02/15/11-by L.S. Carbonell
Demonstrators in the streets of Bahrain are being met with tear gas, rubber bullets and birdshot. Yemeni protesters are facing batons and daggers. Two protesters have died in Bahrain. The level of violence against protesters in Iran is hard to determine since the only videos coming out of that country following the shut down of all information systems are being transmitted on cell phones, and those cameras don’t penetrate clouds of tear gas very well. It has been confirmed that one protester has died, dozens are wounded, dozens more have been arrested. The news is coming faster than anyone can keep up with it. Those few professional journalists who are in Tehran are using satellite systems to get reports out from what are hoped to be secure locations. Anyone want to volunteer to get Ann Coulter to parachute into Tehran?
Yemenis are demanding the resignation of their president of 20 years, Ali Adubllah Saleh. The Bahrainis do not want to overthrow their monarchy, but are protesting for more economic opportunity and greater political power. In Algeria, the protesters are adamant that President Bouteflika should join Mubarak in resigning. In Iran, the protesters had planned a peaceful celebration of Egypt’s people’s revolt. The government denied them the permits to assemble, but they assembled anyway.
The idea that this is a Facebook revolution is essentially an exaggeration. These are countries where the dissatisfaction with the government has been long-simmering and percolating just under the orderly surface of a repressed society. Young people have been using social media to organize themselves for protests and have been successful at hacking their way around the government shut-downs of television, radio, internet and cell phone service. All that is just process, not inspiration or cause. It would be far more accurate to look at the internet and cell phone communication with the outside world as analogous of the impact of broadcast television in Eastern Europe just before the collapse of the Soviet Union. The more free, open information a people have, the less willing they are to accept the status quo. The young Facebookers could not succeed without the support of their elders, whose resentments have been building for longer than the Facebookers have been alive.
Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has just given a major speech supporting the protests and urging every possible support for maintaining the freedom of information that has sparked these revolts. This is not the time to hyperventilate over the effects these revolts will have on American “interests” in the Middle East. Those things will be dealt with as necessary. This is not our time or our future. There will be no New American Century. There is no place on this planet anymore for Western empires. America has spent too many decades supporting dictators who pledged their allegiance to the United States, including Saddam Hussein. This is our chance to prove that we believe in the principles our nation was founded upon – that all men are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
If America really supports the rights of the people of North Africa and the Middle East, we should start by supporting Iraqi and Afghan referendums on separation. Let’s ask the Iraqi and Afghan people if they really want to continue being British-created artificial countries or if they would prefer to become ethnically and tribally divided independent nations or possibly some other form of confederations. These are their countries. The decision should be theirs, not ours.
Finally, the American right-wing needs to stand behind the principles and Constitution they claim to support. They need to stop lying and whining about “communist takeovers” and “the global caliphate” and “the new world order.” They need to be more emphatic than Bill O’Reilly was with Glenn Beck in denouncing these hysterical ideas designed only to cement conservative power in our country. Right now, they are all looking like a bunch of imperialistic hypocrites who can’t stand the idea that some non-WASPs might deserve the same things our forefathers have fought and died for.