Welcome to the Arab Spring – not a new brand of fnaar fnaar bottled water to be served in The Ivy restaurant but the adopted term for the numerous uprisings in the Middle East. Tunisia fell, Egypt fell, Libya is falling, Bahrain and Yemen are on the brink. Despots are being toppled like dominoes, with the remaining leaders only staying because they have better Top Trumps Dictator scores for ‘brutality’ and ‘largesse of army’. By this rating, President Mubarak of Egypt was only ousted because he scored extremely poorly in ‘not looking like a sun-dried prune with a face drawn on it’.
Yes, heroic revolutions are sweeping the continent, challenging a clan of rulers who have presided over their countries for decades. Take Colonel Gadaffi (whose name should now include the suffix ‘The Mentalist’ in light of his deranged speeches and botched 1980s plastic surgery which makes him indistinguishable from a crumpled carrier bag) who somehow remains ruler of Libya. He began his rule in 1969 and has promised to “die a martyr” in his continuing fight against rebels and insurgents.
That’s a full 42 years of Gadaffi rule, a time in which he has ticked all the boxes of despotism. State-sponsored terrorism? Check. Unabashed nepotism? Check. Amassing an extraordinary personal fortune at the expense of his people? Check. Assassinations of opponents, past and present? Check. It’s almost as if he’s a bad person.
Still, the likes of Tony Blair managed to find it in his Christian heart to forgive Muammar (his official name – he prefers to be known as Colonel, presumably because he wants everyone to think he makes the best deep-fried chicken in North Africa). Blair once said God told him to invade Iraq, so who told him to become good chums with the Libyan leader?
A report from The Daily Telegraph in 2010 stated “Since leaving Downing Street, the former Prime Minister has been advising firms including JP Morgan about investment opportunities in Libya”. I have less faith in religion than Richard bloody Dawkins but even I know that nowhere in the Bible does it state “Thou shalt take thy oil company’s hand and lead it to thy promised land of riches”.
The West pressed for and won a vote at the United Nations to impose a ‘No-Fly Zone’ across Libya, which allows UN forces to protect the rebels and halt Gadaffi’s killings. Everything short of an “occupation force” should be used to avert more loss of life, so the resolution implores. Immediately, Gadaffi called a ceasefire, which the West took at face value, giving Gadaffi more time to implement his plans and attack the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.
Notorious for his insanity, why did anyone take this promise from Gadaffi seriously? The subsequent fallout, when everyone realised that the Colonel’s attacks hadn’t ceased, meant it quickly become the world’s most costly game of ‘hide and seek’ in history. Western leaders like David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy, so instrumental in getting the resolution together, basically gave the hated dictator a head start. They turned away, covered their eyes, counted to ten, and then said “ready or not, here we come”.
And so we came. British forces bombed targets and we were back at war again. It was also reported that teams of Brits were heading out to Libya to unite and assist the opposition rebels.
That’s all Libya needs: a load of post-graduate Brits in their early thirties with a degree in Business Management, making spider diagrams and mind maps, discussing ‘inter-personal skills’. The rebels will be overrun within days. It’s also magnificently British as well. Only we could send over logistical planners for what could turn out to be a bloody and violent revolution. At least they will be able to bury the bodies in an orderly fashion.
All the rulers in the region have been affected in some way by the uprisings. Even Saudi Arabia have been watching developments with a wary eye, which goes some way to explaining the recent oil price hikes.
Despite the tumultuous events of the past few months and countless brave individuals risking their lives in order to safeguard a better future, a large contingent of people in Britain just want to moan about the price at the pump. When I go past the nearest BP garage, I can almost hear the man filling up his Ford Mondeo whispering under his breath “Why couldn’t those bloody protesters wait a few weeks? Me and the missus are going on holiday to Cornwall next month and my spending money has to go on filling up the motor instead”.
Revolution can wait. Democracy can go figure. Fairness can be postponed. Mondeo Man needs to save fourteen pence on his petrol bills.