Libya, the see-saw fighting continued. The forces loyal to the Transitional National Council beat off an attack from the east on the western city of Misrata by forces loyal to dictator Muammar Qaddafi. NATO destroyed an arms depot under the control of the Tripoli government near the rebellious city of Zintan southwest of Tripoli. Aljazeera Arabic is reporting continued fighting at Brega and Ajdabiya.

A man set himself on fire in Amman, Jordan, emulating the action of the Tunisian Mohamed BouAzizi, whose self-immolation helped spark the Arab Spring.

25 Responses

  1. Re “As Americans rushed to surrender their constitutional rights..” – seems this impulse to NOT fight for freedoms, even to relinquish (a) those that exist in supposedly democratic countries, or (b) those that may be forcibly extracted from tyrannical regimes, is quite common in large sections of any population. Here in Egypt – as probably elsewhere in regional uprisings – rebels were damned and cursed even as they were being hauled off to the torture chambers or killed in the streets because they were calling for “freedom, democracy and social justice”. Even the 19 March referendum, lauded as the baptism of democracy by many, revealed the extent to which people, in their apparently overwhelming desire for ‘stability’, are prepared not to think for themselves. Besides still pushing for the dismantling of the old regime, we also have to target the cultural dross of tyranny. That has been with us for much longer than Mubarak and Co! We’re in for the long haul.

  2. Dear Professor Cole

    Has anyone done a recent study of the fate of the many millions of Iraqis who have been displaced?

    One often wonders what has happened to the incomparable Riverbend and whether the refugees in Syria and Jordan are to be condemned to a similar fate to the Palestinian refugees.

  3. I am reading reports that some Libyan rebels want the international and particularly the US forces to fight with them. They want ground forces.
    I wonder what is behind this?
    I am so glad the UN Resolution is in effect.

  4. Yeah. I carried a sign in front of my senator’s local office Friday afternoon (Senator: pass budget!). Care to guess how many people 1) joined me, 2) payed attention? Little Davey

  5. “Among the demands of the largely Shiite demonstrators planning to come out on Saturday is that no US troops remain in Iraq after Dec. 31, 2011.”

    This while our Secretary of Defence is actually in Iraq saying in public statements that we might be staying beyond that previously negotiated deadline if requested by the Iraqi government. Sometimes I wonder if the self-absorbed arrogant idiots who run our country are even listening to themselves as they speak.

  6. Prof Cole, your formulaic liberalism on domestic affairs makes me as tired as your insights into the Muslim world make me wake up and smell the proverbial coffee.

    Cut the damn government and cut it all, including the National Security State.

  7. It is painful to see the eclipse of any useful sort of democracy in the USA. Read Matt Taibbi’s “Griftopia” (2010) for a racy take on how the Billionaire’s, fronted for by Alan Greenspan and assisted by the Tea Partiers, managed this trick.

    In the context of this web-site, so concerned with Muslim matters, it is interesting that the problems of the USA’s economy (and the world’s) began with “bubbles” in internet stocks and housing, bubbles funded by interest-free money churned out by the “Fed” — whereas Islamic theory (I am sure I don’t know the practices) forbids interest (usury) and could not (I imagine) produce a bubble worth many, many trillions of dollars (as the Greenspan and Bernanke, Bush and Obama government-of-for-and-by billionaires has done).

    • That’s why Moslems are poor and lazy, right? Because they haven’t gutted their own religious faith (as Martin Luther did to satisfy his German merchant-class sponsors) to sanctify greed and economic growth over all else.

      That’s the Protestant work ethic, always looking for another angle to get ahead until it degenerates from a “work” ethic to a speculation and bailout ethic, while never changing in its characterization of other races and religions as lazy and shiftless who thus deserve to be conquered, cheated, reformed, structurally adjusted, and privatized to their detriment.

  8. I don’t understood the Tea Party. Welfare and domestic assistance/spending is a small part of government spending. The vast majority of it is spent on military, empire building and wall-street. How much did the wall-street bailouts of 2009 cost? How much does it cost to maintain the military bases we have in over 100 counties? How much did the Iraqi war cost? Instead the Tea party blames the HOPE educational program or Babies Can’t Wait for all our problems. And to be fair, if liberals want to keep these great programs, why are they supporting some of the expensive war?

    • Just read up on the billionaire Koch brothers and ALEC and you will understand. The “Tea Party” is largely a front organization.

      • I don’t doubt it; however, I think there are two different tea party factions. For instance, a lot of Ron Paul supporters and libertarians associate themselves with the Tea Party. And even though some of their beliefs are out there they are certainly grass roots.

    • Tea Partiers were against the bailouts from the start.

      And Juan, come on, this IS formulaic liberalism as a previous poster said. Your government is trillions of dollars in debt, where is it going to get the money to pay for programs? Even if you philosophically believe the government has a legitimate role in redistributing cash through government programs, how do you expect to PAY for them? Look at Greece, Ireland. The same thing can happen in the US and it hasn’t happened yet because the US dollar is the reserve currency in the world. Your Social Security is a huge part of your debt. Are you just going to “tax the rich”? They’ll leave. Then what? Prevent emigration from the country, would that be your next idea? Its perfectly fine to be “left-wing”, but have you also tried being “realistic” or “pragmatic” ?

      I also second what Putzky said about the Tea Party; there might be and probably is a segment of people identifying as TPers that are on the bankroll of the Koch brothers but there are people like Ron Paul, Peter Schiff etc. that have legitimate political positions. Not to mention millions of middle-class or even poor than middle-class libertarians who don’t want government taxing and spending because they don’t want to be taxed and believe _harm_ will come to themselves and _everyone_ if the government decides to “print” the difference to clear away its debt. In other words, they don’t want their purchasing power (dollar value) wiped away. The “People” as you put it sure wouldn’t like that. How would the “People” feel if they had to buy bread at $30 because of said government inflation of the currency to wipe out its debt.

      Thats why you NEED to cut spending IF you cut taxes. If you cut taxes and don’t cut spending you end up with the government printing money to make the difference and we end up with the $30 bread I mentioned above.

      This reminds me of when you called the “gold standard” a “Right-wing position” in your blog post about the Arizona shooter. Do you understand that money requires itself to be scarce? Surely you do because I don’t hear you advocating the Federal Reserve mail a million dollar check to every household.

      But no, everyone whom you dislike is right-wing, a position which took its absurd logical conclusion recently when you labelled Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “right-wing”. This ironically though comes months after your repugnant article, that was criticized by many posters, lauding the “socialism” of the Islamist thugs who took over Iran and contrasting them to the “hyper-capitalist” (what does that even mean?) Shah, a man who made so many major interventions in his economy it even got its own historical term, White Revolution. So sad that “right-wing” is basically a smear word on this blog rather then someone with a mere different political philosophy.

      Why can’t we be treated to an intellectual discourse of your thoughts on domestic affairs that is as enriching and stimulating as your thoughts on Arab and Persian culture and history? Instead its the same tired 1970s counter-culture rehashed, recycled.

      How about instead of the banter in the opening paragraph you gave us your idea about how you would solve the problem of funding programs that you think are necessary while balancing the debt while taking into the account the side effects of your said policy. Then at least you’d have a coherent position and people who read this blog will profit from a constructive opinion. Then you wouldn’t say inane things like (in a previous article again): “the business cycle is complex and strange” (you realize that even within Keynesian economics itself there are many branches/schools of thought) or “cutting taxes while cutting spending shifts the burden from the rich to the People”.

      A cheaper currency hurts everyone.

      • Oh, come on. $38 bn in cuts on basic services are irrelevant. It is just theater, and also an f-u at anyone who isn’t rich. The only way to address the long term deficit is to raise taxes on the wealthy. It is also the only way to save what is left of American democracy, since we are by our tax policy throwing enormous amounts of money at a few thousand families, who then turn around and buy politicians, think tanks & etc., creating an Oligarchy to replace our republic.

        The short term additions to the deficit involved in the stimulus packages are good Keynesian policy & will create government income by getting us out of recession and creating wealth. These latter are irrelevant to the long-term deficit, which is being produced mainly by the abolition of progressive taxation along with monstrous spending on defense many times what other countries feel a need to expend. We are becoming Spartans, not Athenians.

      • Well, we could have returned to the Clinton era tax rates and solved the problem. Didn’t see all the rich folks emigrate in 1993, did we? Or we could never have had the Bush cuts in the first place when the budget was still in surplus 11 years ago. Forgotten that?

        But then, you simply will never accept that the vast and grotesque explosion of wealth among the top 1% during recent years was itself artificial and economically distorting, and by the way completely failed to prevent the 2008 crash and might even have helped cause it. The rich still have that Bush blood money.

        Whereas when the rich robbed the country dry in the 1920s and ran it into a crash, they ended up having to pay it back with a raise in the top rate to 63% and then to 91%, all while America was borrowing its way into its era of greatest prosperity. So what if it was World War II that caused it? That war was used to improve wages, especially for minorities, to create the GI Bill which unleashed vast productive talents unseen in the laissez-faire era, and rebuild Europe and create the vast post-war prosperity that allowed America to pay off much of the debt (The GOP backed the 91% tax rate and we ran budget surpluses for over a decade). All while private ownership of gold was illegal! And the rich ended up BETTER off than before the Depression, they just weren’t so far ahead of the rest of us that they could buy our politicians and media to tell us any lies they pleased. Like the lie that redistribution never worked.

        Now if you’re going to say that’s all a lie, then there’s no point in continuing this. If you’re going to act pragmatic and say, “well, the rich couldn’t emigrate to flee high taxes in 1945 but they can now,” what does that tell us about their loyalty to the republic that they robbed blind such that they should control most of what we read and hear?

    • Understand that the good, learned professor has a far-Left, non-Classical Liberal, Progressive outlook on our American political situation. He’s adapted to and now elucidates the ‘class warfare’ meme that’s circulating around the proggiesphere; pushing the tired notion that if we could only take more from the ‘evil rich’ then all would be well; our society could enjoin the fanciful nirvana that proggs yearn for.

      Instead, the fact looms large that even if you took every dime from every rich person in America and pushed it to support the current level of social programs, it still wouldn’t be enough to cover their dreams. Put simply, in a way anyone can understand:

      Imagine that you had an average monthly income of about $170 balanced against average monthly expenses of about $940–and that you were more than $14,000 in debt.

      Then imagine that as of today, you had only $58.60 in cash left in your bank account and $130.50 left on your line of credit.

      Now multiply these numbers by 1 billion and you will have the up-to-date financial situation of the U.S. government.

      We’ve been living well over our means for a decade now. We spent too much on the wars, but also too much on social programs. The U.S. government put itself in a non-constitutional ‘daddy-o statist’ position; Democrats have learned how to lure voters with promised cash and goodies directly from public coffers. Looters, and moochers, or ‘Loochers’ for brevity. These loochers now comprise almost the whole of the once-proud Democratic party, and are surely running our Republic to ground.

      • All you would have to do is go back to the tax rates of the 1970s, and cut war/defense spending levels to those of all the rest of the countries in the world, and in a decade there would be no budget problem. Clinton balanced the budget as recently as 1999. And it was Bush and the Republicans who caused our current structural deficit. By lowering taxes on the rich. The stimulus is short term and won’t affect budgets going forward. You have everything backwards or wrong. Paul Krugman has a Nobel prize. What do you have?

        I never know with posters like this if it is David Koch writing under a pseudonym. But it is either a very wealthy person or the dupe of one. Our education system is declining so much that people can’t do basic math

  9. Well, Grumpy Old Man, if you think capitalist America is surrounded by an evil, atheist dark-skinned world of Communists who envy it and threaten its destruction, aided by 14th Amendment black and Latino citizens, consider how much worse shape capitalism would be in worldwide if American forces weren’t stationed in 130 countries propping up regimes against their own dissenters.

    Or, conversely, all of the above is wrong and for the last 30 years the corporations have intentionally been cutting our pay, shipping our jobs overseas, and handing us rifles to point at the rest of the world to enforce the global sweatshop that Marx once predicted would occur.

    Without the giant banks and military-industrial complex corporations and the exploitation of foreign labor and savings, what would American capitalism really look like now?

    There’s a reason why no country in the world now operates according to libertarian principles – 1929.

  10. For Decades now I have listened as people told me that first Khomeni and now Khameni wanted to bring Iran back to the 9th century. Well here in the US we have the Republicans who want to bring us back to the 17th century. Then the Democratic leadership claims to be liberal because they only want to bring us back to the 18 century. Was the 9th century in Iran really all that much worse than the 18 century in Europe or the US? Fine Birds of a feather. All of them are Pee Cocks if you ask me.

  11. “The middle class, successfully distracted by racial and religious hatreds and by attempts to impose patriarchal fundamentalism, was wreathed in vapid smiles as the billionaires sent movers to their homes to pick up the belongings they had just fleeced from them via their enforcers, the tea baggers.

    As Americans rushed to surrender their constitutional rights…”

    Most people I know have been disgusted by the charade going on in Washington. And those I know seem to be representative of the general population–there have been a number of polls showing that Americans want more spending on essential government services, not less, that a solid majority oppose the cuts being pushed by the Republicans.

    While the political establishment is certainly worthy of our scorn at this juncture, the really striking thing is how the feel they can get away with ignoring the opinions of the majority of their constituents. It speaks volumes about how corrupted by money and other factors our electoral system has become.

    • I think the problem I America is twofold. 1) Americans are, by and large either apathetic or preoccupied with day to day survival and 2) there is only a bad option and a worse option at the ballot box, which contributes, in large part to #1. America needs a revolution but I don’t think the Americans have the stomach for it.

  12. I’m not terribly happy with the budget cuts either, Professor, but let’s keep some perspective.

    Anyway, Godspeed to the AU peacemakers. I wouldn’t bet the mortgage on them, but I pray they succeed in bringing about the political solution in Libya.

  13. The purpose of the Right-wing movement in our lifetime can be stated simply: to destroy the belief of the American people that they can organize politically for secular improvement.

    All their bogeymen, the ACLU, ACORN, labor unions, women’s rights’ groups, even the New Deal version of the Democratic Party, were created on the idea that citizens own public resources and can direct them to make material and social improvements for those who needed them most.

    All the factions of the Right believe, conversely, that the monstrous society that ran into the ditch in 1929 needed no reform, merely the blood sacrifice of starving millions to balance markets. The Christian Right wants no earthly improvement by secular means; they want the poor to run to them and bribe God with sacrifices and punishments. The corporate and libertarian Right want no alternative to more greed and more consumption. If we just go back to the past things will automagically get better and better.

    This movement has been awfully successful in the last 40 years, hasn’t it? You point out that most of us support modern ideas like progressive taxation, but when we are bullied by faith-drunken patriots who accuse us of oppressing them by using their taxes to end polio or feed schoolchildren, we get confused and shaken and slink away ashamed, worse off than before. We’re being trained to be medieval peasants, a class that all groups on the Right consider an improvement on uppity ghetto trash. Peasants don’t organize for reform, they follow witchhunters and lynch mobs and inform on their neighbors’ sins to the local priests.

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