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15 April 2007

OLD: “The Missing Ingredient”

“The Missing Ingredient”
John Sigler*, 23 January 2007

Over the last few years the world has witnessed a series of popular risings commonly referred to as the “color revolutions.” Ostensibly these have been large-scale popular protests meant to bring down unpopular governments through peaceful civil disobedience. These “color revolutions” have been hailed by the United States and others as evidence of “freedom and democracy in action and an inspiration to those aspiring for freedom.” [1]

The ongoing popular protests in Lebanon against the current U.S. backed government are clearly modeled on the same methodology employed in the other “color revolutions” including Lebanon’s own “Cedar Revolution” in 2005. In fact, if one uses the ratio of protesters versus the overall population, the current Lebanese effort is completely on par with these other efforts to peacefully oust unpopular governments. Specifically, in Georgia the ratio was 1:49+ [2]; in the Ukraine it was 1:47+ [3]; in the Kyrgyz Republic it was 1:255 [4] and in the Lebanese “Cedar Revolution” it was roughly 1:4 [5]. The current protests in Lebanon have a similar ratio, 1:4 [6].

So why were these previous efforts so dramatically successful while the current one in Lebanon as lingered along for almost two months without success? A number of potential factors may be cited in this respect: the relative strengths of the challenged governments; the relative popularity of the movements themselves; the popularity of the desired alternatives that the movements seek to realize; and so on.

However, there is one very important tangible element that clearly differentiates the current Lebanese effort from the others and also significantly dampens the view that these movements are truly native and represent the best interests of the countries in question. This element is the interference and manipulation of such efforts by the United States. In the successful “color revolutions” the U.S. played both direct and indirect roles in the process, whereas in the ongoing Lebanese situation, the U.S. role is in support of the government.

In Georgia’s “Rose Revolution” of 2003, the United States played a direct role in forcing Shevardnadze to step aside through the application of pressure upon the Georgian government [7]. Further, operating through various front groups, the U.S. played a direct role in organizing and coordinating the opposition forces [8].

In the exact same vein, the Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution” in 2004 that resulted in the removal of Viktor Yanukovych, also involved direct U.S. political pressure on the existing government [9]. In this case too, the opposition was largely organized, financed, and coordinated by the United States by means of various proxies [10].

Not surprisingly, the Kyrgyz Republic’s “Tulip Revolution” that saw President Askar Akayev ousted followed the same model. Specifically, the U.S. applied both direct pressure of the existing regime [11] while simultaneously organizing and funding the opposition [12]. It was especially telling in this instance because the “mass demonstrations” were much smaller than those in similar “regime change” operations conducted by the United States.

Lebanon’s “Cedar Revolution” of 2005 was a bit different in that one of the primary goals was the removal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, but it also resulted in the resignation of the government of Omar Karami. Exactly as was the case in the other “color revolutions”, the United States applied direct political pressure on the Lebanese government [13] while also enabling and supporting the opposition [14].

The current Lebanese campaign against the sitting pro-U.S. government, despite using the same fundamental tactics, is not moving forward with the same momentum that characterized the other “color revolutions.” As was the case with the other uprisings, the government is under siege and the million people that supported the “Cedar Revolution” have not come forward to lift that siege. For this, Israel’s summer onslaught can be thanked as it proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that alliance with the United States offered no protection whatsoever to Lebanon from its only regional military threat, Israel.

However, what is really different between the ongoing effort in Lebanon and other recent efforts using the same tactics on the ground is the role being played by the United States. In this instance, not only is the U.S. not actively financing, coordinating, and mobilizing the opposition, but it is actively opposing it [15]. Further, not only is the U.S. not asserting political pressure on the sitting government in the name of “democracy” as was the case in the other “color revolutions,” but it is actively aiding it politically [16] and even militarily [17].

While other factors may indeed play a role, it would be absurd to pretend as though the role of U.S. intervention is not a key determining factor in popular, peaceful uprisings against unpopular and unrepresentative governments. U.S. support is most assuredly the missing ingredient in the Lebanese people’s effort to oust the Siniora regime. The efforts currently underway in Lebanon are something of a test determining whether non-violent protest is truly a viable means of ousting unpopular governments or whether it is really nothing more than a propaganda myth devised by the United States government to oust governments that do not serve its interests.


**John Sigler is a writer and activist based in Denver, Colorado, and active with both the Colorado Palestine Solidarity Campaign (http://colorado-palestine.blogspot.com) and the Jewish Friends of Palestine initiative (http://www.jewishfriendspalestine.org) and the “Why Would the U.S. Attack Iran?” website: http://www.whyattackiran.com

[1] George W. Bush, “Presidential Message: First Anniversary of the Orange Revolution,” 22 November 2005, http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/11/20051122.html

[2] Largest number of protesters: 100,000+ on 21 November 2003 (United States Institute for Peace, Georgia’s Rose Revolution: A Participant’s Perspective, Special Report 167, July 2006, http://www.usip.org/pubs/specialreports/sr167.pdf). Total population as per the CIA World Handbook, July 2003 estimate: 4,934,413 (2003 entry reproduced online at: http://www.hauntedink.com/almaty/photos3a.html). Ratio: 1:49.34

[3] Estimates of the number of protesters vary widely, between 500,000 to 1.2 million. However, the most common estimate is about one million protesters (Andrew Wright, “Yushchenko's Orange Revolution,” The Stanford Review, Volume XXXIV, Number 1, 25 February 2005, http://www.stanfordreview.org/Archive/Volume_XXXIV/Issue_1/Foreign_Affairs/Foreign1.shtml). Total 2004 population: 47.3 million (U.S. Department of State, International Religious Freedom Report 2004, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2004/35491.htm) Ratio: 1:47.3

[4] The largest number of protesters was on March 24, 2005 and numbered about 20,000+ (Ben Paarmann, “A Kyrgyz Déjà Vu,” SOAS Spirit Magazine, Issue 4, 2005, http://www.paarmann.info/blog/archives/KyrgyzDejaVu.pdf). The total 2004 population was some 5.1 million (U.S. Department of State, International Religious Freedom Report 2004, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2004/35464.htm). Ratio: 1:255

[5] The largest number of protesters was roughly one million on March 14, 2005 according to participants and supporters and has not been seriously contested (Nadim Ladki, “Anti-Syrian protesters flood Lebanese capital,” Reuters World Report, 14 March 2005). The total population in 2005 was roughly one million (U.S. Department of State, International Religious Freedom Report 2005, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2005/51604.htm). Ratio: 1:4

[6] As the protests in Lebanon are ongoing (there are no estimates of the number out the day this was written, 23 January 2007 when protesters brought much of the country to a halt), the largest protest cannot be determined. To date the largest protest has been some 0.8 to one million protesters on December 1, 2006. (“Hundreds of thousands protest in BeirutMSNBC, 1 December 20056, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15981439/. Ratio: 1:4+/-

[7] Giorgi Kandelaki, “US Pressure Helps Achieve Breakthrough in Georgian Domestic Political Dispute,” EurasiaNet Eurasia Insight, 18 July 2003, http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav071803.shtml

[8] “Georgia Train and Equip program (GTEP)” GlobalSecurity.Org, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/gtep.htm “Georgia's "Rose Revolution" was planned and centrally coordinated by the US government. The 24 November 2003 Wall Street Journal credited the fall of Eduard Shevardnadze's regime to the operations of "a raft of non-governmental organizations . . . supported by American and other Western foundations." According to the Journal, the NGOs had "spawned a class of young, English-speaking intellectuals hungry for pro-Western reforms" who laid the groundwork for a bloodless coup. Shevardnadze had switched sides, and was backed by the Russians.” See also: Barry Grey and Vladimir Volkov, “Georgia’s 'rose revolution': a made-in-America coup,” World Socialist Web Site, 5 December 2003, http://www.wsws.org/articles/2003/dec2003/geor-d05.shtml

[9] William Branigin, “U.S. Rejects Tally, Warns Ukraine,” Washington Post, 25 November 2004, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A10212-2004Nov24.html

[10] Matt Kelley, “U.S. money has helped opposition in Ukraine,” Associated Press, 11 December 2004, http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20041211/news_1n11usaid.html “The Bush administration has spent more than $65 million in the past two years to aid political organizations in Ukraine, paying to bring opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko to meet U.S. leaders and helping to underwrite an exit poll indicating he won last month's disputed runoff election.” See also: Justus Leicht, “The creation of the Ukraine 'democratic' opposition,” World Socialist Web Site, 2 December 2004, http://www.wsws.org/articles/2004/dec2004/ukra-d02.shtml

[11] “US Envoy Offers Critical Assessment of Kyrgyzstan’s Parlimentary Election,” EurasiaNet Eurasia Insight, 16 March 2005, http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav031605.shtml

[12] Richard Spencer, “Quiet American behind tulip revolution,” The Telegraph (London), 2 April 2005, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/04/02/wstone02.xml “Nevertheless, Washington is keen to describe recent events in Kyrgyzstan as part of a wave of democratisation - and it is happy to take some of the credit. .... US involvement in the small, mountainous country is higher proportionally than it was for Georgia's ‘rose’ revolution or Ukraine's ‘orange’ uprising.” See also: Andrea Peters, “US money and personnel behind Kyrgyzstan’s 'Tulip Revolution',” World Socialist Web Site, 28 March 2005, http://www.wsws.org/articles/2005/mar2005/tulp-m28.shtml

[13] “Lebanon govt. quits, pressure mounts on Syria,” China Daily, 1 March 2005, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2005-03/01/content_420459.htm

[14] Bassem Chit, “Lebanon: Some Things That Money Can't Buy,” Socialist Review, May 2006, http://www.socialistreview.org.uk/article.php?articlenumber=9747 “The New York Post reported how, at the height of last year's protests, "the CIA and European intelligence services were quietly giving money and logistical support to organisers of the anti-Syrian protests to ramp up pressure on Syrian president Bashar al-Assad... The secret program is similar to previous support of pro-democracy movements in Georgia and Ukraine, which also led to peaceful demonstrations.” See also: Joseph Kay, “US engineers provocation following assassination in Lebanon,” World Socialist Web Site, 16 February 2005, http://www.wsws.org/articles/2005/feb2005/syri-f16.shtml

[15] Toby Harnden, “CIA gets the go-ahead to take on Hizbollah,” The Telegraph (London), 10 January 2007, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/01/10/wleb10.xml

[16] Stephen Kaufman, “U.S. Will Not Allow Syria To Reassert Authority over Lebanon,” Daily Washington File, 12 December 2006, http://bucharest.usembassy.gov/Washington_File/200/06-12-12/eur205.html

[17] Joseph S. Mayton, “U.S. Armored Humvees Begin Arriving In Lebanon,” All Headline News, 14 January 2007, http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles/7006134868

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