James Zogby on Syria

In a recent Huffington Post article titled “Support Syria’s People”, James Zogby declared the Syrian regime has lost its legitimacy and called on the league of Arab states to “suspend” Syria’s membership in the organization.

The Arab League should make it clear that the Assad regime has lost whatever legitimacy it once claimed in the Arab World and promptly suspend its membership in the organization, declaring that the regime has forfeited the right to play a role in Syria’s and the region’s future.

That the self-appointed spokesperson of the Arab-American community is continuing his decades-long pattern of self-serving pandering to U.S. officials comes as no surprise to anyone. Zogby’s shameless behavior is so well known and established by now that Arab-Americans have been mostly ignoring the omnipresent careerist and his hijacking of the collective community name. As long as Zogby is organizing galas and promoting ignorant, oil-sheiks Arab-Americans can continue ignoring his social calendar, but the community must not ignore his self-promoting activities when they include the cynical manipulation of the 2011 Arab uprising and the political and human rights of the Arab people.

When Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire igniting a mass uprising against the Western-sponsored regime in Tunisia Zogby ignored the Tunisian democracy protesters while his website continued to promote his favorite Sheikdoms in the United Arab Emirates. During that initial period Hillary Clinton said “we are not taking sides” between the security forces of the dictator and the unarmed protesters shot and killed in cities and towns across Tunisia. At that time the extent of the unfolding events was still not clear, and the US was still hoping one of their favored “moderate Arab” rulers would survive. With events developing rapidly, and the US appearing unsure about its ability to save Zein al-Abideen bin-Ali, Zogby maintained his silence. When the Tunisian dictator was forced to flee the country in the dark of night Clinton called the Tunisian Foreign Minister to “express support for the people of Tunisia.” It was at that point that Zogby decided it was safe to chime in. After the U.S. government grudgingly accepted and publicly recognized the ouster of bin Ali, and with the former Tunisian dictator relaxing in a villa in Jeddah, Zogby came out to tell us “Tunisia has been on my mind.”

As the Arab uprising spread from Tunisia to Egypt Zogby kept his Washington political antenna finely tuned. In the early days of the Egyptian uprising when the US was determined to save their favorite Arab tyrant Zogby warned we should not support the Egyptian people’s uprising. Just as he did in Tunisia, it was only after the US was forced to concede another American-backed dictator could not be saved, and Hillary Clinton went to Tahrir Square hoping to meet with the revolutionaries (they refused) that Zogby, who spent decades hobnobbing with officials from Mubarak’s embassy, decided it was time to jump on the bandwagon and congratulate the Egyptian people on their revolution.

When it came to the American oil-colonies Zogby, who enjoys generous support, financial and otherwise, from the Arab oil-Sheiks took a more proactive position and felt compelled to assure everyone that a wave of democracy and freedom uprisings across the Arab world will not reach the Gulf States. He not only touted the stability of the regimes in that region, but claimed that democracy is not a priority in those societies, and people can live without it.

As a mass uprising threatened the autocratic rule of the Khalifa family in Bahrain, a country Zogby once described as a “beacon of democratic reform”, he came out in support of the American-approved Saudi military assault on peaceful protesters. Less than two months after Saudi forces entered Bahrain and with the military assault ongoing Zogby held his annual “Gibran Gala.” The event was underwritten by the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington and Saudi Aramco with each contributing $100, 000 according to the AAI website.

Among those in attendance at the “Gibran Gala” in early May was the Ambassador of Syria, the same member state of the Arab league Zogby now wants suspended from the organization. Since then the American administration’s bellicose rhetoric intensified. With colonial, supremacist language Clinton arrogantly declared the Syrian regime lost its legitimacy, as if the legitimacy of any regime is bestowed by a foreign power, and Barack Obama followed by openly calling for Assad’s removal from power. Once again Zogby’s political antenna honed in on the new American posture towards Damascus and he recalibrated his own position to the official American line.

Parroting the obligatory, stale rhetoric about the global U.S. role as defender and promoter of democracy and human rights, Zogby called on America to “speak out in defense of freedom and political rights” in Syria. The America Zogby wants to speak out in defense of freedom and political rights in Syria is the same America that supported Bin Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt. It’s also the same America that approved the Saudi military assault on peaceful Bahraini protesters and continues to support Arab tyrants in Yemen (whose thugs are currently shooting peaceful protesters in the cities of Sana’a and Taiz), Jordan, the Gulf states including the horrific Saudi regime, and the Egyptian military junta.

As Zogby calls on America to support “freedom and political rights” in Syria, he’s also calling on an organization made up of states with abysmal human rights records and does not include a single democracy to single out a regime for suspension based on its lack of democratic credentials and human rights violations. Zogby is not only asking the Arab dictators to suspend a regime that enjoys relatively more popular legitimacy in the Arab world than the others, and in many ways is far less repressive than, for example, the horrific Saudi regime, but also appears to imply the thugs, puppets, political midgets and semi-literate oil-sheiks of the Arab league possess the political influence and moral authority to help usher in a new Syria.

The Arab League could join with Turkey in convening a conference of Syrian stakeholders to help prepare them for transition, offering to provide the resources and hands-on support for this transition.

In other words Zogby wants the medieval Saudi regime, the military junta in Egypt, and the other Arab dictators to preside over a transition to what is presumably a more open and pluralistic regime in Syria. Zogby’s absurdity and hypocrisy is a reflection of the official American policies to which he must conform in order to maintain a full social calendar and the false prestige of a lifestyle on the margins of Washington officialdom.

Zogby has made a comfortable, air-conditioned career out of maintaining a well tuned political antenna capable of honing in on official US policies and attitude towards the Middle East at any given moment. Nobody is more adept than Zogby at calibrating his political position on any issue to the official US line, quickly detecting any subtle change of nuance, and making the necessary adjustments required to maintain his opinions within the official parameters of “respectable” public discourse. His new attitude towards Syria, therefore, comes as no surprise. In the future Zogby will continue to speak approvingly of American-approved dictators in the region while feigning concern for the “political rights” of those who happen to live under regimes Washington considers unfriendly to US interests.

The people of the Arab world have always rejected an American policy that throws its weight behind friendly, pliant dictators while employing the rhetoric of human rights and democracy against regimes it considers a threat to its political, economic, and security interests. With the exception of US support for the usurping Zionist entity no other American policy has fueled as much anti-American (government) sentiments as support for Arab dictators. Recognizing a clear nexus between US foreign policy, and the Washington-backed autocracies and dictatorships which underpin American imperialism in the Arab world, the Arab 2011 uprising has clearly demonstrated that the oppressed Arab masses reject both the illegitimate, oppressive Arab regimes and American imperial hegemony.

Arab-Americans can help advance the cause of the 2011 Arab uprising by speaking honestly to their fellow Americans about US foreign policy and challenging the prevailing narratives and assumptions about the Arab world and the US role in the region. The American people and the Arab revolutionaries share, in their common humanity, the same aspirations for freedom, dignity, and justice. We must insist on the universality of human rights by rejecting the cynical manipulation of these ideals by American government spokespersons pursuing public diplomacy and propaganda campaigns and the odious hypocrites within the Arab-American community that pander to them.

“Ikhras” is classical Arabic for “Shut Up,” which is “Inchab” in Iraqi, “Sakkir Boozak” in Levantine Arabic, or “Intam” in the Arabian Peninsula and “Inkitim” in Egyptian. Ikhras was inspired by the Arab and Muslim “activists” and “representatives” that hijacked our identities and name for their own self-aggrandizement and in furtherance of personal ambitions unrelated to our communities’ agenda, interests, and well-being. Read other articles by Ikhras, or visit Ikhras's website.