Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 4, 2011

The Bouazizi effect and counter-terrorism

Filed under: Preparedness and Response,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on March 4, 2011

Mohamed Bouazizi

Homeland security in the United States emerged from a dramatic encounter with a perverse sort of martyrdom.  Bin Laden’s minions sacrificed themselves to murder innocents.  The murders have continued.

We have struggled to stop the isolated carriers of this contagion. We have been stymied in our efforts to staunch or even to accurately know their ultimate source. But the last ten weeks have offered important clues to what an effective counter-terrorism strategy will include.

When most other so-called martyrs are long forgotten, the name and story of Mohamed Bouazizi will be remembered.  In another era Bouazizi would be the protagonist of poetry, song, and myth.  This may yet be his destiny.

According to Eileen Byrne writing in the Financial Times:

Mohamed’s story is a dramatic example of the abusive behaviour of the Ben Ali regime and the rage it nurtured in Tunisians.

Since the age of 10 he had gone out after school to sell fruit and vegetables. His father had died when he was three, and his mother, Mannoubia, with her two small boys, married again. Her second husband was also a Bouazizi – it is a big family in the Lsouda area about 12 miles outside Sidi Bouzid.

According to Leila, a sister from the second marriage, Mohammed would pick up fruit and vegetables from the wholesale market each evening to sell on his cart the next day. He wanted to save to buy a delivery van, as the £50 or so he brought in each week was the household’s main income.

But the town-hall inspectors made his life a misery, according to his family. They would ask street sellers whether they had a trading licence, knowing that no such licence exists. When, on December 17, they confiscated his goods it was not the first time they had done so. According to his mother, at home Mohamed “was never angry. He never shouted as he was someone who had confidence in himself”.

Yet when the inspectors started to seize his merchandise a tussle began, his sister said bystanders had told the family. A female inspector slapped him, and another kicked him to the ground, witnesses told the family. Enraged, he went to the town hall to demand to speak to a local official, but was told: “There’s nothing you can do about it.” It was an official mind-set familiar to the inhabitants of Mr Ben Ali’s Tunisia.

So Mohamed bought some petrol and went to the office of the regional governor. He doused himself in the petrol, and demanded to see an official.

Friends have explained to the family that the trigger on his cigarette lighter jammed on the open position as he stood there. He had not intended to kill himself, his relatives reassure themselves. But the news of his self-immolation soon reached the neighbourhood, where many Bouazizi cousins live.

The Bouazizis descended on the prefecture. They can be seen, massed outside the closed railings, on a video uploaded to YouTube by a bystander with a mobile phone. They demanded to see the governor, and shouted that Mohamed Bouazizi could not be treated as a nobody.

Many Tunisians seem to have agreed with them, that enough was enough. “We have our pride,” Leila concluded quietly on Sunday. “As a family, we work and we don’t like people interfering with our family affairs. We like justice, and dignity.” (Read another profile of Bouazizi from Al Jazerra.)

Bouazizi died of his burns on January 4.  On January 14 the long-time Tunisian dictator fled.  On January 17 a young Egyptian, Ahmed Hashem Al Sayed, followed Bouazizi’s example.  He died the next day.   On February 11 Hosni Mubarak of Egypt resigned.   Weather has its butterfly effect.  We have now seen a social and political Bouazizi effect.

The purpose of the 9/11 attacks on the United States and others since has been, at least in part, to model and motivate the overthrow of Ben Ali, Mubarak, the Saudi royal family, and their ilk across the Arab world and beyond.   In late 2001 Ayman al Zawahiri, the Egyptian partner of bin Laden, explained al-Qaeda’s goal as, “The mobilization (tajyyish) of the nation, its participation in the struggle, and caution against the struggle of the elite with the authority.  The jihad movement must come closer to the masses, defend their honor, fend off injustice, and lead them to the path of guidance and victory…”

Despite this there is no evidence that al Qaeda — or its allies or its example or its goals — had any significant role in the recent and ongoing upheavals.  (Which is not to discount al-Qaeda seeking advantage in their wake.)

What might Bouazizi’s influence — and al-Qaeda’s comparative lack of influence — tell us about the role and strategy of homeland security?

Bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, Awlaki et al are self-serving egoists.  Tunisians, Egyptians, and Libyans are well-acquainted with the type.  Ben Ali was ever so. Mubarak gradually became little more. Gaddafi is but an especially vivid variation in form.

Religious, secular or crazy the terrorists and dictators are each their own hero, their own god. They want us to join them in hero-worship. You know the type, don’t you?  From time-to-time most of us encounter it in ourselves.

But Bouazizi is even more familiar.  We hope. We work. We dream. We plan. We do what we can.  Ambition falters.  Frustration unfolds.  Pettiness — our own as well as others — pesters our days.  Without great care, our very own sense of self can be stolen.

While bin Laden, Ben Ali, and others are self-serving, Bouazizi was self-sacrificing.  His was a paradoxical act.  Self-sacrifice requires authentic vulnerability and submission, yet projects power and courage. In Bouazizi’s self-sacrifice millions have recognized their own despair and their own claim on justice.

Where this will end up is far beyond any one’s ability to know.  But in this narrative our counter-terrorist mission can certainly better understand its challenge and its opportunity.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

March 4, 2011 @ 12:42 am

Perhaps it could end-up with self-immolation on the steps of the Capitol in DC or the White House? Driven there by the FIRE sector or other corruption?
Time will tell.

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 4, 2011 @ 12:48 am

Also see my 2nd comment on Arnold’s post of yesterday.

Comment by john comiskey

March 4, 2011 @ 5:42 am

The ultimate counter-terrorism policy is democracy.

Nominally and to a degree the U.S. both promotes and adheres to the tenets of democracy. Meta-ultimately, U.S. policy defers to realpolitik. The U.S., sometimes the pragmatist and other times selfishly, adheres to the lesser of two evils doctrine. The U.S. has supported evil governments that were/are less evil then their alternatives and/or support the U.S. and its ally’s policies.

Thomas Friedman’s If Not Now, When? and its reference to The United Nation’s Arab Human Development Report 2002 is instructive:




Another wise man told me that just because you have made a mistake that does not mean you have to keep on making the same mistake.

US hyper dependency on energy, credit, and superpowerness might be the demise of the US.

I pray that my grandchildren DO NOT one day read:

The Rise and Fall of the United States.

Mohamed Bouazizi, R.I.P.

The least shall be served by the first.

Pingback by The Bouazizi effect and counter-terrorism | Security Debrief

March 4, 2011 @ 10:03 am

[…] The Bouazizi effect and counter-terrorism – Homeland Security Watch Homeland security in the United States emerged from a dramatic encounter with a perverse sort of martyrdom.  Bin Laden’s minions sacrificed themselves to murder innocents.  The murders have continued. […]

Comment by Philip J. Palin

March 4, 2011 @ 5:48 pm

Earlier today – long after posting on the Bouazizi Effect — I received my March 24 edition of the New York Review of Books. The lead essay is by Max Rodenbeck, The Economist’s correspondent in Cairo. He gives considerable attention to Bouazizi as a personification of a wide reality across the Arab-speaking nations. “Their overwhelmingly youthful populations suffered perpetual humiliation at the hands of government officials, faced with dim work prospects, and had little means of influencing politics. They felt, in the famous words of the Syrian playwright Saadallah Wannous, that they were ‘sentenced to hope’.” Good analysis. Get it. Read it.

But what really captured my attention is a review by Mark Lilla of How to Live, a new biography of Montaigne (already reviewed at HLSWatch by Mark Chubb). The stance on life advocated by Montaigne — writing in the shadow of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre and other religious warring — is a full repudiation of Bouazizi’s sacrifice and the struggle it has inspired. Lilla explains, “The yearning for transcendence only shows up in his stories and anecdotes about others, where it appears as psychological mutation, a misfortune, or most often as the result of social indoctrination by zealots and despots. That part of you that experiences hope and guilt, that dreams of a beyond, that’s willing to die for the greater good — that’s not really you, he (Montaigne) says.”

In these essays there is a thesis of hope, an anti-thesis of contentment, and a synthesis awaiting creation by each of us. The sum of these two essays is alone worth the subscription price. Look in at the New York Review of Books.

Comment by Freedom of Expreszsion!

March 5, 2011 @ 10:49 pm

George Bush – thank you for your foresight, the messsage of freedom you spread throughout the Middle East!

Finally the youth can dream, lift themselves from the despair, the hopelessness to a rewarding Life’s experience and the ability to express one’s self! Men and woman alike!

God Bless humanity!

Christopher Tingus

Comment by God Bless Our Beloved Republic!

March 6, 2011 @ 9:37 am

If the folks at DHS would only read: The Boook of Daniel Chapter 11;40-44 they could very simply understand the events occuring and the great peril the German-led EU understands with Tunisia only 150 miles or so frm Sicily, the Port of Gibralter a stones throw from 98 million Islamic followers in Morocco and so on and so forth, never mind the 1.4mln barrels a day of oil which flows from Tunisia to EU port – when we study terrorism and we talk aboout policies, the unfolding events and tne timeliness have already been conveyed to us by Daniel and in the timeline afforded to us in Revelations – maybe the WH and Barry’s Goldman Sachs administration prefer the Quran at the WH desk, but the fact of the matter is that the reality is quite clear and those concerned most are in fact very fearful – the Germans leading the EU and of course the Vatican and while the “Brutes of Tehran” who portray even indifference at spilling rich Persian blood on the streets of Tehran, never mind their bloodied hands of our US soldiers and so many innocents killed throughout the Middle East per the directive of Tehran, a regime to be reckoned with now with the launch mechanism in trigger pull to shortly give the Middle East in particular their own shck and awe….

….the German-led EU with its fast deployment armies and the ever powerful Vatican will thwart these efforts, yet not before much strife and despair…

Read the Book of Daniel….Chap 11;40-44 and Revelations for a good perspective on the timeline and then maybe the folks at DHS will finally understand the reality of what AQ, the Taliban and all this instability is all about, the quest to control Jerusalem, nothing else. Surely, Irag and its richness in oil will be taken over by Iran, however Germany w/its large industrial complex and its long memory back to 600+AD and the killings of Christians have never been forgotten, never….

Barry et al, the US Congress and everyone’s hand in the pot, whether Democrat or Republican and this $14+trillilon defecit, $1.5 trillion+ and growing every minutes by this present inept executive WH administration where unemployment as reported by government figures still hovers around 9% and We here on Main Street USA see far more unemployed and part timers w/o healthcare coverage….

Listen, when we talk about AQ and terrorism, there is far much more evolving and first, Ms. Hillary, get your nose out of the thickets this nation’s State Department finds itself…

….let the Europeans do what they must as they (Germans) understand far better what is taking place -they understand that with its eventual (ten) nation might, the “Brutes of Tehran” will get a lashing never imagined by Tehran! First, though, the Suez, the Mediterannean, shipping, skyrcketing oil, gold and silver prices doubling from the present and much more lay dead ahead and America, paralyzed and forgetting that it is a Judeo-Christian nation, will unfortunately suffer, not from AQ or Hezbollah or the Taliban, We here are being enslaved by poverty from the void in leadership whether at local, state or t the WH staff wet behind their ears and shortly a third world nation which will not play a role in the days to come. We are a paralyzed nation and my front porch flag hands upside down shouting out the peril we face because of the lack in leadership and the corrupt self-agenda, the Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and both Demorats and Republicans, imagine a nation talking about shutting down, a nation led by Paulsen and Bernanke and all these fellas who still cannot find the $750billion in “lost” stimulus monies and when asked to “tell” who derived the monies, – closed lips!

Is it the terrorism of the Middle East which worries us here on Main Street USA or those we have “entrusted” now for at least the last eight (8) sitting Presidents and 19 Congresses whereby we are still dependent on the Middle east for oil. Shame on you! How dare you with your broken political promises, your failed pledge to uphold the Constitution and protect the Rights of us as citizens of this once great Republic willing to look into the eyes of Satan and whip such travesties…

We have billions of barrels of oil under this nation’s ground and ocean, yet you have prostituted yourselves to big business, to corporate America and their special interest groups giving the keys to the Asians and indebiting ourselves to the Chinese. Shame on you and as a fellow at Dunkin Donuts watching Fox and CNN turned and said, “These guys have not a clue to what the answers are for there are none” – your willingness as elected officials to flee from your constituents are exemplifications of a failed gvernment!

Our counter-terrorism mission?

Let’s start by the panic you are creating here at home, never mind AQ…gas prices will surpass $5 a gallon and maybe $8 per gallon! Never mind the reserves, we’ll need the reserves to maintain our fleets and aircraft…and unless we begin yesterday an immediate drilling for oil everywhere to take care of ourselves, between the Chinese and the Europeans, little will be enroute to us as transprtation routes will be adversely affected, disrupted. Drill and drill, get Americans working again and into the drilling business. The next months ahead will nly enhance your failure as legislators, elected and “entrusted” folks who have no idea how your self-serving agenda on both sides of the aisle have placed us in much peril econmically and politically w/the WH Goldman Sachs administration hoodwinking America by a President so unsure and unstable that he cannot even stop smoking depicting his lack of personal discipline as mentor, an exemplification while even Barry pays no heed to the warning label on each pack he smokes!

We have nothing to fear from AQ, only fearing ourselves from within and what our elected Congressmen and Congresswomen have done in prostituting themselves to the dollar only to see its value presently at its lowest value and its continued deevaluation and real estate prices and a stock market first at 9550 and then plummeting and We here on Main Street USA back on Washington and Tremont Streets here in Boston waiting for a cup of soup and a crumb of bread just as our Grandparents were subjected to back in god ‘ol 1929 while the fatcats remained in their lng Island mansions – by the way, what’s this George Soros all about, dismissing the American flag so…hasn’t he made his billions and billions off the backs of the tireless American worker….

God Bless America, our beloved Republic! Protect the Second Amendment at all costs….We have been a most charitable people like none other, however charity nw begins as home. Take back your dollars from overseas, harden up your fences to the south and take back your government. If those elected wish to flee rather than vote, call them to the carpet and dismiss them. We have been misguided and we are most capable of taking the helm and straightening out our domestic course leaving the Europeans and the Iranians to clash!

Food costs are skyrocketing, gasoline prices are soaring and the Eagle is falling…this is our watch and our respnsible to be vigilant, to protect our flag, the National Anthem and our Judeo-Christian nation!

Read: The Book of Daniel Chap 11;40-44 – it is all clearly written for your benefit! Fear not those among us who truly believe, fear those seeking to undermine our nation from within!

Chistopher Tingus
PO Box 1612
Harwich (Cape Cod), MA 02645

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