Debate Forum: Left 2/9/11

Leave it to the people to create real change

By Rana Odeh

Rana Odeh

For decades, we have seen enough American and European interventions in the Middle East, and with that interference, an insurmountable amount of corruption, oppression and violence. It is time for the voice of the people in the region to be heard, and it is their right to fight for democracy, equality and freedom.

If the U.S. truly supports democracy, freedom and human rights, then it should support the current revolutions in the Middle East by not interfering with the Egyptian grassroots democratic movement, and by withdrawing its support to Mubarak. U.S. policy toward the Middle East in the past six decades has supported ruthless dictators for the sake of having strategic U.S. presence in the region to control oil resources and to protect Israeli interests.

If history is any indication, it is clear that U.S. interference in the Middle East is troublesome. The U.S. interfered and managed to replace democracy with one of the most oppressive dictators in the history of Iran. What the U.S. does not advertise is the fact that U.S. foreign policy is to blame for the return of the Shah in Iran in 1954 after a CIA sponsored coup against a democratically elected government.

The U.S., U.K. and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now known as British Petroleum, BP) collaborated to bring down Iran’s democratic government to reinstate the Shah back into power to serve their greedy oil interests, which took away the people’s voice and freedom in all aspects of life. The return of the Shah and the confiscation of the people’s rights is what eventually led to the Islamic revolution, however, the general American public does not know America’s role in re-creating such an oppressive regime. Now, when Mubarak, the U.S. and Israel are attempting to frighten the people by spreading propaganda about another Islamist movement in Egypt, what they have failed to mention is that U.S. foreign policy and intervention in democratic revolutions is what will lead to a more oppressive dictatorship, which may lead to another Islamist revolution.

Although the Muslim Brotherhood is participating in the Egyptian revolution, it is certainly not leading it. The vast majority that started the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt are unemployed youth, exploited workers, secular groups, women’s organizations and human rights groups.

Despite biased media coverage, the popular revolution is a peaceful movement amongst the Egyptian civilians. However, Egyptian leaders have hired thugs and criminals to raid the demonstrations and unleash violence through the crowds of people, to make it seem as though the revolution is a violent one, to scare people into staying at home and to not support the movement. Fewer people on the streets, would result in a weaker revolt, and would enable the police state to regain control. Fortunately, the Egyptian people know who is unleashing the violence and are determined to sustain the protests until their demands for democracy, freedom and dignity are met.

Two weeks in, and the Egyptian people are still met with opposition, and the reason President Hosni Mubarak feels so confident is that his regime is being supported by the U.S. and Israel. If the U.S. had absolutely no interference at all in the popular revolution against Mubarak’s regime, it would have collapsed long ago and he would have fled the country. If we take a look at the Tunisian revolution, which sparked the uprisings throughout the Middle East, we can see how successful it has been in removing the oppressive President Ben Ali within days of protesting, and that is because there was no outside involvement.

When Israel expressed its concern over the thought of an Israel-friendly regime being ousted, Israel’s best friend, the U.S. stepped in and felt it had the right to appoint one of Mubarak’s top intelligence officials, and a key partner in Israeli-Egyptian ties, as vice president in Egypt. Calling for one of the regime’s most influential leaders to gain more power is not replacing the regime with democracy, if newly appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman takes over the Egyptian government, it will be the exact same regime in power, and the same miserable living conditions for the people of Egypt.

The U.S. is about to miss yet another great opportunity to restore the image of the U.S. in the Middle East and around the world, as a nation that truly believes in freedom and democracy. The people of the Middle East have proven that they can stand up for themselves and build a democratic society. Since the U.S. claimed it invaded Iraq to bring about democracy (as if the U.S. is that selfless to care for the rights of people, and killing thousands of civilians will bring democracy to Iraq), America should understand by now that the region does not need U.S. involvement or a $3 trillion dollar war (Joseph Stiglitz estimates), to create democracy, or a failed version of it as we have seen in Iraq. If the U.S. wants to “help” anybody in the Middle East, it should stop interfering in the region, and let the people take action and create change for themselves.

Rana Odeh is a graduate of the University of Dayton with a degree in English and Philosophy.  Her research and writings focus on issues of race, class and gender.  She can be reached at

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