This is a very beautifully written editorial by Mohamed Benchicou. It’s a must read.
Les Amuseurs de la République
Par: Mohamed Benchicou
vendredi, 03 mai 2013
Comme tous les quatre ans, à pareille époque préélectorale, ils déferlent, en rangs serrés, avec un nouveau spectacle dans les valises, comme s’ils répondaient à l’appel d’un devoir national du simulacre, bousculant à la fois les règles de l’actualité et celles du théâtre burlesque. Le gang des Amuseurs de la République est à l’œuvre !
Leur nouvelle création de 2013, provisoirement intitulée « Le président peut-il encore gouverner ? », originale et désopilante, basée sur l’allusif, un nouveau style baladin qui consiste à contourner la triste réalité nationale pour s’attarder sur l’ailleurs, raconte les tribulations du chef de l’État d’une île mystérieuse, une contrée fantasmagorique dont je suis incapable de vous dire le nom. À croire certains spécialistes versés dans le monde du burlesque, il s’agirait de Fantasyland, un pays magique de Disneyland, où les contes de fées et les histoires qui ont inspiré les films d’animation de Disney prennent vie, comme par magie. Cela expliquerait, sans doute, le fait que le nouveau spectacle, « Le président peut-il encore gouverner ? », vient d’être enrichi de plusieurs déclinaisons tout aussi drôles les unes que les autres, comme « Le quatrième mandat, c’est fini ! », un gag qui a rencontré un succès foudroyant, « La succession est ouverte », avec Benflis en guest-star, ou « Saïd Bouteflika limogé », une fiction loufoque montée avec adresse et dans laquelle des observateurs avertis ont cru reconnaître à la fois la main d’un célèbre manipulateur et un plagiat de Discoveryland, monde de Disney où les prédictions des grands visionnaires prennent vie.
Le débat autour de la fameuse contrée dont parlent nos opposants et nos journalistes est toujours en cours, mais une chose semble cependant certaine : il ne s’agit pas de l’Algérie. La lecture de l’éditorial d’un des membres les plus influents des Amuseurs, ne laisse, à ce propos, aucun doute. Le respectable analyste décrit, en effet, une province étrange mais démocratique, où la succession du président se réaliserait dans « le respect de la souveraineté du peuple, sans contrainte, et dans la transparence », détails qui excluent, de facto, l’hypothèse Algérie. La chose relève d’ailleurs du bon sens : la maladie d’un chef d’État n’étant handicapante qu’en démocratie, système où l’opinion garde le droit de regard sur la gouvernance, la question « Le président peut-il encore gouverner ? » devient, du coup, parfaitement inadaptée à l’Algérie. Chez nous, Dieu merci, pareille complication nous est épargnée, les citoyens que nous sommes n’étant consultés ni sur l’état de santé du chef de l’État, ni sur sa désignation ni encore moins sur sa reconduction. En retour, ce dernier régnerait sans rien nous devoir. C’est tout le privilège de ce que les Russes appellent les vybori bez vybora (élections sans choix), privilège qui s’ajoute, pour des autocraties comme l’Algérie, à celui d’être parfaitement gouvernables à partir d’un lit d’hôpital. La prouesse paraît d’autant plus à la portée de notre chef de l’État que notre cher pays, où le Conseil des ministres ne se réunit jamais, est unanimement reconnu comme l’unique de la planète à fonctionner sous le mode du pilotage automatique, personne n’y gouvernant et, conformément aux vybori bez vybora, personne n’y étant gouverné.
Tout ça pour dire que l’interrogation « Le président peut-il encore gouverner ? », en plus d’être parfaitement incongrue pour un pays où la sagesse autocratique l’emporte sur la véhémence démocratique, pose incontestablement un problème inédit : dans quelle catégorie classer les chimères généreusement imaginées par une si brillante équipe d’analystes et de brillants politologues, dont le seul mérite aura été de nous apprendre que la grande famille du pouvoir illégitime pouvait, finalement, être aussi drôle que les Simpson ? Dans le théâtre, on avait inventé la comédie, le vaudeville, la bouffonnerie, la parodie, le burlesque, le sketch, le pastiche, la satire, la clownerie, l’arlequinade, la facétie… Aucun de ces styles ne paraît, cependant, correspondre au grotesque de la situation. Ah ! Peut-être dans la pantalonnade, qui n’est pas ce que vous pensez, mais dans le théâtre italien, une posture comique assez drôle dans laquelle excellait le pantalon, qui n’est pas non plus ce que vous pensez, mais un personnage du théâtre vénitien qui porte traditionnellement cette sorte de culotte et qui a laissé son nom pour désigner un homme sans dignité et sans consistance !
Depuis on a cependant su que « pantalonnade » veut dire, en même temps que ce que vous pensez, subterfuge grotesque pour sortir d’embarras. Rappelons-nous : la théorie du « président malade et démissionnaire » avait déjà permis, en 2005, d’avorter les grosses contestations autour des effets catastrophiques de la fameuse Charte pour la paix. Val-de-Grâce avait étouffé le scandale politique. Le régime s’est servi de nouveau, en 2006, de la théorie du « président malade et démissionnaire », pour briser le débat houleux qui commençait à s’installer autour du projet d’amendement de la Constitution. À quoi bon débattre, se disait-on, d’un projet mort-né, compromis par la santé défaillante du président ? Dans les deux cas, le régime a obtenu, par l’esbroufe, un répit salutaire qu’il a su habilement exploiter. Aujourd’hui, en 2013, Bouteflika substitue le débat autour de la corruption de Chakib Khelil, c’est-à-dire la corruption imputable à sa famille politique, par un débat sur l’AVC et ses conséquences sur la gouvernance. Val de Grâce II continue le boulot diversion de Val de Grâce I ! Comme en 2004, le régime utilise la presse minaudière et l’opposition maniérée pour reconduire, « légalement » et dans le cadre du « pluralisme », le président Bouteflika à la tête du pays ! Encore une fois, un des subterfuges par lesquels s’éternisent les autocraties dans nos pays, aura magnifiquement fonctionné. Ainsi, pendant que d’éminents esprits nous rebattent la thèse du « président malade et démissionnaire », que dit et que fait le principal intéressé ? Il affirme à qui veut l’entendre : « Grâce à Dieu, je me porte très bien » ; il prépare la population à l’émotion du « retour au pays » ; il multiplie les flagorneries en direction de l’opinion publique ; il n’oublie pas de « remercier » la presse qu’il gratifie d’une journée spéciale le 22 octobre… Tout cela débouche sur une information capitale : la décision de postuler pour un quatrième mandat est déjà prise !
Alors, je crois bien que, faute d’antécédents dans le genre théâtral, l’on soit obligé de rapprocher la manœuvre complice à laquelle se prêtent une partie de notre presse et de notre opposition, d’une pantalonnade tout à fait remarquable d’adresse et d’inventivité et dont on rirait volontiers si elle n’était un discours de diversion qui finit par laisser au régime l’initiative politique. Nous avons juste oublié que le diable, devant les nigauds, entreprend toujours de jouer au nigaud. Tout autocrate compte sur la bêtise humaine pour enfourcher le monde et l’étrangler de ses sangles. Il suffit de laisser croire. Gouverner c’est faire croire a dit Machiavel. C’est cela, le but de la politique, pour Machiavel, ce n’est pas la morale mais la réussite : obtenir et conserver le pouvoir !
Finissons par un clin d’œil à la journée du 3 mai pour évoquer le « papier » si précieux pour un journaliste et dire que toute cette histoire ressemble, en effet, à celle du papier plié en quatre qu’on découvre au détour d’une ruelle, que l’on ramasse avec une curiosité difficilement contenue, que l’on fourre dans la poche avec cupidité, que l’on ouvre, enfin, avec angoisse pour découvrir que la trouvaille, au final, n’était qu’un prospectus de vente au rabais… Il sera alors l’heure pour l’île mystérieuse de fermer ses portes. Rendez-vous dans quatre ans pour une autre séance de fantasmagorie. Entre-temps, nous aurons au moins appris que la politique n’est pas un jeu, mais un art de la dissimulation au nom de l’efficacité. Et l’efficacité, ici, consistait, tout simplement, tout bêtement, serai-je tenté de dire, à s’assurer de sa propre succession en 2014 !
Courtesy of our dear friend Juan Cole
Posted on 04/23/2013 by Juan Cole
Contrary to what is alleged by bigots like Bill Maher, Muslims are not more violent than people of other religions. Murder rates in most of the Muslim world are very low compared to the United States.
As for political violence, people of Christian heritage in the twentieth century polished off tens of millions of people in the two world wars and colonial repression. This massive carnage did not occur because European Christians are worse than or different from other human beings, but because they were the first to industrialize war and pursue a national model. Sometimes it is argued that they did not act in the name of religion but of nationalism. But, really, how naive. Religion and nationalism are closely intertwined. The British monarch is the head of the Church of England, and that still meant something in the first half of the twentieth century, at least. The Swedish church is a national church. Spain? Was it really unconnected to Catholicism? Did the Church and Francisco Franco’s feelings toward it play no role in the Civil War? And what’s sauce for the goose: much Muslim violence is driven by forms of modern nationalism, too.
I don’t figure that Muslims killed more than a 2 million people or so in political violence in the entire twentieth century, and that mainly in the Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988 and the Soviet and post-Soviet wars in Afghanistan, for which Europeans bear some blame.
Compare that to the Christian European tally of, oh, lets say 100 million (16 million in WW I, 60 million in WW II– though some of those were attributable to Buddhists in Asia– and millions more in colonial wars.)
Belgium– yes, the Belgium of strawberry beer and quaint Gravensteen castle– conquered the Congo and is estimated to have killed off half of its inhabitants over time, some 8 million people at least.
Or, between 1916-1930 Tsarist Russian and then Soviet forces — facing the revolt of Central Asians trying to throw off Christian (and then Marxist), European rule — Russian forces killed an estimated 1.5 million people. Two boys brought up in or born in one of those territories (Kyrgyzstan) just killed 4 people and wounded others critically. That is horrible, but no one, whether in Russia or in Europe or in North America has the slightest idea that Central Asians were mass-murdered during WW I and before and after, and looted of much of their wealth. Russia when it brutally conquered and ruled the Caucasus and Central Asia was an Eastern Orthodox, Christian empire (and seems to be reemerging as one!).
Then, between half a million and a million Algerians died in that country’s war of independence from France, 1954-1962, at a time when the population was only 11 million!
I could go on and on. Everywhere you dig in European colonialism in Afro-Asia, there are bodies. Lots of bodies.
Now that I think of it, maybe 100 million people killed by people of European Christian heritage in the twentieth century is an underestimate.
As for religious terrorism, that too is universal. Admittedly, some groups deploy terrorism as a tactic more at some times than others. Zionists in British Mandate Palestine were active terrorists in the 1940s, from a British point of view, and in the period 1965-1980, the FBI considered the Jewish Defense League among the most active US terrorist groups. (Members at one point plotted to assassinate Rep. Dareell Issa (R-CA) because of his Lebanese heritage.) Now that Jewish nationalsts are largely getting their way, terrorism has declined among them. But it would likely reemerge if they stopped getting their way. In fact, one of the arguments Israeli politicians give for allowing Israeli squatters to keep the Palestinian land in the West Bank that they have usurped is that attempting to move them back out would produce violence. I.e., the settlers not only actually terrorize the Palestinians, but they form a terrorism threat for Israel proper (as the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin discovered).
Even more recently, it is difficult for me to see much of a difference between Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Baruch Goldstein, perpetrator of the Hebron massacre.
Or there was the cold-blooded bombing of the Ajmer shrine in India by Bhavesh Patel and a gang of Hindu nationalists. Chillingly, they were disturbed when a second bomb they had set did not go off, so that they did not wreak as much havoc as they would have liked. Ajmer is an ecumenical Sufi shrine also visited by Hindus, and these bigots wanted to stop such open-minded sharing of spiritual spaces because they hate Muslims.
Buddhists have committed a lot of terrorism and other violence as well. Many in the Zen orders in Japan supported militarism in the first half of the twentieth century, for which their leaders later apologized. And, you had Inoue Shiro’s assassination campaign in 1930s Japan. Nowadays militant Buddhist monks in Burma/ Myanmar are urging on an ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya.
As for Christianity, the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda initiated hostilities that displaced two million people. Although it is an African cult, it is Christian in origin and the result of Western Christian missionaries preaching in Africa. If Saudi Wahhabi preachers can be in part blamed for the Taliban, why do Christian missionaries skate when we consider the blowback from their pupils?
Despite the very large number of European Muslims, in 2007-2009 less than 1 percent of terrorist acts in that continent were committed by people from that community.
Terrorism is a tactic of extremists within each religion, and within secular religions of Marxism or nationalism. No religion, including Islam, preaches indiscriminate violence against innocents.
It takes a peculiar sort of blindness to see Christians of European heritage as “nice” and Muslims and inherently violent, given the twentieth century death toll I mentioned above. Human beings are human beings and the species is too young and too interconnected to have differentiated much from group to group. People resort to violence out of ambition or grievance, and the more powerful they are, the more violence they seem to commit. The good news is that the number of wars is declining over time, and World War II, the biggest charnel house in history, hasn’t been repeated.
Today Bibi Netanyahu put on a show, a performance worthy of an Oscar nomination, before the U.N. General Assembly. His performance was so over the top that it actually reminded me of George C. Scott’s performance as General “Buck” Turgidson in Stanley Kubrick’s movie Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.
Good ‘Ol Bibi showed up with props and ACME-like-Bugs Bunny cartoon to alert the world to a danger that only he seems determined to eradicate in the most destructive and suicidal way. In fact, Good ‘Ol Bibi was as ridiculous and extreme as Ahmadinejad. While he was speaking, i couldn’t help myself thinking that i heard this speech before–it was like a déjà vu experience, and then it hit me: I was in fact listening to and watching Dr. Strangelove talking about the terrible Doomsday Machine and Doomsday Gap. At that point, i stopped worrying about Bibi, about his speech, about his concerns, and learned to love containment. There is something that good ‘ol Bibi needs to learn very fast: ain’t nobody on this side of the Atlantic who’s willing to start a doomsday scenario that no one knows how to end it. So Bibi, go peddle your fear-mongering and warmongering somewhere else.
Here is to Bibi Netanyahu’s U.N. Speech
Courtesy of Juan Cole.
Posted on 09/21/2012 by Juan
As the Tunisian Ministry of the Interior announced that no demonstrations would be permitted on Friday, the Muslim leader Rached Ghanoushi warned of the dangers of violent fundamentalism. The Tunisian government invoked emergency powers on learning of plans for violent disruptions on Friday, in response to anti-Islam caricatures published in the French magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Ghanoushi, the leader of the ruling al-Nahda Party and a long-time proponent of political Islam in Tunisia, has come out strongly against the small but violent “Salafi Jihadi” movement in an interview with Agence France Presse. He said that these violent extremists posed a threat both to his own al-Nahda Party and also to general liberties in the country, and said that such disruptive groups need to be dealt with decisively.
The Salafis, or hard line ultra-fundamentalists, in Tunisia, unlike those in Egypt, did not gain seats in parliament, and they are mainly known for a series of small but provocative public acts of violence and disruption, including throwing stones outside movie theaters, rioting outside art exhibits, harassing unveiled women, attacking tourist hotels for selling alcohol, and, last Saturday, attacking the American school and setting a fire on the grounds of the US Embassy in Tunis. The hard core of activists sometimes gets support in a few working class districts of the capital and some small rural towns, but it is far out of the mainstream of the country.
Many Tunisians are secularists, and there is a strong tradition of moderate Sunni Muslim reformism. Ghanouchi himself told me in an interview in May that his al-Nahda had unreservedly embraced democracy and the principle of popular sovereignty.
Other Tunisians when I was there viewed al-Nahda with suspicion and felt as though it was using the Salafis or at least not interfering with them, as a way of shifting the country toward the religious Right. Educated women often expressed fear of the Salafis taking away their rights.
The al-Nahda government is being criticized for not having arrested Salafi extremist Seif Allah Ibn Hussein, known as Abu Iyadh.
Ghanoushi has in the past condemned actions of the Salafis but at the same time complained of ‘provocations’ by secularists. In this interview, he appears to have made no excuses for them and to have condemned them roundly (though the Arabic version of the AFP interview condemns ‘Salafi Jihadis,’ not all Salafis).
I take it he has begun to worry, as I suggested last weekend, that al-Nahda itself may become associated in the public mind with the extremism and violence of the Salafis, and so could suffer in the parliamentary elections now scheduled for late spring, 2013. The proponents of political Islam in both Tunisia and Egypt face the problem that if they crack down on the extremist Salafis, they look like lackeys of imperialism defending attacks on the Prophet Muhammad. They could thus injure their standing with their own base. On the other hand, if they don’t dissociate themselves from and prove the can curb the disruptions of the Salafis, they could lose the general public in a future election.
Secular-minded Tunisians will be watching al-Nahda carefully to see if it follows through on its commitment to public order and to curbing the Salafi Jihadis.
The US State Department took revenge on the al-Nahda government for its failure to prevent Saturday’s attack on the American embassy by issuing a travel warning for Tunisia, discouraging Americans from going there. This step was a blow to Tunisian tourism and prospects of attracting foreign investment. Ghanoushi told me that the al-Nahda government had good relations with the US and was pleased with the support in Washington for Tunisian democracy. He couldn’t say so publicly, but some of his forthrightness in his AFP interview may have been an attempt to reassure Western powers about the new Tunisia.
Suite à la publication de cette image (voir ci-dessous) dans le journal satirique, “The Onion,” dans laquelle les personnages les plus vénérés de plusieurs confessions religieuses étaient représenté se livrant à un acte sexuel lascive et de dépravation considérable, personne n’a été assassiné, battu, brulé, ou a vu sa vie menacé.
On attend toujours les fans de Moïse, Jésus, de la déesse Ganesha, et de Bouddha. Mais on risque d’attendre longtemps et pour rien.
Sur la réaction des musulmans aux films/caricatures anti-Islam & l’industrie de l’indignation factice
The Industry of fake-outrage
Be advised, this is not an analysis. This is a rant. I will write an analysis in the upcoming days.
Enough is enough. That’s my reaction to this stupidity displayed by Muslims throughout the Muslim world. Every time there is a stupid cartoon or an asinine amateurish movie published in the West, the whole Muslim world plunges into a collective psychotic hysteria. People running around, foaming at the mouth, burning buildings, burning flags, burning effigies, killing people, suicidal attacks, two-bit fatwas flying left and right condemning people to death, and breaching embassies. For your information, embassies are sovereign territories by international law, and their breach, technically, constitutes an act of war.
The industry of fake outrage in the Middle East and North Africa has become the most productive and lucrative industry. The Muslim world produces nothing, but fake outrage. If Muslims really cared about the welfare of Islam and cared about the welfare of other Muslims, they should pay more attention to the abysmally catastrophic situation in their own countries; they should pay more attention to their bankrupted economies, to their medieval educational systems, to their diseased public health systems, to their crumbling infrastructures, and pay less attention to stupid amateurs in the West whose only aim is to foment troubles and excite the already hyper-excited Muslims.
If Muslims really cared about the welfare of Islam and other Muslims, they should have stood tall and denounced the horrendous murders committed by Al-Qaeda in the name of Islam in Muslims countries; they should have stood tall and denounced the killings by the 1000s committed by Muslims on Muslims in Algeria, in Egypt, in Sudan, in Iraq, in Bahrain, in Pakistan, in Afghanistan and in other places. Or is it okay for radical crazed Muslims to kill other Muslims? Are we so scared of the thugs of Al-Qaeda that we dare not criticize them, and we dare not oppose them? Where were these fake-outraged Muslims when babies were slaughtered, young girls were kidnapped and gang-raped, pregnant women were opened up and their fetuses ripped out of their bellies? Where was this outrage when Muslims killed Muslims by the 1000s in Afghanistan? I bet they looked away.
All this killing–the killing of a U.S. ambassador and 3 foreign service officers is an act of war if i may add–and all these millions of dollars wasted in this faux-outrage is the result of a movie (and other domestic struggles that i will analyze in my next post) that nobody saw and nobody heard of. It is the work of a twisted radical and former felon who is apparently a Coptic Christian with an ax to grind. This idiot named Nakoula Bassely Nakoula successfully manipulated millions of Muslims to engage in a total breach of international law and commit murder in cold blood. Yes, Al-Qaeda is involved in Libya, and the ambassador’s killing is most likely the work of Al-Qaeda splinter group. However, without the brouhaha caused by these idiot imams calling for Jihab because some idiot in Los Angeles said something bad about the Prophet Mohamed (saaws), this Al-Qaeda splinter group would not have had the opportunity to do what it did.
More importantly, and let me ask my fellow Muslims directly here: are we that insecure in and about our faith and belief? Are we this insecure about our religion? Are we? Is the divine status of the Prophet or the Koran in danger because a two-bit idiot said something bad about him or burned a couple of Korans in defiance? Is the reputation of our religion this fragile and our faith this friable that when a thug does something we start shaking in our boots, and we start doubting our belief and our principles? If you feel this way, let me tell you, you should not be part of the Islamic faith. I grant you the authorization to leave the Islamic faith because you are not Muslims, and you bring shame to my religion.
Juan Cole posted on his blog an excellent analysis of the movie that caused such an uproar in Libya, Egypt, and Muslim countries. He investigated in details (and with links) the origin of the movie, who shot it, who funded it, and for what purpose. As we already know, the U.S. government is in no way or shape linked to the production and/or promotion of this movie. Moreover, the U.S. government, federal and/or state, cannot shut down or ban this movie because it has no constitutional basis for doing so. Yes ladies and gentlemen, the first amendment protects your right to be a jackass.
So without further do, i let you read Juan Cole’s article.
The late science fiction writer Ray Bradbury authored a short story about time travelers. They were careful, when they went back to the Jurassic, not to change anything, but one of them stepped on a butterfly. When they got back to the present, the world was slightly different.
When scientists studying complexity put forward the idea that small initial events could have large effects in non-linear, dynamic systems like the weather, they chose the term ‘butterfly effect.” One of the images students of weather instanced was that a butterfly flapping its wings might set off minor turbulence that ultimately turned into a hurricane. (In the older model of Newtonian physics, small events have small effects and large events have large effects, so you wouldn’t expect a minor action to produce big changes).
So the Associated Press did a careful investigation of the ‘Sam Bacile’ who supposedly directed the hate film, ‘The Innocence of Muslims.’ And AP found that probably he does not exist, but is a persona used by a convicted Coptic Egyptian fraudster, Nakoula Bassely Nakoula.
But the story gets more complex. Nakoula had Coptic and evangelical associates in the shooting of the film, including Steve Klein, a former Marine and current extremist Christian who has helped train militiamen in California churches and has led “protests outside abortion clinics, Mormon temples and mosques.” My guess is that most of the Egyptian Copts involved are converts to American-style fundamentalism.
The Egyptian Coptic church has roundly condemned the hateful film they made smearing the Prophet Muhammad.
Anyway, the bigotry of the edited film, directed at Muslims, is part of a movement of religious prejudice that also targets . . . Mormons.
Mitt Romney may want to rethink his ‘visceral’ reaction to the US embassy in Cairo’s tweet condemning the group’s hate speech.
Then it turns out that the film was shot in such a way that there was originally no mention of the Prophet Muhammad in the script, and the cast had no idea what they were getting themselves into, and then the name of Muhammad was clumsily dubbed into the final edit.
So, the film was from the beginning a fraud. It was directed by a fraud. It was promoted by a militia trainer. And Nakoula marketed it fraudulently as the work of a fictitious Israeli-American Jewish real estate agent, ‘Sam Bacile,’ and falsely said it had been funded by “a hundred Jewish donors.”
The group behind the film, in other words, managed to evoke all the classic themes of anti-Semitism as a way of disguising the Coptic and evangelical network out of which the ‘film’ came. When they weren’t busy picketing Mormons and defaming Muslims they were trying to get Jews killed for their own smears of Islam!
Of course, given the strident hatred of Muslims promoted by a handful of Jewish American extremists such as Pamela Geller, David Horowitz, Daniel Pipes and others, in which they gleefully join with white supremacists and Christian fundamentalists, it was only a matter of time before their partners in hate turned on them and used them.
The bad, dubbed ‘film’ only had one theater showing in some dowdy place in LA. Then in July the group had the trailer for it dubbed into Arabic with subtitles as well, and put it on Youtube, where it was found by strident Egyptian Muslim fundamentalist Sheikh Khaled Abdallah, who had it shown on al-Nas television and caused the sensation that led to Tuesday’s demonstrations in Cairo and Benghazi. As I argued yesterday, the vigilante extremists or ‘jihadis’ have been left on the garbage pile of history by the democratic elections in Egypt and Libya, and are whipping up the issue of this film in a desperate attempt to remain relevant.
Aware of the building sensation about the film, an employee of the US embassy in Cairo condemned it as hate speech before the rally began outside its premises.
In other words, this is a non-film and a non-story, a fraud, promoted by the worst people in each culture.
In Cairo, the rally allegedly got out of hand because the Ultras or soccer ruffians joined in, and they were probably the ones who tore down the American flag and ran up a black Muslim-fundamentalist one. Ultras are not fundamentalists but they are mischievous and resent authority, so a superpower that backs the army and police they hate might be a target of their wrath. There may have also been a handful of al-Qaeda supporters there, not surprising on the anniversary of September 11. The crowd at the American embassy was tiny by Egyptian protest standards.
In Benghazi, Hadeel Al Shalchi got the story. She talked to Libyan special forces members who explained that there were three stages to the events there. First, there was a demonstration. Then when the police and consulate guards tried to curb it, the demonstrators got angry and some of them went for guns and a rocket propelled grenade, so that the consulate was set on fire and looted. It was at that second stage that US ambassador Chris Stevens and another diplomat were killed (Stevens inhaled too much smoke in the fire and the other man was shot). Stevens’ death is a great tragedy and irony, since he was liaison to the transitional national council during the Libyan revolution and many Libyans lionize him. Why in the world he was in an insecure minor consulate in a provincial city on September 11 is a mystery to me.
Then 37 embassy personnel escaped to a rural safe house. The Libyan special forces commander charged with evacuating them to Tripoli at first was stymied by not having enough vehicles for so many people. Then the safe house came under fairly precise mortar fire from members of an al-Qaeda affiliate operating in Benghazi, which must have been surveilling consular personnel. Finally, the Libyan government forces got the Americans to the airport and they flew back to the capital of Tripoli.
It should be remembered that Libyan forces fought and risked their lives to protect Americans. In opinion polling in Eastern Libya, the United States has a 60% favorability rating, while the Salafis or hard line Muslims stand at only 28% favorable.
It was while all that was going on in Cairo and Benghazi that Mitt Romney took it into his head to condemn Barack Obama for the tweet issued by the Cairo embassy before the demonstration. He alleged that Obama had *reacted* to the embassy attacks by showing some sympathy for the attackers. This allegation is untrue and absurd, but Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan went on repeating it all day Wednesday.
Romney was caught on camera walking away from that shameful performance with a shark-like grin on his face. Since he was talking about matters of life and death, the expression was inappropriate. But a darker theory is that he was grinning about having stuck it to Obama.
Romney’s politicization of September 11 and of the horrible events in Benghazi was poorly received among opinion leaders, including prominent Republicans, and some observers suggest that this miscalculation may have been a decisive nail in the coffin of his sputtering campaign.
Meanwhile, the Libyan government apologized for and vehemently condemned the attack on the consulate and the killing of its personnel. And, on Wednesday Libyans staged pro-American demonstrations in several cities.
In Egypt, in contrast, small demonstrations were held again in front of the US embassy, until police pushed the activists back. When, on Thursday morning, protesters set two cars afire with Molotov cocktails, police arrested 12 of them. The police have the embassy surrounded and have closed the roads leading to it in Garden City.
Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, fell short of strongly condemning the Cairo and Benghazi attacks. Late on Wednesday the Muslim Brotherhood finally retweeted comments of one of its other leaders, Khairat al-Shater, in condemnation of the attacks. Nevertheless, the Brotherhood is sponsoring rallies protesting the film on Friday, a ‘day of rage.’ Morsi is no doubt worried that religious and political currents to his right will outflank him on the issue of the blasphemous film and its American provenance. But Morsi has a Ph.D. from the US and surely knows that the US government cannot suppress films, and it is shameful that he did not condemn forthrightly the killing of Ambassador Stevens and the others.
In Tunisia, Salafis rallied on Wednesday in front of the US embassy, but were fairly quickly dispersed by police deploying tear gas. Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki denounced the killing of Stevens and the others as an “act of terrorism.”
So the Butterfly Effect set off by a low-budget bad propaganda film gotten up by two-bit frauds and Christian supremacists, and then promoted by two-bit Egyptian and Libyan fundamentalists, has provoked some squalls and cost the lives of four good men.
The storm provoked by this butterfly has revealed character on an international scale. The steely determination of an Obama to achieve justice, the embarrassing grandstanding of a Romney, the destructive hatred of a handful of extremists in Cairo and Benghazi, and the decency and warmth toward the US of the Libyan crowds, all were thrown into stark relief by the beating of the butterfly’s wings.
In the end, the violence and extremism of the hardliners on both sides is a phantasm of the past, not a harbinger of the future. The wave of democratic politics sweeping the region has left the haters behind, reducing them to desperate and senseless acts of violence that will gain them no good will, no popularity, no political credibility.
A little-noted major event of Wednesday was the democratic selection of a new prime minister in Libya for the first time in the country’s history. Mustafa Abushagur defeated the Muslim Brotherhood candidate handily. Abushagur for a long time taught college in the US, at the University of Alabama Huntsville. Libyans again showed themselves nationalist and non-fundamentalist. This remarkable achievement, and what it portends for the shape of Libyan politics, will be drowned out by the atrocity in Benghazi, but it is the development that is likely to be marked by future historians as a turning point in Libya and in the Middle East.
Dr. Cole was in Libya. So, I am tempted to use the cliché and say that he went, he saw, and he is recounting what he witnessed. So, without further ado, here is a good analysis from Dr. Cole from Libya
Courtesy of Dr. Juan Cole.
Posted on 06/05/2012 by Juan
I spent May 27 through June 3 in Libya, and flew out of Tripoli airport to Cairo a day before a small Tarhouna militia came there to demonstrate against the disappearance of its leader. Despite that close call, I came back optimistic about Libya over-all. The Tarhouna demonstration was dealt with efficiently by the new Libyan army, which took control of the airport weeks ago, and there is every reason to believe that it will reopen shortly. When I flew in and out of the Tripoli airport, there were no militiamen there, just regular army and police (who have distinctive red-marked vehicles). There are also now regular flights from Cairo, e.g., to provincial cities like Misrata.
There is a kind of black legend about Libya, that it has become a failed state and is a mess, that there are armed militiamen everywhere, that everybody is a secessionist, that the transitional government is not doing anything, that people of subsaharan African heritage are bothered in the streets, etc., etc. The black legend is promoted in part by remnants of the Qaddafi regime and his admirers in the West, in part by overly anxious middle class Libyans navigating an admittedly difficult transition, in part by media editors looking for a dramatic story.
Henry Kissinger, in his recent op-ed against intervention in Syria, listed the erasure of the Libyan state as an argument against such interventions. I read the allegation with disbelief. Libya is not like Somalia! It isn’t even like Yemen. (The Libyans I talked to about Yemen sympathized with the country’s problems but were astonished to hear that some Western observers looked a their situations as similar!)
So imagine my surprise on visits to Benghazi, Misrata and Tripoli, to find that there were no militiamen to be seen, that most things were functioning normally, that there were police at traffic intersections, that there were children’s carnivals open till late, families out, that jewelry shops were open till 8 pm, that Arabs and Africans were working side by side, and that people were proud in Benghazi of having demonstrated against calls for decentralizing the country.
As someone who has lived in conflict situations, I take as a very serious gauge of security whether shops are open and how late they stay open. Jewelry shops in particular are easily looted, and the loot is light and easy to fence. But in Tripoli there was loads of gold in rows of jewelry shops, along with clothing stores newly stocked with Italian fashions. Shopkeepers I interviewed were fully stocked, confident and glad to finally be rid of Qaddafi’s erratic governance, under which they were never sure if they would make a profit because policies changed frequently.
I caught a little celebration by recently graduated Libyan police at Martyr’s Square in Tripoli last week:
And here is a little set of carnival rides near Martyr’s Square in the capital:
Children’s Rides in Tripoli, Libya, June 2012
Shopping in Tripoli
Life is pretty normal. I talked to a Libyan of African heritage who had worked in Germany 14 years and recently had returned. He said he is *much* happier in Libya, even though he is working two jobs (one of them teaching Arabic). A friend of mine is organizing a music festival in the capital. People are gearing up for the election of the National Congress, which will draft a new constitution and gradually create a new government.
Cities unhappy with the foot-dragging of the transitional national government have simply staged their own municipal elections. Benghazi just held its successfully, and Misrata did this months ago. I met the husband of a newly-minted female city council member in Benghazi; she was the number one vote-getter among the candidates that ran, and may chair the council. The municipal governments have the legitimacy of the ballot box and are beginning to address local problems.
Campaigning in Benghazi, May 2012
So if you aren’t in danger of being mugged at night in Tripoli or Benghazi, are there other problems? Sure, loads of them. While I was there the dock workers went on strike at Tripoli to complain about the poor management of the port. Then, in an oil state, money flows to municipalities rather than cities raising money through taxes, and the transitional government still isn’t very good about remitting the money. There is a human rights situation that needs to be addressed in the small town of Tawergha, the militias of which committed war crimes on behalf of Gaddafi; Tawergha has been cleared of its inhabitants, and they need to be allowed to return to their homes. And while security on the whole is fine for individuals in the big northern cities, it probably is still not entirely satisfactory for new investors bringing in expensive equipment to places like Benghazi (though BP has decided to get back into Libya). You have occasional moments of militia protest like the one yesterday at the airport in Tripoli.
But I was struck at the air of normality everywhere I went, and by the obvious comfort people had in circulating, selling and going about their lives. There are no bombings, there is no civil war, there is no serious secessionism. One man told me that the biggest change is that people are no longer afraid. They had been captive of the revolutionary committees and the secret police. And that end of political fear, the Libyans I talked to insisted, made the uncertainties of this transitional period all worthwhile.
I went to Libya expecting to find people nervous about going out, expecting to find a lot of shops shuttered, and expecting to be stopped at militia checkpoints (which was common in Beirut in the late 1970s when I lived there in the first years of the Civil War). Maybe such things exist in smaller provincial cities that I didn’t visit, like Gadames in the South. I don’t know. In the urban north, I found a society actively reconstructing itself where people clearly were going about their ordinary lives, where stores were open and people were sitting in sidewalk cafes, where there were no militiamen on the streets, no checkpoints, and where there were actually traffic cops directing traffic.
So while I wouldn’t want to minimize what difficulties remain, and while I am aware that a week on the ground won’t reveal all the society’s problems, I can say with certainty that the image found in the Western press of the place is far more negative than what I saw with my own eyes and what I heard from locals in Arabic-language conversations.
And I can say categorically that Henry Kissinger is wrong about Libya.
A great post by our friend Juan Cole, and as always he nailed it.
Courtesy of Juan Cole
Posted on 05/23/2012 by Juan
Interpreting political behavior in a brand spanking new democracy such as Egypt is trying to become is littered with pitfalls, and these are multiplied when dealing with the Middle East.
The Muslim world, and especially the Arab world, has been depicted by some Western historians and social scientists as exceptionally impervious to democratic ideals and practices. Much of this Muslim or Arab exceptionalism derives from twentieth-century attempts to justify Western imperialism (rule over the Muslims for their own good by Europeans). Some of it is also rooted in apologetics for the Israel project, which is opposed by most Arabs and Muslims; if there is something wrong with the latter, then their complaints about the displacement and denationalization of the Palestinians can be dismissed. (Ironically, Israel under the Revisionist Likud Party is becoming less and less democratic itself, and many of the fundamentalist Jewish Haredim, now 8% of the population and growing, are no more democratic than the Saudi Wahhabis; so many of the arguments about “Islam” and Muslims and exceptionalism that had been made in the past increasingly could be applied to Israel itself).
The exceptionalism argument is ahistorical and peculiarly lacking in a comparative perspective. There is a major argument in modern German history about whether Germany was peculiar in lacking a national business class and in clinging to authoritarianism, save for the brief Weimar period, until the end of WW II. But then what of Spain? Italy? Austria? Hungary? (We are still not sure about Hungary, and Berlusconi’s Italy rather fell in the rankings). Which European countries were there, exactly, that did not have democracy imposed on them from the outside?
Then there are the other exceptionalisms. Most people who speak Chinese still live under relatively authoritarian governments, with Taiwan the major example of a Sinophone people’s transition toward parliamentary rule with regular contested elections. But just as being Muslim cannot possibly be related to people’s receptivity to democracy, neither can speaking Chinese.
There is something else going on. Most likely it has to do with the way the peasants of Egypt and Algeria made the transition to urban modernity, and likewise the Chinese. Some of the lack of democracy even derives from Western intervention against it (colonial regimes were poor teachers of democratic habits, and parliamentary regimes were overthrown by the West via coups from time to time, rather setting things back).
As for why Egyptians vote as they do, like any electorate they are complicated and even individual voters could go either way often. Egyptians did not give a majority to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis because a majority of them is pious (and 24% of Egyptians are definitely not hard line fundamentalists of the Salafi sort!) My interviewing suggests that in the parliamentary elections they wanted parties that a) were not connected to the corrupt and hated Hosni Mubarak and b) would be honest and transparent and avoid stealing from them or dunning them constantly for bribes. The Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis fit those bills. In contrast, a lot of the left had its roots in Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser’s progressive thought, and they were initially tainted with the brush of the longstanding military regime (Nasser was a leader of the Young Officers who made the 1952 coup, to which the current military junta is the heir).
But the Muslim Brotherhood made several major errors. They promised not to put up a candidate for president, to reassure people they weren’t trying to recreate Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, i.e. a one-party state. But then they reneged and put up Khairat al-Shater, a businessman with corruption convictions. They also tried to stack the committee charged with writing the constitution with their own members, causing even other Muslim forces to withdraw in disgust. And, they haven’t been good about reestablishing security, providing services, or bringing back the tourist trade.
As for the Salafis, they unwisely began talking about banning beer, and if there is one thing the Egyptian electorate is sure about it is that they like beer.
Ironically, you meet lots of Egyptian men with beards and prayer beads who are leftists, and clean-shaven, dapper men who are supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. You suspect that they could fairly easily change their minds.
You have to think about what people are voting against, not just what they seem to be voting for. Last fall they were voting against the fulul, the remnants of Mubarak’s corrupt regime. This May, some large number of Egyptians are telling pollsters that they will be voting against a Muslim Brotherhood one-party state. They will be voting against Salafi puritanism. It is not that the Muslim fundamentalist candidate cannot win, but he now has high negatives to overcome.
Egyptian politics in this miraculous year is all about the rebound, not about the straight throw.
The total victory of the Islamist doctrine in Algeria
In light of the results of the last legislative elections (if those results are to be believed of course), how can I say that the Islamists and Islamism have won in Algeria? After all, the Islamist coalition and Islamist-leaning lists came in third and fourth position. Am I delusional? And the answer is no; I am far from any delusion or craziness. What do I mean by this total victory of Islamism then? I mean that the Islamist thinking and doctrine have permeated and dominated all the circles of power, the official and unofficial opposition, and the society in Algeria. At every level of the Algerian society, the Islamist doctrine has prevailed with the support and the complicity of all state apparatuses.
Since the end of the civil war (or the military defeat of the most virulent terrorist groups), we have seen a resurgence of the Islamist doctrine in almost every city, every village, and at every level with the complicity and the tacit support of the Algerian state. We have seen women beaten and lynched by mobs of fanatics because they allegedly engaged in prostitution. We have seen homosexuals murdered in the most atrocious manners and their murderers were never brought up to justice. We have seen kids of primary school age kicked out of schools and sent back home because they did not know how to pray properly. We have seen women attacked in the middle of the day before everyone and in the presence of the police (or gendarmerie) because they were not wearing al-hijab. We have seen prosecutors bring charges against men or women who allegedly broke the fast during the month of Ramadan. We have seen judges sentencing men or women to prison time for breaking the fast. We have seen judges forcing rape victims to marry their rapists. We have seen legislators pushing laws banning and criminalizing religious conversions. We have seen mobs burning to the ground restaurants and brasseries. We have seen male doctors beaten to death in the emergency rooms just because they did their job. We have seen pregnant women dying during labor because the husband(s) refused the medical assistance of male doctors. We have seen first and second year male medical students banning their colleague female medical students from lecture halls during lectures on the anatomy of the reproductive systems. We have seen judges dismissing domestic abuse and domestic violence charges and cases under the pretext that it is legal in the Islamic jurisprudence that husbands may discipline their spouses. We have seen religious marriages of underage girls. We have seen virginity certificates become the most lucrative activity for obstetricians and gynaecologists. We have seen legally issued marriage certificates nullify by judges because the brides failed to provide virginity certificates. And so on and so forth.
I could be accused of cheery picking data or using anecdotal examples, but I am compelled to do so not by malevolence, but because of the paucity and the scarcity of hard data in Algeria. However, what is important is not the prevalence or the reliability or even the validity of these examples–which they are–but how all these crimes and this mob justice were conducted with the blessing of the legal system, and the tacit agreement and participation of law enforcement officials. When a friend of mine told me that his 9-year-old kid was kicked out of school and sent back home after he was berated by his teacher before his classmates because he didn’t how to pray properly, my first question was: was the teacher fired or disciplined by the school superintendent? Not only was this teacher not fired, but he benefited also from the support of his superintendent and of the city school board (in French it is known as: l’inspecteur de l’academie).
What we see here is that the Islamist doctrine has prevailed in the society, and has been supported by all state apparatuses. State officials and regulators, national legislators, city officials, courts, police and gendarmerie all have either tacitly supported these crimes or actively and legally backed them. Islamism in Algeria has become so powerfully rooted at every level that the president or the prime minister (as well as all cabinet members) engage in a 5 minute (and sometimes 10 minutes in the case of Belkhademe) prayer before every speech. It is no longer enough to just say “Salamou Alikoum” and then get started. Our state officials willingly engage in these long religious openings that we are left wondering whether the speech is of a political or a religious nature.
In sum, the Islamist doctrine dominates the power structures and the state, dominates the legal and lawful opposition, dominates the illegal and unlawful opposition, and dominates all the layers of our civil society and societal life. The difference between these different circles of domination is the level and magnitude of radicalization. We have the so-called moderate Islamists in the state and the opposition (moderates as in not engaged in armed struggle anymore), radical Islamists in the unlawful opposition, and then the radical proselytizers in the civil society and the society as a whole. I believe that this phenomenon is unique to the Algerian case. Even in Saudi Arabia—a fully-fledged Islamist state—we do not see this level of penetration of Islamism at every level of the country.
This is very worrisome on so many levels…