Blog post

Tariq Ali: "This is an Arab 1848. But US hegemony is only dented"

Sarah Shin23 February 2011

Drawing parallels with Europe in 1848, Tariq Ali, writing for the Guardian, remarks that like those European rebels, the

Arab people are fighting against foreign domination (82% of Egyptians, a recent opinion poll revealed, have a "negative view of the US"); against the violation of their democratic rights; against an elite blinded by its own illegitimate wealth - and in favour of economic justice. 

Ali considers how far the upheavals can take the Arab world:

The Arab revolutions, triggered by the economic crisis, have mobilised mass movements, but not every aspect of life has been called into question. Social, political and religious rights are becoming the subject of fierce controversy in Tunisia, but not elsewhere yet. No new political parties have emerged, an indication that the electoral battles to come will be contests between Arab liberalism and conservatism in the shape of the Muslim Brotherhood, modelling itself on Islamists in power in Turkey and Indonesia, and ensconced in the embrace of the US.

American hegemony in the region has been dented but not destroyed. The post-despot regimes are likely to be more independent, with a democratic system that is fresh and subversive and, hopefully, new constitutions enshrining social and political needs. But the military in Egypt and Tunisia will ensure nothing rash happens. The big worry for Euro-America is Bahrain. If its rulers are removed it will be difficult to prevent a democratic upheaval in Saudi Arabia. Can Washington afford to let that happen? Or will it deploy armed force to keep the Wahhabi kleptocrats in power?

In conclusion, Ali quotes the Iraqi poet Muddafar al-Nawab, who

a few decades ago ... angered by a gathering of despots described as an Arab Summit, lost his cool:

... Mubarik, Mubarik,
Wealth and good health
Fax the news to the UN.
Camp after Camp and David,
Father of all your Camps.
Damn your fathers
Rotten Lot;
The stench of your bodies floods your nostrils ...
O Make-Believe Summit
May your faces be blackened;
Ugly your drooping bellies
Ugly your fat arses
Why the surprise
That your faces resemble both ...
Summits ... summits ... summits
Goats and sheep gather,
Farts with a tune
Let the Summit be
Let the Summit not be
Let the Summit decide;
I spit on each and every one of you
Kings ... Sheikhs ... Lackeys ...

Whatever else, Arab summits will not be the same again. The poet has been joined by the people.

Visit the Guardian to read the article in full.

The poem in its explicit entirety can be found in the paperback edition of Bush in Babylon.

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