Saturday, January 29, 2011

Egypt: The loss of Suez and the West's pet dictator to 'democracy'. What comes next?


No sooner had the virtual ink dried on my post concerning Tunisia last week and here we are a week later with all hell breaking loose in Egypt. Grab the popcorn and crack open a beer my friends. Shit's about to get real interesting in the Middle East. If Western interests lose their pocket dictator Mubarak to 'democracy' that could leave Suez in "the peoples" hands and that's what will have the major elites shitting their collective pants in boardrooms all across the world.  Democracy is always liable to land you with unpredictable results. And none more so than in Egypt.

   Oil jumped 4% on Friday on fears that the one million barrels that pass through Suez every day might get disrupted. Oil could go way higher if this revolt puts the Islamic Brotherhood in power and they decide to leverage the canal to mess with the US and Europe. Seven percent of all the world's goods pass through there every day too. Right now it's only costing the US and other foreign donors two billionish a year to help Mubarak subjugate the populace, keep Suez open and have Egypt not mess with Israel. That's bargain basement prices really for what they're getting in return. The fear now is that that bill is going to rise exponentially.

   The corporate oligarchy that runs the US pushed Obama in front of the cameras on Friday and made him say he 'hopes the protests remain peaceful'. I sprayed beer all over my keyboard. When did peaceful protest ever change anything in human history? Sure, there are isolated aberrations. But let's face it, human history is a history of war, a history of who killed who to take their shit, not who asked nicely for some one's shit and was told politely to fuck off. History says that if the other guy has something you want the only way to have it yourself is by taking it; with rocks, arrows, bullets or stealth bombers. That's just how things happen to work on this planet. From a hypothetical alien's point of view, we're scary and primitive upright apes that enlightened intergalactic travellers would be well advised to steer clear of. Sad really, but true.

   The Egyptian situation is difficult for the Western media to package.

   You can see that confusion on the American cable news networks. It's hard to craft a message the plebs will understand without sounding contradictory. Or making the West look bad. Mubarak is America's paid dictator, a point subtly glossed over, yet they insist on referring to Egypt as a 'democracy' in the Arab world. That's prime doublethink right there. But as you watch those brave Egyptians taking on the security forces the average western person on his couch is rooting for them. At the same time, the corporate oligarchy providing the video feed is dying a little on the inside. The fear for them is that a new Egyptian 'democracy' is going to land us with Iran part II. The Muslim Brotherhood is democratically elected, just like Hamas in Gaza and Ahmajinidad in Iran (LOL). Either way, the thought of Suez in the hands of right wing fanatical Islamists is frightening to the elites. The canal is fundamental to rapid deployment of US naval strategy in the Gulf.

If Islamists control Suez, the USN will shit brix.

   I heard some Fox News blond report earlier that officials at the Pentagon were watching events closely on the cable channels and especially on Al Jazeera. I sprayed more beer on my keyboard. Did America's premiere corporate agenda network just admit that its generals have to go outside American cable news (which is basically a "feeding interference to the proles" operation) to know what's going on in the world? As I'm typing, I just heard Sean Hannity say that after events in Egypt on Friday, he believes the only democracy left in the Arab world right now is in Iraq. OK, that's it!

   Now I need a whole new keyboard!

   So who is this Hosni Mubarak that the West seems to tolerate so much?

   He became el presidente after some Egyptian generals gunned down Sadat for making peace with Israel in 1981. That's a twenty nine year stretch, the longest of any Egyptian leader if you leave out the pharaohs. He's a sleazy character fitting the profile of the groomed dictator. In Gulf War I, the West needed a few Arab nations to join the party to make it look like an 'international' effort on paper. Mubarak was happy to oblige in return for $20 billion in forgiven debt. The math of that worked out at half a million per Egyptian soldier deployed. That's a serious dick waving deal if you can get it.

   Mubarak is corrupt. But not more so than any guy Western governments install or payoff to hold onto power in vassal states with strategic interests. It's hard to believe but Egypt has been operating under "Emergency Law" since 1967. This allows the cops to basically do anything they want without warrant. Censorship is everywhere and all Egyptian TV channels and newspapers are under Mubarak's central control. The government can chuck you in prison if they don't like the cut of your jib and leave you there without trial for years. There are at least 30,000 people locked up for no reason other than Mubarak doesn't like them. A lot of them are Islamic Brotherhood members and potential opposition leaders. When the token criticism comes from the West (hey dude, you're making us look bad), Mubarak just shrugs his shoulders and reminds them if he didn't do the West's dirty work for them, they'd end up with the Muslim Brotherhood running the canal. How would they like them apples?

   He basically uses the Muslim Brotherhood as a bogeyman against his own populace and against the US. "It's me, and I know I'm bad but those guys over there, they are far worse. You choose." This line of reasoning is what has kept Mubarak in power for 29 years. What he didn't account for was the explosive growth of Arab satellite news networks and the ease at which they can be received. Every ramshackle mud hut in the Middle East has a satellite dish poking out of it somewhere. But the biggest elephant in the room is the Internet. It truly is coming into its own today as a paradigm shifting force. In fact, if you're a member of the ruling elite, it's becoming downright dangerous. The fact that Mubarak shut it down speaks volumes and is probably his 'bridge too far' moment. Just like the Allies trying to seize that final bridge at Arnhem in Market Garden. Mubarak has gone too far and I'm sure the engines are warming up on his private jet. His family have already fled. I wonder how much gold bullion they managed to fit into their suitcases?

Wow! A good old M113 APC. I wonder who sold Mubarak that baby?

   So what's next?

   Who knows.

   At best, the Egyptians have a rational transition to some kind of representative government made up of secular and religious political parties. That's kind of a long shot. Polls there show 60% or more support for the banned Muslim Brotherhood. With 30% + unemployment and Egyptian pride bruised for thirty years under a Western supported dictator, you can see why they might vote in the West's worst nightmare as a form of cathartic vengeance.

   That's the thing you've got to realize about the Egyptians. They regard themselves as the heart of the Arab world. The cultural center of Arab history, art, music and the rightful inheritors of the golden age of Arab history when the streets of Córdoba had public lighting and 500,000 inhabitants while the rest of Europe was in a Dark Age. These people have been kept down and they are not going to take it anymore.

   Another concerned party in all this is Israel.

A flag seen at the protests, doesn't bode well for future Egypt-Israel relations.

   Egypt is the only Arab country to sign a peace deal with them. Public sentiment is not behind this deal. If Egyptian 'democracy' delivers the Muslim Brotherhood to power, Israel has got a new hostile neighbor on her southern border. You can expect Hamas to have a far easier time smuggling weapons and goods into Gaza and an emasculation of the Israeli blockade. I can't see the new Egyptian 'democracy' enforcing much border security with Gaza. Your move Israel.

   Wow, it's been a whirlwind two weeks. What's next, Libya? Syria? Jordan?

   One thing is for sure, I'm making another run to the store for more beer and popcorn.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Tunisia, the Middle East and Democracy. Can the genie be set free?

  The outbreak of 'democracy' in Tunisia last week was pretty interesting.

  Interesting because civil unrest is rare in Arab countries due to the risk of getting gunned down by cops/soldiers with AKs. Civil unrest leading to the ouster of a dictator is pretty much unheard of. There are all kinds of sleazy dictators in the Arab world who like to rake in cash while strangling human rights and civil liberties. The West is pretty cool with this so long as it doesn't interfere with business. Let's face it, it's cheaper to buy off an Arab dictator these days than deal with a bunch of pesky democratically elected officials who might actually press for a fair deal for the wider population. Shit like that might cost a fortune.

  Egyptian dictator Mubarak harvests a billion a year from the US on the idea that he can keep a lid on that subversive notion known as 'democracy'. Because if democracy were to break out in Egypt right now you'd end up with some batshit insane elected majority running shit and maybe doubling fees to float a container ship through Suez. Democracy is risky business in your vassal states. Just look what happened the last time there was a popular outbreak of majority opinion in the Middle East. That was in 1979 when the Iranians booted out the Shah and his US backers, replacing him with a top down theocracy of right wing crazy religious nuts who think stoning to death is a fitting punishment for married women who fuck the pizza delivery guy.


   A nice idea, makes the masses feel all warm and fuzzy, but never something you want to toy with.

   That's why this type of popular revolt and outbreak of "democracy" in Tunisia has been met with a kind of tepid approval in the West. The US invaded Iraq and air dropped a few hundred billion dollars in the desert to bring "democracy" to Saddam's huddled masses. You'd think the US would be all over events in Tunisia like flies on shit right? Truth is, the sleazy powers that be in the US and Europe are a little wary about the whole thing. It's akin to that classic scene in Fantasia where Mickey Mouse brings a broom to life to do the chore of filling a well with water. The broom overdoes its job and causes a flood. When Mickey chops the broom into pieces, each splinter becomes a new broom that floods the room even more. These democracy protests in the Middle East are a little like that for Western interests. Shit like this can get out of control fast, spawning whole new governments we might not be able to buy off. Hell, some guy just torched himself in Saudi Arabia yesterday. If those Wahhabi House of Saud loons who run shit over there by way of US petro dollars ever get overthrown, world oil supply could end up in the hands of a whole new bunch of people who could cause all kinds of trouble by interrupting the flow of spice by not doing what they're told.

Sadly, some things have always been worth burning to death for.

   Democracy can be a little risky like that.

   It can lead to all kinds of problems for the corporate oligarchy in the US and Europe. For instance, when Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2006, the Palestinians exercised their democracy and duly elected Hamas and not the secular Fatah like they were supposed to. That resulted in the withdrawal of financial support from the US and EU and a blockade by Israel, basically saying, democracy is wonderful except when you get the process 'wrong' and elect the guys we don't like. 

   Democracy is always liable to end up with unpredictable results.

   When you give the average fucktard on the street a say in how countries get run, bad shit happens for rich people. That's pretty much why there are no real democracies left on the planet anymore. The last time true democracy showed up it was in Athens in 461 BC and good old Pericles was initiating a golden age. US style democracy is all about providing the plebs with the illusion that their vote matters whilst the corporate oligarchy feeds them the information on who to vote for whilst also controlling the candidate list. Pretty fucking genius really. When it costs a billion dollars to run for President, those supplying that billion own that President's ass. He's their man bought and paid for. Poor old Pericles today wouldn't stand a chance.

   Still, shit might be about to get interesting in the Middle East.

   History says there's always the unexpected in war and human affairs. Once an idea takes hold and becomes viral it's hard to suppress. That's why you've got protests going on right now in many Arab countries where protests are 'illegal'. You've gotta love the idea that protesting is illegal. It's like saying the storming of the Bastille in 1789 was illegal. Of course it was. When you're at the top of the food chain everything is illegal for those lower down on the pyramid when they start rocking the boat. I wonder if Louis XVI tried to funnel the French revolution into designated 'free speech zones' a few miles from the epicenter of the Estates-General.


   It's a funny idea. But a little too risky to be really put into practice. To quote E.B. White, "Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half of the time." But the truth is, half of the people are below average IQ just by taking the test. That means that if you are in any way intelligent you are in an automatic minority. It's too risky to give everyone a voice. Much easier to run interference and tell them what to think. All you need is to own the means by which people get their information, TV, radio, newspapers. That's pretty easy these days. Flood the airwaves with bullshit and you've bread and circused the mob into groupthink.

   Still, I love the idea that shit could go wrong for the powers that be.

   This whole idea of setting yourself on fire in a public place is an idea whose time seems to have come in the Arab world. You know shit is bad when you want to rage against the machine in such a way that you put your life on the table. What greater statement can you make?

    Right now, the rest of the Arab world is watching events in Tunisia closely to see what they do with their new found freedom. Tunisia is the home of the ancient city of Carthage. That's some hardcore military history right there. The Punic Wars take us back to a time in human history when wiping out the enemy, killing all their men and selling all the women and children into slavery before destroying Carthage stone by stone was a certain kind of justice.

   But that's war. Sadly, the only motive force in human history.

   If they can get their shit together, the Tunisians could make a wider point that could reverberate across the Arab world. It'd be a cool underdog story that Hollywood could make into a movie in a few years starring Brad Pitt as the guy who torched himself when they took his fruit stand away. But then again, I'm pretty fucking cynical when it comes to desert civilizations. I'm one of those contrarians who prefers Smith's Ozymandias to Shelleys.

 In Egypt's sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows:
"I am great OZYMANDIAS," saith the stone,
"The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
"The wonders of my hand." The City's gone,
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.
We wonder, and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro' the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragments huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place