Here, you are urged and encouraged to run your mouths about something important.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

George Clooney's arrest, Kony 2012, and the Muslim Brotherhood

Note: though this is a "stand alone" post, it's also a bit of a continuation from this March 10th post about the fervor surrounding Kony 2012 being somewhat misplaced. While calling attention to Joseph Kony was a good thing, it ignored the source of his funding - Northern Sudan's Omar al-Bashir.

On Thursday, March 15th, Hollywood actor George Clooney met with President Barack Obama. On Friday, March 16th, Clooney was arrested after storming the Sudanese embassy in Washington, D.C. to protest Bashir. While speaking to reporters outside the White House following his meeting with Obama one day before his arrest, Clooney spoke about it being important to keep public attention focused on Sudan:
“It doesn't mean that this has to fall completely off of the chart,” he said. “And so, our job is to find periods of time when it is most crucial to talk about it, when there's something that we may be able to do to bring attention at a crucial moment and try to keep that in the public eye. You can't have it be there all the time.”
One day later, Clooney - an avowed Obama supporter - did just that, along with multiple far left wing Democrats, to include Rep. James Moran (D-VA) and NAACP President Ben Jealous. The Daily Caller's Nicholas Ballasy interviewed Clooney as he was being led away in handcuffs. Note Clooney's response when the DC reporter asked him if this issue had come up one day earlier when the actor met with Obama. Clooney denies any correlation and promptly says he has to move on.

Do you believe Clooney and Obama didn't discuss this one day prior to taking a pack of Democratic Congressmen with him? That strains credulity at best.

That aside, my initial reaction was that this was great news; it didn't matter who was protesting Omar al-Bashir because he is so evil. Bashir is a far better target for public opposition than is Kony; the former has been the guy responsible for funding the latter's genocide. He's also backed by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Something was conspicuously absent in the media frenzy surrounding Clooney's arrest, however. Where was the reporting on Bashir's Brotherhood ties?

Perhaps it would make sense to go back one year and take a look at an article penned by Andrew S. Natsios, former U.S. Envoy to Sudan and current Georgetown University professor who has written a comprehensive book on the region. As the Mubarak regime was in its final throes last year, Natsios identified a Muslim Brotherhood figure that would be - if you can believe it - far worse than Bashir.

Via NPR / TNR:
...within the Islamist and Arab nationalist camp, there is a further split: between the National Congress Party, led by current President Omar Al Bashir; and the more strident Islamists, who follow Hasan Al Turabi, one of the founders of the country's Muslim Brotherhood. Originally, Bashir and Turabi were allies. They came to power together in a 1989 coup. Bashir became the head of government, though Turabi had been the coup's mastermind. Together, the two men established the first Sunni Islamist state; extended Sharia law (first imposed by the former Sudanese dictator Numayri) through a new Islamist court system; Islamized the financial and banking systems; and prosecuted a brutal war in the Christian, non-Arab south in which more than two million people died.
If the name Hasan Al Turabi sounds familiar, there is a reason:
Six months after taking power, Turabi orchestrated a long-term alliance between Iran and Sudan; they remain among each other's closest allies. It was Turabi who invited Osama bin Laden to live and work in Sudan during the 1990s. Bin Laden married Turabi's niece, and went into business with Turabi's son, trading in Arabian horses.
If I may digress slightly, any alliance between Sudan and Iran formed at a time when bin Laden was running terrorist training camps in Sudan further bolsters the ruling of a federal judge that said Iran was behind the September 11th attacks.

While the Muslim Brotherhood has supported Bashir, Natsios provides sufficient evidence that it supports Turabi more. Despite his genocidal ways, prior to the Arab Spring, Bashir was able to read the tea leaves and play ball with establishment power structures better than Turabi:
Bashir and his party, the National Congress Party (NCP), moved away from Turabi's radicalism. While Turabi was a true militant, it soon became clear that the only thing the NCP is militant about is their own survival. In 1995, an offshoot of the Muslim Brothers, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, attempted to assassinate Egyptian President Mubarak at an Organization for African Unity conference in Addis Ababa. Egyptian intelligence believed the plot was orchestrated by Turabi. Sudan and Egypt nearly went to war over the incident, but ultimately Bashir decided to de-escalate tensions with Mubarak and distance himself from Turabi. A year later, bin Laden was expelled from Sudan because of pressure from the United States and Saudi Arabia, and Turabi was forced to find a home for his friend in Afghanistan.
This all begs a very important question: Now that Mubarak is out and the Muslim Brotherhood is in relative to Egypt (heck, all of North Africa for that matter), which of these two leaders does the Brotherhood likely prefer at this time? My money is on Turabi.

Again, from Natsios:
By 1999, Sudan's two major political figures were locked in a raw power struggle: Turabi, as speaker of the National Assembly, attempted to reduce Bashir's constitutional powers and increase his own, causing a bitter rift between the two men, which led to Turabi's ouster. Since 2000, Turabi has been repeatedly imprisoned whenever he threatened or attacked the Bashir government. Turabi's purge healed the breach between Sudan and Egypt, and Mubarak's government vowed that it would never allow Turabi to rule Sudan again.
It's quite obvious that there has been a power struggle between Bashir and Turabi for years. As long as Mubarak was in charge of Egypt, Bashir was safe and Turabi was at a serious disadvantage. That has changed completely. As we now know, Mubarak's government is no longer calling the shots when it comes to Sudan; the Muslim Brotherhood is.

There are significant signs that Brotherhood leadership is not happy with Bashir. He presided over an agreement that granted South Sudan's independence last year. Further salt in the wound is the fact that South Sudan almost unanimously elected a devout Christian to lead them.

If there's one thing we've learned, it's that the Brotherhood doesn't like Christian lands in general and rich Christian lands in particular. Making matters even worse for Bashir's relations with the fundamentalists is the fact that South Sudan contains 80% of the region's oil reserves. Natsios wrote a piece recently that the North and the South are engaged in a bout of political brinksmanship over it. Bashir's government won't allow the South to ship its oil through the North to the Port of Sudan without gouging to get its cut. As a consequence, the South is working with Kenya to construct a pipeline southward to the Port of Mombasa.

An unintended consequence of this brinksmanship is that China is not getting its Sudanese oil, which makes it very unhappy.

Something else at play here could be for the Brotherhood to put so much pressure on Bashir that he is forced to do its bidding. Again, from Natsios:
Both Khartoum and Juba have a history of brinkmanship. And Bashir is once again edging up to a precipice -- he seems to think invading the South would settle the impasse. Last week, along with his minister of defense, Abdel Rahim Muhammed Hussein, Bashir told 700 army officers to prepare for war.
This brings us back to George Clooney. By employing the same strategy against Bashir that was used against Kony - demonization via the Alinsky-style spotlight - who is Clooney helping? Is he not helping the Muslim Brotherhood to become more fundamentalist? In fact, contrary to his intentions, Clooney's actions may help Bashir to decide to go to war with the South.

Again, I keep coming back to one very simple fact. In nearly every instance, the policies of the Obama administration have benefited the Muslim Brotherhood. Why wouldn't its policy toward Sudan do the same?

What is the alternative to Bashir? What's going to fill the vacuum if / when he is arrested?

In virtually all of the conflicts across the Middle East today, the Muslim Brotherhood's fingerprints are all found. Yet, it somehow manages to remain the name that is rarely mentioned except in terms of the countless elections it seems to be winning.

The Saul Alinsky-friendly Obama administration has come out in support of Kony 2012 and quite possibly egged Clooney on when it came to storming the Sudanese embassy to protest Bashir. If both premises are correct, it's near perfect implementation of two of Alinsky's rules - Rules 6 and 11:
Rule 6: A good tactic is one your people enjoy. “If your people aren’t having a ball doing it, there is something very wrong with the tactic.”

Rule 11: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it. Don’t try to attack abstract corporations or bureaucracies. Identify a responsible individual. Ignore attempts to shift or spread the blame.
Going after Kony and Bashir gives both the producers of Kony 2012 and George Clooney a tactic they enjoy. Singling out Kony and Bashir also fulfills rule number 11 if the endgame involves empowering the Muslim Brotherhood in the Sudan.

Kony 2012 producer Jason Russell and George Clooney may be well-intentioned but they're also quite likely being used.

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