This is an Arab 1848

by Tariq Ali

revolutionary murals in Cairo
Revolutionary murals on the walls of newly established toilet facilities for protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Photograph: Ben Curtis/AP

The refusal of the people to kiss or ignore the rod that has chastised them for so many decades has opened a new chapter in the history of the Arab nation. The absurd, if much vaunted, neocon notion that Arabs or Muslims were hostile to democracy has disappeared like parchment in fire.

Those who promoted such ideas appear to the most unhappy: Israel and its lobbyists in Euro-America; the arms industry, hurriedly trying to sell as much while it can (the British prime minister acting as a merchant of death at the Abu Dhabi arms fair); and the beleaguered rulers of Saudi Arabia, wondering whether the disease will spread to their tyrannical kingdom. Until now they have provided refuge to many a despot, but when the time comes where will the royal family seek refuge? They must be aware that their patrons will dump them without ceremony and claim they always favoured democracy.

If there is a comparison to be made with Europe it is 1848, when the revolutionary upheavals left only Britain and Spain untouched – even though Queen Victoria, thinking of the Chartists, feared otherwise. Writing to her besieged nephew on the Belgian throne, she expressing sympathy but wondered whether “we will all be slain in our beds”. Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown or bejewelled headgear, and has billions stored in foreign banks.

Continue reading “This is an Arab 1848”


by Wislawa Szymborska

You scarcely move your foot when out of nowhere spring
the Aborigines, O Marcus Aemilius.

Your heel’s mired in the very midst of Rutulians.
In Sabines, and Latins you’re sinking up to your knees.
You’re up to your waist, your neck, your nostrils
in Aequians and Volscians, O Lucius Fabius.

These small peoples are thick as flies, to the point of irritation,
satiation and nausea, O Quintus Decius.

One town, another, the hundred seventieth.
The stubbornness of Fidenates. The ill-will of the Faliscans.
The blindness of Ecetrans. The vacillation of the
The studied animosity of the Lavicanians, the Pelignians.
That’s what drives us benevolent men to harshness
beyond each new hill, o Gaius Cloelius.

If only they weren’t in our way, but they are,
the Auruncians, the Marsians, O Spurius Manlius.
The Tarquinians from here and there, the Etruscans from
The Volsinians besides. The Veientins to boot.
Beyond all reason the Aulercians. Ditto the Sapinians
beyond all human patience, O Sextus Oppius.

Small peoples have small understanding.
Stupidity surrounds us in an ever-widening circle.
Objectionable customs. Benighted laws.
Ineffectual gods, O Titus Vilius.

Mounds of Hernicians. Swarms of Marrucianians.
An insect-like multitude of Vestians, of Samnites.
The farther you go the more there are, O Servius Follius.

Deplorable are small peoples.
Their irresponsibility bears close watching
beyond each new river, O Aulus Junius.

I feel threatened by every new horizon.
That’s how I see the problem, O Hostius Melius.

To that I, Hostius Melius, reply to you,
O Appius Pappius: Forward. Somewhere out there the world
must have an end.

Wislawa Szymborska won the Nobel Prize for Literature for 1996. Poem courtesy of Andrew Bacevich.

Death and Destruction in Libya

UPDATE: The regime is collapsing. The minister of interior Gen. Abdulfatah Younis, whom Gaddafi praised in his speech, has just resigned and joined the revolution.

Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal reaches the Egyptian side of the border with Libya and begins to receive reports from those fleeing the country in revolt.

Civilians have rushed to the Al Jazeera team with memory sticks, telling him they contain images of “horrific scenes”: planes and helicopter gunships firing indiscriminately, and mercenaries breaking into homes and “slaughtering” people.


How Many Martyrs?

Our thoughts and prayers are with the heroes and heroines and martyrs of Libya, and with our brave correspondent in Tripoli, now under fire. Communication is on and off, mainly off. Here is her most recent report. Since she sent it the phone lines have been cut entirely and the city’s electricity is also disconnected.

I live in the Ben Ashour area of Tripoli. Minutes ago my neighborhood was under severe aircraft attacks. Non-Libyan mercenaries are attacking the people. 60 brave Libyans from the army were executed because they refused to kill their own brothers who were going on totally peaceful, unarmed demonstrations.

I hear the nonstop gun machines all round the area of Ben Ashour. We are witnessing the second massacre today and the death toll is reaching 250 in Tripoli and increasing! At this very moment I’m seeing at least 4 jets flying around the city of Ben Ashour. Armed mercenaries are located in different areas of Tripoli, mainly: Ben Ashour, Fashloum, Soug Ejoumaa, Gergaresh.

I heard that the jets are targeting unarmed civilians randomly (women, kids, elders). It’s 8:30 pm now and the number of martyrs is over 250 and I heard confirmed information that the attacks will not stop before 3 am, and I’m grieving and wondering how many martyrs Libya will witness by the morning of 22th February.

Continue reading “How Many Martyrs?”

Libyan forces attack protesters

Al Jazeera is reporting that live ammuntion is being used against protesters marching on the compound of Muammar Gaddafi. Other reports suggest that the protesters are also being strafed by the Libyan airforce. Meanwhile Ben Ghazi seems to have fallen to the protesters, who have also prevailed in at least two other cities. Some military personnel have escaped to Malta. (There is also a false rumour circulating that Gaddafi has fled to Venezuela.)

Following is a report about earlier clashes in Tripoli:


What If the Egyptian Protesters Were Democrats?

by Steven Salaita

Their recent upheaval would certainly have been different, perhaps dramatically different.

In the past month, the people of Egypt—inspired by the recent democratic revolution in Tunisia and preceding emergent revolutions in Libya, Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan, Yemen, and Syria—have undertaken a revolt of truly stunning proportions, one that includes men and women from all class strata, religious and ethnic origins, and ideological commitments.  They managed to rid themselves of a longstanding and brutal dictator worth over $40 billion and supported by the collective power of the United States, European Union, Israel, and the Arab Gulf States.

Now that two Arab dictators have been vanquished by the collective will of unaffiliated protesters, many American commentators have been forced to rethink their assumptions about the supposedly tribal and authoritarian Arab mind.  Such commentators, sometimes conservative but often liberal, fancy themselves guardians of a civic and political enlightenment that in reality is misinformed in addition to being conceited and imperialistic.

Nevertheless, given the ardor and self-confidence of the notion that American values exemplify democratic modernity, let us imagine a few potential outcomes had the pioneering people of Egypt followed the example of today’s liberal American Democrats.

Continue reading “What If the Egyptian Protesters Were Democrats?”

When Revolution Becomes the Only Choice

by Ali Jawad

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has graphically chronicled the heart-wrenching realities that have shrouded over Manama in recent days. Whilst there may be criticisms of a sometimes de-contextualised narrative, his articles are nevertheless sufficient to shed light on the fundamental grievances that have spurred the popular protests across Bahrain. There is more than enough in his articles to evoke the deepest emotion and sympathy for unarmed civilians being systematically crushed under the juggernaut of a western-armed foreign mercenary force doggedly determined to maintain the vestiges of a brutally authoritarian regime.

Officials at the Pentagon have surely read some of Kristof’s reports by now, and have no doubt made note of the striking similarities between the Al-Khalifa regime and its ousted Tunisian and Egyptian counterparts. The intelligence services and their head, Leon Panetta, are also acutely aware – no doubt – of the voluminous grievances held by the vast majority of Bahrainis towards a ruling monarchy that is increasingly acquiring the “illegitimate” prefix; this in addition to a growing view amongst Bahrainis equating the Al-Khalifa regime as the prime obstacle to serious democratic change. In spite of this however, the placid petulance that has characterised the statements of the US Secretary of State has served to further underline to the lay Arab citizen that despite its mendacious, last-minute attempts to embrace the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, the US remains firmly committed to the vocation of bolstering tyrants and dictators – only opting to disown them as the latter partake in their final rites.

Continue reading “When Revolution Becomes the Only Choice”

Death toll rises in Libyan unrest

In a rambling and incoherent speech Gaddafi’s son Saif el Islam has issued a threat of further violence. As the regime was already inflicting massive casualties, this betrays the first sign of weakness. The protests have finally spread to Tripoli, gaining momentum along the way. The initiative now lies with the protesters. Might we be seeing the end of another moth-eaten dictatorship?

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is confronting the most serious challenge to his rule in 42 years.

Here is another report from yesterday:

Continue reading “Death toll rises in Libyan unrest”

The Fall of The People

Our friend in Tripoli reports.

A new morning with more horrific news. Yesterday in Benghazi Qaddafi henchmen fired at mourners of the dead – and during the burial services of more than 80 martyrs – with machine guns. The families burying their beloved heroes were all shot in the cemetery – الله أكبر (Allahu akbar!) Qaddafi is taking out his lunatic rage against the people of Libya!

Benghazi confirmed the death of 200 in one hospital. There is no question now it was a massacre in Libya. And this morning, the heroes of Benghazi are burying more than 216 martyrs. Reports are informing me that the total death toll is over 400 by now.

Last night in Tripoli, they released many prisoners of ‘’Jdayda’’ (most of them are criminals or illegal/homeless immigrants from different African countries) to terrorize people, attack protestors and steal houses. They kept only prisoners that belong to ward 9 (which contains the most deadly dangerous criminals). Gaddafi also released the female section of the prison and now Tripoli city is filled with thugs and criminals everywhere and it has become unsafe to go out alone. It’s obvious that Qaddafi wants the fall of the people (a play on The People Want The Fall of the Regime).

Continue reading “The Fall of The People”

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