The Rise and Fall of America’s Military Henchmen: History Repeats Itself? From the “King of Java” to the Pharaoh of Egypt
February 22, 2011
In “Dictators are “Disposable”: The Rise and Fall of America’s Military Henchmen: History Repeats Itself? From the “King of Java” to the Pharaoh of Egypt”, Michel Chossudovsky cautions against overestimating the role of people power in the toppling of Mubarak in Egypt, lest we overlook the other forces at play. Reviewing the overthrow of Suharto, the brutal U.S. backed dictator of Indonesia, he argues that the regime change was induced by western powers because Suharto had outlived his usefulness to the global capitalist order. He draws parallels with events in Egypt:
The outcome of Suharto’s demise was continuity. To this date, the military machine combined with a ruthless form of capitalist development prevails in Indonesia. The country is rich in natural resources. It is an oil producing economy. Yet poverty and unemployment are rampant. The country’s wealth is appropriated by foreign conglomerates with the support of the military machine and police apparatus.
Both Suharto and Mubarak were America’s henchmen recruited from the ranks of the military. They are disposable leaders. When they are no longer needed, they are replaced. In the words of Finian Cunningham in relation to Indonesia (1998), “the country’s military machine continues to operate with brutal efficiency…”
Democratic elections took place in 1999, Abdurrahman Wahid was appointed president by the Parliament with Sukarno’s daughter Megawati as Vice President. Wahid was later impeached. The illusion of a populist government prevailed with Megawati as a figurehead president (2001-2004).
Meanwhile, the role of the military and its links to the US have remained unscathed. In 2004, a (former) career military commander with close ties to the Pentagon, trained at Fort Benning and the US Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono became president. He was reelected in 2009.
Egypt: US Sponsored Coup d’Etat?
In Egypt, following Mubarak’s demise, the military machine prevails. Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Egypt’s defense minister, commander in chief of the Armed Forces and since February 11, 2011 head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, is the de facto Head of State, the Vice presidency is held by Omar Suleiman. Both men are US appointees.
February 3, 2011
Watching the masses rise up against repressive dictatorships in Egypt, Tunisia and across the Arab world, I wonder if we are witnessing the birth of a global revolution. Phyllis Bennis of the Insitute for Policy Studies sees a domino effect, the unraveling of the American empire in the Middle East. She provides excellent background on the different uprisings underway in Tunisia and Egypt.
Andrew Gavin Marshall, writing for Global Research, sees the moment as the ‘Global Political Awakening’ predicted (and dreaded) by former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. But he also cautions that the U.S. and the western powers are also trying to co-opt and control the democratic movements. He writes that two seemingly contradictory strategies are being “simultaneously imposed in the Arab world: enforcing and supporting state oppression and building ties with civil society organizations.”
In a similar vein, his colleague at Global Research, Michel Chossudovsky reminds us that: “”Dictators” do not dictate, they obey orders.” In other words, dictators are puppets who serve at the pleasure of their imperialist masters; they are replaced when they outlive their usefulness, such as when the U.S. turned on Saddam Hussein. Chossudovsky sees the United States’ hand in the current situation: “America’s intent is to use the protest movement to install a new regime.” His advice to the protest movement is to not lose sight of the puppet masters behind the dictators. The ease with which the U.S. turned against the Mubarak regime and sided with the demands of the protesters suggests that the U.S. has an interest in regime change. A number of articles have documented America’s assistance to the opposition movement.
It is disturbing and revealing when Elliott Abrams, former staff for the National Security Council under President Reagan who was convicted of unlawfully withholding information from Congress during the Iran-Contra Affair investigation, publishes an op ed in the Washington Post that claims the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia as vindication of the neoconservative agenda. He ignores the fact that Mubarak was propped up by the U.S. or that Egypt is the second largest recipient of U.S. foreign military aid after Israel. Is he simply trying to put a political spin on the meaning of these uprisings, or does he something about America’s covert regime change designs for these Arab states?
Ironically, while the protesters in the Arab world cite inequality as one of the biggest reasons for their fury, social inequality in the U.S. is greater. Will the fires of revolution spread to Hawai’i and Pacific? Not unless we organize!
Tunisia’s Spark & Egypt’s Flame: the Middle East is Rising
By Phyllis Bennis, January 31, 2011
Is this how empires end, with people flooding the streets, demanding the resignation of their leaders and forcing local dictators out? Maybe not entirely, but the breadth and depth of the spreading protests, the helplessness of the U.S.-backed governments to stop them, and the rapidly diminishing ability of the United States to protect its long-time clients, are certainly resulting in a level of revolutionary fervor not visible in the Middle East in a generation. The legacy of U.S.-dominated governments across the region will never be the same. The U.S. empire’s reach in the resource-rich and strategically vital Middle East has been shaken to its core.
There’s a domino effect underway in the Arab world. Tunisia was the spark, not only because its uprising came first but because the people of Tunisia won and the dictator fled. Egypt remains for the United States the most important strategic Arab ally.
The fall of Hosni Mubarak, the U.S.-backed dictator in power for more than three decades, would mean an end to Washington’s ability to rely on Cairo to stave off Arab nationalism and independence and an end to Egypt’s role as a collaborator in the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Whatever happens, what’s likely, though not inevitable, is that never again will Tunisia be used as a transit point or Egypt as a “black site” secret prison for U.S. agents engaged in the “extraordinary rendition” of detainees for interrogation and torture.
Stirrings of popular dissent are already underway in Yemen and Jordan too. All the other U.S.-backed monarchies and pseudo-democracies across the region are feeling the heat. The U.S. empire in the region is crumbling.
Are We Witnessing the Start of a Global Revolution?
North Africa and the Global Political Awakening, Part 1
by Andrew Gavin Marshall
Global Research, January 27, 2011
For the first time in human history almost all of humanity is politically activated, politically conscious and politically interactive… The resulting global political activism is generating a surge in the quest for personal dignity, cultural respect and economic opportunity in a world painfully scarred by memories of centuries-long alien colonial or imperial domination… The worldwide yearning for human dignity is the central challenge inherent in the phenomenon of global political awakening… That awakening is socially massive and politically radicalizing… The nearly universal access to radio, television and increasingly the Internet is creating a community of shared perceptions and envy that can be galvanized and channeled by demagogic political or religious passions. These energies transcend sovereign borders and pose a challenge both to existing states as well as to the existing global hierarchy, on top of which America still perches…
The youth of the Third World are particularly restless and resentful. The demographic revolution they embody is thus a political time-bomb, as well… Their potential revolutionary spearhead is likely to emerge from among the scores of millions of students concentrated in the often intellectually dubious “tertiary level” educational institutions of developing countries. Depending on the definition of the tertiary educational level, there are currently worldwide between 80 and 130 million “college” students. Typically originating from the socially insecure lower middle class and inflamed by a sense of social outrage, these millions of students are revolutionaries-in-waiting, already semi-mobilized in large congregations, connected by the Internet and pre-positioned for a replay on a larger scale of what transpired years earlier in Mexico City or in Tiananmen Square. Their physical energy and emotional frustration is just waiting to be triggered by a cause, or a faith, or a hatred…
[The] major world powers, new and old, also face a novel reality: while the lethality of their military might is greater than ever, their capacity to impose control over the politically awakened masses of the world is at a historic low. To put it bluntly: in earlier times, it was easier to control one million people than to physically kill one million people; today, it is infinitely easier to kill one million people than to control one million people.
- Zbigniew Brzezinski
Former U.S. National Security Advisor, Co-Founder of the Trilateral Commission, Member, Board of Trustees, Center for Strategic and International Studies
An uprising in Tunisia led to the overthrow of the country’s 23-year long dictatorship of President Ben Ali. A new ‘transitional’ government was formed, but the protests continued demanding a totally new government without the relics of the previous tyranny. Protests in Algeria have continued for weeks, as rage mounts against rising food prices, corruption and state oppression. Protests in Jordan forced the King to call on the military to surround cities with tanks and set up checkpoints. Tens of thousands of protesters marched on Cairo demanding an end to the 30-year dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. Thousands of activists, opposition leaders and students rallied in the capitol of Yemen against the corrupt dictatorship of President Saleh, in power since 1978. Saleh has been, with U.S. military assistance, attempting to crush a rebel movement in the north and a massive secessionist movement growing in the south, called the “Southern Movement.” Protests in Bolivia against rising food prices forced the populist government of Evo Morales to backtrack on plans to cut subsidies. Chile erupted in protests as demonstrators railed against rising fuel prices. Anti-government demonstrations broke out in Albania, resulting in the deaths of several protesters.
It seems as if the world is entering the beginnings of a new revolutionary era: the era of the ‘Global Political Awakening.’ While this ‘awakening’ is materializing in different regions, different nations and under different circumstances, it is being largely influenced by global conditions. The global domination by the major Western powers, principally the United States, over the past 65 years, and more broadly, centuries, is reaching a turning point. The people of the world are restless, resentful, and enraged. Change, it seems, is in the air. As the above quotes from Brzezinski indicate, this development on the world scene is the most radical and potentially dangerous threat to global power structures and empire. It is not a threat simply to the nations in which the protests arise or seek change, but perhaps to a greater degree, it is a threat to the imperial Western powers, international institutions, multinational corporations and banks that prop up, arm, support and profit from these oppressive regimes around the world. Thus, America and the West are faced with a monumental strategic challenge: what can be done to stem the Global Political Awakening? Zbigniew Brzezinski is one of the chief architects of American foreign policy, and arguably one of the intellectual pioneers of the system of globalization. Thus, his warnings about the ‘Global Political Awakening’ are directly in reference to its nature as a threat to the prevailing global hierarchy. As such, we must view the ‘Awakening’ as the greatest hope for humanity. Certainly, there will be mainy failures, problems, and regressions; but the ‘Awakening’ has begun, it is underway, and it cannot be so easily co-opted or controlled as many might assume.
The reflex action of the imperial powers is to further arm and support the oppressive regimes, as well as the potential to organize a destabilization through covert operations or open warfare (as is being done in Yemen). The alterantive is to undertake a strategy of “democratization” in which Western NGOs, aid agencies and civil society organizations establish strong contacts and relationships with the domestic civil society in these regions and nations. The objective of this strategy is to organize, fund and help direct the domestic civil society to produce a democratic system made in the image of the West, and thus maintain continuity in the international hierarchy. Essentially, the project of “democratization” implies creating the outward visible constructs of a democratic state (multi-party elections, active civil society, “independent” media, etc) and yet maintain continuity in subservience to the World Bank, IMF, multinational corporations and Western powers.
It appears that both of these strategies are being simultaneously imposed in the Arab world: enforcing and supporting state oppression and building ties with civil society organizations. The problem for the West, however, is that they have not had the ability to yet establish strong and dependent ties with civil society groups in much of the region, as ironically, the oppressive regimes they propped up were and are unsurprisingly resistant to such measures. In this sense, we must not cast aside these protests and uprisings as being instigated by the West, but rather that they emerged organically, and the West is subsequently attempting to co-opt and control the emerging movements.
“Dictators” do not Dictate, They Obey Orders
by Michel Chossudovsky
The Mubarak regime could collapse in the a face of a nationwide protest movement… What prospects for Egypt and the Arab World?
“Dictators” do not dictate, they obey orders. This is true in Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria.
Dictators are invariably political puppets. Dictators do not decide.
President Hosni Mubarak was a faithful servant of Western economic interests and so was Ben Ali.
The national government is the object of the protest movement.
The objective is to unseat the puppet rather than the puppet-master.
The slogans in Egypt are “Down with Mubarak, Down with the Regime”. No anti-American posters have been reported… The overriding and destructive influence of the USA in Egypt and throughout the Middle East remains unheralded.
The foreign powers which operate behind the scenes are shielded from the protest movement.
No significant political change will occur unless the issue of foreign interference is meaningfully addressed by the protest movement.
America’s intent is to use the protest movement to install a new regime.
The People’s Movement should redirect its energies: Identify the relationship between America and “the dictator”. Unseat America’s political puppet but do not forget to target the “real dictators”.
Shunt the process of regime change.
Dismantle the neoliberal reforms.
Close down US military bases in the Arab World.
Establish a truly sovereign government.