In the midst of the saber-rattling from Washington and Western Europe about punishing the criminal enterprise in Syria for the recent chemical weapons attacks in Damascus, women and men of conscience must begin to ask themselves how we got here from the Arab spring/awakening. How did we come from mass action in Tunisia North Africa to the internal vicious wars and on the brink of continental military actions in Syria? Why are we now asserting moral fortitude to react after the deaths of more than 100,000 people? As some legitimately condemn Russia and China for the ongoing stalemates at the United Nations Security Council in resolving the Syrian problem, our children and their children would want to know in the future if these interests were the first wrench in the wheels of progress for the Arab spring movements in North Africa and the Middle East.
Before we fall prey to the obfuscation and whitewashing of contemporary history let us examine the timeline of events. ?The Arab awakening began on December 2010 in Tunisia when Mr. Mohamed Bouazizi a young vegetable trader decided to immolate (burn) himself because of his inability to get a decent job to provide for basic needs and his lack of freedom to actualize happiness. This human longing for agency and emancipation quickened the masses in the region to take a stand against their corrupt, inflexible, and unjust governments. ?But the drive to demand accountability on the streets of Tunis and Cairo where soon meshed with other geo-political interests that evolved as the Arab spring moved from Africa to the Middle East region of Asia.
When the Arab Awakening movement got to Bahrain and Yemen things took up a more peculiar twist. Three uncanny allies came together to form an axis against human rights, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness. The United States, Saudi Arabia, and Israel came together to frustrate the popular uprisings and set the stage/playbook for other dictators in North Africa and the Middle East to implore in suppressing the march to change. While the United States diddled on following ?their values of freedom and transparency? with regards to the Tahrir Square protesters they overtly and covertly operated underneath the interest of backing their longtime friend Dictator Mubarak. But the peoples? quest for change continued throughout the region.
Nevertheless, these abovementioned unusual suspects were bonded in their antagonism of the democratic movements by their varying interest. The United States wanted to make sure that her military bases in Bahrain such as the Navy fleets were secure. In lieu of a confrontation with Iran they did not want unknown individuals in the government that will move to shut down these camps. In Yemen the US wanted to make sure that the CIA drones remained dominant over the Arabian skies. The Saudis were more primordial in their motives to derail the Arab spring. They wanted to secure the Sunni hegemony in Bahrain a majority Shiite nation and continue the Saudi influence in Yemen their next door neighbor. The Saudis also realized that if human rights came to Bahrain and Yemen then they would be presented with more problems than the issues of women having the freedom to drive cars and terrorist running around in the desserts.
The government in Tel Aviv was more concerned about not making the same mistakes that they made in Iraq with the support of the US invasion. Israel did not want another Arab country that would fall under the influence of Tehran and Hezbollah. As a result of these interest America, Saudi Arabia, and Israel decided to go all out to frustrate the aspirations of the initial non-tribal and nonsectarian mass movements in Bahrain and Yemen. They attempted to blatantly organize the outcomes to their favor while turning a blind eye to the suppression of representative governance. The foreign interest of the US, the Saudis, and the Israelis became obstructionist in formulation and application so that the 1% elites in Bahrain and Yemen would hold on to power. In the course of the demand for self-actualization in Bahrain and Yemen, the United Stated decided to allow shipments of weapons that were used to intimidate and kill protesters in Bahrain and Yemen.
Similarly, the Saudis went ahead to send their military forces into Bahrain and Yemen to quell the march for revolution because they wanted to maintain the status quo. Despite the co-awarding of the Nobel Peace prize to Tawakkol Karman of Yemen in 2011 for demanding democratic changes, President Obama himself a Nobel ?Peace? laureate and his Saudi allied born-princes insisted on having Dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen (ruler for 34years) in power.? So as a way to ensure the realization of their interest the US government, the Saudis, and Israel kept mute when innocent demonstrators were murdered on the streets of Sana?a and of Manama. In Bahrain, the Saudis did not just seat on the sidelines, their ruthless troops did some of the mass harassing and killings of democracy advocates.
Consequently the blueprint was established for the war criminals in Syria, the Muslim brotherhood, the current Egyptian dictators, the Iranians, the Russians, and the Chinese to frustrate the aspirations of protesters in North Africa and Asia. Instead of allowing the formation of indigenous holistic processes of representative governments, national and foreign governments decided to impose their interests that were the antitheses of the streets demanding change and participation at every juncture of the Arab spring. In Bahrain these policies kept the status quo unitary power for King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and by Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa both of the Khalifa clan.
In Libya where the West is offering as the perfect example of NATO triumph and democracy in progress unlike the disaster of Iraq and Afghanistan, we are left with embellished tales. Most might not remember that the NATO air superiority including the use of drones did not prevent the proliferation of weapons throughout North Africa, West Africa, Central Africa, and the Middle East. For example, wars have engulfed Mali and northern Nigeria were Libyan weapons have enabled the destabilization of millions. How are we to expect any less in Syria with the ever expending sectarian war between Alawite Shias and Arab Sunnis plus the growing militarism on all fronts?
Instead of focusing on warfare, supplying of weapons and military punishment President Obama should reach back to his community organizing skills and emulate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with his prophetic utterances against militarism. There are numerous domestic policies that Washington should focus on such as the stop and frisk discrimination laws, employment, unemployment disparities, off-shoring of jobs, tax avoidance, voter?s disenfranchisement, veterans? welfare, over incarceration of African Americans and Latinos, immigration reform, wage disparities, protecting the environment, relocation of Katrina storm victims back to New Orleans, stopping home foreclosures, and building 21st national infrastructures. On the international realm the Syrian policies should remain in the UN with enhanced negotiations. Indeed Syria is not Iraq but the introduction of additional militarism will make the situation worse. We do not deal with crimes against humanity by committing more crimes against the same humanity that does not achieve anything at the end.
Nnamdi F. Akwada MSW, BA is a Social Justice Activist