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Supporting Dictators


I had a great time
 on Judge Napolitano’s Freedom Watch last night. It’s refreshing to see a libertarian talk show host, especially on a conservative television network, who recognizes the realities of U.S. foreign policy and the benefits of transparency in government. We talked about the revolution in Tunisia, the U.S. government’s support of the Tunisian dictator, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and the role that the WikiLeaks leaks played in triggering the revolution.

The entire episode is fascinating because it truly encapsulates the reality of U.S. foreign policy, especially its brutality and hypocrisy.

Until a few days ago, Tunisia was ruled by a brutal dictator who had been in power for 23 years. His police and military forces terrorized and brutalized the Tunisian people, especially during the past 10 years under the guise of waging the “war on terrorism” in partnership with the U.S. Empire.

Yes, the U.S. government considered this brutal dictator to be one of its loyal partners in its global “war on terrorism.” Why is that? By oppressing his own people, Ben Ali was bringing what the U.S. government considers to be “stability and order” to Tunisia. Those Tunisians who resisted the oppression were considered “terrorists” and were treated like terrorists. The U.S. government was pleased with how the Tunisian dictator handled things within his country because the U.S. government doesn’t like terrorists.

The problem was that the Tunisian people didn’t like this U.S.-supported dictatorship. And they didn’t consider themselves terrorists simply because they opposed the brutality of their country’s dictatorship. Reading about Ben Ali’s corruption in the WikiLeaks leaks triggered the revolution that ended up bringing an end to Ben Ali’s dictatorship.

There are at least two amusing aspects to the revolution. One is that U.S. officials have now been put in the position of ostensibly standing with the revolutionaries and against their long-time friend, partner, and ally, the dictator Ben Ali. Of course, it’s all a charade because the last thing U.S. officials desired was the ouster of a dictator whom they had come to rely on and trust as a friend and as a partner in their war on terrorism.

The other amusing thing is that some neocons are actually now saying that President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq is what has triggered the Tunisian revolution. How do they explain the U.S. Empire’s support of Ben Ali as a loyal partner in the war on terrorism? They don’t. They just block that out of their minds, much as they block out of their minds the U.S. Empire’s support of Saddam Hussein, the Shah of Iran, Gen. Augusto Pinochet, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and a host of current dictators in the Middle East.

The neocons are also blocking out of their minds that the Tunisian revolution shows that people in the Middle East are fully capable of ousting dictators without military intervention by the U.S. Empire. In fact, even though some lives have been lost in the Tunisian revolution, the number pales in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of people killed, maimed, and tortured by the U.S. government in its invasion and occupation of Iraq, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children that the U.S. government killed with its sanctions in the decade prior to its invasion..

As I have long pointed out, the ouster of its former partner and ally Saddam Hussein was no more the business of the U.S. government than was the ouster of its partner and ally Ben Ali in Tunisia. The ouster of Saddam Hussein was the business of the Iraqi people just as the ouster of Ben Ali was the business of the Tunisian people.

The Tunisian affair brings to mind what the U.S. government did to the people of Iran. You’ll recall that in 1953 the CIA ousted the democratically elected prime minister of Iran from power in a secret coup, replacing him with the Shah of Iran, who became a loyal and trusted partner of the U.S. government, just like the dictator of Tunisia. And just Tunisia’s Ben Ali, the Shah of Iran ran his country with a brutal hand, terrorizing and tyrannizing his people, with the full support of the U.S. government.

In 1979 — after some 25 years of U.S.-supported tyranny in Iran — the Iranian people revolted against the U.S.-supported dictatorship that the CIA had installed, just as the Tunisian people finally revolted against their 23-year U.S.-supported dictatorship. When the Iranian revolutionaries took U.S. diplomats hostage in anger over what the U.S. government had done, the reaction of U.S. officials was predictable: “We’re innocent! We’re innocent! These are terrorists who hate us for our freedom and values.” That was nonsense. They were no more innocent that the dictator they had installed and supported for so long.

This time, in Tunisia, U.S. officials are singing a different tune. Quickly abandoning their loyalty to their longtime war-on-terrorism partner and ally, U.S. officials are now proclaiming that they’re on the side of the Tunisian revolutionaries. Never mind that U.S. officials are still going after Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and WikiLeaks with a vengeance notwithstanding that it was the WikiLeaks leaks that triggered the revolutionary that U.S. officials are now ostensibly celebrating.

U.S. officials are no doubt hoping that the Tunisian people forget the U.S. Empire’s longtime support of their dictator. One thing’s for sure: If some Tunisian retaliates against the United States for the 23 years of U.S.-supported dictatorship in Tunisia, U.S. officials will immediately respond with, “We’re innocent! We’re innocent! The terrorists hate us for our freedom and values.”

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.