Arab Spring: 9/11’s Eerie, Enduring Echo

Arab Spring:  9/11’s Eerie, Enduring Echo

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The eleventh anniversary of 9/11 lacks the momentum and solemnity of the decade since that national tragedy was observed last year. With the upcoming elections dominating the news, candidates have made scant references to this once-pivotal event, indicating that it is nearly a spent force in domestic politics.

Yet in the previous months, under the guise of the “Arab Spring,” an American foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), which was adopted immediately in the wake of 9/11, has moved forward to redraw the regional map with the main purpose of securing its immense oil resources.

Shortly after the attacks on American soil, U.S. forces took over Afghanistan, even though Osama bin Laden as a mastermind of the carnage and his al Qaeda followers had long left the country. With the Taliban being driven away, Hamid Karzai was installed as an ineffectual and corrupt figurehead who would do little to unite the country or implement an array of direly needed reforms.

The Bush administration used Afghanistan as a regional foothold, testing Americans’ tolerance for military involvement in a notoriously nettlesome part of the world, before invading Iraq.

President Bush, the scion of an oil dynasty, along with his top officials, lied about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction to justify military action. Since Saddam’s fall, leading supranational oil companies have negotiated laughably lopsided contracts with a highly compliant leadership in Baghdad.

Yet Iraq was only the beginning, a business model that needed to be perfected if Washington wanted to optimize its geopolitical reach in MENA while American public opinion remained malleable in the post-9/11 era. President Obama, clearly understanding this strategy, became the agent of that perfection to outdo George Bush with a subtlety entirely his own.

Months after inauguration, President Obama traveled to Egypt to give a speech at Cairo University, saying that he wanted “to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world.”

Feigning only the best of intentions in Iraq and Afghanistan, even as those countries deteriorated, he spoke his most consequential words midway into the speech. “I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose.”

In short, he served notice to every corrupt dictator across MENA, including his own host, President Hosni Mubarak, that their days were numbered, yet without the least intention to make good on his words.

Indeed those words and those words alone launched the “Arab Spring,” marshaling America’s diplomatic, media and covert resources to foment unrest among the people of MENA who did yearn for honest, freely elected leaders.

Tunisia became the faux poster child as a small, largely westernized country. Its despotic leader, Zine el Abidine ben Ali, fled the country in the wake of widespread protests almost exactly two years after President Obama assumed office. Egypt followed, with Mubarak resigning in February of 2011. Unrest rippled into smaller countries, notably Yemen and oil-rich Bahrain.

In March of that year, President Obama addressed the nation, justifying America’s impending intervention in Libya as he said, “Thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our troops and the determination of our diplomats, we are hopeful about Iraq’s future. But regime change there took eight years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives, and nearly a trillion dollars. That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya."

Clearly the “Arab Spring” was his model of duplicating the usurpation of Iraqi oil—only on the cheap. Libya, with its enormous oil reserves, was overtaken largely by NATO aerial bombing while British Special Forces directed operations on the ground.

A year later, as a nation obsesses with the fatuous horserace of presidential elections and offers all but a perfunctory nod to 9/11, every country touched by the “Arab Spring,” exactly as planned, is worse off.

In Tunisia, Islamic Salafi extremists are on the rise, attacking hotels and bars as a prelude to denying greater civil liberties. Egypt, under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood’s President Mohammed Morsi, is in the throes of a deep economic crisis with tourism as a major revenue source drying up. In Libya, blood feuds continue after it was bombed into liberation, an estimated seven thousand prisoners being held under appalling conditions.

Yet most worrisome is the “Arab Spring” in Syria, where daily carnage takes an indefensible toll on life. Neither presidential candidate makes mention of it, knowing that doing so would be inimical to the American Great Game being played in MENA.

Eleven years ago, horrified by 9/11, American constituents gave their government free reign to do as it would in the Muslim world. Vested interests have pounced on the opportunity ever since, upending the status quo in MENA, with no intention to encourage a better alternative, with the sole purpose of securing its oil reserves. It is about time that Americans take back the ownership of how their government acts in their name far and wide.