Yemen. Was it a revolution? Or was it a revolution that got hijacked by a coup? Or was it a revolution that was trying to overthrow a coup? Or was it even, and my bets are on this one, a controlled coup?
He did say that ruling Yemen is like dancing on the heads of serpents and he saved his masterpiece of a dance for the finale of the Yemeni Revolution. I remember a tweet that mentioned someone seeing Saleh at the hospital absorbed with following AJ on T.V. The tweet tried to give the impression that he was watching it in a state of despair which I would bet he wasn’t. Saleh was busy watching, assessing, and reacting. Learning from the mistakes of others. Adapting.
Ben Ali lost his nerve, and in a panicked TV appearance, apologised and assured the Tunisians that he “understood them” that there wont be anymore “presidents for life”. He lost his nerve, then his composure, then any bit of respect he might have retained, then finally, lost his country.. In what felt like minutes, he then headed for the nearest airport to the good old Saudi Arabia. So the lesson learnt here, as Bell Pottinger might have pointed out to Saleh, is a) never admit guilt b) don’t cede any ground.
Hosni Mubarak must have decided he wasn’t going to look that undignified. He wasn’t going to sneak out of the country with a suitcase full of money while his wife dragged a sack full of gold bullion. He decided that he will give an impression of acknowledging the grievances of his people: He will not stand for another election. He had no intention of passing the throne to his son. He stopped short of resigning and got ready to ride it out. What made Hosni’s position untenable was his army. The moment they made it clear that they were ‘neutral’ and would protect the square, Hosni the military man knew he had to go. Whether he resigned out of choice or nudged out by the junta no one knows. Egypt was sufficiently civic for the military establishment to think twice about backing ONE man fighting for political survival. Perhaps they decided to ‘allow’ him to take the fall rather than politizing the military establishment and bringing it down with him. Saleh didn’t have that problem thanks to his own wisdom and strategic foresight in placing his immediate family in key military positions. After all, blood is thicker than water isn’t it? It is not as if the family will ask him to step down. His downfall would be theirs. So by now he had witnessed 2 scenarios and was getting a feel of what works and what doesnt.
Lesson #2: Thank the Lord in all His Wisdom and pat yourself on the back for being smart enough to ensure that critical military and security apparatus are essentially a ‘family affair’√
Lesson #3 Is Yemen sufficiently civic, urban, or cohesive enough to unite and pose an actual threat? It isn’t. Keep it that way. √
Now all eyes turned to Gaddafi. Gaddafi must have considered the two that preceded him: If empty apologies and meaningless conciliatory overtures didn’t work. Then the threat of all out military might, might. He offered no compromise. After all he ruled over a country with minimal governmental and tribal considerations, in a country with a higher standard of living, 1000’s of miles of harsh landscape AND he was sure he had a lot of support. Of course, he didn’t take into account that his ex-enemies turned new friends, would revert to ex-friends now new enemies status. He did not see that one coming. Another little gem for Saleh: Be aware of the external and trust no one. Even if its a piece of paper promising immunity and all the money you can eat.
From Bashar, he learned that unrelenting BRUTALITYand the impression of unresponsiveness attracts the wrong kind of attention. (Add to that the new world of instant exposee citizen journalism). Its important to be intelligent about it. So for all the 10 months of stalling, Saleh somehow managed to looking like he was doing anything but waiting. He was always ‘communicating’, and ‘promising’, and ‘revising’ etc etc. Always mentioning the constitution, the fact that he was elected, that Yemen is the only democracy, the threat of AQAP, and the Iranian-backed Houthis, and the Israelis, and Free Masons, the machavillian West. It was talk. keep talking. doesnt matter what you say just don’t stop. keep them mesmirised and staring at your lips. Which we did. For 10 months.
I could never become a dictator. I’m too lazy and not ruthless enough to go around assassinating whatever is between me and that chair. So the hard slog necessary at the beginning is enough to turn me off. However, let’s imagine I somehow managed to be a dictator. Let’s say my Dad passed it on to me years ago and now, 33 years later, for instance, Im comfortable, Im relaxed, I’ve got a routine, the kids are in good schools, etc etc. and some guy in TUNISIA sets himself on fire and the dominos start falling in my direction. what would I do that is different to Saleh?
If I was a dictator, with a legacy to pass on to my children, I would be very concerned. Not for me you understand, but for my children, their wives and husbands and their children. At the age of 67, I would probably view “Alsulta” as “Maghram” not “Maghnam”. A liability, a burden of a responsibility, not a prize or an assett. I would be looking forward putting my dancing shoes away, setting the snakes free, and enjoying the rest of my life with the grandchildren, in a tomato field somewhere (ANYWHERE frankly), with orange peel in my mouth. . After all, look what they did to Gaddafi and his children. Look at what they did with Hosni’s children. Looking at it from that angle, and with family being important to me, I would be more concerned with my childrens’ rights and well being. I would rather put my trust in preserving myself and progeny then ceding what took years to establish, then hand it on a silver plate to just ANYBODY. It’s not a charity.
Like Saleh, I would be absolutely aghast at the perfidy of those youths. Since when did my youth, my children, my people DO politics? We are a traditional qat chewing society, where children are meant to be seen and not heard. Where our priceless women should be protecting their complexion from the heat of the noon sun, preferably in the kitchen, not not going out on street carnivals. Our Young ones are always respectful and differential to their elders. We were all happy till Bouzizi came along. After 33 years I think I would have grown to know my people very well: They are very gentle. very accommodating. More than happy with their lot in life. As long as they have enough money for essentials, daily needs, and Qat, they were quite satisfied. We did our thing, they did theirs. Everyone happy, so what is the fucking problem now? My first inclination would be to blame an outside conspiracy, as you do, not because I believe that but its standard protocol. Not because I am looking for a coat hanger but because, hands on heart, MY PEOPLE DO NOT ACT LIKE THIS (normally). I would say something like: “Alshabab mugharar bihim” “The youth are being manipulated and taken for a ride” And I wouldnt be lying either, especially since my best pal from the barracks days has betrayed me JUST because I’m grooming my son for the job, and took half the army with him, and especially when all the opportunists have come out of the wood work under the cloak of supporting the Youth. Personally I would have grudgingly let them protest until its past their bed time and I wouldn’t bat an eye.. That’s democracy for you.. Peaceful protests are fine. The odd petition, A tear jerker of a poem, Im a sucker for a good slogan (Shi3arat, how can the Arab world live without them), the odd hunger strike.. I can work with that.. I can live with that.
So how would I react if, from the side of my presidential pool, I heard the chants of IRHAL IRHAL (leave, leave) after 33 years of solid non stop dancing on heads of snakes… Initially it would be: ” Arhal? laysh beit abukum?” which doesnt translate very well in english. I would think it rude, impolite, not very neighbourly. I would be understanding of course, all those young men with no jobs and/or responsibilites, standing around with time on their hands dreaming/philosophising of democracy. I would however, help them out a bit and tell them what I, as a dictator, already know. Democracy is an abstract thought. Democracy doesn’t put food on the table. Democracy doesn’t create jobs, look at China. Even the Americans know its about the Economy, Stupid. Look at the Saudis, arent they happy in their subsidised existence. I wouldnt mind being reborn a Saudi as long as im not reborn a Saudi Woman., and no democracy in sight. Having shown these protestors that Democracy is a red herring, I would then proceed to blame all my failings on three key areas: geography, the weather, and my subjects lack of hobbies. It is not my fault we are running out of petrol, blame our geographic location. It is not my fault it doesnt rain enough to restore the water tables around the country, blame global warming. And if you my people, had any other hobbies other than making babies, we wouldnt have reached 25,000,000 with all that entails in terms of lack of jobs, lack of resources, housing, lack of food.. That’s how I personally would have handled it, but I’m not a professional dictator.
I will admit that the day I saw my former best buddy from the barracks days go on TV, side with those spotty teenagers, AND take a big chunk of the army with him.. I didnt know if I should laugh or cry.. My first reaction is to walk to the bedroom safe and throw a fist full of dollars in his face .. im sure that thats what its all about.. I mean its a joke right? All of a sudden he’s playing Che ? No. He wants my son’s future job, let’s face it. And trying to inherit me, while I’m still alive, and to divide the cake while im still alive is GILIT ADAB .. So I would have shove a couple of millions in his greasy paw, and sort it out later.. After Friday prayers..
So when I go to the mosque I sweated millions of dollars to build and wake up in Saudi Arabia with a shard of wood in my abdomen, forgive me for concluding that there is a problem. This isn’t funny anymore it’s getting rather personal, and it isn’t Silmiya. This is a coup. This would probably delight me because it hands over a perfect excuse that Ben Ali, Mubarak, and Gaddafi didn’t have.. I can tell the world with a strong element of truth that what is happening here isn’t Arab Spring Cleaning at all.. its a coup. A coup from a crook with a history as long and as dirty as my own. The difference between him and me is that you know me.. You know the product and the brand.. why take chances.. The Americans agree.. the Saudis are nodding their heads.. Naturally in the world of politics we are either friends or potential friends (as the americans would say).
As a client dictator, I have bosses I am answerable to. In my case the USA and the KSA. They may not like me but they are used to me. And there is nobody else to replace me with which is a big bonus. I know that I have them breathing down my neck but I also know that through gritted teeth they are begging me to give them something. ANYTHING. Anything that would give them a reason to extend my contract. Out of breath with the latest operation, and out of ideas, and completely out of my comfort zone, I think I would resort to PR.. Even though dabbling in Black Magic and dark arts is forbidden in Islam, I step on my principles, pick up the phone and book an appointment with Bell Pottinger, specialists in propping, sorry, assisting, Middle Eastern Dictatorships in their transition to Democracy. Sweet.
After the initial consultation, we sit down for a proper talk, no bull. My PR wizard sums it up like this..
- Forget about the good old days. Like it or not, change is coming to the Middle East and North Africa whether you like it or not. Learn from the previous three. Learn to bend or you will snap. The key is compromise. The ILLUSION of compromise. In order for your regime and legacy to survive it must RE-INVENT itself.. That’s what the last three didn’t do.
To Do List:
- Insure that your military and security apparatus REMAINS INTACT, loyal, and funded.
- Insure that civilian casualties are kept to only the necessary minimum..
- Insure a plethora of conflicting groups on the scene, especially ones that encourage SECTARIAN ISSUES, INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM, SECESSIONIST, AND, IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING, ISLAMISTS.
- The centrepiece of OUR coup is to resolve the issue of the opportunist opposition parties. 1. Sign the GCC deal. No problem if your militias are still intact. 2. Swallow the opposition by forming a national reconciliation government surrounded by your military and national security apparatus. (keep them on their toes) 3. Get the newly formed ‘government’ to invite you through the back door.. (After all, it is a reconciliation government after all)
- Pardon everybody for past hamagat, or stupidities. leave it vague and open to interpretation. So that it actually encompasses even snipers…
- create a labyrinthine complex judicial and bureaucratic ridden black hole for all the ‘victims’ with grievances like murdered relatives and friends etc. keep them busy for a few years while we ‘reconcile’
- Create a file for all those ‘activists’ both internal and abroad. Invite them over for tea.
- Understand that even though you might have lost the title of president. BUT now you have all the benefits without any of the responsibilities.. as long as your family militia is around, no one is going anywhere.
- Effectively use this reconciliation period to shore up alliances, mend a few fences, redistribute the cake with the opposition but keeping the best part for you, and most of all START COOKING FOR THE NEXT ELECTIONS!!!