Yet another British-American-backed dictator is set to fall from grace. The Shah of Iran, Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein —they all refused to concede defeat. And they all fell down.
Hosni Mubarak will, too, if he doesn't review his history books. There are, after all, only two types of U.K.-U.S.-backed dictators: those who accept the endgame and live free to tell the tale, and those who don’t.
These men are dominoes—there were many before them and there will be many after them to keep the system going. With all signs pointing to the end, more than one of them has refused to bow down— just once. Instead these men remained in their deluded state of mind, fighting to stay in power —never once remembering who had kept them there for so long.
And each time, the fall was hideously embarrassing.
Hussein was ferreted out in an early-morning raid from the hole in the ground he was hiding in. The Shah was expelled into exile, passed from country to country, and when he died, buried abroad instead of at home. Noriega posed for a mugshot (his face scarred and dejected) as he stepped into a prison where he will likely spend his last days.
Though his own father was ousted by British and American forces, the Shah of Iran didn't seem to understand how serious his predicament was when, in early January 1978, several thousand people marched against him in the streets of Iran. He still didn't seem to understand by the following January, when he finally fled. It was only after he was bounced from country to country that he realized how much had been at stake. His story ended in Cairo, where his remains rest alone in an alien land.
Panama’s military dictator Noriega never dreamed that the British and Americans would turn on him. They told him to leave—his time was up. He didn't hear them. They waged war, and now the only thing most people know about him is his infamous mugshot. He will die in prison, if he has lived at all these last three decades.
And then there was Hussein. They pulled him out of a hole he was hiding in. The crow-black dye on his hair was faded to a shadow of its former glamour. His famous mustache was indistinguishable from his barbed nest of beard. They hanged him in a basement and released the "stolen" cellphone video to prove it. He once waged war on his neighbor for them and this was how they repaid him.
On the brink of total loss, there is only one thing that could possibly save these ultimate dictators from themselves: the people. But nary a bone is tossed to the masses. These madmen could save their lives —or at least their legacies—if they would turn on their bosses instead of their people. Rather than siccing the security forces on the “insolent” public, they could reveal the dirty secrets of how they appeased their foreign bosses all those years. Make the backers look bad.
But they never once have.
Should he somehow manage to realize that he’s nothing special, Mubarak has many examples in history to turn to. Will he pull a Pinochet and quietly transfer power, thereby escaping the "ultimate slap?” Will he make like a Batista and flee? Or will he take a cue from Musharraf and negotiate a power-sharing step down that allows him future options at leadership?
If you leave when the United States and British governments tell you to, as these three men did, then you will avoid a crude end. And, you'll likely live your last years in opulence—perhaps in a nicely developed country (nothing like the one you left behind in tatters)—thanks to the wealth you accumulated in power.
But Mubarak still hasn’t left. And, he’s made all the same mistakes of his predecessors. He didn’t have the sense not to turn on the people. And he was too deluded to flee. If he doesn’t make provisions to leave office immediately, his lot may be that ugliest of endings. Either way, the thousands of people in Tahrir Square are already bidding him farewell.
A version of this article originally appeared at HuffingtonPost.com
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