The wikileak that sparked it.
The rush to dismiss the impact of wikileaks is pathetic really.
I don't know much about Tunisia, but just from that link, that claim seems pretty unlikely to me. It essentially seems to be saying that perhaps revealing to Tunisians that Tunisians think that the president's family is corrupt made Tunisians realize that Tunisians think that the president's family is corrupt.
Rumors and innuendo in black and white are still rumors and innuendo.
This extended to sites like Facebook, where the main login page mysteriously had 10 additional lines of code inserted when it arrived at Tunisian computers. (Such code injection is technically simple using various pieces of deep packet inspection gear, and it was made easier by the fact that the Tunisian government would periodically block secure HTTPS connections.)
Suddenly realizing that *they* were Ben Ali's last line of defence, and not any foreign power, some among the higher ranks of the hierarchy must have immediately started hedging their bets, so as to get a chance of benefitting from the sacrifice of the many, rather than being swept asid> by it.
Well, the cable didn't say that the average Tunisian thought that the administration was corrupt but rather that Senior U.S. diplomats thought the Ben Ali government was corrupt
As much as I agree that the U.S. should not be on the side of Middle Eastern/North African autocrats, the idea that we can simply throw those same autocrats under the bus while simultaneously holding onto the notion that America is the provider of stability and security in the Middle East is untenable. The U.S. pact with the devil in the region is born directly from a set of U.S. interests in the region - the defense of Israel and the stability and security of oil exporters. If you want to junk the autocrats, as I think would be wise over the medium term, then you have to redefine America's role with respect to those interests.
"Tunisia is far different from most neighboring Arab countries. There is little Islamist fervor there, it has a large middle class, and under Mr. Ben Ali and his predecessor, Habib Bourguiba, it has invested heavily in education. Not only are women not required to cover their heads, they enjoy a spectrum of civil rights, including free contraception, that are well beyond those in most countries in the region."
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