Monday, May 12, 2008

Supporting Tyranny

By Robert Thompson
May 12, 2008, 11:32

It becomes more and more clear that tyranny often relies on the self-interest of others to remain in existence, and we see a sad example of this in the reactions to the current disaster in southern Burma. This is merely the latest in a series of scandals which seem hardly to cause a ripple on the surface of the world's diplomatic village pond.

However, I suggest that we should think about and examine the general phenomenon of the more powerful nations, which support tyrannies in other states for short-term economic, political and/or strategic reasons. In the case of Burma, it is clear that two of the world's great powers, China and India, have an interest in helping the ruling Burmese generals to exclude outsiders, and that neither wishes to encourage too much investigation into any state's internal affairs, especially their own. Other régimes which feel more secure, such as the so-called "western democracies", do not have the same inhibitions, and can obviously see the possibility, through poking around into others' affairs, of finding something which they can use to cover and deflect the criticism which they dislike just as much as any other ruling group. This does not mean that these same "western democracies" are any less hypocritical in their behaviour when facing tyrannies which they wish to help.

Although the Bush régime considered the tyranny of Saddam Hussein Takriti in Iraq to be so terrible that it justified the invasion in 2003, this same régime in the USA gives every form of backing to the much harsher tyranny which created, after the First World War, what is now Saudi Arabia. The self-interest is to be found in the greed of oil companies in the USA, which have enormous political power founded on the corrupt use of their money. We must deplore the whole wasteful attitude of so many across the USA who still do not realise that they should abandon all "gas-guzzling" cars. In turn, this waste has led to world-wide shortages of all petroleum products, thereby massively increasing the profits of the same oil companies.

The USA, and to a lesser extent other "western democracies", remain happy to support the most atrocious cruelty and barbarity when it suits them, as in the case of the "state of Israel" which is currently celebrating the sixtieth anniversary of its invasion and theft of the homes and lands of the indigenous people of Palestine (known ever since to the latter as al Naqba, the Disaster). Here the self-interest is a combination of bad consciences over their own past treatment of their own Jewish populations and refugees, and the economic and political strength of supporters of this aggressive invasion and continuing occupation. The hypocrisy is complete and enables these same rulers to pretend that they are merely showing their support for a group of people who had previously been persecuted. They never have the honesty to admit that they should have welcomed into their own countries any homeless refugees rather than encouraging them to invade and occupy another land, thus dumping the problem on an innocent people unable to defend itself.

The self-interest may not always be so clear, as we can see when we look at the terrifying tyranny of Robert Mugabe who has support from much less tyrannous, but very nervously shaky, rulers in the neighbouring countries. Neither these rulers nor Mr Mugabe himself have the courage of Kenneth Kaunda in Zambia who, when he realised that it was time to give way to a younger person, did so most graciously and retired honorably. They do not wish to be seen to move against the excesses of the Mugabe régime in case they might be accused of opposing the liberator of his people, even when they know full well that he is no longer (if he ever was) a liberator, but has become an extremely vicious and petty tyrant. Their self-interest appears to be that they dare not speak out against tyranny in case they are then accused of being in favour of a return to the colonial past. Fortunately, as well as brave resistors inside Zimbabwe, there are loud voices in the neighbouring countries, such as that of the great Desmond Tutu, who has shown no fear in denouncing Mr Mugabe's hideous misdeeds.

Whatever short-term temptation there may be to protect or support tyranny, no genuinely decent and worthy political leader can risk his or her reputation by giving backing of any sort to do so. This explains why I feel free to criticise rulers such as Mr George W. Bush and Mr J. Gordon Brown, as well as our own Mr Nicolas Sarkozy when they show any form whatsoever of solidarity with any tyrannous régime. They should not feel able to criticise those who prop up such régimes, as those in Burma or in Zimbabwe, until they have themselves made clear declarations that they will end all support for such equally evil régimes as those which control Saudi Arabia and Palestine. In an ideal world, all these tyrannical régimes should be strongly encouraged either to undertake radical reform or to liberate all those currently living and suffering under their vicious rule.

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