For the past 2.5 years now, we have been hearing the same refrain by supporters of the Syrian opposition as well as Third Wayers (yeah, remember them? LOL), about the “hijacking” of their “revolution” by undesirable takfiris on the one hand, and the Empire and its lackeys on the other. But their very publicly articulated desire to see the US go beyond limited airstrikes, and later, their collective expressions of betrayal and disappointment at the Obama administration for failing to immediately bomb their country into submission—with some prominent social media activists even making nostalgic references to war criminals, Bush and Blair, for their “boldness” in contrast to Obama—reveals that this uprising was never hijacked. No, this was the nature of the opposition from the very start. I am not talking here about the al-Qaeda-dominated rebels fighting on the ground, but the so-called, “moderate, secular, non-sectarian” political/ hotel-lobby opposition. It is an opposition which remains undeterred by the specter of the Iraq-ization or Libya-ization of its country. An opposition which pursues the type of political pluralism which would reduce high treason to a legitimate point of view that is entitled to popular representation. An opposition which seeks to institutionalize the type of freedom of expression that not merely tolerates, but craves, re-colonization, and which countenances sectarianism; an opposition that seeks to constitutionalize the destruction of their state, the Syrian Arab Republic. It is an opposition to the very principle of democratic opposition, whether it is defined by decolonized progressives or by hypocritical western liberals.
So, despite the fact that majorities in the US and the UK oppose military intervention in Syria, the US and British governments are going to war anyway. And yet even the most progressive amongst us, continue to view these systems as democracies. There is something fundamentally hypocritical and cynical about viewing western liberal political systems as democratic solely on the basis of how much they respect the human rights of their own citizens, are responsive to majority public opinion on domestic matters, and abide by the rule of law, while violating the human rights of people outside their countries, ignoring majority public opinion on foreign policy matters and dismissing international law altogether. This tendency can only be described as naked racism on the part of western liberals and self-hating, internalized racism on the part of colonized natives.
It isn’t merely the [overwhelmingly Muslim], Arab people who reject Islamic extremism; The Egyptian army’s “coup” against the MB is but the latest manifestation of a political trend that began in Syria in 2011, and was also recently witnessed in Lebanon: Arab armies taking on the role of the guarantors of national unity and internal stability by refusing to allow their nations to succumb to the divisive and sectarian agendas of Amerikan Islam, be it in extremist takfiri or “moderate” MB form. The fact that Obama expressed his “deep concern” over the Egyptian army’s decision , only reinforces this reality and confirms the moral rightness of this trend . Nasrallah repeatedly warned of the US’ aversion to strong Arab armies who are capable of thwarting its sinister schemes in the region. And no matter how distasteful wars and coups are to the bleeding- heart -liberal- brigade, let us face it: there can be no genuine participatory democracy when US/petrodollar- backed sectarian agitators, disguised as democrats are presented as the only alternative.
I just read these very moving words written by a student blogger who recently graduated from Damascus University’s School of Architecture: ” [Who] Will tell the world about the students who had to leave so early because the US and its Arab and Turkish allies thought we don’t have democracy.. We had democracy when me and my friends of all sects sat on this table every day, spoke about everything, studied, spent the best times ever.. now .. this blood is not democracy.” I don’t think one can find a more workable definition of democracy than this one.
The Empire’s attempts to diminish Chavez’s stature are not confined to its absurd reference to his rule as a “dictatorship”, despite Carter’s affirmation that the “Election Process in Venezuela is the Best in the World.” This de-eulogizing campaign carried out by human rights organizations and mainstream media also operates in other, more subtle ways, such as calling him a “self-proclaimed revolutionary” and a “self-styled socialist”, insinuating that objectively speaking, he was neither. Another pervasive technique used to detract from his democratic credentials, is the emphasis on the “cult of personality” he supposedly nurtured in order to cling on to power. This discourse aims not only at presenting the revolutionary leader as a power-crazed demagogue, but also at recasting popular support for his leadership as stemming from the manipulation of irrational impulses rather than his organic relationship with the people. In this manner, the massive outpouring of grief that has overwhelmed Venezuela, is reduced to “raucous” and “militant” street politics in dire need of a civilized, western liberal corrective. Because when masses of people elect a leader from their own ranks to represent their cause, and then shower him with love and praise for remaining true to their cause, this is clearly the anti-thesis of democracy in the western liberal lexicon.
Right, so when Gadaffi and Assad tried to stamp out foreign backed insurrections, they were/are “brutal dictators” and “authoritarian regimes” “killing their own people”, but when the US is faced with unarmed American protesters demanding economic justice, they will hunt them down inch by inch, house by house, home by home, zenga, zenga with fleets of drones, some of which could become weaponized. And not only that, they will allow corporations to do the same, turning Amerika into the world’s sole totalitarian state monitoring the minutiae of its citizens’ lives in typical Orwellian, Big Brother fashion: "30,000 of them are expected to be in use by 2020, some as small as hummingbirds – meaning that you won’t necessarily see them, tracking your meeting with your fellow-activists, with your accountant or your congressman, or filming your cruising the bars or your assignation with your lover, as its video-gathering whirs…The Pentagon can now send a domestic drone to hover outside your apartment window, collecting footage of you and your family, if the secretary of Defense approves it. Or it may track you and your friends and pick up audio of your conversations..Given the Department of Homeland Security militarization of police departments, once the circle is completed with San Francisco or New York or Chicago local cops having their own drone fleet – and with Chase, HSBC and other banks having hired local police, as I reported here last week – the meshing of military, domestic law enforcement, and commercial interests is absolute. You don’t need a messy, distressing declaration of martial law. And drone fleets owned by private corporations means that a first amendment right of assembly is now over: if Occupy is massing outside of a bank, send the drone fleet to surveil, track and harass them. If citizens rally outside the local Capitol? Same thing."
The Israeli commentator Ben Caspit writes “In its Middle Eastern-Islamist version, democracy comes off as a recipe for riots, trouble, extremism and instability.” I know many secular Arabs are now repeating this mantra but if we think more deeply about such sweeping Orientalist generalizations about the Arab and Islamic world, we should lay the blame for this “recipe” for chaos on the imperialist-Arab axis rather than on our political culture. It isn’t that our region is incompatible with democracy. It is just incompatible with mega doses of imperialist interventions masquerading as democratization.
This chaos is the outcome of half baked revolutions that have been overtaken by the Empire and its Arab lackeys who have turned newly created “democratic” spaces into open arenas for naked [mainly sectarian] power struggles, leaving a security void that Al-Qaeda and other extremists flourish in, and a political void that only well-organized Islamists backed by petrodollars, can fill.
This chaos is what happens when the hegemonic liberal brand of democracy is grafted onto our societies, albeit in procedural form only.
This chaos is what happens when find ourselves still under the yoke of economic and political imperialism, despite having unseated authoritarian leaders, as our economies remain beholden to the IMF’s dictates, while the US/NATO and their regional allies continue to manipulate our domestic politics by propping political parties which serve their geostrategic interests.
Support for Islamists and others with sectarian agendas is not the product of political choice and pluralism, but the product of military intervention that arms and empowers these groups, granting them influence over locales they control. Sympathy for the more extreme of these religious and/or sectarian agendas is not the natural outcome of democratic elections or popular uprisings, but of the intellectual and political colonialism that has been mediated by Arab monarchies. And they have done so by means of overtly sectarian media campaigns and narratives which aim to de-prioritize the Empire and its Zionist outpost as the Arabs’ main enemy by replacing them with the “Shi’ite threat.”
The real recipe for riots, trouble, extremism and instability is not democracy but the lack thereof. This is the product of the de-democratization of the region that has accompanied Empire-sponsored and/or Empire-hijacked, uprisings, and the ensuing military struggles and political processes whose micro-management is subcontracted to its GCC allies.
Our region and our political culture have never been averse to democracy, for what could be a greater expression of popular sovereignty than our rejection of imperialism and our resistance to Israel? This has been the cornerstone of OUR understanding of democracy as popular sovereignty and self-determination. It is precisely the undermining of this democratic, freedom and justice-seeking culture—this resistance identity— that has created this chaos and instability. And that is why we call them counter-revolutionary revolutions because they constitute a revolt against the once widespread revolutionary movement against our imperialist oppressors.
Not that we ever needed further proof after Libya and Syria, but as Mursi’s power grab demonstrates today, neither individual rights nor real participatory democracy can be attained when imperialism still holds a firm grip over our region. There can be no freedom from (individual rights) or freedom to (social and economic rights) without the national right to self-determination.There can be no freedom or dignity of any kind so long as there is US domination.There can be no freedom for any Arab so long as Palestine is not free.
Amen to that. Excerpt from Khamenei’s inaugural speech at NAM summit:
"The UN Security Council has an illogical, unjust and completely undemocratic structure and mechanism. This is a flagrant form of dictatorship, which is antiquated and obsolete and whose expiry date has passed. It is through abusing this improper mechanism that America and its accomplices have managed to disguise their bullying as noble concepts and impose it on the world. They protect the interests of the West in the name of “human rights”. They interfere militarily in other countries in the name of “democracy”. They target defenseless people in villages and cities with their bombs and weapons in the name of “combating terrorism”. From their perspective, humanity is divided into first-, second- and third-class citizens. Human life is considered cheap in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and expensive in America and Western Europe. The security of America and Europe is considered important, while the security of the rest of humanity is considered unimportant. Torture and assassination are permissible and completely ignored if they are carried out by America, the Zionists and their puppets. It does not trouble their conscience that they have secret prisons in various places on different continents, in which defenseless prisoners who have no legal representation and have not been tried in a court of law are treated in the most hideous and detestable way. Good and evil are defined in a completely one-sided and selective way. They impose their interests on the nations of the world in the name of “international law”. They impose their domineering and illegal demands in the name of “international community”. Using their exclusive and organized media network, they disguise their lies as the truth, their falsehood as true, and their oppression as efforts to promote justice. In contrast, they brand as lies every true statement that exposes their deceit and label every legitimate demand as roguish."
I suppose it was only inevitable that the same liberal imperialists who tried to market the most repressive and archaic Arab regimes as symbols of the democratic, freedom-loving “international community”, and who desperately try to present sectarian executioners, rapists and terrorists as an armed “resistance” fighting “tyranny”, would promote a group of psychologically deranged women who public
ly perform sexually humiliating and deviant acts involving poultry, as beacons of women’s emancipation (read this excellent feminist critique of the movement here). Only in the increasingly absurd world of liberal interventionism do Wahhabism, bloodthirsty militiamen and pregnant women engaged in public orgies while stuffed bears look on, become our enlightened allies whose sole concern is to liberate us from the dark forces of anti-imperialist oppression.
In the final analysis, the “democracy” that the “Arab Spring” has ushered in has only served Empire’s long-standing stratagem of divide-and-rule. Any democratic reforms which occur in a highly polarized and sectarian environment that has been stripped of all Arab nationalist identity—and with it, the preeminent status the liberation of Palestine once enjoyed— degenerates into the tyranny of imperialist-enabling majorities who win power by default in liberal, though by no means democratic, elections.
What we are witnessing in the Arab world today is the unfolding of liberalism, not of democracy. For at the end of the day, democracy isn’t merely procedural aspects like elections and political reforms, but more substantially, the ability of people enjoying popular sovereignty to shape their own political identity, control their national resources and participate in determining their national destiny. Indeed, the loss of national sovereignty and self-determination in Libya and Syria, coupled with the triumph of narrow sectarian loyalties over Arab national identities, has only resulted in the de-democratization of the region, which is now even more firmly in the Empire’s grip.
I don’t understand why we have to be politically “tolerant’” and endorse political diversity and pluralism. Of course, I am not referring to countries like Lebanon and Syria where even Zionist collaborators and NATO lackeys must be dialogued with to prevent/end civil war which is a far greater evil. But just in the general, theoretical sense. How does embracing a diversity of views which include support for Israel and Amerika contribute to the justice or freedom of a system? Western liberal “democracies” don’t tolerate our anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist views. They don’t tolerate our Resistance option, neither in their media nor in their Academy nor in their political system. At the end of the day, democracy means popular sovereignty; a people’s right to determine their own destiny. How can that be safeguarded when some people are allowed to challenge this right and even win public office and usurp it? How can we allow an oppressed people— who are subjected to daily mainstream propaganda— to colonize themselves? How is that even considered a “right” that needs to be protected? How is tolerating and encouraging their self-colonization and subjugation conducive to their freedom? Just as freedom of speech in the West is confined within clearly demarcated liberal parameters, which ensure the continuity of the imperialist world order, we should confine freedom of expression within resistance parameters: all political debate must be governed by two constants—a rejection of Israel’s right to exist and a rejection of western imperialism. That is the only way of guaranteeing democracy as we define it.
At the end of the day, we shouldn’t be surprised at the outcome of the first round of the Egyptian presidential elections. What other probable outcome could we have expected given the SCAF and the United States’s hold on the political system? What better way to reverse Empire’s losses brought about by a revolutionary movement, than by attempting to co-opt and placate it with “procedural democracy”?
The Egyptian case is an example of US-promoted “low-intensity democracy” or “polyarchy”, par excellence: a western-backed bourgeois elite stage-manages elections designed to suppress, rather than express, popular aspirations for more radical political change. To facilitate its task, it is equipped with tools like foreign funding of Empire-serving candidates, vote-buying, the creation of a climate of apathy and or/intimidation to ensure a low voter turnout in rival constituencies, redrawing electoral districts and gerrymandering to ensure the election result (though this didn’t occur in Egypt, it is practiced elsewhere) and a fair —though not excessive— amount of voter/election fraud thrown in when faced with stiff competition from anti-system candidates who enjoy real popular legitimacy.
What the Egyptian case should teach us, especially the more idealistic among us, is that the outcome of any post-Assad (assuming he is overthrown) “democratic transition”’ would be far more of a sham and usurpation of the popular will than the election in Egypt or the elections engineered by the Syrian Baath. Imagine the electoral outcome in a country like Syria where US-NATO-GCC intervention is far more direct and flagrant than it is in Egypt; where Empire’s proxies are far more openly obsequious, imperialist and Zionist, not to mention sectarian, than any of the Egyptian regime’s candidates. I don’t know about you, but if I am faced with a choice between low-intensity democracy election results and a quasi-democratic or even sham election run by an authoritarian regime who enjoys popular support and confronts Empire, I choose the latter. When that mythical third choice moves from the realm of utopia to reality, I will reassess my choices.
As with the voter turnout for the constitutional referendum, a little over half of voting age Syrians participated in the recent parliamentary elections. “Ridiculous” [to quote the US’s official reaction] or not, that’s half the population once again bestowing legitimacy upon Assad’s political system, a number that closely corresponds with turnouts in the West. Presumably, this figure would have been even higher were it not for the unstable security situation. And for all the skeptics out there who will argue that there was no “independent” (read, NATO countries) observers to monitor the elections, one would imagine that if the regime wanted to fabricate figures it have could given itself a slight, though still realistic, spike in support.
While I have no illusions about the extent of political pluralism in Syria under the new reforms, does AFP really have to use quotation marks around the word “multiparty” in is latest report on the parliamentary elections? Is the US bipartisan system or Great Britain’s “two-plus” system any more pluralistic? Is there any real difference in strategic vision or ideology between left and right? Are there drastically different domestic and foreign policies even? And if not, then doesn’t that suggest there is no genuine political competition which is the cornerstone of “representative democracies” (regardless of what an oxymoron this term is)? Faced with very similar party agendas, does the western voter really have a genuine CHOICE to make? And if he/she doesn’t have real alternatives to choose from, how can we call that “freedom of choice”?
Isn’t that one of the principal causes of increasingly low voter turnouts in western countries? Isn’t the line that separates voter apathy in the West from the boycotting of elections by the opposition in Syria, really a very fine one between those who are conscious of the system’s lack of legitimacy and those who have lost faith in it without being conscious of the reasons why?
Do anti-system parties even see the light of day in the US and Europe? Do these liberal democracies really tolerate, let alone encourage the growth of parties which seek to subvert liberalism and institute alternative regime-types in its place? Would the American government which enjoys no more popular support than its opposite number in Syria, really allow enemy-funded parties that seek to overthrow it , a place in the political system?
If the Syrian opposition discredits the elections as little more than a “sham” designed to “preserve” Assad ‘s “autocratic rule” as AP, AFP and other mainstream media are reporting, is that really any different from the general purpose of elections in the west which are designed to merely recirculate the same class of capitalist-liberal elites?
Given that this is what two-party and multi-party politics has come to mean, doesn’t that give the Syrian political system every much as right as its western counterparts to call itself a multi-party system minus the quotation marks?