Thursday, January 27, 2011

Yearning To Breathe Free

Apparently the Middle East is exploding, as people who have been oppressed for generations take to the streets. What started in Tunisia has spread to Egypt and now, Yemen:
Thousands of Yemenis are demonstrating in the capital Sanaa, calling on Ali Abdullah Saleh, president for more than 30 years, to step down.

This comes after mass protests in Egypt and a popular uprising in Tunisia that ousted its long-time leader.

Yemeni opposition members and youth activists gathered in four parts of the city, including Sanaa University, chanting anti-government slogans.

This is exciting to watch and also a little frightening. The U.S. government has always supported dictatorships around the world, and this region is no exception. I get it: we prefer to work with totalitarian regimes, because from our point of view they create stability, albeit by oppressive means. As far as American interests are concerned -- and the interests of our multinationals like ExxonMobil and Chevron -- the ends justify the means. We need strong, authoritarian leaders who can keep a lid on things so we can go about our resource plundering, and we will intervene to make sure it happens (Shah of Iran, anyone?)

The results of our efforts have been predictable: hatred for our meddling. Hijackings in the ‘70s, terror attacks on our overseas installations in the ‘80s and '90s, and finally, the 9/11 attacks at home in 2001.

They didn’t hate us for our freedom. They hated us for standing in the way of theirs.

It’s been really hard to find news about what’s happening now, save a one or two minute sound-bite. I found the most extensive coverage on the BBC and DemocracyNow! That just figures: perhaps the most important event in the world is taking place while our news media still rehashes the State of the Union address. Clueless, as always.

This region of the world has always been a powder keg. But the Saudis have got to be quaking in their $17,000 boots. The hypocritical Saudi princes, presiding over the austere, puritanical branch of Islam called Wahhabism while living a lavish, jet-setting life that includes flying palaces, diamond-encrusted Mercedes, and hand-holding with the infidel American president, an old family friend. The entire Arabian peninsula is a powder keg and it’s shamefully irresponsible that our news media gives these events little more than a passing mention.

If a popular uprising does overtake the Arabian peninsula I wonder what this means for our energy supply (remember 1973 and 1979)? We have over 100,000 troops in the region, still: we still have troops in Iraq and we still have troops in Afghanistan. Will we get dragged into this? How involved are we already? What’s going on?