Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership
TEACHING THE COMPASSIONATE USE OF POWER

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Room for Doubt

Posted by Barbara Victor at 1st March, 2011

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if my previous two Blogs were wrong?

How great would it be if democracy and a sound economic structure, employment, education, job opportunity and all the other good things emerged for the Arab people after their brave and vocal uprisings throughout the Arab world?

Perhaps I did lean toward a doomsday scenario when I wrote that the vacuum created by the overthrow of dictators would result in the religious extremists taking over.  Maybe, just maybe, a transition to equality where there is not such a gaping disparity between the rich and greedy in power with the majority who are poor and hopeless, would cancel out a desire for an Islamic Republic. After all, the Koran teaches that this life is merely a preparation for the afterlife. Frankly, if there is little hope for the basic necessities on earth, embracing religion would provide hope after death. But is that really what people want?

It is possible that I was relying too much on the Iran model of change, where change from the Shah to the Ayatollah was negligible at best, horrendous at worst. Why not assume the people really want positive change where one ism is not necessarily replaced with another, where their lives on earth would be better and they had the luxury of living rather than anticipating how great it will be at Allah’s table.

Time will tell if I was wrong but more important it seems, is the general impression that Al Qaeda can’t seem to get a foot hold into those Arab countries that are currently in turmoil, whether it is Libya, Egypt, Yemen, or Bahrain. What gives? What happened to the most treacherous terrorist organization in the world led by the quintessential bloodthirsty killer ever to walk this earth? The whole point of their terror tactics is to spread their belief that the United States and her allies foist their evil self-serving brand of democracy on the world. Their mission is to destroy these countries and any other nation that does not embrace extremist Islam as the way toward salvation. And, where do they strike? Anywhere they can, which means anywhere there is a security gap or where they sense disarray and weakness as in an Arab country in turmoil without a bonafide leader and cohesive government.

If my previous scenarios were wrong and, in fact, the uprisings on the streets of Cairo and Tripoli and other cities in the region result in some kind of transition toward democracy, the world can breathe a bit easier for several reasons. Those Arab people who were tenacious in their resistance to their leaders will have succeeded in deposing despots who have enriched themselves at the expense of providing the basic necessities of human life. Those countries will finally be able to guarantee men, women, children, and the elderly a future that affords dignity, nourishment, education, and a decent level of comfort for all – equally.

But what about the rest of us who have tried in vain to rid the world of Al Qaeda and in the process sacrificed thousands of lives?

The bad news is we failed at the expense of our youth who died in combat and thousands of citizens of those countries we invaded who also died during the civil wars that ensued.

The good news is that given the failure of Al Qaeda to step in and take over those Arab nations who have or who are in the process of toppling their leaders should assure us that the terror group who gave us 9/11 and many other horrific acts where thousands were killed, has lost its power, organization, connections, and influence. If that is indeed the case, which one of those countries in the western world who joined us in our so-called effort to smoke out Al Qaeda in remote parts of the world would, today, continue pouring billions in the war effort and justify sacrificing their soldiers? The obvious response at this point would be that, given the impotence of Al Qaeda, they and we should withdraw our troops from those war zones and, instead, focus on our own internal economic problems. And, among those problems would be finding a viable alternative to being held hostage at the gasoline pumps.

At the moment, I, like millions of others, am watching the bloodshed in Libya. What strikes me are the differences in our reaction to what occurred in Egypt to what is now going on in Colonel Ghadaffi’s Jamariya. Events are changing by the moment. As of today, the United States has branded Ghadaffi “delusional” and “out of touch with his people’s needs.” In fact, during a press conference at the White House, the spokesperson for President Obama asked the international press how he, Ghadaffi, could smile and laugh while his supporters slaughtered his people?  Only last week, the United States position was that the “Libyan people must decide what they want to do.” How many people were killed in the four days since we changed our official position?  This falls under the heading of real politik.

Mubarak was an important friend of the United States and Israel notwithstanding his brutality at home, while Ghadaffi was only recently demoted from terrorist status when he imprisoned the men who brought down the Pan American flight in Lockerbee more than a decade ago and agreed to a financial settlement with the victims’ families.

I met Ghadaffi in 1986, face to face, in his bombed villa at Babal Aziz. In fact, my interview with him for US News and World Report was the first after we, the Americans, bombed him. When I hear the words “no-fly zone” and “sanctions,” it reminds me of 1986 when we drew a line in the sand and the Colonel stepped over that imaginary line, which resulted in several squadrons of F-111s dropping bombs over Tripoli. Truth be told, I hesitated writing about my experiences in Libya and about my impressions of Ghadaffi who, at the time, resembled more Tom Jones than his image today, which is more like a bloated elderly woman. I was waiting to see if his words to me which were recorded and published in US News and World Report, still were a crucial part of his agenda for his people.

More on that tomorrow…

About Barbara Victor

Barbara Victor has written 7 articles on this blog.

Barbara Victor is co-president of the Board of the Woodhull Institute. She is a journalist who has covered the Middle East for most of her career. Barbara worked for CBS television for fifteen years, and U.S. News and World Report. She is a Pulitzer Prize nominee and is the author of five novels and seven non-fiction books.

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