Continued. Read Part I of the story here
The House of Saud’s weapon is money. The petro-dollar can buy a lot of silence. In the Arab world nothing critical about it is allowed to be published. Even the so called independent Arab press in Europe and US are afraid of saying anything even remotely critical of it. If one dares to go and publish an article critical of it, the author is automatically black-listed.
It is OK to criticise the US, Israel, UK, France, Iran or any other non Arab country, as long as it is not the House of Saud or Arab regimes friendly to it. Recently I wrote an article (“When will the House of Saud feel safe?”) questioning the Saudi Arabia’s huge ($268.6 billion) military expenditure. Up to this point some well known press agencies were happy to publish my previous articles that were critical of Israel and US. But this time they all refused to publish the article. I subsequently was black listed. All except one refused even to give me an answer or a reason. The only response that I got is the following:
“First, xxxx does not publish articles calling for regime change in any Arab-Muslim country. The horrors of the regime change in Iraq provide the explanation. We don’t want to contribute to the neo-con permanent war strategy.
Second, why singling out Saudi Arabia? What about the rest of the GCC countries, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania… etc.? There’s no Arab or Muslim state today (except Iran) that is NOT under the US hegemony. What you said about Saudi Arabia can be said about all of them. ”
This above response is from one of the most popular English Arab online news and analysis providers. The Editor asked why I single out Saudi Arabia and not others. It is because the Saudi Arabia’s actions and money have caused and are causing so much suffering for the rest of the Muslim world. The rest of the GCC countries live under the shadow of the Saudi Arabia. The other Arab country that is as important as Saudi Arabia is Egypt. Egypt is not only the intellectual centre of the Arab world it is its most populous.
Egypt and the Last Pharaoh
Today Egypt is run by President Hosni Mubarak (born May 4, 1928), the Supreme Commander, (and at wartime) Field Marshal of the army, Admiral of the navy, Chief Air Marshal (Colonel General) of the Air Forces and Air Defence Forces.
Mubarak is a military man, through and through. He received his bachelor’s degree from Egyptian Military Academy in 1949. In 1950 he started his studies at Air Force Academy, where he eventually obtained a bachelor’s degree in Aviation Sciences. Later he attended pilot training in the former Soviet Union. After his training he started to rise in the ranks from bomber pilot to base commander, and later to the position of Commander of the Air Force and deputy minister of war (1972). Mubarak was appointed as Vice-President in 1975.
On October 6, 1981, a few army officers and enlisted men, shouting "Death to the Pharaoh!" assassinated Anwar Sadat, president of Egypt since 1970. The assassins were all members of Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Sadat like all his predecessors was a dictator. His death was mourned more in the West than in Egypt. He presided over a corrupt and dictatorial regime that prior to his assassination had arrested and imprisoned thousand of intellectuals, Islamists, university professors, journalists, students, and anyone else who disagreed with him.
After Sadat’s assassination, Mubarak became president. Mubarak is perhaps one of the longest serving “presidents” in the world. He has reigned for the past 25 years. He, with the help of the military and the Egyptian secret services, has “won” every election since 1981.
Mubarak has been a good friend of the United States and has been friendly towards Israel. In return, Egypt has received considerable U.S. financial and military aid. But since the American largesse has mostly benefited the military and the ruling elite, the ordinary Egyptians’ attitude to United States has remained hostile.
Often Egyptian ideas and sentiments set the tone for the discussions in the Arab world. The ideas such as Arab Nationalism, Muslim Brotherhood, and Arab independence mostly originated in Egypt. Egyptians are heavily involved in international anti-American movements. The number two of Alqaeda, Mr. Ayman Zahahiri is an Egyptian. Prior to joining al-Qaeda, he was a member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and later a member of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad.
Egyptians, except a short period (1924-1936), have not experienced democracy. Over the years, their demands and wishes for a representative government have been met by brutal suppressions. The recent riots, strikes and demonstrations are the manifestation of their continuing desire for democracy.
The 78 year old Mr. Mubarak is now thinking about retirement. He is preparing his 42 years old son Gamal Mubarak to take over the presidency. The official press is trying hard to convince whoever that is willing to listen, about how great Mubarak Junior is. The press keeps quite about the corruption, nepotism and cronyism that have come to define the rule of Mr. Mubarak.
While people riot, journalists, Judges and opposition leaders are arrested and tortured, the press discusses the dress of Mubarak Junior’s fiancé. The 24 year old Ms. Khadiga el-Gammal (popularly known as Belinda) recently accompanied the 42 year old Egyptian heir apparent, Gamal Mubarak (referred to by friends as Jimmy), to the World Economic Forum on the Middle East.
One can only assume that the 15 million (official) Egyptians that live bellow the poverty line along with millions of unemployed and under-employed citizens appreciated the contribution of “Jimmy and Belinda” to the World Economic Forum. One can only hope that “Jimmy and Belinda” will do something to reduce the government’s huge (9% of GDP) budget deficit.
If it wasn’t so tragic, it would have been extremely funny to read some of the analysis that the US papers have been publishing about the future President of Egypt and his fiancé. For example look at what Seattle Times had to say about the events in Egypt.
“The ruling National Democratic Party has pitched Gamal Mubarak as a familiar name and face who says all the right things about revamping his father's staid system. He recently was named a deputy secretary general of the party, and this month he made an unofficial visit to Washington, where he met with President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
El-Gammal contributes much to his chances of success, analysts say. She adds a glamorous new face to the authoritarian regime and lends seriousness to the younger Mubarak's reputation. Some note that she shares the name of the Prophet Muhammad's first wife and wonder if an effort to appease Egypt's vast Islamist movement factored into the match.”
It is amazing to see that anyone would utter such nonsense let alone a major newspaper print it. Do the analysts really believe that just because she is called Khadiga, Islamist movements in Egypt are going to forget about the lack of democracy, corruption, torture and so on?
Another “excellent” report on Egypt was provided by Houston Chronicle on 27th of May. It had this to say:
“In a country whose first ladies have included Cleopatra, a Hungarian countess and the Turkish granddaughter of the last Ottoman sultan, it's only natural that Egyptians clamoured for a glimpse of el-Gammal, the daughter of a wealthy Cairo construction magnate.
But interest in her and the son of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is more than gossip. Although Gamal Mubarak has denied that he'll follow his father into the presidency, analysts say few other contenders have the political clout to mount an effective campaign.”
What the journalist forgot to mention is that before each election, most of the contenders find themselves in prison.
In Egypt, as in Saudi Arabia, the corruption starts at the top and trickles down to the rest of the society. Those that resist it are harshly punished and those that accept it are rewarded. The corruption has seeped into every part of the society, especially the press. Egyptian press faces the same charges of corruption as the rest of the society. Al-Amir Abaza, a journalist with both Al-Qahera and Al-Siyasi newspapers explains the problem like this:
“Media is part of the whole process, so you can’t fix it without addressing the ills of society,” says Ragab. “Theoretically, the media should help reform society, but in practice it can do nothing when it is so corrupt itself, when those who run it don’t live up to their responsibilities. We need a new generation of decent, honest writers — writers who care. We need an earthquake to shake up the whole system.”
The opposition Kifaya and the Muslim brotherhood are trying to bring about such an earthquake. And when that happens, people in the West will mourn the passing of another “moderate” Arab government in the Middle East, Wondering what happened.
Meanwhile the Arab streets are simmering with anger. The rulers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, having tacitly approved the Israeli actions in Gaza and Lebanon are now trying to cover their tracks by calling the whole thing a tragedy. They tried to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds, and are now sorry.
These leaders, now more than ever, are relying on the support of the US to shore-up their shaky governments. United States just announced that it is going to sell another $6 billion worth of Arms to Saudi Arabia, and extended its Religious Rights Sanctions waiver for that country. “The waiver for Saudi Arabia is the only time Washington has avoided punishing a blacklisted country under a 1998 law targeting violators of religious rights”. No-one can find a bigger violator of the religious rights on this earth than Saudi Arabia, and it gets the waiver. It is a joke!
The Arabs should know that they can not rely on US for democratic change. The constant talk about democracy coming out of Washington is for USpublic consumption and not the Arab people. The Arabs have to rely on themselves and not wait for external help otherwise they will wait for another 50 years. Perhaps Arabs should listen to what Malcolm X said in 1965: “Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you're a man, you take it.”
Dr. Abbas Bakhtiar lives in Norway. He is a consultant and a contributing writer for many online journals. He's a former associate professor of Nordland University, Norway. Bakhtiarspaceemail@example.com
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