Osama is gone, Bouazizi lives on


Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does a bunch of other stuff.

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21 Responses

  1. Avatar lukas says:

    A pan-Arab newspaper published in London under the patronage of Saudi royals, that is. I hope they are right, but I do not trust them, exactly.Report

  2. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    The Arabic press has been maundering on pointlessly for decades about the rise and fall of Osama bin Laden. The Arabs didn’t understand him when he went off to fight in Afghanistan: for a good long while he was a photogenic hero, so self-effacing, fighting jihaad.

    We have Bin Laden to thank for the reappearance of that word in Arabic, beyond some corners of Islamic studies. Go to any masjid, then and now, and you’ll hear platitudes by the ton on the subject, but it was a dead a concept as the Crusaders is to us now. Now nobody wants to preach sermons on the subject, except to point out how horribly wrong AQ was to think they were actually fighting jihaad and how we ought to struggle against the evil within us and various other such pudding-like confections and tropes along those lines.

    My take on all this, reading the Arabic papers pretty much every day, is that AQ is a lasting embarrassment. Secretly, folks hoped someone would see beyond AQ’s violence and listen to what OBL was saying about America’s long history of meddling

    The Arabic press had plenty to say about Crusaders. It’s a label used to describe America’s unconditional support for Israel and the un-Mediterranean aspects of Israeli leadership, egged on by the Jewish lobbies in America, all those English-speaking Arabs in good suits (honest men wear dishdasha), nattering on blithely at Davos and other such joints, et. al. rant rant foam foam. Arabs love nothing so much as a good tale of conspiracy.

    AQ is yet another failure in a long history of Arab intellectual failures. The Ottomans failed, mostly because they were alternately aloof and oppressive and little in between, and of course they weren’t Arabs, whatever that means (nothing in my opinion). Then there were the Strong Men, and they didn’t like them either, for obvious reasons. Israel gave the Strong Ben many embarrassing beatdowns (al-Naqba, translates roughly to catastrophe, but a catastrophe with shameful overtones) and Israel’s continuing existence is the apotheosis of their shame.

    And now, dollars to donuts, despite the joyful ululations and banner waving and hugging in the streets, the Arab Revolutions have hit the wall. Syria batters down its opposition with increasing ruthlessness, Qadhafi stubbornly hangs on, Bahrain’s revolt ended horribly, KSA is busily distributing goodies to friend and foe alike, their response to every such crisis. The dust settles on the bomb crater of Egypt’s revolution and the military is still there, dully and stupidly preserving the status quo ante.

    Sartre once said we are condemned to be free because once we’re thrown into the world, we become responsible for what we do. Using the inverse of this stern and completely accurate conclusion, the Arabs have never once taken responsibility for anything and are therefore condemned to be prisoners. It’s Israel’s fault, it’s our wretched leaders’ fault, it’s America’s fault, it’s the Shiite’s fault, anything but accept responsibility for their own actions. To be sure, in a world run by the dictator and his secret police, it’s easy to avoid responsibility, for the vast majority of the Arabs are more sinned-against than sinner. And yes, it’s true, some of the braver souls are standing up to be counted.

    OBL may be dead and his followers scattered like sheep among wolves. But let’s get real here, OBL was a great hero to most Arabs for he repeatedly slapped the face of America and lived to tell the tale for another decade. The Arabs are as conflicted by OBL as they are by his enemy, the USA: once great forces for good, in our hubris both were sucked into the maelstrom of war they felt the other had provoked, a war from which no winners have emerged, a war which has put thousands of America soldiers in their graves and hundreds of thousands of Arabs and Pashtuns and Kurds in theirs as well. The colossal destruction of those wars is ongoing and it shows every sign of destabilizing the only Muslim nation with nuclear weapons, Pakistan. Should Pakistan fall, this past decade is only a minor prelude, a wet squib compared to the war to come.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      There’s an argument that I don’t know how to feel about…

      Well, let’s talk about abortion and then we can extrapolate out from there if it comes out that we want to.

      After Dr. George Tiller was shot, I saw more than one argument explaining how far too many pro-life types see Tiller’s shooter as a good Christian who did something that they couldn’t/wouldn’t do. The idea was that the pro-lifers would see the shooter as analogous to Bonhoeffer, perhaps. The shooter was someone who did something indicative of great belief while the majority of the pro-lifers out there can’t even be bothered to protest a Planned Parenthood. As such, the shooter was someone who made most pro-lifers feel guilty… but not because he killed someone but because he demonstrated his faith to a degree most pro-lifers are afraid to do. That is: most pro-lifers feel that Dr. George Tiller’s shooter was a better pro-lifer than they.

      Of course, if this argument makes no sense at all, we can drop it like a hot potato.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        An action can be logical and still be murder. John List murdered his family years ago because he thought they would fall to Satan. By murdering them they went to Heaven and couldn’t be taken by evil. That makes perfect sense within the bounds of his beliefs ( and insanity,but that is my evil liberal moral judgment). Any argument can become dogma, and murder, if you only hyper-focus on the specific facts of your argument and can’t see other points of view. Extremism or absolutism always seems pure and noble since it simply ignores anything which does not fit. I can claim a black and white photo is a perfect representation of the world by simply ignoring that color exists.Report

        • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

          The really tricky part is that if you’re colorblind, a black and white photo *is* a perfect representation of the world, as far as you know.

          So when you’re shown a picture by some dude who claims that this is the way the world is, and you look at the picture and see !=the world, you’re not entirely certain if they’re colorblind, or crazy.

          Assuming that you’re not crazy, and/or not under the influence of psychedelics.

          That’s a lot of possibilities I prefer not to discount out of hand.

          This is why I prefer not to equate “guilty of murder” with “monster”. I dunno if the guy is a monster or not. He’s probably within a reasonable enough delta for me to justify locking him up where he might not commit monstrosities upon me, mine, or the general peeps. Probably not within epsilon of me knowing for sure whether he’s “evil” or not.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Yeah, that’s kinda what I was trying to say — but their hatred of America’s government isn’t really tied to a moral viewpoint, though for some folks it is. Imagine a largely-illiterate population that gets its news from TV if they get news at all.

        So they look around at their country, everyone who’s getting ahead is part of the corruption. All the clever ones leave if they can and lots of them can’t. Filthy streets, no electricity, the imam tells fatalistic sermons ’bout how they’re supposed to be content with your lot in life, but somehow Allah the Beneficent never gets around to any benefices for them. Where are the great successes always promised?

        The last vestiges of Arab greatness are the mosques of antiquity. One of the greatest is encapsulated inside the State of Israel. The Aqsa Mosque has become a symbol of just how badly things have gone for the Arabs. The Arabs don’t just hate Israel, Israel represents their own shameful inability to rise in the world.

        How did things get so bad? Egypt should be a reasonably prosperous nation, at least as far up the ladder as say, Turkey. Forget all the other Arabic speaking countries: Egypt is the only one that matters. In their anger and shame, the Egyptians revolted because they didn’t have any jobs. Now that Mubarak is gone, they’ve got one less person to blame, but there seems to be no shortage of blame targets in the inventory. The more things change, the more they stay the same: now Egypt’s military is working out its own status quo with Israel. Nothing’s going to change: jobs are short, food’s expensive and the tourist industry is dead. The Arab Revolution shot its wad, expended its fury on the wrong target as OBL did in his turn. Ho friggin’ hum, the kids are hungry and so is the donkey. Egypt is condemned to wander in the ruins of its past greatness.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:


          If it’s religious, I absolutely understand resistance to, for lack of a better word, “liberalism”.

          If it’s not religious in nature, I understand the hesitancy to change much, much less. Culture is something that is difficult to overcome… but it’s easier for the young to do so and the culture seems poisonous enough for change to appeal to more than just the young.

          I have to think on this.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            Yeah, that sums it up pretty well, Jaybird. The 70s chumps like OBL sublimated their anger into religion. That’s less-true now, but not entirely off the radar. While we in the West, conditioned as we are to fear the Muslim Brotherhood, over there, they’re seen as a bunch of oldsters who only caused more trouble when they had a strong enough bicep to punch anyone.

            OBL is a product of the Muslim Brotherhood way of thinking, though they’ve been denying that for years. It’s sorta like the Mild Sauce at the taco joint. There are spicier brands, with their own fans. But in MB’s denial is a touch of envy: the Spicier Sauce, Islamic Jihad assassinated Sadat, remember, and though nothing good came of that, it just brought down the power of superior technology onto their heads as well as IJ and the rest of the Islamists without distinction. In the world of Islamism, you have to exhibit some bravery and it’s been a long while since MB Brand Hot Sauce did.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

          Yeah, that’s kinda what I was trying to say — but their hatred of America’s government isn’t really tied to a moral viewpoint, though for some folks it is. Imagine a largely-illiterate population that gets its news from TV if they get news at all.

          When did we start talking about the Tea Party?Report