Why Tunisia Changed the World

Shamus Cooke

Tunisia woke up the Middle East with a thundering yawn. After years of domination by western-backed tyrants, the working people of the Arab world are rising from slumber. Once fully awake and aware of their surroundings, they’ll shake off the influence of the western nations with a collective flick of the wrist.

The elites of the Middle East and their western benefactors are petrified. The revolution in Tunisia deposed of two Presidents in 48 hours, and the vast energy of the people has already spilled over its borders, immediately affecting the politics of Algeria, Jordan, and Egypt. The Guardian reports:

“Tunisia’s “jasmine revolution” sent new shock waves across north Africa today, with a copycat suicide protest reported in Algeria and official dismay in Libya…Egypt, Jordan, Algeria and Morocco are seen as the other countries most likely to face serious popular unrest over unemployment, corruption and hopelessness, though social, political and economic conditions vary considerably between them.” (January 16, 2011).

The political implications are enormous. The Middle East and North African states are viewed as the most strategic colonies in the world, thanks to their enormous energy reserves that has spawned two recent major U.S. invasions.

Since World War I the United States, England, and France have worked together to subdue this region, financing an endless string of brutal dictatorships to ensure a seamless flow of billions to western corporations.

Obama had nothing negative to say about Tunisia’s recently deposed dictator until he was fleeing the country. The U.S. was happy with the status-quo of brutality, much like Obama remains uncritical of the U.S.-backed dictators of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Yemen, etc.

But when the Tunisian status quo became upset, so did Obama. Suddenly, Obama disowns his dictator friend and tells the Tunisians that he applauds their “courage and dignity.” Hypocrisy run amok.

The damage control has already begun, as the U.S. and France are furiously working behind the scenes to prevent any significant progressive change. They are attempting to cobble together a “national unity” government in Tunisia: the same rotten politicians with a few opposition candidates sprinkled in, pursuing the same foul agenda.

But the situation is not so easily controlled in Tunisia and beyond. The New York Times recently commented on the extremely fragile situation in the Middle East, predicting doom for western-backed Arab nations:

“…Arab states looked exhausted, ossified and ideologically bankrupt, surviving merely to perpetuate themselves. Never has the divide between ruler and ruled seemed so yawning, and perhaps never has it been so dangerous.”

The article also exposed the role of the U.S. in the region:

“The United States is also blamed here…by failing to end the Arab-Israeli conflict, rejecting engagement with Islamist movements and helping prop up governments like Egypt’s and Saudi Arabia’s that seem incapable of reforming themselves. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton scolded some of those allies last week for that lack of reform, though forgoing mention that some of the most dictatorial are some of America’s closest allies.” (January 16, 2011).

To summarize: the western-backed Arab states must reform themselves to survive, but the U.S. does not want any reform. This is because any real reform movement would demand that the dozens of U.S. military bases in the region be shut down, while U.S. economic policies be reversed, so that social needs could trump corporate profits from oil, wars, and U.S.-dominated markets.

An op-ed piece in Al-Jazeera was more blunt, entitled: To the Tyrants of the Arab World:

“The Tunisian uprising…has brought down the walls of fear, erected by repression and marginalization, thus restoring the Arab peoples’ faith in their ability to demand social justice and end tyranny… It is a warning to all leaders, whether supported by international or regional powers, that they are no longer immune to popular outcries of fury.” (January 16, 2011).

A different reason why the Arab world is especially open to revolution now is the world economy. The two main demands of the Tunisian people revolve around unemployment and food prices, which are both spiraling out of control throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

Prices are rising in part due to corporate speculation: food and raw materials like oil are the safe bets of the world economy, where rich investors flock in times of economic uncertainty. Their greed makes matters worse, increasing the odds of revolution worldwide.

But predicting the next uprising isn’t so easy. Revolution is a cocktail that no scientist can formulate; it’s an aggregate of innumerable sufferings, stirred together in a giant cauldron that has no precise boiling temperature. But boil it does. Especially when unemployment and food prices push up the heat worldwide.

The awakening of the Arab revolution should be fully supported by the working people in America, who have no interest in spending their tax dollars to fight wars and build military bases on the other side of the globe.

While Arab workers are struggling to push out the U.S.-backed tyrants in the region, U.S. workers must be demanding that tax dollars be diverted from war funding to social spending, since food and energy prices, along with unemployment, are too high in the U.S. as well.

Articles referenced:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/16/tunisia-protests-suicide-algeria-arab

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/16/weekinreview/16shadid.html?_r=1

http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/01/2011115135046129936.html

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Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action. He can be reached at portland@workerscompass.org