On the Obama administration’s opposition to democracy in Egypt
Four months after assuming office Obama visited Cairo to give a much heralded speech. In the speech Obama told the Arab and Iranian people, “We will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.” While in Cairo, Obama was asked if he thought that Hosni Mubarak was an “autocrat”. Obama responded saying that he thought that Mubarak was a, “force for stability and good.”1
One year after Obama’s speech in Cairo, protesters filled Cairo’s Tahrir Square, demanding an end to the brutal dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. After holding off police attacks the protesters found tear gas canisters that read “Made in the USA”. Waving them around the protesters chanted, “We have extended our hand, why do you clench your fist?”2
This clever denouncement of the hypocrisy rampant in Obama’s Cairo speech rang true in Egyptian society in many ways. It was well known that Mubarak’s thugs were fully funded by the United States government, which had given the Egyptian government $28 billion since 1975.3 The money was given to the Mubarak regime so that it could ruthlessly quell dissent. The Mubarak regime created a vast security apparatus headed by Mubarak’s deputy Omar Suleiman. When it became clear to the Obama administration that the Mubarak regime was about to fall, the Obama administration had the nerve to suggest that Omar Suleiman take the helm, as if this was somehow better than Mubarak as ruler. After the Mubarak regime was defeated, the military stepped in to supposedly rule over a transition period. Given the numerous accounts of the military’s kidnappings and torturing of Egyptian protesters during the uprising, there should have been no illusions about the Egyptian military’s plans. The Egyptian military was being fully funded by the U.S. government, a fact which Noam Chomsky and other serious commentators on the region pointed out very much contradicted Obama’s claims that he supported democratic rule in Egypt. Because of these glaring contradictions the Obama administration decided in late 2011 to suspend military aid to Egypt. Then, on March 28th 2012, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton announced that aid to Egypt was to resume as normal. In other words, the Egyptian military would once again begin to receive $1.3 billion annually.4 So when Hilary Clinton visited the newly elected Egyptian president just last Friday, her claim that she supports a “democratic transition” in Egypt should be laughed off. We know what the U.S. government supports in Egypt, it’s what they’ve been supporting since their invasion of Egypt in 1956. They want an authoritarian regime that will implement neo-liberal policies to the detriment of its population, and that will help ensure Israeli hegemony in the Middle East. Whether or not the Egyptian people can resist the imperialism of the U.S. government remains to be seen.
- 1. “As Obama Begins Trip, Arabs Want Israeli Gesture." The New York Times. Web. 16 July 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/04/world/middleeast/04saudi.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all>.
- 2. Prashad, Vijay. Arab Spring, Libyan Winter. Edinburgh, Oakland, Baltimore: AK Press, 2012.
- 3. "Egypt." U.S. Department of State. Web. 16 July 2012. <http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5309.htm>.
- 4. "U.S. approves Egypt military aid despite rights fears." Reuters. Web. 16 July 2012. <http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/23/us-egypt-usa-aid-idUSBRE82M0UG20120323>.