Mubarak has stepped down after a month of protests on the streets of Cairo. As well as losing the presidency, he’s now almost certain to be expelled from the Brutal Dictators’ Guild for disgracing its bad name.
That comes as no surprise.
Whatever job we do on this earth, we should be prepared to do it properly and in my opinion, brutal dictators are no exception. If you’re not prepared to dictate brutally, don’t take a job with no retirement plan.
I’m not a violent man, and I have no stomach for oppression or cruelty, but if I found myself in a job like that, I think I’d feel obliged to do it properly.
I’m not saying I’d instil fear and loathing in the people.
No. Wait. That’s exactly what I am saying. If I had to be a brutal dictator, I’d be brutal. It’s in the job description. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the torture chamber. But I think I’d be a brutal dictator in the style of Assad of Syria: selective. The only ones who need fear me would be people who challenge my position. I’d encourage an active press. I’d tolerate criticism. I’d allow freedom of travel and of religion.
But any brutal dictator worth his salt wouldn’t be toppled by people walking around the streets, chanting and waving banners.
Mubarak was a pussy, just like Ceaucescu, the old fool who stood on his balcony waving at protesters before scuttling into a helicopter with the Missus. Fat lot of good it did them. What kind of brutal dictator was he? Any decent brutal dictator would send tanks onto the streets and machine-gun the whole lot of them. That wouldn’t be lopng putting manners on them, and you wouldn’t see so much protesting next time.
Mao would have done it. Even the namby-pamby liberal wet Chinese leaders who came after him understood the value of a good massacre in maintaining public order. Tienanmen Square got cleared out pretty damn quick once the lads in charge gave the order, I can tell you.
It’s hard to know what makes a great brutal dictator. I suppose dictating is an essential part of it, and of course you have to use brutality, but I think the ultimate test comes at the end. A truly great brutal dictator is still in charge when he dies.
That rules out Hitler. It rules out Idi Amin too, though both of these boys certainly passed the brutality test, and the dictation. Pol Pot overplayed his hand and took on an enemy he couldn’t beat, which makes him not only a piss-poor brutal dictator, but also a fool. The Shah of Iran was pretty brutal but didn’t do enough dictating. Ayatollah Khomeini, on the other hand, was both brutal and dictatorial even if he wasn’t the formal head of government. The problem with him was the women’s perfume he liked to wear.
I’m only flicking through them at random here, by way of illustration. Erich Honecker was possibly the most pathetic of the lot, even going so far as to vote against himself in a Politburo vote of no-confidence.
The ruling family of Saudi Arabia are credible contenders, but are personally so vile, I’ll just scratch them off the list on general principle. Even brutal dictators have their standards. Ivan the Terrible, Vlad the Impaler and Genghis Khan were all pretty no-nonsense guys, and would all qualify to join the Guild, I reckon, but the really outstanding brutal dictator, in my mind, is Josef Stalin, who brutalised, terrorised and oppressed a vast federation of republics for over thirty years, and who died while still in power. Now you might suggest that he was murdered, and perhaps you’d be right, but the fact remains that he was not deposed, and for sheer slaughter, he’s hard to beat.
I can tell you this: if the protesters on Tahrir Square were up against Joe Stalin instead of Hosni Mubarak, it would be a very different story today, and the Guild of Brutal Dictators would not need to be calling a Special Meeting of Expulsion.