On January 5, 2011, Mohammed Bouazizi, an unemployed 26-year-old who had been illegally selling fruit on the street corners of Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, died subsequent to massive burns after he set himself on fire the previous month. The police had shut him down, and he saw no other options.
His act of… bravery? desperation?… in December caught fire in the hearts of an anxious and ever more sullen population at the receiving end of an exploitative world system.
Tunisians poured into the streets with no idea that Bouazizi’s or their actions would trigger a tectonic shift in that same world system. This system is run by the United States of America, via the Dollar-Wall Street Regime and policed around the Mediterranean with the assistance of a despised, ethnically segregated and stratified settler state. At the center of this powder keg is feudal satrap regime, rolling in American dollars, and sitting atop the world’s largest remaining oil reserves – Saudi Arabia.
The ever-more-sclerotic superpower trudged forward into the bloody impasse of its Southwest Asian military adventure, preoccupied by a systemic crisis that is destabilizing the stuffed, entertained, and complacent middle class that is the basis of its own domestic security. What it discovered again and anew about itself is that it is trapped. It is trapped by its own rhetoric, trapped by its material dependencies, trapped by its own interlocking directorate, trapped by its electoral system that wages a periodic and massively escalating monetary civil war of the elite every two to four years.
The superpower still had the ability to slam Honduras against the wall, using the Reagan-era political mafia that has sheltered under the wing of the State Department. They’d been hands-on in Latin America for many decades, and so they could get away with overthrowing a tiny government to steal its telecom and intimidate its restless neighbors. But in North Africa and the Middle East, the superpower relied more exclusively on its satraps, and because they had never established the enmeshed power they enjoyed in Latin America, they lost the thread.
And Tunisia was not seen as strategic. Cables released by Wikileaks openly talked about the venality of the Ben Ali regime, and these cables added fuel to the situation for which young Mohammed Bouazizi would light the match.
In 2001, a Saudi Arabian who had helped the US finance and deploy a makeshift army into Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden, masterminded a shockingly simple, devastatingly effective, highly symbolic, asymmetric strike against the United States. We quickly forgot that bin Laden is a Saudi Arabian, and at war with the House of Saud in his own country since they refused him the chance to lead the potential defense against Iraq during the latter’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
The strike of September 11, 2001, was never publicly discussed for its strategic significance; and apparently it was never likewise discussed by the National Command Authority or the Pentagon. They gave bin Laden exactly what he wanted: the United States, bogged down in an endlessly grinding guerrilla war that would further corrupt its body politic, force it to intensify its exploitation of its allies and trading partners to pay for it, and personalize the resentments and anger of the people throughout the region by putting American GI’s right in their faces while Afghanistan, then Iraq, and now Pakistan waded in blood.
In 2003, some people looked askance at those of us who said this all bode ill for the US position in the region, especially for the leaders of the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, and Jordan – the Arab faces of US power, a power identified in the street as synonymous with the State of Israel. I would redirect their attention to the region now.
Tunisia provided the example and emboldened the people in the truly strategic states. The fault line slipped, and the ground is shifting.
As I write this, Hosni Mubarak appears to be at the end of his career, and Jordanians are in the street.
Egypt was the linchpin of the US-Israeli joint strategy in the region. One can hardly overestimate the significance of the change afoot.
Gaza may soon be dis-encircled. Hamas will be strengthened. Hezbollah has ascended in Lebanon. George Bush managed against his own intentions to secure a pro-Iranian state in Iraq. Afghanistan is lost but un-leavable. Pakistan is being destabilized.
One can only wonder now, how hard the tremors are hitting in Riyadh.
The Great Lakes of petroleum are under threat.
From Cairo to Amman, the world is changing.