Sunday, February 20, 2011

Standing Up for Arab Freedom

Embattled Arab leaders have found that it will take more than a "whiff of grapeshot" to disperse this years protesters. First in Egypt and now in Bahrain the protesters have responded to brief episodes of government violence by waiting for the smoke to clear and then returning in even greater numbers. From Bahrain:

Thousands of jubilant protesters surged back into the symbolic heart of Bahrain on Saturday after government security forces withdrew and the monarchy called for peace after two days of violent crackdowns...

The day started ... with the police firing tear gas and rubber bullets at crowds of protesters. Young men collapsed in the road and others ran for cover. Then the government blinked, perhaps sensing that the only way to calm a spiral of violence that claimed more lives with each passing day was to cede the square to the protesters.

The police left, so suddenly and so completely that it took a minute for the protesters to realize they were gone and that they once again controlled Pearl Square.

By early evening, tens of thousands of people waving Bahrain flags, some dropping to the ground to pray, shouting congratulations to each other, had packed the square and the surrounding streets in bittersweet jubilation, savoring the moment with a degree of sadness for the loss of at least seven people killed during the week, disbelief that they had prevailed and absolute joy at their success.

These people are determined to have their freedom, and enough of them are willing to die for it that their governments must choose between giving in to their demands and launching a horrific massacre. I think the Iranian government will prove impossible to dislodge by these methods; they have already shown both the breadth of their support and their willingness to kill. Right now the big mystery is Libya. Does anyone outside the country have any idea how strong Qaddafi's support is among the Libyan military, what sort of paramilitary forces he has at his command?

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