The West’s Loud Silence

By Ali Jawad

Not long ago, the Western world was up in arms decrying the ‘grave human rights violations’ on the streets of Tehran. In the aftermath of the June elections, media outlets such as the BBC and CNN ran minute-by-minute updates on the latest developments. We were made conversant with the monstrous brutality genetically inbuilt within Revolutionary Guard and Basij personnel; some of whom had descended onto the streets, according to comical news reports, bearing machetes and hammers. Quite like a Hollywood script, one would say.

The political class was similarly energised. French president Nicolas Sarkozy, that erstwhile humanitarian, exclaimed in an almost Socratic tone that the "violent reaction" was proportional to the "extent of [electoral] fraud", and proceeded to underline that Iran’s post-election conduct would have "implications" on the global arena. Sentiments of a similar nature were regurgitated in one form or another across Western capitals.

Reactions not in the least surprising when placed against a ‘Green revolution’ (led by a westoxified upper middle class) seeking to present a friendlier face of the Islamic Republic to the ‘international community’. In less romantic terms, the Green movement was making clear overtures to the West: we want to demote Iran from the rank of ‘Enemy No.1 of the US’, and we want to distance ourselves from an anti-imperialist discourse. Yet it is instructive to note that the operating buzzwords splattered across media screens, and sanctified in the political sermons of Washington, London and Paris made no reference to geopolitics. Western rage was allegedly sparked, instead, by deep concern for fundamental human rights.

It is often said that the firmest litmus test in politics is Time – a view that cannot easily be disregarded, especially in light of recent developments. On that count, Western politicians and politics in general often fails. 

Amid the popular wildfire uprisings spreading across the Middle East, the cacophonous silence that has gripped the Empire and the capitals of its junior cohorts, who vociferously championed the cause of human rights only a mere months ago, is there for all to witness. As the streets of Tunis turned into warzones thanks to the works of a Western proxy par-excellence and his Western-backed security apparatus, the elite class in Paris was seemingly struck by some hitherto undiagnosed ailment. Not until the Tunisian dictator, Ben Ali, had fled with sacks of stolen riches did the once flamboyant Sarkozy finally air hypocritical remonstrations against the ousted tyrant – with a straight-face I am told. This was the very French administration that had expressed its unfaltering willingness to lend last-gasp "knowhow" to a falling dictator as an unrelenting sea of people stormed the streets of Sidi Bouzid.

In fact, despite all its hollow promises to the contrary, the very immediate threat posed by French intelligence and fellow western agencies, in the post-revolution phase, is acutely understood in Tunis. Sarkozy will no doubt harp on about setting straight a historical miscalculation, but it would seem that the Tunisian street is not quite done with the historical lesson learnt just yet.

‘Double Standards?’

As the streets of Alexandria, Suez and Cairo impress upon one of the most favoured US cronies on where true power really lies, and with social networks abuzz with talk of a ‘spring of revolutions’, it would all seem to vindicate the prophecies of key Cold War strategist, Zbigniew Brzezinski. His forewarnings about the changed world reality in an era of political awakening, and the urgent need faced by the Empire to align itself with the forces of change seem to have hit deaf ears in Washington. Perhaps the ‘problem’ confronting the Empire, however, was always far greater, more deep-rooted than the old sage would have us believe.

"Imperial power is sustained by the creation of satrapies that accept its economic priorities and strategic control". The words of Tariq Ali, an age-long critic of the Empire, provide an insight into the fundamental contradiction that exists, and has always existed, between the imperatives of imperialism and the innate freedom and sovereignty of peoples and nations. Far from being involved in the righteous vocation oft-repeated by its founders, the US has affirmed its supremacy by bolstering dictators and tyrants with full knowledge that foreign hegemony is only effectual in the presence of a local tyranny exercised by ‘satraps’ (aka moderate folks). For imperialists, power is an end in and of itself – regardless of its form and application. According to this logic, human values, knowledge and so-called ‘international frameworks’ are to be subordinated to the insatiable whims of imperial power.

The brave men and women who have flocked to Tahrir Square and turned it into a beating symbol of dignity and freedom know full-well the cause behind Obama’s anxiety and ambiguity. But they are in no mood to accept artificial, cosmetic makeovers. Mubarak’s regime is seen, and openly rejected, for what it is: a key component in the global imperium’s regional toolkit.

With the death toll in Egypt already past 100, one’s heart wishes to question western news outlets: did these brave and innocent martyrs actually have human faces? According to the yardstick of past patterns of coverage, one would have to answer in the negative. The fallen in Egypt neither have faces nor loved ones – they are a different breed of human existence altogether.

The fact of the matter is that in this fictional lion-hare battle between ‘strategic balance à la tyrannical despots’ and ‘promotion of enlightened values’, the former has always owned all the trumps. Empires always act in their own self-interests, and the imperial narrative, rolled out in the mainstream press, is never in the least concerned about any epistemic black holes that come into being as a result.

The notion of double standards is based on an implicit admission of a conflict of interest. This they – the Empire and its cronies – do not suffer from, be rest assured; there has always been one unmistakably clear interest. The woes and frustrations that have impaired the Middle East for decades on end have been an inevitable outcome of the implementation of imperial policy, albeit by proxy. No other choice has been left for a suffocated people other than a culture of resistance; a popular, grassroots resistance firmly resolved to kick out the proxy, and all remnants of his masters, by any means necessary.

– Ali Jawad is a political activist and member of the AhlulBayt Islamic Mission (AIM).

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