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A View on the Arab Spring

A View on the Arab Spring

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Published by Qays Arthur
A "third-world", and specifically Guyanese perspective on the Arab Spring written in Amman, Jordan as events were unfolding in Egypt in February of 2011. The first part of the article speaks of about CIA involvement in the independence of Guyana and the second part looks at the revolution that was underway in Egypt to topple Hosni Mubarak and revolutions in the Muslim world.
A "third-world", and specifically Guyanese perspective on the Arab Spring written in Amman, Jordan as events were unfolding in Egypt in February of 2011. The first part of the article speaks of about CIA involvement in the independence of Guyana and the second part looks at the revolution that was underway in Egypt to topple Hosni Mubarak and revolutions in the Muslim world.

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Published by: Qays Arthur on Jan 21, 2013
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Why I’m Not Getting Besides Myself with “Revolution”
T he happenings in Tunisia, where the story continues and I suspect the “international community” may have to step in, and now Egypt where “popular uprisings” have seen fairly large numbers of people out in the streets demanding the removal of specific individuals from political power gives me pause for reflection but not hope. My hope and trust are in Allah, Most High. And my position regarding protests and revolts of the nature being witnessed in Egypt is based Sunni doctrine and jurisprudence which I deem to be very wise indeed given my experience as a Guyanese. So let me mention something about the Guyana experience. T he story of my nation’s so-called independence is f ull of CIA intrigues and the meddling of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations who, along with Britain, established a regime, that of L.F.S. Burnham, and provided it with all tools required to rig elections and maintain power so that a “popular” leader whom America f elt too Marxist to rule, C.B. Jagan, was prevented f rom power. All this was done via covert manipulation by the U.S. and Britain using democratic, labor, civil society, and even religious institutions. Now I’m not making this up. T here is a trove of declassif ied documents f reely available that I suggest all would-be Egyptian revolutionaries read bef ore considering the next revolution. Many of these documents are available here: http://www.guyana.org/govt/declassif ied_documents.html.

The Independence of Guyana
I will now quote a f ew passages to give readers an idea of what I’m talking about. Document 280. “Entitled Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Kennedy” dated July 1962 states in part:

In the light of all the evidence which has now accumulated, I believe we are obliged to base our policy on the premise that, once independent, Cheddi Jagan will establish a “Marxist” regime in British Guiana and associate his country with the Soviet Bloc to a degree unacceptable to us for a state in the Western Hemisphere…. It is also my view that a policy of trying to work with Jagan, as urged by the British, will not pay off. Jagan is already too far committed emotionally and suspicious of our intentions. [1 paragraph (3 lines of source text) not declassified] …Recommendations I recommend that you approve specifically the following: [4 paragraphs (12 lines of source text) not declassified]

Note that the substance of the proposed plans was not declassif ied. But we can inf er their nature f rom a subsequent memo f rom Arthur Schlesinger Jr. to Ralph Dungan also in July of 1962 which reads in part:

e.. an operation which. Intervention? 2) If we lose. marches. Duncan Edwin Sandys. T he f oregoing was in July of 1962.i.S. three unions representing most of the government employees declared a general strike against the Jagan government. In a March 1962 memo to his ambassador David Bruce. credible scholarship has demonstrated. T here was rioting. will leave no visible traces which he can cite before the world. they all require logistics. Arthur Schlesinger said about a conversation he had with Britain’s Colonial Secretary Reginald Maudling: Maudling said at one point that while he himself thought it “inconceivable. 1962. and a host of other high of f icials (emphasis mine): . It is perhaps f or this reason.especially when our chances of winning are probably less than 50-50. I agree that there is no future in Jagan. Additionally. U. the strikers were joined by Burnhman. whatever suspicions Jagan might have. I would suggest that you bear down hard on two points: 1) Does CIA think that they can carry out a really covert operation. that Jagan’s PPP could not relay on the Af rican dominated security f orces.S. Prof essor Percy Hintzen describes the situation thus: In February. T he proposed CIA plan made Schlesinger “nervous”.S. but the CIA plan makes me nervous. that the British suspected CIA involvement. and money. or strikes. Britain’s Prime Minister Macmillan. arson. T he police and paramilitary units. Lacking the support and loyalty of the armed and security branches of the state. In short. and that the Burnham risk is less than the Jagan risk.S. and looting of several East Indian-owned businesses. what then? The present suggestions are pretty bleak. Now let us examine what was happening on the ground in Guyana since February the same year. T he f act that the Americans had taken into account all the f actors including the possibility of an ally f or Burnham to get him in power. and Guyana political scenes 3. I also share Mac’s doubts as to whether the Secretary is the man to talk to Ormsby Gore on the subject. whether he wins or loses.1 T his massive mobilization which included strikes and 10% of the population in the streets did not take place spontaneously. that there was CIA involvement as I shall show shortly.I return herewith the BG dossier. Of course Schlesinger denied such involvement yet even if that were true in the case of the riots themselves the previous memo leaves no room f or doubt that there was CIA activity. and Britain met to decide her f ate. Jagan was f orced to rely upon the intervention of the British military to restore order. Mass movements of people don’t just happen.[1] I agree with Mac’s memorandum and with my earlier memorandum [2] on the initial version of the plan (which I think you have). T he position they arrived at was the outcome of considerable ef f ort by the intelligence community taking into consideration many variables and players (including “A vocal section of the US public”2) on the U. D’Aguiar and their supporters in a march of over 60. planning. along with the f act that up to that point the British and the Kennedy administration were not seeing eye to eye on this matter. stood by idly. Whether it is protests. with regard to the situation as a whole.” “responsible people” had said that CIA had played a role in stimulating the recent riots. Secretary of State f or the Colonies. Secretary of State Dean Rusk. Almost immediately. [1 line of source text not declassified]. sympathetic to Burnhams PNC. and the race dynamic is evident f rom the f ollowing “Memorandum of Conversation” of a meeting that included President Kennedy. So while British Guiana was convulsing as a result of these events the U.000 persons through the streets of the capital city. as evidence of U.

The President said he thought that Mr. there was no other alternative but Burnham. who was viewed as “lef tist and neutralist”7. Sandys said that this would be in the worst circumstances. Prof essor Hintzen describes what happened af ter the 60. specifically if the US could provide money [1½ lines of source text not declassified]. couldn’t be seen to be interf ering. However if the United States Government was prepared to shore it up. funneled CIA money into British Guiana. so that Jagan would be relegated to agitating in the countryside. they had to do something to engineer such a situation. a conservative labor organization in British Guiana. Sandys if the UK could tell Jagan that HMG was going to hold on for another two years. William Howard McCabe. The PPP’s inability to govern the country with any semblance of order was the bargaining chip used to force Jagan to accept the constitutional change to proportional representation… How this was brought about. Country. Under present conditions. regarding revolutions and popular movements. Jagan. Yet what I f eel is of particular interest. Sandys said he thought the best solution was that of a Burnham-D’Aguiar government to which the UK would grant independence. Events reached a high point in 1963 when PNC and UF opposition to a proposed labor relations bill sponsored by the government sparked a debilitating strike that lasted for 60 days. Mr. T hey didn’t quite get a ref erendum but what happened is very instructive nonetheless.000 took to the streets: There was a continued state of socio-political disorder over the next two years. Sandys had made a very good and fair presentation. Public Service International. the UK could insist on holding a referendum on proportional representation.S. It was obvious that if the UK were to get out of British Guiana now it would become a Communist state.S. Sandys said that Jagan would then ask for dissolution. this would change the situation. and CIA-funded organizations like the Gotham Foundation. who despite being deemed f ittest to lead5 and most likely to retain power due to popular support 6. in particular the crucial strikes and acts of violence is explained by Stephen Rabe: A London-based union. and its representative. As is evident f rom the above discussion Kennedy’s advisers among the British had f avored a change in the electoral system to the system of proportional representation which would see their plans f orward. The Trade Union Council used the money to provide food and supplies to strikers… According to police reports cited in parliamentary debates in London. Mr. [5 lines of source text not declassified] 4 So by the end of June 1963 the Kennedy administration had chosen Burnham to lead the nation it being the case that: a. affiliate. Mr. in this event. was ideologically “unacceptable” and b. in all this is the method through which Burnham would be installed. Ismael carried out bombings and arson attacks against government buildings in . The Public Service International obtained the money through its U. such a government would collapse by itself. The situation was inflammatory at this time. The President asked Mr. and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). the American Federation of State. The Secretary asked whether. because it would be clear to everyone that we were only doing this because we were afraid of the outcome of elections… Mr. The Secretary pointed out that Africans control the police and the towns. Sandys asked what the US reaction would be to the UK granting independence to a Burnham-D’Aguiar government.. He thought that Latin America was the most dangerous area in the world… The Prime Minister asked whether it was not worth while going on with the present strike pressure. and the U. who led the Trade Union Council. McCabe sent the money to Richard Ismael. Since Jagan wasn’t going to just let them change a system that f avored him. He thought the thing to do was to look for ways to drag the thing out.

it was started mainly by students and urban middle class and it began peacef ully9. And I would advise all Muslims on Facebook and Twitter who are unf amiliar with Western political and economic theory and history to desist f rom commenting on the current happenings in Egypt least you support something you should not due to ignorance. T hat’s what I’ve learned f rom the history of my country and I think it is a valuable lesson. the f uture of their children. Egypt and The Myth of Popular Revolutions and Democratic Aspirations It is my contention that the masses of people in developing nations seldom have what journalists and political romanticists call “democratic aspirations”. All in all. Egypt ideologically was part of the Eastern bloc. would go on to become the Socialist dictator who turned completely against the U. themselves become pawns of external powers who back their ideologies. were Communists 10 and the ideology of the revolt could be discerned in its appeal to Nasser and its class oriented rhetoric11. T hose revolts were not revolutionary probably because the ideological motivation behind them would be been too obvious in a cold war context resulting in a perception that ideology was being placed bef ore broader national interests.S. namely: Sadat’s termination of subsidies on basic f oodstuf f s. at that time. In the Muslim world. Indeed the president of the Federation of Egyptian Students at the time complained af terwords to Sadat of the gap between the poor and a “new class of parasites” and urged Sadat not to impose f urther burdens on the “toiling masses”12. when that is met to some degree. the entire period of anti-PPP mobilization cost the country nearly 300 lives in racial warfare and left a legacy of racial hatred that has permanently scarred the national psyche of the Guyanese population. though. Like this new “revolution” the impetus was economic: proposed measures that would have resulted in higher prices f or some basic commodities. T here are several lessons in all of this that now bring me to some personal observations regarding developing nations’ “democratic aspirations” in the modern world. who f elt he could outsmart his covert sponsors. a policy imposed by the IMF. T hose upper classes. and presided over the country’s collapse as a casualty of the cold war. the matter is not nearly as straightf orward as Guyana in the sixties. It is f or other classes in the society to play on their poverty to advance ideological goals. is of primary concern to the poor.8 Hintzen says much the same thing: The strike was covertly supported and financed by Western governments and multinational agencies. Most people are concerned about their daily bread and. To understand the situation some knowledge of history and an appreciation of secular ideologies needs to be there. It emerged f rom the cold war as less of a casualty than countries like Guyana and began a process of “liberalization” or movement towards Capitalist oriented ref orms under Sadat. Yet much of the educated middle class. . It is worth note that in 1977 there was a “popular” revolt against some of those ref orms. Initially in that “popular” uprising it was much the same demographic. more so than f reedom of speech. as I mentioned earlier. got its man in power under the new electoral system in 1964 and the British happily granted independence in 1966. T here were no overtly ideological slogans.S.Georgetown. At this small cost the U. Of course Burnham. Ultimately it was the threat of disorder and the inability of the ruling party to maintain control of the situation that f acilitated the f ulf illment of f oreign plans in the country. Nevertheless they did involve bread which. and in particular Egypt.

Egypt’s f irst. would have us believe then what accounts f or this Associated Press report titled “Group promotes Egypt’s spy chief f or .So then. coupled with the arrival of a serious challenger like ElBaradei. is that really as bad as democracies go? But seriously. which never ceases impressing on Arabs how awf ul they are. I can imagine the immediate response that the elections would have been a sham. 40% of the population is below the poverty line. unlike now. by the way. that claim may not have been entirely without merit. and powerf ul enough cell phones to use those services to organize on the road. according to the IMF. It astounds me that intelligent people can accept the notion of a Facebook revolution being a popular revolution in a nation where. T he “people of Egypt” in this revolution are those who are wealthy enough to be exposed to the most potent f orms of Western thought via the Internet and Satellite T V and who have access to Facebook. But in addition to class and education there is another characteristic that doesn’t change: that they have to be youth. a f irst term and is not nearly as clever and sophisticated as that which got Bush Jr. multi-candidate presidential election in 2005 was his work. and that which was attempted in Iran last year: well f unded and orchestrated activism involving an educated. there’s a new “youth” and no cold war. has produced a political effervescence the likes of which Cairo has not seen in decades. about mobilization of masses of people requiring money and logistics. But if that is as true as Al-Jazeera. a Facebook revolution. Only those of them brought up on Internet and Satellite T V with the sanitized death scenes and rehearsed revolutions would have been trained into accepting images of people throwing stones set to rap music in the background as indications of a genuine uprising as opposed to the corporate branded. Much is at stake for Egypt and Egyptians. all-American regime change in an Obama package that it really is. will allow themselves to be moved by f orces they scarcely recognize and understand. claimed that Communists were behind the disturbances 14. a f ew decades later. Twitter. urban middle class that seeks to impose secular humanism of the liberal Capitalist strain on the masses of people in the name of the people. Such revolutions more closely resemble that which was described above in Guyana in 1961. Even so. Only the youth will be oblivious to f acts like those I have mentioned so f ar. how many arm-chair Facebook revolutionaries were aware of Egypt’s political scene as of last year? As early as March 2010 the Los Angeles Times ran a piece on the upcoming 2011 elections that said in part: Egyptian election law makes it highly probable that Mubarak or his designated successor will claim victory yet again.15 Well. offering a breakthrough toward real democracy. Now. Given what I mentioned. How many people commenting on the “revolution” are aware that Mubarak was introducing unprecedented democratic ref orms. T hese sorts of revolutions depend on a slightly modif ied version of the traditional demographic. those in the past decade in f ormer Russian territories. The election has the possibility of being the first presidential race between equal contenders. the poor (including Islamists among them) did quickly become involved and things got out of control to such an extent that the military agreed to intervene and save Sadat 13 who. so we have a (yet another) f ull-f ledged revolution. the prospect of an end to Mubarak’s presidency. Only those Muslim youths whose wealth af f ords them the privilege of having their minds most exposed to the potent results of the ideas of their enemies. via the media and education. extremely f lawed. And it will be an opportunity to restore some of the Nile Valley nation’s stature in the Arab world. While it may be true that Mubarak’s rigging may have gotten Mubarak Jr. secular. T hey will not recognize that someone must have paid f or the well-printed signs in both Arabic and English that the sanitized poor are carrying. a second term. post cold war.

But he has said he would only run in 2011 if constitutional restrictions on independent candidates entering the race are lifted. nuclear agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei. A popular campaign supporting ElBaradei’s candidacy already is in progress. Egypt has an opportunity to fulfill the commitments its government has made to the Egyptian people as it prepares for next year’s presidential election. and in many ways unprecedented election? What was Mubarak doing wrong? Could it be related to what Michael Posner. and former U.”16 T his strange article complete with ref erence to a “transitional period” was f iled in September 2010. particularly with the state of the president’s health.N. Why is there a “popular revolution” bef ore this obviously much anticipated. the group said it is appealing to the Mubarak regime. Gen. complained about in the Washington Post in December last year that Egypt was ref orming its institutions but not permitting “International” oversight? Mr. if it takes steps to implement several changes to . the upcoming elections. “We think the only way to achieve real democratic transformation in Egypt is to have Lt. “The real alternative is Suleiman. and have floated other names as candidates. human rights and labor. Posner said: Although it has held a series of troubling elections this year. “We repeat the call … and direct it to the wisemen of the regime. the intelligence chief.” Notice how popular the word “popular” is in the article which continues: In a copy obtained by The Associated Press. Omar Suleiman assume power for a transitional period. Opposition groups have been vocal against the idea. including Omar Suleiman.” the statement said. and with continued attempts by businessmen supporting Gamal to push for him as president. to the Egyptian opposition and to Egypt’s honorable army which will not want to smear the glory of the Egyptian state with the shame and disgrace of a succession sought by the president’s son. opposition groups and the army to support their call. The group’s spokesman said he wants to remain anonymous because it is “our idea” not “our name” that matters. the latest campaign to try to undermine a possible father-son succession in the Arab world’s most populous nation… …It was only this month that posters appeared around Cairo promoting the banker-turnedpolitician Gamal Mubarak as Egypt’s next president and urging him to run in the 2011 presidential election.president” that was f iled in September of last year (emphasis mine): Activists on Thursday hung posters across Cairo supporting Egypt’s intelligence chief as a candidate in next year’s presidential elections. Obama’s assistant secretary of state f or democracy. …The activists behind the spy chief’s posters issued a statement launching the “Popular campaign in support of Omar Suleiman as president of Egypt.” the statement said.

17 Was Mubarak’s sin not accepting the “universal principle” that bigger nations have a right to “oversee” the vital democratic internals of smaller nations. not on Facebook. T hat’s why I don’t support these “popular” revolutions. not on the street.19 T he blindness of our youth and our shallow recollection of history along with our continued f aith in . Turkish nationalists. No one protests those unelected. secularism. in f act the Ottoman Sultan was ousted partly by a “popular” anti-authoritarian movement of “Young Turks”: the Revolution arose from an unlikely union of reform-minded pluralists. and democracy: Atatürk wanted a “direct government by the Assembly”[47] and visualized a representative democracy. where the National Parliament would be the ultimate source of power. Al hamdulillah. The United States. These are universal principles. Western-oriented secularists. Asia or North America. unof f icials who hide behind the changing f aces of the elected ones while policies remain unchanged f or tens of decades (like American f oreign policy). and indeed anyone who accorded the Sultan political blame for the harried state of the Empire.18 Ataturk was. The Revolution restored the parliament. have been happening “amongst the youth” like a cycle since the beginning of the 20th century in Egypt and elsewhere in the Muslim world. as evidenced by the Iraqi and Jordanian elections – embraces the globally accepted norm of international monitoring for democratic elections. Cairo is unchallenged). not even with a Tweet. along with many other governments – including some in the Middle East. Youth without a plan. which had been suspended by the Sultan in 1878. Read his Wikipedia page and see the themes of his career: revolution. Well. …President Obama has made clear his support for the principle that all individuals should have the chance to shape the decisions that affect their lives.which it has committed. my Prophet taught me to be aware of all that I do and to have knowledge. liberalization. the process of supplanting the monarchic institutions with constitutional institutions and electoral policies was neither as simple nor as bloodless as the regime change. So my hope and trust are in Allah that one day the Muslims will be truly brave and live. seeking a change that is more f undamental: “Indeed Allah does not change what is with a people until they change what is with themselves…” Quran 13:11 Democratic revolutions. in this sense. No one protests the global mukhabarat. Sorry I’ve seen too much “blood and martyrs” f or a democracy which is nothing but a new “opium of the masses”. as valid for the Middle East as for Africa. the Muslim world’s f irst true revolutionary. to cheer with the kingpin when the drug pusher gets moved of f the street. the CIA and other such “covert” organizations who train the little ones in Arab lands because it always looks good. can only produce a revolution that is anything but their own. and is much easier. and perhaps most importantly without a memory. a giant lever to be pulled by giant dictators who rule f rom boardrooms not palaces. However. without an “ideology” (as if that’s surprising in a post cold war world where America’s ideology as espoused by Obama in June 2009 in. not just come out in the streets. or his seeking to end military control control through his son? Or was it both. of all places. parliamentary sovereignty. I don’t know.

1963 5. pg 88-89 9. UNC Press Books. University of Calif ornia Press. 2008. pg 54 2. 1989.wikipedia. pg 349 13. Percy C.latimes. relocation.1963 4. See document 290. Selma Botman. March 15. April 11. Steven A. “He leads the largest and most cohesive party in the country. Paper Prepared in the Department of State.1962 states. Special National Intelligence Estimate. It shows that much hard work and education.com/news/2010/sep/02/group-promotes-egypts-spy-chief -f or-president/ 17.” 7. Algeria. http://en. Qusṭanṭīn Z urayq. Document 272. 1988. Memorandum of Conversation.1962 states. 15.democracy show that we have not changed ourselves f or the better at all. Paper Prepared in the Department of State. Such as “Sadat dresses in style. http://www. He is the ablest leader m British Guiana.washingtonpost. Oweiss. http://articles.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/16/AR2010121604409. “Jagan and the PPP are likely to maintain control of the government. Kennedy conf ronts Communist revolution in Latin America. Ruling but not governing: the military and political development in Egypt. T he Costs of Regime Survival: Racial Mobilization. http://www. Ibid. A History of Egypt: From Earliest Times to the Present. f or which there is no substitute.signonsandiego. Notes: 1.org/wiki/Mustaf a_Kemal_Atat%C3%BCrk#Emergence_of _the_state. Allah f orgive and guide us all. Document 274.” See: Jason T hompson.org/wiki/Young_Turk_Revolution 19. 1939-1970.1962 8.1962 3. T he rise of Egyptian communism. Airgram From the Consulate General in Georgetown to the Department of State.com/2010/mar/30/news/la-0e-ottaway30-2010mar30 16. 2002. http://en. 2007. pg 73 14. while we live seven to a room. Ibrahim M. March 15. June 30.” 6. Remaking the modern: space. Stephen G Rabe. Hintzen. Arab civilization: challenges and responses : studies in honor of Constantine K. George Nicholas Atiyeh. 1999. US/MC/21 Birch Grove. England. T he most dangerous area in the world: John F. and the politics of identity in a global Cairo. pg 328 12. Z urayk.E2. Document 274. still lie ahead. Special National Intelligence Estimate. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. SUNY Press. Elite Domination and Control of the State in Guyana and Trinidad.2C_1923.80. So until the call is to the truth and the political slogans are dropped altogether my slogan will be: “From the good of a man’s Islam is his leaving that which does not concern him. pg 37 10. Syracuse University Press. April 11. American Univ in Cairo Press. Cook.” How long more bef ore we realize that our f reedom will never come without Slave-hood. Document 295. pg 19 11. 1988.wikipedia. whether or not new elections are held. JHU Press. Document 272.931 924 . Farha Ghannam.html 18. and Turkey. March 14.

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