Archive for February, 2011

I’d like to take a look at the US mainstream media’s near-unanimous declaration of a “revolution” in Egypt – the view that Mubarak was a dictator who was forced out of power by an uprising of the Egyptian people against him. According to the media, his uprising was initiated by the Egyptian people and the result is triumph of the people and freedom from oppression.

Let’s take the camera to a different angle and look at some other less-discussed points of past and recent events. Mubarak was a dictator who had served the interests of the USA and their allies for decades. When he began to make overtures of alliance with Iran, and refused to join a nuclear umbrella with the USA and Arab countries against Iran, he was deposed by a coup initiated by the CIA1 (aka the “2011 Revolution” but it was not a revolution, see below). The result is that Egypt is currently ruled by a military junta and the constitution has been dissolved. The Egyptian military received 1.3 billion dollars from the USA in 20092 and nearly $40 billion in American aid over the last 30 years3. The former and temporarily suspended vice president of Egypt is Omar Suleiman, who is a member of the Armed Forces Supreme Council4. “Suleiman has long been favoured by the US government for his ardent anti-Islamism, his willingness to talk and act tough on Iran – and he has long been the CIA’s main man in Cairo”.5

So where is the revolution? A revolution, according to the New Oxford American Dictionary, is “a forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system”. What is the new system? An ousted USA puppet who started to turn against his masters is replaced by… an American-supported military. The next president of Egypt will likely be Omar Suleiman, the new USA-supported puppet who will join the nuclear umbrella and embrace war with Iran (for more on Suleiman, please see the paragraph at the end).

This is the real reason why Mubarak is out now. The Twitter Revolution in Iran failed, which caused a lot of headaches in the west, because now the only possibility for “regime change” in Iran is war. Mubarak is the first of many Middle East leaders to go. All of the successors, unless plans can be foiled as they were in Iran, will be puppets of the west, which will push war for Iran as soon as all pawns are in place. The “fundamental US-UK strategy for the Middle East is to assemble a block of Arab and Sunni countries (notably Egypt, Saudis, Gulf states, and Jordan) which, formed into a front with the participation of Israel, would collide with the Iranian Shiite front, including Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas, and various radical forces1.”

Yes, Mubarak opposed war with Iran. According to the following report published in one of the semi-official Cairo papers, and made available through the Israeli Ynet: “Al-Gumhoria newspaper says Egyptian president strongly objects to American proposal to Israel, Arab states to create nuclear umbrella against Iranian attack. The United States has offered Israel, Egypt and Persian Gulf countries to be part of a nuclear umbrella against an Iranian attack, Egyptian newspaper al-Gumhoria reported Thursday. According to the idea, Israeli and American aircraft would be deployed in those Arab countries in preparation of a response against any expected Iranian strike. Everyone knows, the editor wrote, that those bases would be used to launch a war on Iran if the American diplomatic dialogue with Tehran were to fail6.”

In addition to rejecting the nuclear umbrella, Mubarak was also initiating a more open relationship with Iran. On October 3, 2010, Egypt and Iran signed an agreement allowing direct flights between Cairo and Tehran for the first time in over 30 years1. “Hamid Baghaei, an Iranian vice president and the head of culture and tourism, said the agreement was ‘one of the most valuable economic agreements that have been signed between Iran and Egypt over the past 30 years,’ according to Iranian state TV. He suggested it could be a first step toward issuing visas to Egyptian and Iranian citizens and otherwise furthering ties between the two usually hostile states.”1

Is it a coincidence that Mubarak was toppled only months after signing this agreement? This “revolution” in Egypt has succeeded in doing nothing more than getting rid of one dictator and installing another – temporarily the Egyptian military, which will follow US orders, and with an election in the fall, we’ll see just how much the regime has changed…if there are elections. With a suspended constitution nothing is guaranteed.

For anyone thinking that I support Mubarak, I’d like to say for the record that I don’t. He was a corrupt dictator who ruthlessly suppressed dissent and had little concern for the Egyptian people. Yes, he was a dictator, but one who served a purpose to the US, at least until recently, and that is why he was deposed – because he displeased the USA by moving towards Iran, and peace, and away from the USA, and war.

More about Suleiman (all from Wikipedia). For an interesting article on Suleiman, see Mubarak’s new deputy linked to CIA rendition program.

Suleiman became deputy head of military intelligence in 1986, and its director in 1991.[20] Suleiman has been directly implicated in the controversial CIA “rendition” program.[19][28] Journalist Stephen Grey in his work, Ghost Plane, states that after taking over as intelligence director, Suleiman oversaw an agreement with the US in 1995 that allowed for suspected militants to be secretly transferred to Egypt for questioning.[29] He has been accused of complicity in the torture of Al-Qaeda suspects in Egypt,[30] particularly the case of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, who was captured and handed over to Suleiman. The information al-Libi gave under torture was cited by US officials in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq as evidence of a connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. Al-Libi later retracted his confession.[29] Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq said Suleiman might be named to an important position “in the coming period.”[8] Millions of Egyptian citizens[9] involved in the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 opposed Suleiman or Mubarak remaining in power without elections taking place.[10][11] Human rights groups tied Suleiman’s career to a regime marked by widespread human rights abuses,[12][13][14] and asserted that many Egyptians “see Suleiman as Mubarak II.”[12] Torture victims and human rights groups charged that Suleiman oversaw the systematic use of torture on detainees and that in at least one instance he personally tortured a detainee during his career in intelligence.[15][16][17]

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January 5

(First I’d like to situate this journal entry physically – I’m in Toronto now! We are here for 5 days (we were in N.B. for Christmas with my family) and went to the Ontario Science Center yesterday and met good friends last night and will do so again tonight. Toronto is great – so many things to do, such a rich and international culture! We leave on Saturday for Vancouver and Whistler (skiing) and 5 days later we’ll be in Tokyo for 5 days before heading home to Kitami. I anticipate having little to no Internet access in Tokyo (we stay at an old but lovely hotel) so I’m trying to do as much posting now as possible to make up for any gaps later on.)

In this first week of my new course, I’m amazed by the strengths that classmates are bringing to our online forum/community of practice. The level of tech ability, experience and the collaboration so far will surely make this one of the most rewarding classes I have taken at OISE. It will also revitalize my interest in using CMC in my own classes. The problem is that my classes are Spoken English classes, not written, so while I can use a blended format, there are limitations on what I can do.

This week’s readings bring up an article called Wikis as constructivist learning environments that my colleague Rick Lavin (a wiki guy) and I wrote in 2005. I do see the possibility of wikis being used in socially constructive ways, but I think that they are limited. Of the 6 requirements below for online socially constructed learning (from our article but not available at wikisalon anymore), I think that while wikis and forums both meet all of these to some extent, forums are much better for social negotiation. Multiple perspectives and collaboration opportunities also seem to be better represented by forums.

1. Multiple modes of representation

2. Collaboration opportunities

3. Experience with multiple perspectives

4. Learner centered

5. Learner relevant

6. Social negotiation

For me, after 8 online courses, I have to say that there is no way that I could have learned this much from my peers in an online class, and I’m quite sure I wouldn’t have learned like this in a wiki either. Wikis certainly are useful and have a place in education, but I see them as only one of many tools (e.g. blogs have great potential for transformation). But forums are discussions, discussions are dialogue, and dialogue is central to critical pedagogy, which is my great passion and also the focus of my dissertation. Here is a comment made about how Freire saw dialogue,

“Dialogue wasn’t just about deepening understanding – but was part of making a difference in the world. Dialogue in itself is a co-operative activity involving respect. The process is important and can be seen as enhancing community and building social capital and to leading us to act in ways that make for justice and human flourishing.”

Because dialogue is the central means of communication in online forums, I recognize its value for not only changing an individual’s ideas, but also its potential for changing the world.