by Sami Jamil Jadallah

I grew up when there were curfews that lasted for days, when listening to the wrong radio station could land you in jail, and when security/mokhabarat could haul you to jail for no reason at all. I remember when I would see darak police on horses raiding villages and breaking into homes to mix rice, oil, lentil and flour on the middle of the floor.

A demonstration in the city of Idlib, on 3 February 2012. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Yes, in those days we lived in fear and so did hundreds of millions of Arabs. That is why dictatorship flourished all over the Arab word and that is why 30 and 40 years down the line, both people and nations pay the price of fear and the very heavy price of dictatorship.

One has to wonder what if Nasser of Egypt had not been a military and political dictator. Would Egypt have still lost the 67 War? Would Sadat and Hosni Mubarak have still been its leaders? Would Egypt be in the terrible mess it is in now and has been in for the last 50 years? While Hosni Mubarak, his family and his friends looted the country, world financial institutions were demanding the Egyptian government reduce and even cancel subsidies on bread, together with fava beans; staple food for a majority of the Egyptian people. Those families were lucky to have chicken once a week if at all.

One has to wonder what if Iraq did not have a criminal dictator like Saddam Hussein would it be in the same terrible mess it is in now. Would Iraq have engaged in a war of 8 years with Iran for and on behalf of the US? Would a different leader have still wasted the nation’s wealth and sacrificed over one million of his citizens for a reckless war?

Saddam’s dictatorship is painful to remember, and impossible to forget. Saddam led Iraq from war with Iran to war with Kuwait, which of course led to the American/Israeli invasion of Iraq. Millions of people were sacrificed and trillions of dollars were flushed down the drain.

Hafez Assad was no different from Saddam. He took over in a military coup, ruled the country with iron fist, and allowed his family to loot the country. To preserve his family rule, he engaged in deliberate war against the city of Hamah, no different than what we see happening today. His brother as commander of Saraya El-Diffa a or Presidential Guard claimed to have killed not less than 38,000 in the city of Hamah back in 82. His son Bashar is following in the footsteps of his father and uncle. A family farm where the people become vassals of the regime.

Ali Saleh as a commander of the Yemeni army took over the entire country, placing members of his family in key positions in the army, in the petroleum industry, the airline industry, and in commerce. Elections were rigged every time and while he emerged as the clear winner; the entire nation of Yemen was left a loser. How many generations will it take Yemen to catch up with the time lost?

Muammar Qadaffi was no different from all the other dictators of his time. He ruined Libya’s potential with his reckless misadventures in Chad, Sudan, the Philippines and in Northern Ireland, wasting tens of billions on revolutionary ventures. Meanwhile, his country and people were living in state of fear, lacking all basic services, with tens of thousands of the best and brightest going into exile. Libya could have a Dubai or Abu-Dhabi but it was not; none dared to challenge Qaddafi and so the Libyan nation and its people ended up paying a very heavy price.

Bin Ali of Tunisia was no different. He was a security functionary who knew how to use fear to take over an entire nation. He hijacked the nation allowing his security forces to stifle freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and he and his family fleeced the nation while the World Bank, and IMF and Western leaders all praised his leadership and the great economic miracle he achieved for Tunisia. It seems that representatives of the World Bank and Western leadership preferred the lavish comfort of the 5 stars hotels and presidential guesthouses over traveling to the countryside to see the widespread misery that the majority of Tunisian lived in.

In Iran, Indonesia, Latin and Central America, the story is the same “military dictators take over countries in a coup d’ tat and establish themselves as rulers for life, imprisoning all opposition, and proceeding to loot their countries and destroy their nations civil societies and any semblance of a representative government.

From Tunisia to Indonesia, parliamentary elections have been rigged in favor of the dictators and their cronies. Instead of protecting the nation, security forces were there to protect regimes, under which hundreds of thousands of people simply disappeared in the corridors of the ministers of interiors and security agencies. In Jordan, Egypt and many other countries, becoming a kindergarten teacher would require formal approval from mokhabarat/security services. If one did not have a certificate as proof of identity, they were cast out as nobodies, unable to rent a house or get a job.

In Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Guatemala, Indonesia, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen and many other nations, it is the masses that have lived in fear. It is the masses who have paid a heavy price for not snuffing these criminal dictatorships early on when the price would have been much much less.

All dictatorships, even those funded and sponsored by countries like the US, France, England, among others, will fall sooner or later. When they do fall, it must by the will of the people, and not NATO jets. Sooner or later even the most corrupt and indoctrinated army will return to its roots, the people. Syria does not need NATO or US jets, it needs its own army to turn against the dictatorship of Bashar Assad and his family.