By Wilbert Gibson, author of the classic novel, “Scratching For Daylight”.
Wow! On television, YouTube, the internet IPhones and everything in between, we have just witnessed, through a peaceful revolution, a dictator ran out of town on a rail; I think. That square was full of people demanding jobs, better pay, cheaper food and by the way they demanded a kleptomatic Pharaoh leave the country. Our Vice President, Joe Biden quickly came to his defense saying he was falsely accused and not a despot.
The crowds grew larger forcing our eighty billion dollar intelligence organizations to take another look. Lo and behold they discovered he was a corrupt and oppressive dictator. I congratulate them on their good and thorough work. With this new information along with the increasing crowds, the administration’s position changed and they wanted him gone no later than yesterday. The corrupt tyrant refused to leave but he did agree to appoint his chief executioner as vice president and allow him to run the country. The crowds grew larger and angrier and were planning a march on the parliament. Facing pressure from us and his army, Mr. Mubarak resigned his presidency and remained in his chalet outside of town.
The military was given the reins of government, agreeing to all the demonstrators’ demands. Their first act was to dissolve the parliament and praise Mubarak. I am surprised they did not give him a medal of valor. What this military did not do was free the political prisoners and lift the decades old state of emergency giving them absolute power. Armed with American made tanks, planes and bullets given to them free, I would hope we have a great deal of influence over their actions. They are now tasked to write a new constitution and have free and fair elections leading to a democratic government. I hope we are not going to see long debates about what is a democratic government and what is a free and fair election. Even now there are rumblings that the Muslim Brotherhood should be excluded even though they had given up violence many decades ago. The administration was getting skittish after the free and fair elections in Palestine which gave us Hamas, a government we refuse to recognize.
Within this constitution that is being written, will the army be sub-servant to civilian authority? I don’t think so. These generals are not military soldiers. They are businessmen in uniforms owning vast businesses and properties thanks to the generosity of the great leader, Mubarak. Are they going to be willing to live on a general’s salary, giving up the opulent lifestyle and luxurious country estates, a quality of life they have become accustomed to?
I know you, the same as me, are going to be very interested in what this constitution is going to look like. I don’t trust them. The wind of change is blowing across the Middle East like a New Orleans hurricane, threatening brutal potentates, most of them our allies in our pursuit of energy and in the fight against Al Quada. Our major fear is that after looking at Egypt those other armies might not be so magnimous and could end up slaughtering hundreds of their own citizens; men women and children with American weapons while in our presence. This would be disastrous for the future of our country, setting back our relationship with the entire world five hundred years or more. We could never recover. Who is Hosni Mubarak and what is he to us that caused our Vice President to go on national television and lie? Mubarak’s Egypt is the largest and most populous country in the entire Middle East through which flows the vital Suez Canal. He has been our staunchest ally, a friend of Israel and speaks for us to other Middle Eastern countries and our chief torturer during the days of illegal rendition. After we threw him under the bus, our president was inundated with angry telephone calls from worried despots, including the king of Saudi Arabia. If we threw Mubarak under the bus what about them? Could they trust us to continue to prop them up against the will of their people? I hope not.
What are we going to do? What should be our strategy going forward? I wanted to see what our Middle Eastern Scholars; senior fellows at those agust think tanks are saying and writing. Many are on a first name basis with these kings and their minions and are there all the time. If anyone can, they can tell us how to get out of this mess. Unfortunately, these wise Senior Fellows’ wisdom is eroded by ideology and or commerce such as oil and their speeches and dissertations are nothing but convoluted garbage offering no real solution at all. I would like to find out who is funding the funders of these foundations. Now I am forced to go back into my closet, get my Derby and turn back the pages on my memory and become a diplomat with only the best interest of my country in mind.
My experience in the Middle East is not nearly as extensive as the most Junior Fellow at the smallest of these institutions, but I was there. From Athens, Greece, I transported and sold alcohol and cigarettes in the Middle East for over two years. Afterwards I was assigned to a Turkish Airbase in Eskisehir, Turkey. Anxious to do business with the locals, I was in and out of Ankara and Istanbul for over a year. Eskisehir even had an English language newspaper which I read and a house of ill repute, which was right outside of town called The Compound which I patronized. It had to be legal, if I knew about it the authorities knew about it too. This was not a small building; it had walls around it and a big gate. Where these girls came from I do not know. My friend told me they were there to pay off family debts, knowing him, I still do not know. I wanted to go to Syria but being in the military I had no passport and it was far too dangerous to enter otherwise. I have been in Pakistan only twice that was for a short period of time. I knew beforehand that it was a more conservative country than Turkey. Despite the efforts of Kemal Ataturk to westernize it, Turkey is a conservative Muslim country and you had better not forget it.
I learned early on that when in Rome live as the Romans and I respected their culture. In the villages I wore the trousers with the saggy behind that sagged almost to the back part of your knees. I hear it was to soften the ride on animals. They were jokingly called the seven day shitters. I don’t think the Turks liked that description. I had a girlfriend in Istanbul which I shouldn’t have had, if in Pakistan I wouldn’t have had. I have been on those party boats going down the Bosporus Strait which divided Europe from Asia. It’s amazing half of Istanbul is in Europe and the other half is in Asia. I used to drink this alcoholic beverage which we called Uzu, it was some form of Pernod and it would turn your head around. I had to quit drinking it. In the middle of the Bosporus Strait there is a tower. Why is it there? How many times have I heard the legend of the Princess and the serpent? It is deep within the richness of ancient Turkish folklore. How many evenings have I heard the rhymatic birdlike wails of those old Arab women that can be heard only in all of Northern Africa.
If I was a diplomat representing the United States of America, I would advise the army to first release the political prisoners and end the state of emergency. Realizing that this is not going to be an easy transition, the people must trust that you have their best interest at heart. When they go to work Monday the dictator’s cronies will still be in power, their salary will not increase and food will not be cheaper. It will take time and the people must be unified and patient. I just hope they don’t make the same mistake that clown in Zimbabwe did when he expelled all the white farmers , the only ones who knew what they were doing, as a result driving the country into the ground. I would then implore our President Obama, the perfect messenger, to return to Cairo and make another address to the Muslim world assuring them that we are not and will never be at war with Islam. He should affirm that for the first time this country will live up to the values it has been preaching since its inception.
We will refuse to offer support to any monarch and demand the UN charter be changed requiring multinational corporations to treat all people, whoever their God with fairness .They must respect human rights and the dignity of man. No murderous dictator can call us a friend. What about the oil? What about the Chinese and what about Al Quada? I assure you this alone will solve all of those problems. We have to realize people do not put on suicide vests and kill themselves for the hell of it. As for this forty virgin thing, it is an insult to those men women and children who have died for their cause. Israel is going to have to give up most of those settlements. It will be a decent and helpful gesture if they left them intact.
Also, our ally Israel must discontinue violent over reactions and show much more compassion to the Palestinian people. However, Israel lives in a dangerous neighborhood and should not cede one more inch of land until those governments get their act together. The people of Israel have got to hear something other than death to the Jews. Those new democratic governments should be teaching math and science not anti-sematism. Those countries in the Middle East desperately need Israel as a friend and partner using the Jewish expertise to improve the quality of life for their people. Afterwards, Mr. Obama should immediately give a second speech, this one in France reminding Europe of the horrible crimes committed against the Jews on that continent and the sins of anti-Semitism. None of us not want to live the rest of our lives under conditions where our children must pull off their shoes and get body scans at airports as a routine matter of course. I do not believe our Intelligence Agency can thwart a crafty enemy from getting their hands on a nuclear weapon and walk across two of the most porous borders in the world.
With our history we have no right to go to any country and criticize their way of life and dictate how they should worship, form male-female relationships and what they should wear. In short, we should mind our own business.
I love Turkey whose people showed me, a young misguided San Francisco street hustler nothing but warmth and respect, all except my old friend who beat me out of $3000.00 as I was on my way back to the States. I do not want to see Turkey turn away from us as it now seems to be doing. Kemal Ataturk must be turning over in his grave.
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