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The Tyrants, the Institutions and the Tragedy - By Ghassan Charbel, Asharq Al-Awsat



Our countries pay the expensive bill for being in the custody of tyrants. It is the tyrants’ habit to kill their countries twice: First, when they monopolize the decision and devote themselves to polish their own image; and second, when they quit or get ousted, leaving behind failed institutions and states without a rescue plan.
Our countries also pay the price of the absence of institutions, amid a persistent failure that continues to expand due to ethnic, sectarian or confessional considerations.
Nobody is convinced that what happened to our countries was only the result of external conspiracies. The first cause of the tragedy is the internal fragility, as well as biased and authoritarian policies that can ignite a bloody strife at every opportunity. An external conspiracy cannot instigate a civil war in a country where the decision-makers did not provide the necessary tools for it. There is a more dangerous killer than external plots, an ambassador’s traps or a social media riot. The most dangerous killer is failure. The failure to build a modern state, with its requirements and conditions.
In the absence of institutions that monitor, supervise and correct, failure worsens, turning the country into a group of islands governed by appetites, greed and blind violence, without any consideration for values or rights.
The words of Ali Abdussalam Treki came to my mind. The Libyan served as foreign minister and his country’s ambassador to the United Nations under the rule of Moammar Gaddafi.
Treki was telling me in Paris about the Libyan plane massacre in 1992 in which 157 people were killed. He said that the “prevailing belief was that the Libyan agencies intentionally downed it while holding the Americans responsible at the time for not providing Libya with spare parts. The operation was planned, and the pilot was my brother-in-law, Ali al-Fiqi, who was killed in it.”
He continued: “The plane was shot down by a missile after the explosives did not detonate properly. It was said that the purpose of the crime was to barter with the Americans in the Lockerbie plane case, meaning: we were accused of shooting a plane and you were blamed for bringing down another, so let’s close the file. Of course, this is naive thinking.”
I asked Treki about the relationship between Gaddafi and late Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. He replied: “It was ordinary, but President Saleh was accusing Gaddafi of supporting the Houthis and that Yemeni authorities confiscated Libyan funds that were sent to them.”
There is no enough space here to talk about Gaddafi’s bizarre and violent behavior. What concerns us is how a sick ruler wasted four decades of his country’s life. He did not build a prominent university that could be proud of him nor did he leave an institution on which to lean. Under his rule, the army was no longer an army and diplomacy lost its true meaning and value.
If Libya paid the price of the crimes committed by the “King of kings of Africa,” it also sustained heavy injuries from those who ousted Gaddafi and have failed formula to govern a country that needs something similar to re-establishment.
Perhaps it is because Gaddafi was overthrown by external military intervention, which was believed to be saving the country from the danger of a prolonged civil war. This war would attract roving fighters and a similar scenario would be replicated in Syria.
While writing this article yesterday, I could not forget that it was August 2. Iraq and the region are still paying the price of this day in 1990. The crime committed against Kuwait, Iraq and the historical balances in the region happened because a tyrant exploited the absence of institutions and instigated an earthquake, the aftershocks of which are still present today.
Here I recount what I heard from then chief-of-staff of the Iraqi army, Lieutenant General Nizar al-Khazraji.
“I was sleeping at home that night. Secretary General of the General Command, General Alaeddin Al-Janabi, called me in the morning... When I entered his office, he said: ‘We have completed the occupation of Kuwait...’ A quarter of an hour later, Defense Minister Abdul Jabbar Shanshal arrived and was informed in the same way.
“Imagine that the army was being pushed on an adventure of this kind without the knowledge of the minister of defense and the chief of staff... What I knew was that Saddam personally laid out the plan in the presence of Hussein Kamel and Ali Hassan al-Majid. Perhaps they resorted to other close associates for the details, but the plan was set up among the three of them.”
Is it too much to say that the entire region is still paying the price of that decision, which was taken by a man who considered himself a brilliant historical leader just because he was a fan of Stalin and one day distributed his pamphlets to the top generals?
On that day, Arab solidarity was fatally wounded. Moreover, in the following decade, that day facilitated the American decision to invade Iraq as part of a US disciplinary campaign launched in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
That day has also weakened the Iraqi position in the Iraqi-Iranian-Turkish triangle. Today, Iraq is tangled by pro-Iranian factions and Turkish forces within its borders who are waging their own wars against the Kurds, while Mustafa al-Kadhimi is trying to hold elections in the hope of rebuilding the state.
The lack of institutions is a complete tragedy. Parliaments that are born under the rule of militias dash the hopes raised by the ouster of tyrants because they pave the way for a new era of cruelty.
Failed institutions are as dangerous as their absence. Would Lebanon have witnessed the most extensive theft of depositors’ funds if there were institutions that monitor and hold accountability? Would Lebanon have fallen into the trap of decline and suicide if the elections actually brought about a project of state and institutions? Failure means the absence of real institutions, as well as the perpetuation of the tragedy.

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