- So far, weeks of regional protests achieved nothing.
Despite ousting Egypt's Mubarak and Tunisia's Ben Ali, their regimes remain
in place, offering nothing but unfulfilled promises.
- On February 26, Egyptians again protested in Tahrir Square.
This time, however, military forces confronted them, Reuters headlining,
"Egypt military angers protesters with show of force," saying:
- "Soldiers used force on Saturday to break up a protest
demanding more political reform in Egypt, demonstrators said, in the toughest
move yet against opposition activists who accused the country's military
rulers of 'betraying the people.' "
- New York Times writer Liam Stack headlined, "Egyptian
Military Forces End to New Protest," saying:
- "Tens of thousands of protesters returned Friday
to Tahrir Square....to keep up the pressure on Egypt's military-led transitional
- Violence followed, including beatings, use of tasers,
and live firing in the air, threatening perhaps harsher action if protests
continue. Al Jazeera said:
- "Protesters left the main (square) but many had
gathered in surrounding streets....Witnesses said they saw several protesters
fall to the ground, but it was not clear if they were wounded or how seriously."
- Participant Ashraf Omar said:
- "I am one of the thousands of people who stood their
ground after the army started dispersing the protesters, shooting live
bullets into the air to scare them."
- He said soldiers wore black masks to avoid being identified.
Military buses were used for those arrested. It's "a cat-and-mouse
chase.There is no more unity between the people and the army."
- In fact, there never was, only the illusion that unsympathetic
generals were populists at heart. In fact, they've been regime hard-liners
for decades, rewarded handsomely for backing state repression.
- "They were using tasers and (batons) to beat us
without any control," said Omar. "I thought things would change.
I wanted to give the government a chance, but there is no hope with this
regime. There is no use. I am back on the street. I either live with dignity
or I die here."
- Egyptians want the military junta-led government to resign
and immediately release all political prisoners. They're outraged by no
reforms, and because Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq reshuffled his cabinet,
leaving Mubarak cronies in power.
- As a result, battle lines are again drawn. "Counterrevolution"
comments are heard, protesters chanting:
- "We do not want Shafiq any more, even if they shoot
us with bullets....Revolution until victory, revolution against Shafiq
and the palace....We won't leave! He will go!" This isn't "what
hundreds of people died (for). Shafiq is a student of Mubarak. We have
demanded a new beginning, and (he's) not part of it. We refuse him."
- Reuters also said many thousands demonstrated in Ismailia,
Arish, Suez and Port Said. Moreover, strikes continue across the country
for better wages, decent living conditions, ending corruption, and workplace
democracy. Involved are miners; steel, textile, chemical and pharmaceutical
workers; others at an agricultural processing facility; teachers; bus drivers
and other transport workers; religious endowment workers; and others long
denied rights all workers deserve. They rarely get it anywhere, including
in developed countries.
- Egypt's junta called the strikes illegal, saying it won't
let them continue because they "pose a danger to the nation, and they
will confront them." It also said "(t)he current unstable political
conditions do not permit a new constitution." Their expertise is repression,
not democratic governance. None will be forthcoming.
- Protests in Jordan
- Barely noticed in the West, especially by America's major
media focusing largely on Libya, Haaretz writer Avi Issacharoff headlined
on February 25, "Thousands of Jordanians demonstrated in Amman for
sixth consecutive Friday," saying:
- Over 5,000 "demand(ed) political reforms and the
dissolution of the lower house of parliament." A week earlier, plainclothes
thugs attacked them. Six or more were injured. Jordan's government denied
involvement. Many are skeptical. They demand change, shutting Israel's
Amman embassy, and restoring Jordan's 1952 constitution, allowing representative
government. In recent decades, democratic rights severely eroded. Protesters
want them back. King Abdullah II promised reforms, so far not delivered
and won't be without continued pressure.
- Mass Iraq Protests
- On February 25, tens of thousands rallied throughout
the country against occupation, oppression, corruption, unemployment, impoverishment,
better services (including clean water, electricity and healthcare), inadequate
food and high prices, and overall human misery after eight years under
- Violence resulted, Iraqi security forces using live fire
in Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Fallujah, Tikrit, and elsewhere. At least 15
were reported killed, dozens wounded. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani spoke
on Al Sumaria Television against demonstrations, saying it would benefit
"infiltrators." Moktada al-Sadr shamelessly said:
- State forces "are attempting to crack down on everything
you have achieved, all the democratic gains, the free elections, the peaceful
exchanges of power and freedom. So I call on you....to thwart the enemy
plans by not" demonstrating.
- In fact, occupied Iraqis have no rights, no democracy,
no freedom, few jobs, horrid living conditions, and no possibility for
change without seizing it. One man spoke for many, denouncing the al-Maliki
government, calling him a liar, and saying:
- "I'm a laborer. I work one day and stay at home
for a month. (Maliki) says (we're better off than) under Saddam Hussein
- where is it?" Tens of thousands across the country now demand it.
Look for protests to gain momentum.
- Tunisia Protests
- Days earlier, new protests rocked the country, tens of
thousands in Tunis demanding Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi and other
Ben Ali holdovers resign. Police fired in the air to disperse them. Helicopters
circled overhead. Marchers chanted "Leave!" and "We don't
want the friends of Ben Ali!"
- The Interior Ministry banned protests, saying participants
would be arrested. Washington and other Western countries back Ghannouchi's
regime, saying it guarantees stability when, if fact, it leaves old policies
in place, largely under the same officials. Visiting Tunisia a week ago,
Senator John McCain (one of the Senate's four most reactionary members
by his voting record) told Reuters:
- "The revolution in Tunisia has been very successful
and it has become a model for the region. We stand ready to provide training
to help Tunisia's military to provide security."
- In fact, nothing in Tunisia changed, nor in Egypt, Jordan
or elsewhere in the region. Regime holdovers remain in charge. Moreover,
only uprisings occurred, not revolutions. They're far short of violent,
convulsive, insurrections, removing old orders for new ones, except perhaps
ahead in Libya where opposition forces now control parts of the country.
More on that below.
- Protests in Yemen
- On February 26, Reuters headlined, "Two more die
after protests in Yemeni city of Aden," saying:
- Security forces killed them and two others, wounding
dozens. Weeks of protests have continued, daily since February 17 in cities
and provinces throughout the country. "Unrest has been especially
intense in the once-independent south, where many people resent rule from
- Large demonstrations continued in the capital Sanaa after
Friday prayers, protesters shouting, "The people demand the downfall
of the regime." Local media said up to 80,000 participated, including
women, chanting, "Out, out!"
- Large numbers of police and military forces confronted
them. After weeks of protests, dozens have been killed. Yemenis, however,
remain resolute, one on Friday saying "We are coming to take (Saleh)
from the presidential palace." Others said this is "the beginning
of the end for the regime."
- So far, neither side's yielding, but if demonstrations
continue and grow, either Saleh and his cronies will go, or more bloodshed
in the streets will follow. Resolution one way or other remains uncertain.
- Protests Rage in Libya
- On February 26, Al Jazeera said pressure is building
for Gaddafi to step down. "Within the country, anti-government protesters
said the demonstrations were gaining support," including soldiers
reportedly deserting the ranks to join them. So far, Libya's Khamis Brigade,
an army special forces unit remains loyal to the regime, fighting opposition
- Violence has been extreme. Hundreds are reported dead,
many others wounded. Libya's east is largely in opposition hands. "Security
forces....fire(d) on anti-government protesters in the capital, Tripoli,
after" Friday prayers. "Heavy gunfire was (also) reported (in)
Fashloum, Ashour, Jumhouria and Souq Al."
- On February 26, Haaretz headlined, "US imposes unilateral
sanctions on Libya, freezes Gaddafi's assets," saying, Obama did it
by Executive Order against him, his family, top officials, and Libya's
- On February 26, New York Times writers Helene Cooper
and Mark Landler headlined, "Following US Sanctions, UN Security Council
to Meet on Libya," saying:
- Under consideration is imposing international sanctions,
including an arms embargo and travel ban against Gaddafi, his family and
all key government officials. "The tougher American response came
nine days" after protests erupted. "American officials are also
discussing a no-flight zone" to prevent use of military aircraft on
threat of NATO intervention, meaning undeclared war if it happens besides
others in the region.
- At issue, of course, is defending Libya's oil assets
and the interests of Western oil giants in the country. As in Egypt, throughout
the region, and elsewhere, it has nothing to do with replacing despots
- A Final Comment
- Of special note is how America's media react, especially
television where most people get what passes for news and information.
For weeks, demonstrations have occurred in Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen,
Bahrian, Algeria, Morocco, Iraq, Iran, and now Libya, as well as labor
protests in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Only Egypt and Libya got extensive
coverage, against their leaders, not regimes or policies.
- Moreover, in recent days, large protests in Yemen, Bahrain,
Iraq, Jordan, and Friday's in Egypt were largely ignored, except for occasional
print accounts reaching small audiences by comparison.
- In addition, except against Mubarak, no major broadsheet
ran editorials like The New York Times' February 24 one headlined, "Stopping
- "Unless some way is found to stop him, (he'll) slaughter
hundreds or even thousands of his own people in his desperation to hang
on to power."
- What about stopping other regional despots maintaining
close Washington ties. What about denouncing America's imperial madness,
responsible for killing millions throughout the region (and elsewhere),
directly or indirectly, since the 1980s alone.
- What about defending democracy, fundamental freedoms,
the rule of law, and Palestinian rights under brutal Israeli occupation,
oppressed daily by belligerence, land theft, mass arrests, targeted assassinations,
and torture, as well as beleaguered Gazans under siege since mid-2007,
suffering severely as a result.
- What about supporting right over wrong and denouncing
lawless US policies, including at home, instead of:
- -- ignoring unmet human needs;
- -- record numbers impoverished, homeless and hungry;
- -- sham elections;
- -- deep corruption at the highest government and corporate
- -- colluding with corporate interests, federal, state
and local governments are waging war on organized labor;
- -- a deepening social decay; and
- -- many other symptoms of national decline, recognized
more abroad than internally, while, at the same time backing monied interests,
imperial wars, and many other unprincipled policies.
- Why not editorialize against American policies, calling
for "harder (efforts) to stop mass atrocities," and that "(t)he
longer the world temporizes, the more people die." Where more than
in countries Washington occupies where Times coverage airbrushes out popular
suffering, focusing only on leaders Washington opposes, not policies, it
wants left unchanged.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the
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