There were reports in Arabic news outlets this weekend that it was the Tunisian military that finally triggered the unwinding of Mr. Ben Ali’s government. As the demonstrations escalated on Thursday afternoon, the country’s top military official, Gen. Rachid Ammar, is said to have refused to shoot protesters.
That afternoon, the military began pulling its tanks and personnel out of downtown Tunis, leaving the police and other security forces loyal to the ruling party to take their place as President Ben Ali delivered his final speech pleading, in effect, for another chance. The tanks returned after Mr. Ben Ali left the country.
We can only hope that the events in Tunisia encourage soldiers serving other dictators to start following their consciences and defy their unjust rulers.
And not only is this how dictatorships end; it's also how immoral wars waged by Western democracies end. I'm reminded here of the must-see documentary Sir! No Sir!, which documents how the Vietnam War ended largely because American soldiers finally decided that enough was enough and began refusing to follow orders. More recently, journalists like Dahr Jamail have written about the growing number of soldiers refusing to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Here's a 12-minute trailer for Sir! No Sir!, which, if you haven't already, you really should see.
If you're interested in supporting American soldiers who've refused to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, I encourage you to visit CourageToResist.org.