Top

Tomgram: Rebecca Solnit, “The Butterfly and the Boiling Point – Charting the Wild Winds of Change in 2011″

April 21, 2011 

Rebecca Solnit a San Francisco Bay Area activist, artist, geographer and contributor to TomDispatch wrote a beautiful and hopeful article analyzing the wave of uprisings and revolutionary unrest sweeping the Arab world and theorizing about the “unexpected” and “chaotic” nature of revolutionary phenomena, like butterfly wings fluttering in Brazil, changing the weather in Texas…

The Butterfly and the Boiling Point

Charting the Wild Winds of Change in 2011

By Rebecca Solnit

Revolution is as unpredictable as an earthquake and as beautiful as spring. Its coming is always a surprise, but its nature should not be.

Revolution is a phase, a mood, like spring, and just as spring has its buds and showers, so revolution has its ebullience, its bravery, its hope, and its solidarity. Some of these things pass. The women of Cairo do not move as freely in public as they did during those few precious weeks when the old rules were suspended and everything was different. But the old Egypt is gone and Egyptians’ sense of themselves — and our sense of them — is forever changed.

She offers some choice, poetic insights about the alchemical phase shift that transforms fear into hope:

Those who are not afraid are ungovernable, at least by fear, that favorite tool of the bygone era of George W. Bush. Jonathan Schell, with his usual beautiful insight, saw this when he wrote of the uprising in Tahrir Square:

“The murder of the 300 people, it may be, was the event that sealed Mubarak’s doom. When people are afraid, murders make them take flight. But when they have thrown off fear, murders have the opposite effect and make them bold. Instead of fear, they feel solidarity. Then they ‘stay’ — and advance. And there is no solidarity like solidarity with the dead. That is the stuff of which revolution is made.”

When a revolution is made, people suddenly find themselves in a changed state — of mind and of nation. The ordinary rules are suspended, and people become engaged with each other in new ways, and develop a new sense of power and possibility. People behave with generosity and altruism; they find they can govern themselves; and, in many ways, the government simply ceases to exist.

And she offers hopeful advise:

Hard times are in store for most people on Earth, and those may be times of boldness. Or not. The butterflies are out there, but when their flight stirs the winds of insurrection no one knows beforehand.

So remember to expect the unexpected, but not just to wait for it. Sometimes you have to become the unexpected, as the young heroes and heroines of 2011 have. I am sure they themselves are as surprised as anyone. Since she very nearly had the first word, let Asmaa Mahfouz have the last word: “As long as you say there is no hope, then there will be no hope, but if you go down and take a stance, then there will be hope.”

READ THE FULL ARTICLE

“Game Over” for Mubarak, “Game On” for Egypt’s Workers

February 14, 2011 

Katy Rose, a good friend and activist who played a key role in the Superferry resistance on Kaua’i and who now works for a union in Californa, sent this insightful article about the revolutionary transformation that is taking place within Egyptian society, much of it driven by the awakened power of the working class: Mubarak’s Folly: The Rising of Egypt’s Workers. Here are a few excerpts:

Rarely do our rulers look more absurd than when faced with a popular upheaval. As fear and apathy are broken, ordinary people – housewives, students, sanitation workers, the unemployed –remake themselves. Having been objects of history, they become its agents. Marching in their millions, reclaiming public space, attending meetings and debating their society’s future, they discover in themselves capacities for organization and action they had never imagined.

After all, revolutions are not just about changing institutions. Most profoundly, they are about the dramatic remaking of the downtrodden. Revolutions are schools of profound self-education. They destroy submission and resignation, and they release long-repressed creative energies – intelligence, solidarity, invention, self-activity. In so doing, they reweave the fabric of everyday life. The horizons of possibility expand. The unthinkable – that ordinary people might control their lives – becomes both thinkable and practical.

Participants repeatedly describe how their fear has lifted. “When we stopped being afraid we knew we would win,” Ahmad Mahmoud told a reporter. “What we have achieved,” proclaimed another, “is the revolution in our minds.” The significance of such a revolution in attitudes is inestimable. But such shifts do not happen at the level of consciousness alone; they are inextricably connected to a revolution in the relations of everyday life – by way of the birth of popular power. And these new forms of people’s power and radical democracy from below have emerged as steps necessary to preserve the Revolution and keep it moving it forward.

What the coming weeks will bring is still uncertain. But Mubarak’s folly has triggered an upsurge of workers’ struggle whose effects will endure. “The most precious, because lasting, thing in this ebb and flow of the [revolutionary] wave is . . . the intellectual, cultural growth of the working class,” wrote Rosa Luxemburg.

In Tahrir Square and elsewhere thousands of signs depict Mubarak accompanied by the words “Game Over.” For the workers of Egypt it is now, “Game On.”

People & Power – Egypt: Seeds of change

February 13, 2011 

Al Jazeera produced this excellent documentary about the April 6 Movement, the youth organization behind the revolution in Egypt.   The small group of disciplined and sophisticated leaders were the spark.  Getting training from the Serbian nonviolent youth movement, they applied classic nonviolence organizing principles with new technological tools.  The rest is history.

<After initially posting this link, Puerto Rican scholar and activist Deborah Santana pointed out that giving all the credit to one group for the revolution in Egypt is inaccurate and simplistic.  I agree with her.  The documentary is portrays ONE of the leading groups, but the April 6 movement is by no means the only one organizing for change.  I look forward to other accounts of the Egyptian revolution that helps to explain the diversity of groups and interests that converged to topple Mubarak.  Mahalo for the correction.>

Mubarak regime falls, but what will be the legacy?

February 12, 2011 

Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak has been toppled by a people’s power revolution. Al Jazeera reports:

Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, has resigned from his post, handing over power to the armed forces.

Omar Suleiman, the vice-president, announced in a televised address on Friday that the president was “waiving” his office, and had handed over authority to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

Suleiman’s short statement was received with a roar of approval and by celebratory chanting and flag-waving from a crowd of hundreds of thousands in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, as well as by other pro-democracy campaigners who attending protests across the country.

This is a great victory for the Egyptian people, but the struggle is not yet over.   What form the new government takes will be hotly contested.  And as Filipino anti-bases activist Corazon Fabros reminds us “Closer to, but not yet. The U.S. military aids must stop or it will be more of the same … just like in the Philippines…” She shared the following article by Malaysian scholar/activist Chandra Muzzafar:

THE EGYPTIAN REVOLUTION: THE TRIUMPH OF HUMAN DIGNITY

by Chandra Muzaffar.

The people of Egypt have won a great victory. They have defeated a dictator. They have ousted Hosni Mubarak.

Mubarak fell at the feet of people power. The Egyptian people showed tremendous courage in their struggle against the dictatorship. They persevered against great odds. Their sacrifice was monumental. According to UN sources, in the course of their 18 day protest against a President who had misruled for most of 30 years, some 300 hundred people died at the hands of hoodlums and thugs serving the Mubarak regime.

While thugs targeted the people, it is remarkable that those who fought for justice, freedom and dignity were largely non-violent. Simply put, it was a peaceful revolution— a revolution that had as its epicentre, Medan Tahrir, Liberation Square. The revolutionaries, as commentators have observed, were civil and courteous.

At the forefront of this revolution were young people, in their twenties and thirties. It was their idealism which was the fuel of this revolution. They utilised the new media to the hilt to mobilise and galvanise the masses.

The Egyptian Revolution was, in a sense, inspired by the Tunisian Revolution of 14th January 2011. Tunisians— again many of them young men and women— showed Egyptians and Arabs throughout West Asia and North Africa (WANA) that when human beings overcome fear, a hope, a distant goal, is suddenly transformed into reality.

Because Egypt is the heart of the Arab world, its Revolution, the Revolution of 11th February, will have a tremendous impact upon ordinary men and women in the region. It will give them strength and confidence. It will empower them. The Egyptian Revolution will become the beacon that inspires the masses to stand up against corrupt, greedy rulers who betray the trust of the people. It will become the banner around which will rally all those who cherish their dignity and independence and refuse to submit to foreign dictation and dominance that has been the curse of WANA. In this regard, the Egyptian Revolution will undoubtedly provide fresh impetus to the noble Palestinian struggle for self-determination..

By a strange coincidence, the Egyptian Revolution happened on the same day as Iran’s Islamic Revolution. It was on the 11th of February 1979 that the Islamic revolutionaries in Iran proclaimed victory after the military declared its neutrality and the revolutionaries took over public buildings and the Iranian State Radio and Television. 11th February is celebrated as a national holiday in Iran.

The powers-that-be in Tel Aviv, Washington, London, Paris and other Western capitals would not like to be reminded of this historical coincidence. It is a coincidence that will also send a shiver down the spine of many a monarch and president in the Arab world. More than this coincidence, both Revolutions succeeded in harnessing the energies of millions of people in their respective countries. The Egyptian and Iranian Revolutions — some would argue—are the two most broad-based revolutions in human history.

At a great historical moment like this (I am writing this article a couple of hours after Vice-President Omar Sulaiman’s announcement over Egyptian Television that Mubarak is stepping down) we should recall the other illustrious revolutions in history— the French Revolution of 1789; the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, and the Chinese Revolution of 1949. There have also been people’s movements in recent decades that have succeeded in overthrowing dictatorial regimes that had lost credibility with the people. The people power movement in the Philippines in 1986 and the mass movement against the Indonesian President Suharto in 1998 would be two examples from Southeast Asia while the series of uprisings in Eastern Europe in 1989 would also testify to the power embodied in the people.

Revolutions and popular uprisings, however idealistic and altruistic its leaders and participants may be in the initial stages, do not always deliver on the freedom and justice they promise. There are many revolutions that have betrayed the people.. We do not know how the Egyptian Revolution will unfold in the coming days and months.

But for the time being, the people of Egypt, and indeed the people of the world, have every right and reason to celebrate. We have just witnessed the liberation of the soul of a nation. We have just embraced the triumph of human dignity.

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST) and Professor of Global Studies at Universiti Sains Malaysia.

Malaysia.

12 February 2011

For Egypt, this is the miracle of Tahrir Square

February 10, 2011 

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/global/2011/feb/10/egypt-miracle-tahrir-square

For Egypt, this is the miracle of Tahrir Square

There is no room for compromise. Either the entire Mubarak edifice falls, or the uprising is betrayed

Slavoj Žižek

Thursday 10 February 2011 20.30 GMT

One cannot but note the “miraculous” nature of the events in Egypt: something has happened that few predicted, violating the experts’ opinions, as if the uprising was not simply the result of social causes but the intervention of a mysterious agency that we can call, in a Platonic way, the eternal idea of freedom, justice and dignity.

The uprising was universal: it was immediately possible for all of us around the world to identify with it, to recognise what it was about, without any need for cultural analysis of the features of Egyptian society. In contrast to Iran’s Khomeini revolution (where leftists had to smuggle their message into the predominantly Islamist frame), here the frame is clearly that of a universal secular call for freedom and justice, so that the Muslim Brotherhood had to adopt the language of secular demands.

The most sublime moment occurred when Muslims and Coptic Christians engaged in common prayer on Cairo’s Tahrir Square, chanting “We are one!” – providing the best answer to the sectarian religious violence. Those neocons who criticise multiculturalism on behalf of the universal values of freedom and democracy are now confronting their moment of truth: you want universal freedom and democracy? This is what people demand in Egypt, so why are the neocons uneasy? Is it because the protesters in Egypt mention freedom and dignity in the same breath as social and economic justice?

From the start, the violence of the protesters has been purely symbolic, an act of radical and collective civil disobedience. They suspended the authority of the state – it was not just an inner liberation, but a social act of breaking chains of servitude. The physical violence was done by the hired Mubarak thugs entering Tahrir Square on horses and camels and beating people; the most protesters did was defend themselves.

Although combative, the message of the protesters has not been one of killing. The demand was for Mubarak to go, and thus open up the space for freedom in Egypt, a freedom from which no one is excluded – the protesters’ call to the army, and even the hated police, was not “Death to you!”, but “We are brothers! Join us!”. This feature clearly distinguishes an emancipatory demonstration from a rightwing populist one: although the right’s mobilisation proclaims the organic unity of the people, it is a unity sustained by a call to annihilate the designated enemy (Jews, traitors).

So where are we now? When an authoritarian regime approaches the final crisis, its dissolution tends to follow two steps. Before its actual collapse, a rupture takes place: all of a sudden people know that the game is over, they are simply no longer afraid. It is not only that the regime loses its legitimacy; its exercise of power itself is perceived as an impotent panic reaction. We all know the classic scene from cartoons: the cat reaches a precipice but goes on walking, ignoring the fact that there is no ground under its feet; it starts to fall only when it looks down and notices the abyss. When it loses its authority, the regime is like a cat above the precipice: in order to fall, it only has to be reminded to look down …

In Shah of Shahs, a classic account of the Khomeini revolution, Ryszard Kapuscinski located the precise moment of this rupture: at a Tehran crossroads, a single demonstrator refused to budge when a policeman shouted at him to move, and the embarrassed policeman withdrew; within hours, all Tehran knew about this incident, and although street fights went on for weeks, everyone somehow knew the game was over.

Is something similar going on in Egypt? For a couple of days at the beginning, it looked like Mubarak was already in the situation of the proverbial cat. Then we saw a well-planned operation to kidnap the revolution. The obscenity of this was breathtaking: the new vice-president, Omar Suleiman, a former secret police chief responsible for mass tortures, presented himself as the “human face” of the regime, the person to oversee the transition to democracy.

Egypt’s struggle of endurance is not a conflict of visions, it is the conflict between a vision of freedom and a blind clinging to power that uses all means possible – terror, lack of food, simple tiredness, bribery with raised salaries – to squash the will to freedom.

When President Obama welcomed the uprising as a legitimate expression of opinion that needs to be acknowledged by the government, the confusion was total: the crowds in Cairo and Alexandria did not want their demands to be acknowledged by the government, they denied the very legitimacy of the government. They didn’t want the Mubarak regime as a partner in a dialogue, they wanted Mubarak to go. They didn’t simply want a new government that would listen to their opinion, they wanted to reshape the entire state. They don’t have an opinion, they are the truth of the situation in Egypt. Mubarak understands this much better than Obama: there is no room for compromise here, as there was none when the Communist regimes were challenged in the late 1980s. Either the entire Mubarak power edifice falls down, or the uprising is co-opted and betrayed.

And what about the fear that, after the fall of Mubarak, the new government will be hostile towards Israel? If the new government is genuinely the expression of a people that proudly enjoys its freedom, then there is nothing to fear: antisemitism can only grow in conditions of despair and oppression. (A CNN report from an Egyptian province showed how the government is spreading rumours there that the organisers of the protests and foreign journalists were sent by the Jews to weaken Egypt – so much for Mubarak as a friend of the Jews.)

One of the cruellest ironies of the current situation is the west’s concern that the transition should proceed in a “lawful” way – as if Egypt had the rule of law until now. Are we already forgetting that, for many long years, Egypt was in a permanent state of emergency? Mubarak suspended the rule of law, keeping the entire country in a state of political immobility, stifling genuine political life. It makes sense that so many people on the streets of Cairo claim that they now feel alive for the first time in their lives. Whatever happens next, what is crucial is that this sense of “feeling alive” is not buried by cynical realpolitik.

Why Egypt’s progressives win

February 10, 2011 

In this op ed piece, “Why Egypt’s progressives win”, Paul Amar an Associate Professor of Global & International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, provides a nuanced analysis of the various forces that created and is shaping the revolution underway in Egypt.   He describes the evolution of the Muslim Brotherhood and emerging contradictions within its ranks.   The youth and women wings of the Brotherhood have broken away from the “new old guard” to align with leftists and liberals.  The Egyptian military also plays a pivotal role due to its own class interests that are not in alignment with the Mubarak regime.  But he gives the most credit to the worker’s movement and the anti-police brutality movement for building the base of the present revolution:

It is crucial to remember that this uprising did not begin with the Muslim Brotherhood or with nationalist businessmen. This revolt began gradually at the convergence of two parallel forces: the movement for workers’ rights in the newly revived factory towns and micro-sweatshops of Egypt – especially during the past two years – and the movement against police brutality and torture that mobilised every community in the country for the past three years. Both movements feature the leadership and mass participation of women of all ages and youth of both genders. There are structural reasons for this.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE

The New York Times ran an interesting article about the young, technologically savvy professionals that have played a crucial role as intellectuals, organizers and mobilizers of the movement.   The article discusses some of the modern mobilization tactics being deployed by the activists to outwit the violent and repressive police state.  Also remarkable is the political and ideological diversity of the actors:

They were born roughly around the time that President Hosni Mubarak first came to power, most earned degrees from their country’s top universities and all have spent their adult lives bridling at the restrictions of the Egyptian police state — some undergoing repeated arrests and torture for the cause.

They are the young professionals, mostly doctors and lawyers, who touched off and then guided the revolt shaking Egypt, members of the Facebook generation who have remained mostly faceless — very deliberately so, given the threat of arrest or abduction by the secret police.

Now, however, as the Egyptian government has sought to splinter their movement by claiming that officials were negotiating with some of its leaders, they have stepped forward publicly for the first time to describe their hidden role.

There were only about 15 of them, including Wael Ghonim, a Google executive who was detained for 12 days but emerged this week as the movement’s most potent spokesman.

Yet they brought a sophistication and professionalism to their cause — exploiting the anonymity of the Internet to elude the secret police, planting false rumors to fool police spies, staging “field tests” in Cairo slums before laying out their battle plans, then planning a weekly protest schedule to save their firepower — that helps explain the surprising resilience of the uprising they began.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE


Are We Witnessing the Start of a Global Revolution?

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!

>><<

http://www.fpif.org/articles/tunisias_spark_egypts_flame_the_middle_east_is_rising

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.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE

+++

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=22963

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

- 2011-01-26

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.[1]

- 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.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE

+++

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=22993

“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.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE

As Kyrgyz victims mourn, U.S. military flights resume, but fate of Manas air base is uncertain

April 10, 2010 

http://wire.antiwar.com/2010/04/09/kyrgyz-victims-mourned-us-base-fate-on-hold-4/

Kyrgyz victims mourned, US base fate on hold Kyrgyz victims mourned, interim leader says US air base fate not a top priority for new govt

YURAS KARMANAU

AP News

Apr 09, 2010 13:40 EDT

Thousands of grieving, angry mourners flooded the capital’s main square Friday to honor victims of Kyrgyzstan’s revolt — with many blaming the country’s absent president for ordering security forces to fire on those protesting his government.

At least 76 people died in the violence and more than 1,400 were injured, the Health Ministry reported Friday. That figure included 67 people injured overnight in clashes between looters and security forces.

Flights, meanwhile, resumed at the U.S. Manas air base in this Central Asian nation after being halted Wednesday during the uprising. Manas is a key support center for the international military campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Covering their eyes and folding their hands in prayer, families and friends sobbed for the lives that were lost in the sprawling Ala-Too Square, where protesters were shot dead at an opposition rally as some stormed the main government building in Bishkek, the capital.

President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who fled Bishkek to seek support in his clan’s southern power base, was often a focus of their anger.

“We grieve over our heroes. They are real heroes who have sacrificed their lives for the future of Kyrgyzstan,” said Khatima Immamaliyeva, a 44-year-old office worker holding a red carnation and crying. “Bakiyev must bear responsibility for the deaths.”

Another mourner, 26-year-old Azimbek Sariyev, said “my friend Talas perished. I hope he hasn’t died for nothing. We have ousted Bakiyev, and won’t allow the rulers to mock us.”

U.S. Central Command spokesman Maj. John Redfield said normal flights had restarted at Manas as of Friday afternoon, according to a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press. Around 1,100 troops are stationed there, including contingents from Spain and France, in support of NATO operations in Afghanistan.

Kyrgyzstan also hosts a Russian military base and is the only nation where both Cold War foes have bases.

Roza Otunbayeva, the head of the opposition’s self-declared interim government, said the base agreement will be continued at least for the near future. Opposition figures in the past have said they wanted to close the U.S. base, located at the international airport serving the capital.

The status of the base has been a significant strategic question since the uprising Wednesday.

“We have no intentions whatsoever to deal with the American base now. Our priority is the lives of the people who suffered. A top priority is to normalize the situation, to secure peace and stability,” Otunbayeva said as she visited a hospital in Bishkek that had treated many wounded.

She also said the interim government would not negotiate with Bakiyev, whose regime the opposition has accused of corruption.

Since coming to power in 2005 amid street protests known as the Tulip Revolution, Bakiyev had ensured a measure of stability. But the opposition said it came at the expense of democratic standards and accused Bakiyev of enriching himself and his family, just like Askar Akayev, the ruler he overthrew.

Akayev, who now teaches mathematics at Moscow State University, said this week’s revolt was a natural outcome of the policies followed by Bakiyev’s government.

“For the last five years, he has ruled without heed to the constitution, has reinforced his own power and put in place an authoritarian and repressive regime,” he told The Associated Press in Moscow.

“I think that a very sorrowful fate awaits him because in having given the command to open fire on the population he has signed his own death warrant,” Akayev said.

Bakiyev told a Russian radio station on Thursday that “I don’t admit defeat in any way.” But he also said he recognized that “even though I am president, I don’t have any real levers of power.”

“What has taken place is a veritable orgy carried out by armed groups and I do not believe this is a defeat for me,” Bakiyev said.

He spoke from the southern Jalal-Abad region, where Bakiyev’s popularity is said to remain high — raising concerns he might try to secure his survival by exploiting the split between the more urban north and rural south.

Otunbayeva, the interim leader, said the new leadership would do everything possible to prevent a civil war.

“We are controlling the situation here, we are mobilized, alert,” she said. “We have the means, the resources and the possibilities. We have people’s support.”

At the Geopolitical Crossroads of China and Russia: Kyrgyzstan And The Battle For Central Asia

April 10, 2010 

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=18547

At the Geopolitical Crossroads of China and Russia: Kyrgyzstan And The Battle For Central Asia

by Rick Rozoff

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was deposed five years after and in the same manner as he came to power, in a bloody uprising.

Elected president two months after the so-called Tulip Revolution of 2005 he helped engineer, he was since then head of state of the main transit nation for the U.S. and NATO war in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon secured the Manas Air Base (as of last year known as the Transit Center at Manas) in Kyrgyzstan shortly after its invasion of Afghanistan in October of 2001 and in the interim, according to a U.S. armed forces publication last June, “More than 170,000 coalition personnel passed through the base on their way in or out of Afghanistan, and Manas was the transit point for 5,000 tons of cargo, including spare parts and equipment, uniforms and various items to support personnel and mission needs.

“Currently, around 1,000 U.S. troops, along with a few hundred from Spain and France, are assigned to the base.” [1]

The White House’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke paid his first visit in his current position to Kyrgyzstan – and the three other former Soviet Central Asian republics which border it, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – in February and said “35,000 US troops were transiting each month on their way in and out of Afghanistan.” [2] At the rate he mentioned, 420,000 troops annually.

The U.S. and NATO also established military bases in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan for the war in South Asia, but on a smaller scale. (U.S. military forces were ordered out of the second country following what the government claimed was a Tulip Revolution-type armed uprising in its province of Andijan less than two months after the Kyrgyz precedent. Germany maintains a base near the Uzbek city of Termez to transit troops and military equipment to Afghanistan’s Kunduz province where the bulk of its 4,300 forces is concentrated.)

In February of 2009 the Kyrgyz government announced that it was also evicting U.S. and NATO forces from its country, but relented in June when Washington offered it $60 million to reverse its decision.

Kyrgyzstan borders China.

It not only borders China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, but is only separated from Russia by a single nation, Kazakhstan. To gain an appreciation of Russian and Chinese concerns over hundreds of thousands of U.S. and NATO troops passing through Kyrgyzstan, imagine a comparable amount of Chinese and Russian soldiers regularly passing through Mexico and Guatemala, respectively. For almost nine years and at an accelerating rate.

It is not only a military “hard power” but also a “soft power” threat that the Western role in Kyrgyzstan poses to Russia and China.

The nation is a member of the post-Soviet Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) along with Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – seen by many as the only counterpart to NATO on former Soviet space – and of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) with China, Russia and the three above-mentioned Central Asian nations.

According to U.S. officials, during and after the Tulip Revolution of 2005 not a single U.S. or NATO flight into the Manas Air Base was cancelled or even delayed. But a six-nation CSTO exercise scheduled for days afterward was cancelled.

The uprising and the deposing of standing president Askar Akayev in March of 2005 was the third self-styled “color revolution” in the former Soviet Union in sixteen months, following the Rose Revolution in Georgia in late 2003 and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in late 2004 and early 2005.

As the Kyrgyz version was underway Western news media were asking the question “Who’s next?” Candidates included other former Soviet states like Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Moldova and Uzbekistan. And Russia. Along with Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan those nations accounted for ten of the twelve members of the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

As Agence France-Presse detailed in early April of 2005: “The CIS was founded in December 1991 on the very day the Soviet Union disappeared….But over the past year and a half, three faithful Kremlin allies were toppled in…revolutions: Eduard Shevardnadze in Georgia, Leonid Kuchma in Ukraine, and, last week, Askar Akayev in Kyrgyzstan….Even though Kyrgyzstan’s new interim leaders have vowed to continue their deposed predecessor’s Moscow-friendly policies, the lightning toppling of the government there has spawned speculation that the CIS would soon collapse.” [3]

The leader of the “color revolution” prototype, Georgia’s Mikheil Saakashvili, gloated over the Kyrgyz “regime change,” attributing the “brave” actions of the opposition in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan “to the Georgia factor,” and added, “We are not waiting for the development of events, but are doing our best to destroy the empire in the CIS.” [4]

Shortly after the uprising former Indian diplomat and political analyst M.K. Bhadrakumar wrote of the then seemingly inexorable momentum of “color” revolts in the former Soviet Union:

“[A]ll the three countries [Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan] are strategically placed in the post-Soviet space. They comprise Russia’s ‘near abroad.’

“Washington has been expanding its influence in the arc of former Soviet republics — in the Baltics…the Caucasus, and Central Asia — in recent years with a tenacity that worries Moscow.

“Ever since 2003 when Mr. Akayev decided on allowing Russia to establish a full-fledged military base in Kant he knew he was on the American ‘watch list.’ The political temperature within Kyrgyzstan began to rise.

“The Americans made it clear in many ways that they desired a regime change in Bishkek….The ‘revolution’ in the Central Asian state of Kyrgyzstan has already thrown up surprises. A comparison with the two earlier ‘colour revolutions’ in Georgia and Ukraine will be a good starting point.

“First, the striking similarities between the three ‘revolutions’ must be duly noted. All three are meant to signify the unstoppable spread of the fire of liberty lit by the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq in the aftermath of 9/11.

“But behind the rhetoric, the truth is that the U.S. wanted regime change in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan because of difficulties with the incumbent leadership. The leaders of all the three countries — Eduard Shevardnadze in Georgia, Leonid Kuchma in Ukraine, and Askar Akayev in Kyrgyzstan — had enjoyed the support of the U.S. during most of their rule.

“Washington had cited them repeatedly as the beacons of hope for democracy and globalisation in the territories of the former Soviet Union.

“Their trouble began when they incrementally began to edge towards a resurgent Russia under Vladimir Putin.” [5]

Seven weeks after Bhadrakumar’s column appeared his analysis would be confirmed by no less an authority on the matter than U.S. President George W. Bush.

Visiting the capital of Georgia a year and a half after its “Rose Revolution,” he was hosted by his counterpart Mikheil Saakashvili, former State Department fellowship recipient and U.S. resident, who seized power in what can only be described as a putsch but nevertheless said:

“Georgia will become the main partner of the United States in spreading democracy and freedom in the post-Soviet space. This is our proposal. We will always be with you in protecting freedom and democracy.”

Bush reflected Saakashvili’s inflated estimate of himself: “You are making many important contributions to freedom’s cause, but your most important contribution is your example. Hopeful changes are taking places from Baghdad to Beirut and Bishkek [Kyrgyzstan]. But before there was a Purple Revolution in Iraq or Orange Revolution in Ukraine or a Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, there was a Rose Revolution in Georgia.” [6]

A few days after the Kyrgyz coup Bush welcomed Ukraine’s “orange” president Viktor Yushchenko – who this January only received 5.45 per cent of the vote in his reelection bid – and applauded his U.S.-assisted ascent to power, saying it “may have looked like it was only a part of the history of Ukraine, but the Orange Revolution represented revolutions elsewhere as well….We share a goal to spread freedom to other nations.” [7]

Beyond the threat of the dissolution of the CIS and of the CSTO, in April of 2005 Der Spiegel featured a report with the title “Revolutions Speed Russia’s Disintegration.”

In part it revealed the prime movers behind the events in Kyrgyzstan. According to Der Spiegel, (April 4, 2005):

“As early as February,” Roza Otunbayeva – now the apparent head of the provisional government – “pledged allegiance to a small group of partners and sponsors of the Kyrgyz revolution, to ‘our American friends’ at Freedom House (who donated a printing press in Bishkek to the opposition). …

“Trying to help the democratic process, the Americans poured some $12 million into Kyrgyzstan in the form of scholarships and donations – and that was last year alone. Washington’s State Department even funded TV station equipment in the rebellious southern province town of Osh.” [8] [9]

This process of geostrategic transformation, from the Balkans to the former Soviet Union and the Middle East was also supported by Freedom House, the National Endowment for Democracy, the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute and other non-governmental organizations.

A week after the “tulip” takeover the project director for Freedom House, Mike Stone, summed up the role of his organization with two words: “Mission accomplished.” [10]

A British newspaper that interviewed him added, “US involvement in the small, mountainous country is higher proportionally than it was for Georgia’s ‘rose’ revolution or Ukraine’s ‘orange’ uprising. [11]

Assistance also was provided by Western-funded and -trained “youth activists” modeled after and trained by those organized in Yugoslavia to topple the government of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000:

Compare the names:

Yugoslavia: Otpor! (Resistance!)

Ukraine: Pora! (It’s Time!)

Georgia: Kmara (Enough)

Kyrgyzstan: KelKel (Stand Up and Go)

Behind them all, deposed Kyrgyz president Askar Akayev identified the true architects of his ouster. On April 2 he stated “There were international organisations who supported and financed the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan.

“A week before these events I saw a letter on the internet signed by the US ambassador to Kyrgyzstan. It contained a detailed plan for the revolution.” [12]

The Kyrgyz Tulip (formerly Lemon, Pink and Daffodil) Revolution was as unconstitutional and as disruptive to the nation as its Georgian and Ukrainian predecessors were, but far more violent. Deaths and injuries occurred in the southern cities of Osh and Jalal Abad (Jalalabad, Jalal-Abad) and in the capital of Bishkek.

It was also the first “color” revolt in a nation bordering China. Not only did Russia and China voice grave concerns over the developments in Kyrgyzstan, Iran did also, seeing where the trajectory of “regime change” campaigns was headed.

In the four decades of the Cold War political changes through elections or otherwise in any nation in the world – no matter how small, impoverished, isolated and seemingly insignificant – assumed importance far exceeding their domestic effects. World political analysts and policy makers asked the key question: Which way would the new government align itself, with the U.S. or the Soviet Union?

In the post-Cold War period the question is no longer one of political philosophy or socio-economic orientation, but this: How will the new administration support or oppose U.S. plans for regional and global dominance?

With Roza Otunbayeva as chief spokesperson if not head of a new Kyrgyz “people’s government,” there is reason to believe that Washington will not be dissatisfied with the overthrow of her former “tulip” partner Bakiyev. She has already confirmed that the American base at Manas will not be closed.

Less than two months after the 2005 coup Otunbayeva, then acting foreign minister, met with her U.S. counterpart Condoleezza Rice in Washington during which the latter assured her that “the U.S. administration will continue to help the Kyrgyz government promote democratic processes in the country.” [13]

Shortly after the March “democratic transformation,” its patron saint, Georgia’s Mikheil Saakashvili, boasted that “Roza Otunbayeva worked in Tbilisi in recent years and was the head of UN office in Abkhazia. During the Rose Revolution she was in Georgia and knew everything that was happening…the Georgian factor was a catalyst of many things going on there [in Kyrgyzstan].”[14]

From the U.S. perspective she appears to have reliable bona fides.

Russia has put its air base in Kyrgyzstan on high alert, though comments from leading Russian government officials – Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in particular – indicate an acceptance of the uprising which has already caused 65 deaths and hundreds of injuries.

But Russia attempted to put the best face on the revolt five years ago also.

Which direction the next Kyrgyz government takes will have repercussions far beyond the nation’s small size and population (slightly over five million).

It could affect U.S. and NATO plans for the largest military offensive of the Afghan war scheduled to begin in two months in Kandahar province.

It could determine the future of the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the two major potential barriers to Western military penetration of vast tracts of Eurasia.

The stakes could hardly be higher.

Notes

1) Stars and Stripes, June 16, 2009

2) Agence France-Presse, March 4, 2010

3) Agence France-Presse, April 3, 2005

4) The Messenger, March 31, 2005

5) The Hindu, March 28, 2005

6) Civil Georgia, May 10, 2005

7) Associated Press, April 4, 2005

8) Der Spiegel, April 4, 2005

9) Russian Information Agency Novosti, June 16, 2005

10) The Telegraph, April 2, 2005

11) Ibid

12) Associated Press, April 2, 2005

13) Interfax, June 15, 2005

14) Civil Georgia, March 30, 2005

Stop NATO: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato

Blog site: http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/

To subscribe, send an e-mail to: rwrozoff@yahoo.com

or

stopnato-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Rick Rozoff is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Rick Rozoff

Upheaval in Kyrgyzstan Could Imperil Key U.S. Base

April 7, 2010 

“Upheaval in Kyrgyzstan could Imperil key U.S. Base”?  More like U.S. Base created conditions that bred corruption and fueled popular unrest that eventually toppled the government.

>><<

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/08/world/asia/08bishkek.html?hp

Upheaval in Kyrgyzstan Could Imperil Key U.S. Base

Ivan Sekretarev/Associated Press

Police officers in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, were attacked by protesters on Wednesday. Witnesses said the police seemed to panic.

By CLIFFORD J. LEVY

Published: April 7, 2010

MOSCOW — The president of Kyrgyzstan was forced to flee the capital, Bishkek, on Wednesday after bloody protests erupted across the country over his repressive rule, a backlash that could pose a threat to the American military supply line into nearby Afghanistan.

The New York Times

Opposition politicians, speaking on state television after it was seized by protesters, said they had taken control of the government after a day of violent clashes that left more than 40 people dead and more than 400 wounded. The instability called into question the fate of a critical American air base in the country.

Riot police officers fired rounds of live ammunition into angry crowds of demonstrators who gathered around government buildings to rally against what they termed the government’s brutality and corruption, as well as a recent decision to increase utility rates sharply. Witnesses said that the police seemed to panic, and that there was no sign of supervision. In several cases, demonstrators wrested their weapons away from them.

By early Thursday morning, opposition officials occupied many government buildings in Bishkek, and were demanding that the president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, sign a formal letter of resignation. Mr. Bakiyev has issued no public remarks since the protests began. An official at the Bishkek airport said Mr. Bakiyev was flying to Osh, a major city in the southern part of the country.

A coalition of opposition parties said a transition government would be headed by a former foreign minister, Roza Otunbayeva. “Power is now in the hands of the people’s government,” she said in a televised address on Wednesday evening.

Those same opposition leaders were angered last spring when Obama administration officials courted Mr. Bakiyev — who they admitted was an autocrat — in an ultimately successful attempt to retain rights to the military base, Manas, used to supply troops in Afghanistan. President Obama even sent him a letter of praise.

Russia had offered Mr. Bakiyev a sizable amount in new aid, which the United States interpreted as an effort to persuade him to close the base in order to limit the American military presence in Russia’s sphere of influence. After vowing to evict the Americans last year, Mr. Bakiyev reversed course once the administration agreed to pay much higher rent for the base.

An American official said late on Wednesday that flights into the base at Manas had been suspended. Lt. Cmdr. Bill Speaks, a spokesman for United States Central Command, said late on Wednesday that some troops and equipment scheduled to transit from Manas to Afghanistan were likely to be delayed because of the government upheaval and that the military was preparing to use other routes.

The American attitude toward Mr. Bakiyev ruffled opposition politicians in Kyrgyzstan, who said it was shameful for the United States to stand for democratic values in the developing world while maintaining an alliance with him.

The Kyrgyz president’s son, Maksim, had been scheduled to be in Washington on Thursday for talks with administration officials. The opposition views the younger Mr. Bakiyev as a vicious henchman for his father, and was infuriated that he was granted an audience. The State Department said late on Wednesday that it had canceled the meetings.

Opposition leaders have been divided in recent weeks over whether they would continue to allow the American military base to remain, but it seems clear that they harbor bitterness toward the United States. And neighboring Russia, which has long resented the base, has been currying favor with the opposition.

“The political behavior of the United States has created a situation where the new authorities may want to look more to Russia than to the United States, and it will strengthen their political will to rebuff the United States,” said Bakyt Beshimov, an opposition leader who fled Kyrgyzstan last August in fear for his life.

Mr. Beshimov was one of numerous opposition politicians and journalists who in recent years have been threatened, beaten and even killed. Kyrgyzstan, with five million people in the mountains of Central Asia, is one of the poorest countries of the former Soviet Union, and has long been troubled by political conflict and corruption. Mr. Bakiyev himself took power in 2005 after the Tulip Revolution, one of a series of so-called color revolutions that seemed to offer hope of more democracy in former Soviet republics. Since then, the Kyrgyz human rights situation has deteriorated. Mr. Bakiyev easily won another term as president last year, but independent monitors said the election was tainted by extensive fraud.

Tensions in Kyrgyzstan have been brewing for months, and seemed to be touched off in the provincial city of Talas on Tuesday by protests over soaring utility rates. Then on Wednesday, thousands of people began massing in Bishkek, where they were met by heavily armed riot police officers. Dmitri Kabak, director of a local human rights group in Bishkek, said in a telephone interview that he was monitoring the protest when riot police officers started shooting. “When people started marching toward the presidential office, snipers on the roof of the office started to open fire, with live bullets,” Mr. Kabak said. “I saw several people who were killed right there on the square.”

Dinara Saginbayeva, a Kyrgyz health official, said in a telephone interview that the death toll could rise, and that more than 350 people had been wounded in Bishkek alone. Opposition leaders said as many as 100 people may have died.

While the fighting was raging, security forces still loyal to the president arrested several prominent opposition leaders, including Omurbek Tekebayev, a former speaker of Parliament, and Almazbek Atambayev, a former prime minister and presidential candidate. They were later released after the government’s resistance appeared to wither.

While opposition leaders have promised to pursue a less authoritarian course, Central Asia has not proved fertile ground for democracy. Mr. Bakiyev himself took office declaring that he would respect political freedoms.

Whatever happens domestically, a new government will have decide how to balance the interests of the United States and Russia, which both have military bases in Kyrgyzstan and want to maintain a presence in the region. Paul Quinn-Judge, Central Asia project director for International Crisis Group, a research organization, said Russia had stoked anti-American sentiment in Kyrgyzstan in recent months, often over the issue of the base.

Nevertheless, Mr. Quinn-Judge said he suspected that opposition politicians would in the end decide to permit the base, though not before giving the United States a hard time. “My gut feeling is that it can be smoothed over,” he said. “But they have got to move fast to reach out to the opposition, and do it with a certain degree of humility.”

Elisabeth Bumiller contributed reporting from Washington.

Next Page »