The "Foreign Plots" of Dictators

Wednesday, August 17, 2011
An editorial from Arab News:

An unholy alliance

To say that uprising in Libya and Syria is a foreign plot is an insult to people who are fighting for their freedom

On Tuesday, in a joint statement, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez denounced what they called the West's "imperialist aggression" in Libya and Syria.

It is a wonder they did not try and get Cuba's retired President Fidel Castro or Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe to endorse their condemnation. They would have certainly obliged. Back in March, Castro's verdict on the Libyan uprising was that it was an American plot. Just over a week ago Mugabe called NATO "a terrorist group" because of its airstrikes against Qaddafi's forces.

The notion that the uprisings in Syria and Libya are a Western plot is not merely a gross distortion of the truth; it is a vicious slap in the face of ordinary Syrians and Libyans. They are the authors of the uprisings, not the Americans or the French or the British. The hundreds of thousands of Libyans who rose up against Qaddafi's iron grip on power and the young Libyans fighting, and dying, to free their country did not do so because of a foreign plot. They did so because they wanted to be free and were inspired by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. They took their destiny into their own hands. It has been the same for the hundreds of thousands who have taken to the streets of Syria's cities, willing to die for freedom and, in some cases, doing so. The suggestion that they are agents in a plot devised by NATO and the CIA is an insult to them and the memory of the thousands who have been killed.

In any event, if it were an American plot, it was one for which the Americans should be congratulated for getting their Middle East policies right for a change and doing something that was genuinely in tune with mass public sentiment.

The fact that men like Chavez trot out this lie says everything about them and their politics and nothing about reality. They have a world view that is hopelessly outdated — a world divided into thieving imperialists and, battling against them, anti-colonialist liberation movements led by themselves. That has long gone. The world has moved on. But it is a vision these dictators are desperate to retain. It is their justification for their dead hand on the levers of power.

The same was said by the ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak of the protests in Egypt before he fell; they were organized by outsiders, he said. Qaddafi and Assad have come up with different villains behind the opposition to them — they accuse hard-liners — but the thinking is the same. They need someone to blame for the crisis and refuse to admit they are the problem.

For all their populist rhetoric and their glorification of their "people's struggle" against "imperialism," it is their own people that the likes of Chavez, Ahmadinejad, Qaddafi and Assad fear their most. So they come up with nonsense about foreign or terrorist plots.

No one is taken in. The Syrians and the Libyans, like the Egyptians and the Tunisians beforehand, know that their uprisings are their alone, not something cooked up in the Pentagon. Others may support them, morally or with money or even arms and air raids, but the Arab Spring is a genuine Arab affair. Those who have to pretend otherwise show how little they understand the momentousness of what is happening.