The US Likes Its Dictators, But Not Unaligned Dictators
Vice President Omar Suleiman of Egypt says he does not think it is time to lift the 30-year emergency law that has been used to suppress and imprison opposition leaders. He does not think President Hosni Mubarak needs to resign before his term ends in September. And he does not think his country is yet ready for democracy. NYT
If you tap a leader who does not believe in the causes of the revolt you simultaneously claim to support, you are selling out the demonstrators.
The US has pushed talks between the dictatorial ruling party of Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood. Mubarak’s regime is responsible for the non-military security, the police officers and plainclothes thugs that enforce the regime on the streets.
These talks are completely off-target. The demonstrations are organized by ideas, not organizations. This is partly because the regime never allowed civil organizations to grow, and partly because the government is so foul its condemnation by citizens is close to universal. Egyptians are rioting against the general inequality in their lives and the lack of political expression, that the current dictator and his party are responsible for. It’s not all about income inequality in Egypt folks, the US is has greater income inequality than Egypt. Anyway, the regime is corrupt and brutal to its core, that’s why people want its removal. Mubarak’s regime members shoot unarmed men in the back. Warning this video shows Egyptian police shooting a solitary unarmed man in the back at 2:23.
The Muslim Brotherhood has been marginal in this revolt. Its significance only really noticeable on American media stations seeking to seize a familiar, divisive narration on the protests. 60% of Egyptians worry about an Islamic political organization replacing the Mubarak regime and a majority believe democracy to be the best form of government in all circumstances. This doesn’t quite fit the scare tactics of the American right and the media, who write articles like “As Islamist Group Rises, Its Intentions are Unclear.” The Muslim Brotherhood certainly has played an unclear role in the revolt, because the revolt wasn’t organized by and didn’t involve the Brotherhood until a week into it.
The Obama administration is putting a lot of clout in Mubarak’s new VP Omar Suleiman as the transition figure who will guide Egypt to a multi-party political system of good governance practices. How much of the narrative below is participatory good governance? Suleiman seems like a US thug just as bad as Mubarak.
But, European countries are supporting Omar Suleiman for interim president of Egypt, even though he was the one who undertook the torture for Bush? Suleiman tossed some 30,000 suspected Muslim fundamentalists in prison, and accepted from the US CIA kidnapped suspected militants, whom he had tortured. Some were innocent. One, Sheikh Libi, was tortured into falsely confessing that Saddam Hussein was training al-Qaeda operatives, an allegation that went straight into Colin Powell’s speech to the UN justifying the Iraq War. Informed Comment
Can we stop liking dictators as long as they work for us? Please?
And then there’s the huge clusterfuck with the Obama administration’s negotiating team. The Obama administration is publicly trying to ease Mubarak out of power, saying Mubarak’s promise not to seek reelection in September should be taken in good faith, that the transition should begin now, inferring that the mitigation of his authoritarian regime will be systematic after that.
That’s hard to accomplish when Frank Wisner, the envoy dedicated to easing Mubarak out of power said Mubarak’s continued reign is “critical.”
“President Mubarak’s continued leadership is critical,” Wisner remarked, “it’s his opportunity to write his own legacy.” Slate
If Mubarak cared about his legacy to his people, he’s had 30 years to attempt it. It didn’t happen, and it’s not going to now. Frank Wisner, (depressingly) predictably, has been paid by the firm Patton Boggs with deep ties to the Egyptian state-industrial complex. A company that:
“openly boasts that it advises “the Egyptian military, the Egyptian Economic Development Agency, and has handled arbitrations and litigation on the [Mubarak] government’s behalf in Europe and the US”.” Independent
Great, another American VIP envoy who really operates as an Economic Hit Man, making a career out of selling out foreign peoples to bring home diplomacy money for American businesses in return for stabilizing domestically unpopular and repressive regimes. At least he’s straightforward with his intentions to sellout the revolt. President Obama and Secretary Clinton have been so contradictory it’s hard to know where they stand exactly: if the unknowns of regime change will ultimately be viewed as more favorable than the predictability of pro-US authoritarianism.
How will the US appear to an entire generation of people like this kid below, if the revolt fails to improve the government that will determine his entire life, in part because the US government and its business allies prefer oppressive stability abroad to equal opportunity, and so can’t quite get around to acting in favor of political change in Egypt?
It’s hard to measure soft power and a lot easier to read the balance sheets of our business deals with the Egyptian state elite. But reading the tea leaves, I have a feeling the generation, like this kid, will have more lasting power in the coming decades.
I don’t speak Arabic, but apparently he’s chanting for freedom and the removal of Mubarak. Great video.