Some people defend President Obama from criticisms about Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship and crackdown on protesters who are trying to bring down his government with comments like this one that I read on the Facebook page for Democracy Now!: “It is easy to criticize Obama, but how easy is it to do his job? Egypt has been a critical US ally. I agree we need more support for the rebels, but at least we're not helping gun them down!”
There is so much wrong with this statement.
The first line of apologetics is that the president’s job is not “easy.” As if it is hard to take a firm and principled stand against a brutal dictator who relies on our billions of dollars in aid to maintain his rule and to protect our interests in the region.
The second line is equally as dubious. What about Egypt’s alliance has been “critical” for us? Are they helping us spread justice and democracy and liberation throughout the region? Absolutely not.
In 1971, Egypt, under President Anwar Sadat, offered Israel “peace.”
Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir said Israel would not return to the pre-1967 borders.
This happens quite a bit.
In fact, in the 1980s Israel attacked Lebanon and killed around 20,000 people in order to stop the PLO’s “peace offensive.”
The Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 has also been rejected by Israel.
As was the 2003 Geneva Accord.
And the 2003 offer from Iran.
But in 1973 Israel was nearly defeated by Egypt in the Yom Kippur War. When Egypt proved itself a deterrent to Israel then all of a sudden Israel became interested in peace and gave up the Sinai.
This peace agreement was solidified by the US by offering billions of dollars in aid to keep the unpopular “peace.” This nearly $1.5 billion a year in taxpayer aid is used to finance the military dictatorship.
And this brings us to the third line of defense of the apologist on the Democracy Now! Facebook page: we are helping them gun them down.
We finance the dictatorship. And Mubarak uses that money to buy our weapons. Quid pro quo. So, yeah we are helping Mubarak crack down on protesters.
And this is not the only historical example of where our support was critical in the crimes being committed.
Shortly after the 2003 Iraq War the Defense Department compiled a list of crimes against Saddam Hussein. Interestingly enough all the crimes were conducted at a time of US support or acceptance. The crimes of the 1980s came under US support. The July 1982 Dujail Massacre that Saddam was executed for followed the US removing Iraq from the list of states that support international terrorism in February 1982. The Halabja incident where he “gassed his own people” was initially blamed on Iran. Back in 1975 the US State Department held a meeting where it was noted that Saddam was “ruthless” and in talking about his massacre against Kurds—what Henry Kissinger called the “Kurdish thing”—we said his response was to be expected. The 1991 uprisings which followed former President George HW Bush’s incitement were put down with force while the US military sat by and did nothing. The excuse was we didn’t want the uprising to get out of our control, much like the Egyptian revolution is, and the Tunisian one did. Clearly Saddam only felt comfortable committing his atrocities as long as he had the green light from Washington.
Following the genocide in East Timor by the hands of Indonesia—who was supported and armed by the US—a truth-finding commission was conducted where it found that US "political and military support were fundamental to the Indonesian invasion and occupation" of East Timor from 1975 to 1999.
Or what about when Israel attempted to sell weapons to China? Former President George W Bush balked and Israel not only backed down and apologized, “Israel promised to allow the Pentagon to review future arms sales to prevent such disputes.”
The point being that Washington is in control of its subordinates. President Obama could end Mubarak’s rule and the subsequent attacks his “supporters” (i.e. police and military personnel in civilian’s clothes) are unleashing on the anti-Mubarak protesters at any time. But just as Bush Sr. condoned Saddam’s crushing of the 1991 uprising to ensure things didn’t get out of our control, so is Obama condoning this repression to block democracy from spreading to the Middle East. The appearance of democracy is fine for our leaders so long as it is contained, but the US has no interest in seeing Egypt take an independent path that might upset the formers position of power in the energy-rich region.