The Revolution Industry

Monday, 02 July 2012

The election of Brother Mohammed Morsi as Egypt’s first civilian president sealed the victory of pro-democracy protesters. They had courageously occupied Cairo’s Tahrir Square, forced the resignation of a dictator who had been around for 30 years and extricated the country from the clutches of its military rulers.

A revolution wired on Facebook and Twitter by a bunch of resourceful, media savvy, youngsters ends triumphantly. That’s the story in much of the media. It ignores all the hallmarks of a coup made in America.

The Egyptian revolt was one of a crop of predictable uprisings last year across North Africa and the Middle East. Time magazine and Business Week issued warnings about the “ticking time bomb” of youth unemployment. In Egypt and Tunisia, devastating IMF austerity programmes drove economic misery. The New England Complex Systems Institute found that although the protests were associated with dictatorial regimes they were precipitated by threshold food prices.

These bread riots were swiftly bandaged as the Arab Spring, an illusory metaphor for democracy rising in authoritarian fiefdoms. Patronising connections with the 1848 revolts that swept Europe abetted by the printing press were invoked. Comparisons were made with the “colour revolutions” of the past decade, a wave of insurrections in which a flower or colour was used as the symbol of liberation.

They include Serbia’s Bulldozer Revolution (2000), Georgia’s Rose Revolution (2003), Ukraine’s Orange Revolution (2004), Kyrgyzstan’s Tulip Revolution (2005) and Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution (2005). More recently, there’s been the Saffron Revolution in Burma (2007) and the Green Revolution in Iran (2009). Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution led the Arab Spring.

Revolution is a catch phrase and the impact of these protests has varied. In Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan they led to a change of regime while in Iran the Green Revolution was simply a washout. Critically these are not “revolutions” but a US strategy for changing governments it doesn’t like.

In the UK, “openDemocracy”, an establishment think-tank observes that a common feature of these “colour revolutions’ was the provocative role played by organised groups of young people. They created clever slogans like Otpor (resistance) in Serbia, Kmara (enough) in Georgia, and Pora (it’s time) in the Ukraine to rally the protests. They influenced the “Kefaya” (enough) movement launched in Egypt in 2004.

But there was a difference. “The west encouraged, supported, in some cases even financed the popular revolt in Serbia and to a lesser degree those in Georgia and Ukraine. Where the Arab rebellion is concerned, the west is completely absent.”

The idea that Egyptians dislodged a military junta on their own is implausible. Popular agitation was relatively limited. There was no coherent programme of reform, no real mass organisation capable of seizing power. There was, however, a formidable presence of American backed NGOs in Egypt. The website of the National Endowment for Democracy says it’s “a private, non-profit foundation dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world.

Each year, with funding from the US Congress, NED supports more than 1,000 projects of non-governmental groups abroad who are working for democratic goals in more than 90 countries.” In other words, it finances, trains, and politically supports local opposition forces around the world, doing openly what the CIA did covertly during the Cold War. It’s part of Washington’s notorious programme of “democracy promotion”.

In April last year the New York Times confirmed that a number of the groups and individuals directly involved in the Arab Spring revolts were funded by NED. They included the 6th of April Youth Movement that originally emerged as a Facebook group in the spring of 2008 to support a workers strike in the town of Kubra.

Egyptian youth leaders were at the December 2008 summit, the Alliance of Youth Movements in New York whose sponsors included Facebook, Google, MTV and the US State Department. The summit alloyed “experts in social media with pioneering grassroots movement leaders for the first time in history” and spawned Movements.Org whose founders include Jared Cohen, Director of Google Ideas. Freedom House – a US “democracy-building” NGO directly funded by the State Department showed Egyptian activists how to make the best of Facebook and Twitter.

It facilitated high-level contacts with U.S. government officials – like Condoleezza Rice and Hilary Clinton – members of Congress, media outlets and think tanks.

The truth is out there. High-profile Egyptian groups “Kefaya” (enough) and “April 6” share the same pedigree as OTPOR set up by the CIA in Serbia. Both have received training from OTPOR’s Centre for Applied Non Violent Action and Strategies (CANVAS), which describes itself as “an International network of trainers and consultants’ involved in the “Revolution Business”. “April 6” flashes the same clenched first logo favoured by the “colour revolutions”.

The protests failed to budge Mubarak. On 10 February 2011, CIA Director Leon Panetta confidently announced Mubarak would go in a couple of hours. He did not and the army was happy to have him stay until at least September. Tellingly, ABC News described his decision to step down the next day as abrupt.

James F. Tracy, Associate Professor of Media Studies at Florida Atlantic University, says the sensible explanation is that Washington issued orders to the Egyptian generals it heavily subsidises. Mubarak – who had served the US well for 30 years – had become a nuisance.

He had objected to a US-UK-Israel attack on Iran and to a US-UK-proposed “defense umbrella” over Sunni states involving the stationing of US military personnel in Egypt. Mubarak’s removal and the “Arab Spring” propaganda operation pave the way for a regional or even global conflagration.

Ghada Chehade, an Egyptian poet and activist living in Montreal, cannot believe that the Muslim Brotherhood “a party that was curiously silent and largely absent during the uprising” has come to power. “The only thing worse than a religious government, would be one that is also (either secretly or openly) allied with imperial forces and the Egyptian military.”

Africans should take heed. The pace of recolonisation is accelerating and the revolution business is booming.

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