Tunisia, Lebanon, and now Egypt?
As I type Egyptians are taking to the streets to demand reform and the end of the Mubarak regime. And they are continuing to do so in ever greater numbers despite ever more desperate measures to end the unrest, including a curfew, shutting down the Internet, and dismissing the entire upper government … with the exception of Mubarak of course. And the flames of unrest have just been stoked by Wikileaks revealing cables which detail just how much torture and repression goes on in Egypt. Turns out, there’s been a lot of torture in Egypt.
There’s also unrest in a lot of other nations as well. There are protests in Jordan, Pakistan, and Yemen. This all started with the unexpected ouster of two other long time US satraps in the region, the governments of Lebanon and Tunisia. Egypt is the USA’s top Arab ally though, and the linchpin to American foreign policy in the Middle East. In other words, this is a really big deal, a potential game changer for US foreign policy. It could easily end up being more important than the Iranian revolution … or the collapse of the Soviet Union. Or both combined.
And how is the USA responding to this evolving crisis? Well, badly. For one thing of course the USA was the one that has kept Mubarak in power since 1981, giving him guns and money. In fact Egypt is the USA’s number two recipient of “foreign aid” after Israel. And as Wikileaks revealed, while publicly the USA made noises about reform and torture in Egypt, privately we turned a blind eye to it. And a lot of the weapons and tear gas used by the Egyptian police are USA made, this isn’t helping our image in the region.
And when it comes to our current response to the crisis, boy, talking about putting your foot in your mouth diplomatically speaking. Vice President Biden made the claim that Mubarak was no dictator and he shouldn’t step down. Right, a general who has stayed in power for over 30 years isn’t a dictator. Meanwhile the State Department apparently stated, at least one spokesman did, that democracy in Egypt threatens to “destabilize” the region, and the USA doesn’t want that. By destabilize, he means that the US might very well lose influence and allies if Arabs were allowed to vote in governments of their choice.
How is this all going to play out? Who knows. It’s possible we will just see horrible repression as the government starts to fire on crowds and round people up en mass. It’s possible we are seeing the start of a global revolution. The reality will probably fall somewhere in between. I recommend that people watch the protests on the news, this is such a sudden and breaking story that the mainstream media doesn’t have time to massage it, and there are interviews and scenes from the streets of Cairo that are very revealing. It brought tears to my eyes watching it, a real revolution is under way in Egypt, people taking to the streets to demand their country back.
If this does end up blowing up in the USA’s face and results in anti-US regimes coming to power in Egypt and elsewhere, we have only Washington and decades of misguided foreign policy in the Middle East to blame. Under President Eisenhower Americans were loved by Arabs, and rightfully so. Since then Washington has sold us out to the right wing Israeli lobby, the military industrial complex, and the oil companies. And the man in the White House now may be the biggest sell out to business interests in US history, I fear he may not be the man to handle this situation.
Time will tell, for now I will be watching developments in Egypt closely. This might be quite a ride.
(The above image of protesters and the army in the streets of Cairo is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, is central to illustrating the post, and its use here in no way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. Credit and copyright: AFP. I’m sorry this post is a bit rough, it’s a really important breaking story and I wanted to start writing about it as it develops.)