Libya no Worse than other Humanitarian Crises
Everyone is still asking that question. Why Libya? The Middle East and Africa are full of humanitarian crises. Yet we’re not bombing them. Is their suffering not as bad as the Libyan suffering? Or are their people simply not worth saving? People want to know. Because people are suffering everywhere.
[Syria] Violence erupted around Syria on Friday as troops opened fire on protesters in several cities and pro- and anti-government crowds clashed on the tense streets of the capital in the most widespread unrest in years, witnesses said. -By Associated Press, The Washington Post, 3/25/2011
[Bahrain] Clashes erupted in Shiite villages across Bahrain on Friday as antigovernment protesters defied a government ban on public gatherings, despite a beefed-up presence by the military and security forces. -By Joe Parkinson, The Wall Street Journal, 3/25/2011
[Ivory Coast] Up to one million Ivorians have now fled fighting in the main city Abidjan alone, with others uprooted across the country, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Friday as violence escalated in a 4-month power struggle. – Stephany Nebehay, Reuters, 3/25/2011
[Yemen] With hundreds of thousands of rival demonstrators on Sanaa’s streets, soldiers fired warning shots to prevent loyalists whipped up by Mr Saleh’s speech attacking anti-regime protesters on Friday, the Muslim day of prayers and rest… The rallies came one week after a bloodbath in which 52 protesters were gunned down by Saleh loyalists, drawing widespread international condemnation and a spate of defections from within his ruling circle. -By AFP, ABC News, 3/25/2011
And there’s more. Iran. North Korea. And others. It’s everywhere. Suffering. But you know why we’re not helping any of these nations? Because it’s too much for anyone to do. Suffering is bad but it is NOT the United States’ duty to end it all. And yet we’re trying to do just that in Libya. Was the Qaddafi regime a great threat to American security interests? No. He’s been pretty quiet since the Iraq War. He seemed content to oppress his people and leave others alone. Perhaps the others noted above were even less dangerous than Qaddafi. Perhaps in comparison they’re just docile pussy cats.
If any Nation Deserves Regime Change it’s Syria
Let’s look at Syria. They make no secret of the fact that they don’t like America. Or Israel. They are behind a lot of unrest in the Middle East. They want to see the whole region under Sharia Law. And be less friendly with the West. As bad as Qaddafi was, he did sell a lot of his oil to the West. So that would make Syria more of a national security concern than Libya. But we’re not bombing Syria. Perhaps the Syrian violence just isn’t that bad (see Resident says troops open fire on protesters in Daraa, other Syrian cities by Associated Press posted 3/25/2011 on The Washington Post).
The violence erupted after tens of thousands of Syrians took to the streets across the country, shouting calls for greater freedoms in support of a more than week-long uprising in Daraa, according to witnesses, activists and footage posted online…
An activist in Damascus in touch with eyewitnesses in the southern village of Sanamein said troops there opened fire on demonstrators trying to march to Daraa, a short distance away. He said there had been witness reports of fatalities, some claiming as many as 20 slain, but those could not be independently confirmed…
About 200 people demonstrated after the Friday prayers at the Thawra Bridge, near the central Marjeh Square, chanting “our souls, our blood we sacrifice for you Daraa!” and “freedom! freedom!” They were chased by security forces who beat them some of them with batons and detained others, an activist said on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisals.
No. That isn’t it. That’s some pretty bad violence. That’s Qaddafi bad. Killing your own people. And it is far worse than what Mubarak was doing in Egypt. He didn’t turn the army against his people. And yet Obama said he had to go. But we’re not attacking Syria. With bombs. Or words. Perhaps Syria is a strategic force for stability in the Middle East. Like how Iraq balanced Iran once upon a time. We supported Iraq then. Because Iraq balanced the greater risk in Iran. Like that old saying. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. So maybe Syria offsets the ‘big bad’ in the Middle East.
Assad, a close ally of Iran and its regional proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas, has promised increased freedoms for discontented citizens and increased pay and benefits for state workers — a familiar package of incentives offered by other nervous Arab regimes in recent weeks.
No. That ain’t it either. Syria is cozy with all the ‘big bads’ in the Middle East. The powers that want to kill Jews, Americans and all other infidels. But wait. It gets worse.
Shaaban, the presidential adviser, also said the Baath party would study ending a state of emergency that it put in place after taking power in 1963.
The emergency laws, which have been a feature of many Arab countries, allow people to be arrested without warrants and imprisoned without trial. Human rights groups say violations of other basic liberties are rife in Syria, with torture and abuse common in police stations, detention centers and prisons, and dissenters regularly imprisoned for years without due process.
The Baath party? Sound familiar? That was the party of Saddam Hussein. Emergency laws since 1963? Arrests without warrants? Imprisoned without trial? Torture and abuse? No due process? This is bad stuff. What some would call a humanitarian crisis. Like the one in Libya. But as bad as that all sounds, it’s the Iraq connection that is most troubling.
Before the Iraq War, Iraq and Syria were close. So close that many think those weapons of mass destruction we were looking for in Iraq were hidden in Syria during the run-up to war. We know Saddam had them. He used them on the Iranians. And the Kurds. But he never documented their destruction. So if he hid them in Syria they may still be there. They may have been hesitant to use them thus far because we could probably trace them back to them. Especially if they had Iraqi markings on them. But if all these ‘democracy’ movements in the Middle East and North Africa gather steam, they could become a problem. If the region goes Muslim Brotherhood and is closer to Iran and/or al Qaeda, Syria won’t be the only country to see the world the way they do. And they may feel safe enough to use these weapons. Should they have them. Oh, and Israel would be surrounded by countries that have the destruction of Israel at the top of their top-10 list. And that is very bad. Because that could start a world war. Shut off the oil supply to the Western economies. And plunge the world into a depression.
The Muslim Brotherhood Establishing an Islamic State in Egypt?
So let’s back up a bit. Let’s take a closer look at these ‘democracy’ movements. Are they really democracy movements? Or are they more theocracy movements? Well, in Egypt, things aren’t looking good for democracy (see Islamist Group Is Rising Force in a New Egypt by Michael Slackman posted 3/24/2011 on The New York Times).
In post-revolutionary Egypt, where hope and confusion collide in the daily struggle to build a new nation, religion has emerged as a powerful political force, following an uprising that was based on secular ideals. The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group once banned by the state, is at the forefront, transformed into a tacit partner with the military government that many fear will thwart fundamental changes.
It is also clear that the young, educated secular activists who initially propelled the nonideological revolution are no longer the driving political force — at least not at the moment.
Sound familiar? This is what happened in Iran. The young people who started the revolution didn’t end the revolution. Ayatollah Khomeini ended it. With one of the most oppressive theocracies in the Middle East. And those young women in the Iranian Revolution? They don’t protest anymore. They live good Muslim lives under Sharia Law. Whether they like it or not.
“There is evidence the Brotherhood struck some kind of a deal with the military early on,” said Elijah Zarwan, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group…
“We are all worried,” said Amr Koura, 55, a television producer, reflecting the opinions of the secular minority. “The young people have no control of the revolution anymore. It was evident in the last few weeks when you saw a lot of bearded people taking charge. The youth are gone…”
When the new prime minister, Essam Sharaf, addressed the crowd in Tahrir Square this month, Mohamed el-Beltagi, a prominent Brotherhood member, stood by his side. A Brotherhood member was also appointed to the committee that drafted amendments to the Constitution.
The big question was would Mubarak turn the army on the people. Or, should he, if the army would follow that order. You see, the people respected the army. Most had family that had or were serving in the army. The army was good. It was the security forces the people hated. Not the army. It was the army the people thought they could trust. And now we’re hearing that they struck a deal with the Muslim Brotherhood? That’s very ominous. As are the beards. That’s hardcore, conservative Islam. Like they have in Iran. And that sure ain’t what the protestors wanted in Egypt. I mean, there were women in those crowds. If Egypt goes the way of the bearded men, these women will never protest anything ever again. Just like in Iran.
And the lying has begun. Egypt was a secular country. But they still had their religion. It was still a Muslim country. Like Turkey. There’s the state. And the religion. Both very important parts of life in these countries. But separate parts. Now it appears secular means state atheism. Like in the former Soviet Union. Or in parts of America where anything goes. According to the more radical elements in Egypt, at least.
“The problem is that our country will be without a religion,” read a flier distributed in Cairo by a group calling itself the Egyptian Revolution Society. “This means that the call to the prayer will not be heard anymore like in the case of Switzerland, women will be banned from wearing the hijab like in the case of France,” it said, referring to the Muslim head scarf. “And there will be laws that allow men to get married to men and women to get married to women like in the case of America.”
Talk about scare tactics. If you don’t vote for a more conservative Islam there will be no Islam. People will be free. Women will be free. And gay, I guess. All horrible thoughts to the conservative Muslim. And a lot of Muslim men who are just not fans of feminism.
This is not to say that the Brotherhood is intent on establishing an Islamic state…
None of that has changed, Mr. Erian, the spokesman, said in an interview. “We are keen to spread our ideas and our values,” he said. “We are not keen for power.”
He would not comment on whether the Brotherhood had an arrangement with the military, but he said the will of the people to shift toward Islam spoke for itself and was a sign of Egypt’s emerging democratic values. “Don’t trust the intellectuals, liberals and secularists,” Mr. Erian said. “They are a minor group crying all the time. If they don’t work hard, they have no future.”
Warning Klaxons should be going off. These are things that dictators say before they oppress their people. Why, you can almost see the reassuring eyes and the soothing voice of Ayatollah Khomeini as he calmed the anxious Iranian people shortly after 1979. Before those eyes became scary. And we all saw how that turned out. Oppressive theocratic rule. And the odds just got better for the same in Egypt.
Virginity Tests in Egypt
And it’s already started (see Egypt women protesters forced to take ‘virginity tests’ posted 3/24/2011 on the BBC).
A leading rights group says the Egyptian army arrested, tortured and forced women to take “virginity tests” during protests earlier this month.
Amnesty International is calling on the authorities in Cairo to investigate.
It says at least 18 female protesters were arrested after army officers cleared Tahrir Square on 9 March.
It says they were then beaten, given electric shocks and strip searched.
The army denies the allegations.
This isn’t what the women in the crowds were protesting for. And the reason these women were protesting? Because they could. Egypt was one of the most progressive countries in the Middle East. Women had some of the greatest freedoms enjoyed in a Muslim country. Not anymore.
A 20-year-old woman, Salwa Hosseini, told Amnesty she was forced to take off all her clothes by a female prison guard in a room with open doors and a window.
She said that male soldiers looked in and took photographs of her while she was naked.
The demonstrator said a man in a white coat later carried out a ‘virginity check’ on her and she was threatened with prostitution charges.
“Forcing women to have ‘virginity tests’ is utterly unacceptable. Its purpose is to degrade women because they are women,” a spokesperson for Amnesty International said in a statement.
Mubarak may have been bad. But he wasn’t that bad. The painful moral of this story is to be careful what you ask for. The enemy you know is often better than the enemy you don’t know. Unfortunately we sometimes learn this lesson too late. Including presidents. For it was a mistake to throw Mubarak under the bus. Middle East scholars knew it then. And the rest of us are learning it now. And now we’re helping to destabilize Libya. That, too, could turn out to be a mistake. Because we don’t know who the rebels are. Just like we didn’t know who they were in Egypt. So the chances are good that what happens in Egypt could very well happen in Libya. A “shift towards Islam.”
Of course, there are a couple of countries in the Middle East that probably warrant our involvement. Two come to mind. Iran. And Syria. Things could only get better in these countries. Yet we don’t help the protesters in these sovereign countries. So when President Obama finally tells us why Libya, perhaps he can tell us why not in countries that already hate us. And while he’s explaining these great mysteries perhaps he can tell us why he’s undermining our allies in the Middle East. Is there a method to this madness? Or is it just madness?