Al-Ahram Weekly Online   31 December 2009 - 6 January 2010
Issue No. 979
New Decade's special edition
 
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

TIMELINE

Eric Walberg looks at some of the most important political events of the first decade in the 21st century

MIDDLE EAST:

2000: Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak resigns; end of Oslo peace process; second Intifada sparked by Ariel Sharon visiting Temple Mount; Bashir Al-Assad inherits Syrian presidency.

2002: Turkey elects Islamists.

2003: US invades Iraq.

2005: Sharon withdraws from Gaza, forms Kadima and wins election; Rafik Al-Hariri assassinated in Lebanon, leading to the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon; Ahmadinejad elected president of Iran; earthquake in Pakistan kills 80,000.

2006: Sharon in permanent coma, deputy Ehud Olmert invades Lebanon; Saddam Hussein executed after US-sponsored show trial.

2009:Ahmadinejad re-elected in face of Western-orchestrated colour/ twitter revolution; Israel elects far right government under Binyamin Netanyahu/ Avigdor Lieberman; Goldstone report documenting Israeli war crimes in Gaza approved by the UN; growing world anti-apartheid campaign against Israel.

US:

2000: President Bill Clinton signs Commodities Futures Modernization Act (CFMA), deregulating derivatives market and credit-default swaps. As a result, Washington would become captive to Wall Street. US election stolen by George W Bush.

2001: "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US" August Presidential Briefing brushed aside, one month before 9/11; John Walker Lindh "American Taliban" captured and later sentenced to 20 years; plans to invade Iraq "leaked".

2002: Bush/Blair produce fake evidence of WMDs in Iraq; Defense Secretary Donald ("There are also unknown unknowns") Rumsfeld's military doctrine -- carpet bomb and scrimp on troops -- a disaster; Enron scandal (see 2000 CFMA and 2008 Madoff).

2003: Defense Secretary Colin Powell's UN speech justifying invasion of Iraq; "Mission accomplished" speech of Bush on aircraft carrier; CIA officer Valerie Plame's cover leaked, leading to deputy chief of staff Karl Rove's resignation.

2004: Falluja residents kill four Blackwater mercenaries leading the US Army to launch a devastating invasion; Abu Ghraib torture photos flood the Internet; Pakistan added to US bombing list; Bush re-elected.

2005: Iraq descends into chaos; hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans; Bush bungles rescue operations while commending FEMA head Michael Brown: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

2006: Secretary of Defense Robert Gates's Iraqi surge; Democrats win majority in Congress/ Senate.

2007: Somalia added to US bombing list; Congressman Dennis Kucinich introduces bill to impeach vice-president Richard Cheney.

2008: Barack Obama elected; stock market/ bank crisis (Dow drops 34 per cent, the worst decline since 1931); Wall Street pyramids (Madoff pleads guilty to $65 billion fraud); $2 trillion bank bailout while bankers give themselves huge bonuses.

EUROPE:

2000: Vladimir Putin elected president of Russia; Serbian "revolution" ousting Slobodan Milosevic following 1999 NATO bombing.

2005: Blair re-elected to third term; 7 July London Underground bombing; Paris race riots; Merkel first German woman chancellor, heading "grand coalition" of CDU and SPD; Georgia Rose Revolution brings Mikheil Saakashvili to power.

2006:Danish newspaper publishes cartoons insulting Prophet Mohamed.

2007: Nicolas Sarkozy elected, returning France to NATO command; transition from Putin to Medvedev; Kosovo declares independence.

2008: Georgia invades South Ossetia while Putin at Beijing Olympics.

2009: Angela Merkel's CDU re-elected in Germany with socialist Die Linke now rivally SDP; British judge issues arrest warrant for Israeli ex-PM Tzipi Livni, forcing her to cancel trip to London.

LATIN AMERICA:

2000: Pinochet returns to Chile after three-year house arrest on murder warrant by a Spanish judge; Western governments try to change legislation to prevent this happening again.

2004: US/Canadian military assist overthrow of Haiti's president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and spirit him into exile.

2005: Bolivia elects socialist Evo Morales; Ecuador elects socialist Raphael Correa whose 2008 constitution world's first to recognise Rights of Nature.

2008: Paraguay elects socialist ex-priest Fernando Lugo as president.

2009: US-backed coup deposing pro-ALBA Honduran president Manuel Zelaya; ALBA countries stop using US dollar in their trade; Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez meets Obama at Summit of Americas, gives him Eduardo Galeano's The Open Veins of Latin America. Obama later tells press, "Just because he handed me Peter Pan, that doesn't mean I'm going to read it. "

AFRICA AND ASIA:

2004: Indian Ocean Tsunami in December kills 300,000.

2007: Jacob Zuma takes over from Thabo Mbeki as South African president.

2008: Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir becomes first national leader indicted by International Criminal Court.

2009: China weathers financial storm; Japan elects Democratic Party ending 50 years of pro- US Liberal Democratic Party.

2000-2010 in a nutshell: These were contradictory years: an economic boom turned into a crash; by the end, a US that seemed omnipotent is more vulnerable and weaker than ever even as the militarisation of the US economy accelerates; the unification of Europe reveals a directionless, faction-ridden agglomeration without the political means or will to address pressing crises such as the financial meltdown of 2008 or the many worsening international problems.

The downward trajectory of the empire is well illustrated by Times ' Persons of the Year: Bush (2000), New York mayor Rudy Giuliani "NY's Churchill" (2001), whistleblowers Cynthia Cooper (Worldcom), Coleen Rowley (FBI), Sharron Watkins (Enron) (2002), the American soldier (2003), Bush again (2004), Bono/ Gates (2005), the "wired American" (2006) , Putin (2007) and Obama (2008) -- from imperial overlord and his minions to anti-corruption fighters, the resurgent Russians and finally a US president whose mission is to downplay and even reverse the imperial trajectory.

The icing on the cake is Time 's Person of 2009 -- Baleout Ben, chairman of the Federal Reserve, "patron saint of Wall Street greedheads" as Time itself admits. "King Ben is the unelected general of the fourth branch of government." Recall, the fourth estate was once considered the press. Ben Shalom Bernanke was honoured as "the most important player guiding the world's most important economy", whose give-away of trillions to his friends apparently helped "to protect ordinary folk on Main Street." So it's no longer just a wacko conspiracy theory after all: the banks really do control the world. The empire is on its economic knees and has no shame.

The entrenchment of the Chinese Communist Party and the resurgence of socialism in Latin America, along with the resistance of Islam to accept the Western separation of religion and politics, means that the Western model of capitalism without a mechanism of social/political/religious control has been resoundingly discredited. Fukayama's 1992 pronouncement that we have reached the "end of history", embodied in the Western model of electoral democracy and capitalism, was thrown in history's dustbin. A BBC poll in 2009 revealed that 90 per cent disapprove of the current capitalist order.

This decade, as acknowledged even by the mainstream Western media, was a turning point for the West and the US in particular. It was dominated by US military interventions and threats, and the attempt to turn NATO into the world police force through wars in Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan. However, these wars have been indecisive and did more to bankrupt the US economy than consolidate its influence around the world.

The rise of the BRICs and the growing influence of especially Russia and China on the world stage contrasts with the crises, both domestic and internationally, of the US and its imperial world order.

Though Africa experienced a few glimmers of development and democracy (South Africa and Ghana), its headlines were dominated more by tragic pandemics and civil wars, as China and the West plotted to control not only its oil and mineral but land resources.

THE REGION 2000-2010: The Arab and Muslim worlds suffered one tragedy after another in this "decade from hell". Four wars -- Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2003), Lebanon (2008) and Gaza (2009), civil wars -- in Sudan, between Sunni and Shia in Yemen and Iraq, between Fatah and Hamas in Palestine.

Whoever was responsible for 9/11 -- the official excuse to invade Afghanistan and Iraq -- Israel and a bizarre assortment of Israeli agents watched in delight as the Twin Towers came tumbling down. Netanyahu famously said just days after 9/11, "We are benefiting from one thing, and that is the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, and the American struggle in Iraq." A robust and growing movement of 9/11 sceptics both in the Arab world and in the West accuse Mossad of orchestrating the tragic events of 9/11.

The decade was one of confrontation between the West and the Arab/ Muslim world, a "clash of civilisations" as it was dubbed by Samuel Huntingdon in 1993. The West's determination to bring the region to its knees and for it to follow US diktat was further advanced through such initiatives as the Mediterranean Dialogue between Europe, North Africa and the Middle East (including Israel), the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, Partnerships for Peace, and the Gulf Cooperation Council, all of which NATO and the US use to advance its agenda for the region.

There is increasing worldwide disgust with Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians (70 per cent of Germans see Israeli policy as a "war of extermination" and 50 per cent equate its treatment of Palestinians with Nazi treatment of Jews), which has given impetus to a growing BDS (boycott- disinvest-sanctions) movement, and even official Western pressure to end the blockade of Gaza. Yet, because of powerful Israeli lobbies in all Western countries, Western governments have yet to show any real commitment to forcing Israel to negotiate seriously with the Palestinians, and there is little hope that the region will throw off its heavy legacy of conflict and tragedy in the next 10 years.

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