Egypt : The example Iraq was meant to be

February 22nd, 2011 § 0 comments

It’s well known that George W. et. al. wanted Iraq to be the first domino that would tip the middle east into the 21st freedom loving century. Of course they had many other motives and machinations but lets dispense with those for the sake of it no longer being 2008. The idea was simple; topple a dictator we no longer liked and bring democracy and freedom to an oppressed people. It would be a bright shining beacon for the world to see a better way of running things. Brought to you by America¬©. Fuck yeah! What could go wrong?

Many would argue that you can’t force democracy on people, that people must rise up and take it for themselves by force. I agree with the substance of the argument but not the rationale. Yes it’s far better (and more appreciated) to do something for yourself than to have someone do it for you. This is not, in my opinion, the reason that we failed to do what we set out to accomplish in Iraq. Oil and The Project for a New American Century aside the intention of bringing freedom to a people is honorable and can be done; just not through violence.

I don’t understand why it’s such a controversial and revolutionary idea that you can not end violence with violence. This is not to suggest in-action or pacifism is the answer. We must fight for what we believe in and lay our lives on the line if necessary. Yet we must do so without using violence if we wish to maintain the moral high ground and achieve peace.

It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence.

– Mahatma Gandhi

The protests that have rocked Tunisia & Egypt this year are shining examples what can be accomplished through non-violent action. Egypt, in particular, had many opportunities to slip into violence at which point I believe the rebellion would have been crushed quite efficiently. When protests first broke out it didn’t take long for looters to move in and take advantage of the lack of police. Instead of digressing into riots, however, the protesters formed small bands of peace keepers that patrolled the streets protecting homes and businesses alike. When looters tried to raid the national museum it was protesters that thwarted them and protected it afterward. Important as they were these were but small steps along the road to victory.

There were two events I feared would ultimately bring the movement to a bloody and futile conclusion. The first moment of truth came when Mubarak asked the military to come into Cairo in order to “keep the peace”. The protesters did a remarkable thing when the tanks rolled in though. They welcomed the soldiers with open arms. In so doing they humanized themselves and soldiers and this, more than anything else, kept the movement alive. At this point even if the military leaders had ordered their soldiers to start firing on the protesters I’m confident there would have been many that would have refused.

Clearly this was not what Mubarak had expected. He was waiting for the protesters to resort to violence so that he could respond with violence and bring the ugly affair to a quick and satisfactory end. When bringing in the military failed to accomplish this he put the people in Tahrir Square to a final test. Masquerading as pro-Mubarak supporters he sent plain clothed police in to attack. In the interest of keeping the protests peaceful the protesters had gone so far so to frisk those entering the square for weapons. This combined with the fact that they had ignored building roofs surrounding the square led to a situation where the attackers had some rather significant advantages. Of course the main advantages that protesters had were numbers and the moral high ground. They could have used their numbers to fight back but with the exception of a few isolated incidents they instead used the moral high ground to outlast the resolve of the paid goons.

Of course it’s none of this could have been achieved without the Media. Their constant monitoring combined with the rapt attention of the world tied Mubarak’s hands in many respects. All of the media attention in the world would have done little had the protesters succumb to the deep seated desire to respond to violence with violence. The final act of this story has not been written and there are many challenges ahead but my admiration for the courage and resolve that the Egyptian people have shown knows no bounds.

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