January 28, 2011

The US Just Luuuuuvvvvvs Its Puppet Dictators

US silence on Tunisia proves it favors stability over democracy

As the uprising spread in Tunisia, the administration of President Barack Obama stayed largely silent until the day Mr. Ben Ali fled. That was when Mr. Obama issued a statement condemning the use of violence against peaceful protesters and applauding "the courage and dignity" of Tunisians. By then, it was too late: The U.S.-backed dictator was gone, and the Arab world chalked up another example of how Washington favors stability over democracy…

On Jan. 13, a day before Mr. Ben Ali's fall, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton lectured a group of Arab leaders assembled in Qatar on the danger of their countries "sinking into the sand" unless they overhaul their political systems and economies…

Ms. Clinton's words appeared prophetic the next day. But she neglected to mention that most of these leaders were U.S. allies who had heard the same rebukes from American officials many times.

In June 2005, then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the world that America would no longer support repressive regimes in the name of political expediency. "For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region -- and we achieved neither," she said at the American University in Cairo. "Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people."…

[T]he United States could have encouraged some genuine change in the region. But things fell apart when Washington confronted its first test: In late 2005, a small group of Egyptian judges challenged President Hosni Mubarak's authoritarian regime. The United States stood by silently while Mr. Mubarak crushed public protests, and the Arab world understood, correctly, that Washington had given up on democracy -- or had never meant it in the first place.

It is these contradictions between U.S. rhetoric and actions that lead people in the Middle East to distrust America and spin conspiracy theories about its motives. 


US favors stability over democracy in Egypt

Speaking on Al Jazeera English today, [State Department spokesman] Crowley addressed the massive protests seen in Egypt over the past few days. Crowley urged "restraint on both sides," which has been a boilerplate refrain for State Department spokesmen and their boss, Hillary Clinton, when addressing turmoil all over the world, from China to Israel and Palestine. Recently, during a January 7, 2011 press briefing, Crowley stated that the United States wanted "to see restraint on all sides" in Tunisia. A week later, Clinton released a statement concerning the "several weeks of demonstrations and popular unrest" in Tunisia which "condemn[ed] the violence and urge[d] restraint on all sides."

Unsurprisingly, however, the State Department did not urge protesters and rioters in Iran to show restraint in the wake of President Ahmadinejad's June 2009 re-election.

In his televised interview today, Crowley also repeatedly referred to the Egyptian government as "an ally and friend of the United States," as well as a "partner" and "stabilizing force in the region."

Yet, one thing Crowley said stuck out among the repetitions. At one point, he called the Mubarak government "an anchor of stability in the Middle East." This phrase is strikingly reminiscent of what President Jimmy Carter said thirty-three years earlier in regard to the unflinching U.S.
support, both vocal and material, of the Shah of Iran's brutal dictatorship…

As part of the peace deal, the United States has since given upwards of $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt each year. When asked about this massive amount of financial assistance, which funds the Egyptian security forces currently unleashed against protesters, Crowley answered: "Egypt is an ally and we rely on Egypt as an ally to be a stabilizing force in the region and that's exactly what they are. And we contribute in terms of military and security assistance to help Egypt because that has benefits across the region as a whole."

Clearly, these "benefits" include the violent suppression of Egyptian self-determination and democracy, as well as the buying of the Egyptian government's cooperation and acquiescence in imprisoning and assaulting 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza. 



Joe Biden defends Mubarak, insults protesters 


NewsHour host Jim Lehrer asked Biden if the time has "come for President Mubarak of Egypt to go?" Biden answered: "No. I think the time has come for President Mubarak to begin to move in the direction that – to be more responsive to some... of the needs of the people out there."

Asked if he would characterize Mubarak as a dictator Biden responded: “Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things. And he’s been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interest in the region, the Middle East peace efforts; the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing relationship with – with Israel. … I would not refer to him as a dictator.”

He also appeared to make one of the famous Biden gaffes, in comments that could be interpreted as questioning the legitimacy of protesters' demands. Monitor Cairo correspondent Kristen Chick, other reporters in the country, and activists have generally characterized the main calls of demonstrators as focused on freedom, democracy, an end to police torture, and a more committed government effort to address the poverty that aflicts millions of Egyptians.

Biden urged non-violence from both protesters and the government and said: "We’re encouraging the protesters to – as they assemble, do it peacefully. And we’re encouraging the government to act responsibly and – and to try to engage in a discussion as to what the legitimate claims being made are, if they are, and try to work them out." He also said: "I think that what we should continue to do is to encourage reasonable... accommodation and discussion to try to resolve peacefully and amicably the concerns and claims made by those who have taken to the street. And those that are legitimate should be responded to because the economic well-being and the stability of Egypt rests upon that middle class buying into the future of Egypt."

Egypt's protesters, if they're paying attention to Biden at all, will certainly be wondering which of their demands thus far have been illegitimate

The long-term consequences of supporting dictators

Juan Cole writes about the new domino theory.  Just as US officials once believed that the US needed to support repressive regimes in places like Vietnam and Indonesia to prevent communism from spreading, Cole writes that officials today believe the US must support repressive regimes in places like Tunisia, Algeria, and Uzbekistan to prevent Islamism from spreading.  But, Cole argues, this policy only serves to radicalize local populations and create long-term blowback for the US.

For instance, as a result of Algeria’s abrogated 1992 elections, some members of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) “were radicalized and formed an organization they called the Armed Islamic Group, which later became an al-Qaeda affiliate.”  Had the election results been allowed to stand, it is certainly possible that “the FIS might have evolved into a parliamentary, democratic party, as later happened to the Justice and Development Party of Turkey, the leaders of which had been Muslim fundamentalists in the 1990s.”

“Were oil-rich Algeria, a much bigger country than Tunisia, to become unstable, it would be a strategically more striking and even less predictable event.  Blame would have to be laid not just at the feet of Bouteflika and his corrupt cronies, but at those of his foreign backers [namely, the US and France], deeply knowledgeable (as the WikiLeaks cables indicate) but set in their policy ways.”
Cole’s conclusion: “Hard-line policies such as those of the Algerian generals or of Uzbekistan’s Karimov often radicalize economically desperate and oppressed populations.  As a result, U.S. backing has a significant probability of boomeranging sooner or later.  Elites, confident that they will retain such backing as long as there is an al-Qaeda cell anywhere on the planet, tend to overreach, plunging into cultures of corruption and self-enrichment so vast that they undermine economies, while producing poverty, unemployment, despair, and ultimately widespread public anger.”

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UPDATE: The great Stephen Zunes has a relevant article, US Continues to Back Egyptian Dictatorship in the Face of Pro-Democracy Uprising.

1 comment:

Roger Young said...

By exposing their hypocrisy, US rulers illustrate how ALL state systems are dictatorships. They’re either a dictatorship of one individual or a ruling oligarchy (Mubarak) or a dictatorship ruled through majority mob (Obama and democracy).