Moammar Gadhafi knows who’s behind the protests that threaten his 41-year rule. And, no, it isn’t either one of his two favorite scapegoats — the running dogs of US imperialism and "The Jooooooooooos." Nope, it’s – well, listen up:
"Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, has said in a speech on Libyan state television that al-Qaeda is responsible for the uprising in Libya. ‘It is obvious now that this issue is run by al-Qaeda,’ he said, speaking by phone from an unspecified location on Thursday. He said that the protesters were young people who were being manipulated by al-Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden, and that many were doing so under the influence of drugs."
The World’s Wackiest Despot sounds like a neocon at the height of the post- 9/11 war hysteria: like, say, Andrew Sullivan accusing the "decadent left" on both coasts of being a pro-al Qaeda "fifth column."
So who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?
Speaking of dogs, here’s another question: which Arab despot was quickest to echo Gadhafi? Find the answer here:
"Iraq’s prime minister warned his people to boycott a planned anti-government protest scheduled for Friday, saying it was being organized by supporters of Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida.
"Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki gave no proof for his assertion in a nationally televised speech Thursday, which echoed similar blanket statements he’s made blaming terrorists and Saddam loyalists for an array of problems in the country."
So this is why we killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, sacrificed thousands of our own, and spent $3 trillion on "liberating" Iraq – so we could install this Gadhafi clone in office. Of course, Maliki hasn’t unleashed his hired thugs (hired by you) on the protesting populace quite yet – "only" three or four protesters have been killed, so far, in Iraq. Yet it isn’t hard to imagine a Libya-like scenario playing out in "liberated" Iraq: the country is a powder keg waiting to go off.
Tensions are highest in Kurdistan, "the Other Iraq," long held up as a model by the likes of Christopher Hitchens and a certain exceedingly pompous ex-vice president of the Koch-funded Cato Institute. At least four people have been killed in protests erupting in normally peaceful Kurdistan, and hundreds wounded. The protesters are angry about rampant corruption, awful living conditions, and the complete lack of accountability by the two main political parties, who have a virtual stranglehold on the Kurdish economy. As the Institute for War and Peace Reporting relates:
"Ali Kawes, a resident of Sulaimaniyah, carried a broken chair during a protest, which he said served as a symbol of broken promises by officials and a warning that the authorities will be deposed.
"’I have been jobless for four years, but the sons of the officials can get the best jobs they want in couple of days,’ he said. ‘We want to put an end to this injustice.’
"Hawraz Rasoul, a 22-year-old street vendor, was among protesters chanting anti-corruption slogans in downtown Sulaimaniyah.
"’We demand better living conditions but they responded by shooting at us,’ he said. "We will keep holding peaceful demonstration until we force the authorities to make reforms.’"
The real nature of the Kurdish kleptocracy is well–known to my longtime readers, but the Kurds’ public relations campaign – funded by you, the American taxpayer – has done a pretty good job, so far, of obscuring the truth. While Hitchens was having "a perfectly swell time" taking in the sights and sounds of ideological tourism in Kurdistan, Dr. Kamal Sayid Qadir, a Kurdish human rights activist, was being sentenced to 30 years in prison for "insulting" the President of Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, and "defaming" the Kurdish people. His real "crime" was exposing the corruption of the Kurdish state-within-a-state. He was eventually released due to an international outcry, but what of all the other poor souls trapped in Kurdistan’s notorious prisons, where torture is ubiquitous and the "legal" process is dicey, at best?
For years, the Kurdish government has been ethnically cleansing Arabs, Turkmens, and other minorities from its territory, jailing its internal critics, enriching its friends, and aiding the terrorist Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), which uses Iraqi Kurdistan as a base from which to launch attacks on civilian targets in Turkey.
In the rest of Iraq, things aren’t much better: indeed, they are worse. A sectarian regime dominated by Shi’ite fanatics has been handed power by the US occupiers, and there is no electricity, no regular supply of water, and certainly no "democracy" or anything vaguely resembling it. The political character of the Iraqi state US soldiers fought and died for was dramatically underscored, recently, when the Iraqi journalist who famously threw his shoes – both of them – at a very agile President George W. Bush, was arrested at a press conference at which he intended to announce his support for Friday’s "Day of Rage":
"The Iraqi journalist who shot to fame for throwing a shoe at former US president George W Bush was detained on Thursday while attempting to hold a news conference in Baghdad, an AFP reporter said. Muntazer al-Zaidi had been due to hold a press conference in front of the Iraqi capital’s Abu Hanifa mosque in the mostly-Sunni district of Adhamiyah when an Iraqi army unit took him away. ‘I have orders for you to come with me,’ an army colonel told Mr Zaidi, who initially refused, demanding to see a written arrest warrant.
"He was eventually led into an army pick-up truck along with his brother Durgan.
"Durgan al-Zaidi told AFP before the news conference that his brother intended to add his voice to calls for a major protest in Baghdad for Friday."
The entire Iraqi political establishment is hostile to the protesters, including Moqtada Sadr, the radical Shi’ite Iraqi nationalist who has largely abandoned his "bad boy" persona and joined the Maliki government. The Powers That Be have everything to lose if the protests take off: the Maliki regime and its allies are looking over their shoulders in fear as the strong headwinds of populist anger that swept Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak out of power in North Africa blow their way.
Remember those heady days of the neocons’ triumphalism, when Glenn Reynolds and his fellow laptop bombardiers were proclaiming the victory of "Democracy, whiskey, sexy" in Iraq? Today the society that is emerging from the bloodstained rubble of Iraq’s cities is far from democratic, in the liberal sense, and as for whiskey and "sexy" – well, you can just forget it.
Neither democracy, nor a culture that respects human rights, can be exported at gunpoint: that is one of the lessons of the Iraq war. The neoconservative ideologues who told us otherwise weren’t just wrong: they were lying, as usual.
Their goal wasn’t democracy, or anything remotely resembling it: their strategy was simply to smash up the existing Iraqi state, and atomize the region into small, squabbling splinter-states, all the better to dominate them and make the world safe for Israel. Now that their job is done in Iraq, they’re moving on to the next victims: Iran, Syria, and on into Central Asia. Or so they think.
The great Arab Awakening, however, may very well short-circuit their plans: if and when this powerful populist movement takes down the Iranian mullahs and the Ba’athist gerontocracy in Damascus, Washington may find it harder to pursue its Israel-centric policy with impunity.