[Dehai-WN] Weekly.ahram.org.eg: Tyranny mission

[Dehai-WN] Weekly.ahram.org.eg: Tyranny mission

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Thu, 17 Nov 2011 15:23:03 +0100

Tyranny mission

Bashar Al-Assad and Ali Abdullah Saleh have the opportunity to step away
from disaster, but they're not doing it, writes Abdel-Moneim Said

17 - 23 November 2011


The only possible way to interpret all the evasiveness, manoeuvring,
shiftiness and even deceitfulness that characterise Yemeni President Ali
Abdullah Saleh's reaction to the initiative of the Gulf Cooperation Council
and Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's reaction to the Arab League
initiative is that they are on a "mission of tyranny" in its purest form.
Dictatorship is hardly new to the Arab world -- indeed, to the world at
large. There have always been and always will be persons who imagine that
they have been singled out as individuals or as heads of a political party
or movement to lead their nation to new horizons and unprecedented heights.
Modern times have brought tyrants who claimed to possess a universal
ideological mission, as was the case with the Nazis in Germany, the fascists
in Italy, the communists in Russia and China, and the Islamists in
Afghanistan and Iran. Other modern tyrants confined themselves to a domestic
mission, seeing themselves as the only bulwark against potential civil war,
sectarian strife, and national disintegration and fragmentation.

Arab publics have grown familiar with dictators' proclamations, "Without me
the country will descend into chaos," and other such variations on Après moi
le déluge. But what is new in the Arab world is that the Arab people have
rebelled against this formula and no one foresaw the consequences or
appreciated the potential cost of this rebellion, the nature of which no one
has really grasped in its entirety. The great uprising, which manifested
itself in the major streets and squares of Arab cities, began as a form of
peaceful mass protest or collective acts of civil disobedience that soon
encountered the heavy-handed response of tyrants. The revolutionaries
responded to the violence in various ways. At times they met the violence
with violence (in some places they appealed for foreign assistance when it
became clear that the regime was prepared to engage in wholesale slaughter
of its own people) and elsewhere they persisted in their peaceful activism,
ready to make the ultimate sacrifice.

It is impossible to predict what the Arab revolutions will eventually
produce. All have raised the banners of democracy and free elections,
dignity and justice, and other noble principles. However, embodying these
values on the ground is another matter entirely, to which testify the
arduous and stressful experiences in Egypt and Tunisia. Perhaps, in some
cases, society will have emerged from one tyranny only to plunge headlong
into another. In Egypt, it has been said that the Pharaohs have gone. But
"Pharaonism" may remain, if under a different mantle or priesthood.

Be that as it may, the revolutionary experience itself has been of
inestimable value. That the people engaged in the political fray in various
ways and learned how to deal with authority and authoritarian might is a net
gain the ultimate effects of which cannot be assessed on the basis of one
political round.

Tyranny is where evil ones are free to speak while the good are forced to
remain silent. Today, the latter have begun to speak, to cheer, to
deliberate and to negotiate. The tyrant no longer holds a monopoly on wisdom
or on a mission. In fact, one major trait of tyranny is that the tyrant
always claims to speak in the name of the people, the masses or the nation,
and for the past, present and future. He is the one and only great keeper of
history. But when eventually the people did speak, they had something else
to say. The "people," the "masses" and the "nation" began to air opinions
that may not necessarily have been the wisest of opinions, but were
definitely not those of the tyrant. In such cases, the tyrant would be wise
to listen and even wiser to leave.

This particular insight is clearly beyond the grasp of Saleh and Al-Assad.
The angry mass protests in their countries are akin to the tale of the child
that blurted out that the emperor had no clothes. The veneer of lies and
false promises is completely see-through, the people have proclaimed, in the
Yemeni and Syrian cases. And it was not long before the emperor bared his
teeth. From one minute to the next, he turned from the magnanimous and
venerable father to an ogre, feeding his people to the jaws of prison and
the machines of torture and genocide. Then, with every fresh outburst of
popular anger and with each additional day of the mass uprising, he
increased his dose of violence and brutality, out of the belief that this
would cure the illness of the people's contrariness and their desire for

To judge from the reactions of the two "leaders", they are totally clueless
as to why their countries are in turmoil. There is no reason why Saleh
should have remained in power for 33 years, as though Yemen's female
population had lost the power to produce offspring with leadership
capacities. The Yemeni population has nearly tripled during his period of
rule and the world has changed several times, but the Yemeni president
remains unchanged, and he thinks his country should too. Bashar somehow
forgot that he came to power by hereditary succession in a constitutional
republic whose constitution had to be tailored to suit his age. But then, he
had always felt that his legitimacy stemmed from the power he possessed
through his control of Syria's diverse agencies of repression and for some
time no one seemed prepared to disillusion him. Ironically, the first
objections came from within the Al-Assad family itself, when Rifaat Al-Assad
found himself deprived of the spoils and when it dawned on Abdel-Halim
Khaddam that Syria was not a democracy. But all that is just the surface.
Syria's real game has to do with Iran, a few Gulf countries and, as always,
Lebanon, the prize, the bargaining chip and the eternal victim.

The Arab people rose up to say that they had had enough. No country can
remain forever outside of history, geography and other coordinates of space
and time. The tyrants the people rose up against live in a realm of their
own, a self-feeding fantasy in which there is an abundant store of people to
drive the great fiction they created for themselves until eventually they
come to believe it so thoroughly that they willingly abandon the few
remaining opportunities to save themselves or embark on a new life.
Generally, the people would have no problem striking some kind of deal. The
Tunisian people did not object to the flight of Ben Ali and, apart from a
few isolated voices, no one there clamoured for his return so he could stand
trial. Many revolutionaries in Egypt had hoped that Mubarak would leave the
same way. But the former president chose to step down, as he should have,
yet to remain in his country even if as an inmate. Gaddafi chose another
path. He rejected all initiatives and was simultaneously determined not to
leave, and this path led to a consummately tragic end. Meanwhile, the Libyan
people that fought until the bitter end, found themselves at a totally new
beginning in the fullest sense of the term: they have no state, no
government, and total chaos and madness.

Yemen and Syria, now, are at a historical threshold. Sadly, their fates are
in the hands of Abdullah Saleh and Bashar Al-Assad, both of who have the
opportunity of an initiative to save them from disaster, but both of whom
seem bent on a course from which there can be no return.


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Received on Thu Nov 17 2011 - 09:23:07 EST
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