February 17, 2011
Ben Ali in Coma
Well he did indeed take that hard:
BBC News - Protests across the Middle East and North Africa
1613: News of Tunisia's ex-leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali - French news agency AFP quotes a source saying he is "in a coma".As an aside, I believe I suggested somewhere that Ben Ali genuinely saw himself as a real modernizer.
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As an aside, I believe I suggested somewhere that Ben Ali genuinely saw himself as a real modernizer.
Agreed. So did Stalin, and Hitler.
It's a bug, not a feature.
Posted by: matthew h at February 17, 2011 11:32 AM
Posted by: Guybrush Threepwood at February 17, 2011 02:12 PM
I suggested in my Giraffe Boards thread (during the period Aqoul was still 100% down) that Ben Ali's self-image and particular orientation led him to be more reluctant (reluctant is not to say adamantly opposed) than say a Qadhdhafi to crush the protesters once they reached Tunis and the middle-class circles.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at February 18, 2011 05:22 AM
Actually he did order the army to crush the revolt in blood.
As the story goes (and Tunisia is small enough to make this story at least partly true), he ordered Rachid Ammar to shoot the protestors (something the police was already doing, but in a more massive way), on Jan 13th (or was it 12th?). The current PM also alluded to the fact Ben Ali was planning a Saddam 79 style liquidation of MPs on the Jan 14th.
To understand the reaction of Rachid Ammar, you have to keep in mind the accidental death (which no one believes to have been accidental) of 12 high officers in the Tunisian army in 2002 in a helicopter crash. It is mostly believed, including by the army itself, that those officers were planning a coup because they found Ben Ali's drift to dictatorship and corruption a bit too excessive for their taste. The closest family members of these officers were not even allowed to see the bodies (I know this first hand). It is then that Rachid Ammar was promoted as chief of the armed forces.
Another element which is important to understand Ammar's reaction is the fact that the Tunisian army has never been a pillar of Ben Ali's repression and it has been quite neglected in favor of the police forces as a consequence. In fact, the army was dwarved in terms of means and numbers (200K vs. 35K approx.), and the only reason they were able to overcome the police later was because the army is much more professional in combat, as opposed to a police whose repressive components, aside from a 2-3 thousand elites, are mostly made of thugs (ex-criminals, literaly) and other petty bullies.
So, back to Jan 13th, as the story goes, Rachid Ammar would have answered Ben Ali that shooting at the population was not the mandate of the army, but that he would do it anyway provided Ben Ali gives him a written order. Ben Ali would have answered along the line of "ok then, go home" or put him under house arrest. Ammar, strongly suspecting that he was going to be liquidated, instead of going home, would have called trusted officers, surrounded the ministry of defense and the Carthage Palace. He went escorted personally back there to convince Ben Ali to leave temporarily because the situation was potentially out of control and he wasn't sure he could garantee his security anymore. Ben Ali would have refused initially, and Ammar would have spoken Seriati, the chief of security (i.e. police, Ben Ali's psycho chief), into taking him away temporarily.