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Fall of the Raj

By Margolis, Eric | The American Conservative, April 2011 | Go to article overview

Fall of the Raj

Margolis, Eric, The American Conservative

Egyptians revolted against American rule as well as Mubarak's.

THE MIDEAST house of cards so laboriously constructed by Washington over the past four decades threatens to collapse. One can't help but be reminded of the revolts across Eastern Europe in 1989 that began the fall of the Soviet Empire.

Now it may be the turn of America's Mideast empire, an empire constructed of Arab dictatorships to assure U.S. domination of oil and Israel's domination of the Levant. The popular uprisings against Western-backed dictatorships that erupted in Tunisia, spread to Egypt, and have been flaring in Yemen, Jordan, and Morocco, are the result of Washington's dedication to what it calls "stability" and "moderation."

Yet we should note that the current uprising against Western-sponsored military rule in the Mideast did not begin in Tunisia, but with a slow-motion, barely noticed process in Turkey, where the moderate democratic AK party of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has driven the Turkish army back to its barracks and out of politics. Turkey's ousting of its mighty military, which had ruled the nation behind a flimsy façade of parliamentary puppets since the 1940s, electrified the Muslim world. Turkey broke its close links to Israel and championed the cause of Palestine.

Egypt's military dictator, GeneralPresident Hosni Mubarak, who ruled with an iron fist since 1981, was fulsomely hailed in the West for the twin qualities of stability and moderation. His unloving people may have called him "pharaoh," but to successive administrations in Washington, he was a 'valued, democratic statesman.' The rulers of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Jordan and Yemen - not to mention the oil monarchs of the Arabian Peninsula - were also lauded as moderates, guardians of stability, even democrats.

Stability, in the American lexicon, means not allowing any opposition parties or individuals to trouble the status quo, be they political Islamists or secular democrats. Challenging the Mideast's Pax Americana became a subversive act that was usually branded terrorism and linked to the shadowy Osama bin Laden and his almost non-existent movement, al-Qaeda. The mere mention by Mideast autocrats of the dreaded Q-word was sufficient to hush American concerns about egregious violations of human rights by their satraps or the crushing of all opposition. The al-Qaeda bogeyman was certain to produce hefty infusions of U.S. military aid.

I chose the title of my latest book about how the U.S. rules the Arab world American Raj to underline the remarkable similarity between the control methods used by imperial Britain in India and those employed by its successor empire, the United States. "Raj" means Imperium through local rulers. And that's just the structure built by the U.S. across the Mideast.

"Stability" has been enforced by brutal secret police using torture and extra-judicial executions. In Egypt, a favorite punishment for male protesters and candidates who dared run in rigged elections against Mubarak was anal rape. Across the region, behind the secret police stood U.S. and Frenchequipped Arab armies whose primary military mission was to suppress their own people and prevent revolution. Battalions of informers, and dismissal from government jobs or housing and pension plans, were all common tools used to dissuade anti-regime activities. Press censorship was universal.

Such was the "stability" cultivated and financed by the U.S. and, in North Africa, by France. "Moderation," in turn, means being obethent to Washington's demands, acting against all reformers and revolutionaries, and making nice to Israel. Egypt was paid $2 billion per annum - it was the second highest recipient of foreign aid after Israel - to abandon the Palestinian cause. Tens of millions of "black" payments went to Egyptian generals, politicians, officials, and media.

But the foundations of the Raj are now gravely threatened by the spontaneous popular uprisings in the long^uffering Arab world.

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