Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, and possibly more … The growing pro-democracy movements in these countries are a mere “virus” to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), according to a recent interview he gave to the conservative-leaning Fox News Channel.
Speaking to Greta Van Susteren, the former presidential candidate suggested that now is the “most dangerous period in of history” regarding America’s involvement in the Middle East.
“This virus is spreading,” he said. “This, I would argue, is probably the most dangerous period of history in… of our entire involvement in the Middle East, at least in modern times. Israel is in danger of being surrounded by countries that are against the very existence of Israel, or governed by radical organizations.”
Prior to McCain’s comments, some in the media had called the movements a “contagion.”
While it’s true that the uprisings in the Middle East, along with the Obama administration’s reaction, have put Israel on edge, the collective, societal push for enhanced rights, a more democratic society and a more equal shot at individual economic success has indeed struck a cord with many Americans. Even many Republicans are divided on the issue, with President Obama’s continued insistence that Egypt’s president “transition” from power being viewed by most as an appropriate response.
In the countries where uprisings have taken place, recent revelations by secrets outlet WikiLeaks appear to have played a role in sparking, in a few cases literally, some shocking acts of protest.
It began in Tunisia, with Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old college graduate who could not find work due to the economic corruption of the dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Once WikiLeaks published US diplomatic cables showing how Ben Ali’s bribery scheme functioned, the government responded by blocking WikiLeaks and engaging in a series of cyberattacks against its Tunisian critics.
Desperate cyber-activist group “Anonymous” responded, attacking Tunisian government websites and finding ways to get relevant leaked cables into the hands of organizers in the country.
It was then that Bouazizi, a street vendor, committed suicide by setting himself on fire, to protest a government official confiscating his business. Days later, Tunisia was in a state of uproar and the revolt had begun.
Others were soon to follow in Bouazizi’s footsteps.
A call to revolution went out, and it was heard.
Echoes of the immense pain reflected in the acts of political suicide were felt across northern Africa, in Egypt, Yemen and elsewhere. Dictators whose careers have been assured for decades suddenly felt an unfamiliar sensation: fear.
Then, Tunisian President Ben Ali was toppled, and he fled to Saudi Arabia. The success of demonstrations there, which led to the rocky reformation of their government, inspired others, and so a movement was born.
It’s difficult to see, as McCain apparently does, where that became a “virus.”
In Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood is a minority party in parliament, some US conservatives have expressed concern that they could come to power. They’re largely seen as extremely anti-Israel, and were they to replace President Mubarak with an Islamic theocracy it could pose a threat to peace in the Middle East.
This, apparently, is why McCain would compare a pro-democracy movement to an infectious disease.
But that’s not likely to happen, according to one of McCain’s colleagues, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who suggested Egypt’s army would block the formation of a religious state.
While Israel has indeed objected, loudly, to President Obama withdrawing support for Mubarak, saying his move caters to public opinion and not its “genuine interests” in the region, there is at this point little else the US government can do but encourage a peaceful and democratic outcome to the chaotic situation still prevalent in the country’s largest cities.
This video is from Fox News, broadcast Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011, as snipped by Think Progress.