Egypt’s Revolution: Obama Backing Regime Change? –
Wherein our senior editor offers his astute observations on the dramatic developments in the Middle East
By Stephen Lendman [print_link]
In July 2003, a USAF Institute for National Security Studies report titled, “Egypt as a Failing State: Implications for US National Security” suggested “Mubarak’s traditionally autocratic and oppressive short-term fixes” weren’t working. As a result, “the possibility of unrest is real; with the correct confluence of domestic, regional, and international events, Egypt can quickly be added to the list of failed states….This paper (thus) contends that (the appearance of) democracy is a security imperative for the post-9/11 world.”
In its July/August 2010 Failed States Index 2010, ForeignPolicy (FP) ranked nations under five categories: critical, in danger, borderline, stable and most stable. Ranked 49th among 177 countries evaluated, FP called Egypt a failed state “in danger.” It scored lowest in three “delegitimization” categories because of:
– endemic corruption, including ruling elite profiteering;
– human rights violations; and
– an accumulation of “grievances,” including poverty and unemployment among others.
Not least of its woes is an aging, ill, despotic ruler. Washington perhaps wants the appearance of a kinder, gentler replacement, the pretense of change continuing old policies. If so, it won’t be the first time as a previous article explained, accessed through the following link:
Changed Washington Rhetoric
On January 30, Reuters said “Obama voiced support for an ‘orderly transition’ in Egypt that is responsive to the aspirations of Egyptians in phone calls with foreign leaders, the White House said on Sunday.”
His rhetoric mentioned opposing violence, showing restraint, supporting universal rights, peaceful assembly and association, and free speech, what, in fact, Washington disdains globally, including at home.
Also on January 30, New York Times writer Mark Landler headlined, “Clinton Calls for ‘Orderly Transition’ in Egypt,” saying:
She “called (for) a more politically open Egypt, stopping short of telling (Mubarak) to step down but clearly laying the groundwork for his departure.” In fact, she suggested Washington wants him out. He’ll get time to go, and aid will continue, despite January 28 White House comments saying it was under review…In its January 28 editorial headlined “Washington and Mr. Mubarak,” The Times suggested support for regime change, calling him “arrogan(t) and tone-deaf, (meeting) spiraling protests with spiraling levels of force and repression, (as well as showing) more….weakness than strength (by) shut(ting) down Internet access and cellphone service.”
The Times has a longstanding history of supporting wealth, power, and imperial interests. It’s also Washington’s lead voice, so excoriating Mubarak suggests official administration policy, meaning his time has passed – gracefully if cooperative, violently if not, but one way or other he’s gone.
On January 29, Haaretz News Agencies headlined “Sacking Egyptian ministers not enough, US State Department says,” quoting spokesman PJ Crowley saying:
“The Egyptian government can’t reshuffle the deck and then stand pat. President Mubarak’s words pledging reform must be followed by action,” stopping short of endorsing his departure but signaling that resolution if he hasn’t left in due course.
Jimmy Carter teaches Sunday School at Marantha Baptist Church, Plains, GA. On January 30, he told parishioners and guests, Mubarak “will have to leave. This is the most profound situation in the Middle East since I left office,” suggesting, of course, Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution ousting Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, replacing him with an Islamic republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Knomeini.
On January 31, Al Jazeera headlined, “Mubarak swears in new government,” saying:
“Three former senior officers are included in the line-up, suggesting a strong security presence in the new government.”
Appointments included Mahmoud Wagdi as new interior minister. A retired police general, he previously headed Cairo’s criminal investigations department and state prisons. A new deputy prime minister, finance minister and trade minister were also named.
Retaining their posts were Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Fheit and Defense Minister General Mohamed Hussein Tantawi.
Protesters were unimpressed, AFP reporting they’ll: ”accept no change other than Mubarak’s departure. We want a complete change of government (under) a civilian authority,” they demanded.
Egyptian Security Forces Back on Streets
Police and Central Security Forces (CSF) are again deployed after letting army troops alone patrol streets. Evidence, in fact, suggested they were involved in looting, robberies, jailbreaks, violence, and break-ins into upscale neighborhoods to create instability, trying to blame protesters and undermine Mubarak’s regime. Reportedly, he instructed military troops to shoot to kill if necessary. So far, they’ve shown restraint.
On January 31, Al Jazeera headlined, “Egypt protesters increase pressure,” saying:
Protesters called for massive Tuesday demonstrations. “The so-called April 6 Movement said it plans to have more than a million people” in Cairo streets “as anti-goverment sentiment reaches a fever pitch.”
Thousands were back out Monday. “Protesters say they’ll stay (there) as long as Mubarak (remains) in power.” They’re unimpressed with new appointments and pledges, calling them “too little, too late.”
On January 31, a Lebanon Daily Star editorial titled, “Egypt’s battle requires focus” said:
“….the rest of the world should stay out of the drama that is unfolding in the land of the Nile, and avoid provoking the situation. Decades of double standards based on support for anti-democratic regimes, under the pretext of security, cannot be erased with breathless exclamations of support for ‘the people.’ “
Czech writer Milan Kudera once said “The struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”
Global despots are puppets taking orders from Washington, suppressing their people as directed. For generations, America waged war on democracy and truth at home and abroad. After WW II, it was global, today enforced with high-tech military power able to strike targets anywhere with overwhelming force in short order, or deploy quickly on homeland streets to preserve order or crush dissent.
Rhetoric aside, morality, good intentions, high-mindedness, and freedom aren’t part of America’s agenda – just money power, military strength and global dominance. It’s been that way for decades.
HL Mencken on America’s Sham Democracy
In 1926, acerbic political critic HL Mencken’s “Notes on Democracy” called it farcical, excoriating “mobmen” who extol it while supporting tyrants, offering thoughts like:
- “What is worth knowing he doesn’t know and doesn’t want to know; what he knows is not true. The cardinal articles of his credo are the intentions of mountebanks; his heros are mainly scoundrels.”
- “The average American doesn’t want to be free. He simply wants to be safe.”
- “I have alluded somewhat vaguely to the merits of democracy. One of them is quite obvious: it is, perhaps, the most charming form of government ever devised by man. The reason is not far to seek. It is based upon propositions that are palpably not true – and what is not true, as everyone knows, is always immensely more fascinating and satisfying to the vast majority of men than what is true. Truth has a harshness that alarms them….”
Irreverent, refreshingly politically incorrect, and as relevant now as then, he eviscerated a sacred cow, with comments like “Shall we make the world safe for democracy?” To the contrary, “The world should be made safe from democracy!” – meaning the bogus kind America espouses.
He accused politicians of “shov(ing)” “plain people” into war, and will “shove (them) into the next one.”
“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
“The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face (to) rule it.”
Mencken believed in liberty. Today he’d excoriate Washington for denying it to so many. Also its hypocrisy, with comments like “It is the theory of all modern civilized (US-type) governments that they protect and foster the liberty of the citizen; it is the practice of all of them to limit its exercise, and sometimes very narrowly.”
He also called (US-style) governance “organized exploitation,” preaching high-mindedness while practicing state terrorism, brutishness, intolerance, and authoritarian control, globally today like Mencken couldn’t have imagined.
Prospects Ahead for Egypt
Below are variations on Stratfor founder George Friedman’s four possible outcomes:
(1) Mubarak achieves stability and survives, or more likely, a senior military official or cabal replaces him.
(2) ElBaradei or someone like him becomes president, offering a facade of democracy.
(3) The Muslim Brotherhood is empowered with a moderate Islamist agenda, posing no threat to dominant Western interests, cooperating instead to keep power.
(4) Egypt becomes chaotic. Elections produce gridlock. No viable candidate emerges. Instability continues.
Odds are Mubarak will leave, and stability will return under a new regime, very much subservient to Washington like all other global despots wanting to go along to get along, or put another way – survive long enough to enjoy power and related privileges.
A Final Comment
T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) once promised Arabs independence and democracy for their support in WW I. They’re still waiting.
Senior TGP Editor Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
Revolutionary Change in Egypt: Internal or Made in USA? – by Stephen Lendman
US imperial policy includes regime change, affecting foes as well as no longer useful friends. Past targets included former Philippines leader Ferdinand Marcos, Iran’s Shah (Mohammad Reza Pahlavi), and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, among others. According to some reports, Mubarak is next – aging, damaged and expendable.
George Friedman runs Stratfor, a private global intelligence service. On January 29, he issued a special Egypt report, saying:
On January 29, “Egypt’s internal security forces (including Central Security Forces anti-riot paramilitaries) were glaringly absent” after confronting protesters forcefully for several days. Army personnel replaced them. Demonstrators welcomed them.
“There is more (going on) than meets the eye.” While media reports focus on reform, democracy and human rights, “revolutions, including this one, are made up of many more actors than (Facebook and Twitter) liberal voices….” Some are, in fact, suspect, using social network sites for other than purported reasons.
Like Iran’s 1979 revolution, “the ideology and composition of protesters can wind up having very little to do with the” behind the scenes political forces gaining power. Egypt’s military may be preparing to seize it. Former air force chief/civil aviation minister Ahmed Shafiq is new prime minister, tasked with forming a new government, and intelligence head Omar Suleiman is Egypt’s first ever vice president under Mubarak, effectively second in command.
Moreover, Defense Minister Field Marshall Mohammed Hussein Tantawi “returned to Cairo after a week of intense discussions with senior US officials.” He heads the Republican Guard, responsible for defending major government and strategic institutions, the symbols of entrenched power. Also back is Lt. General Sami Annan. Both men with others “are likely managing the political process behind the scenes.”
As a result, expect more political changes, military commanders apparently willing to give Mubarak time to leave gracefully, but not much as unrest won’t subside until he’s gone.
Egypt’s military is key as “guarantor of regime stability.” It’s never “relinquished its rights to the state” no matter who’s president, made easier with popular support, unlike the hated police. But it’s not a monolithic force, nor can it shake its history of mid-level commanders like Gamal Abdel Nasser seizing power. In 1981, Islamists and junior officers assassinated Anwar Sadat, elevating Mubarak to the presidency.
“The history of the modern Egyptian republic haunts Egypt’s generals today. Though long suppressed, an Islamist strand exists amongst the junior ranks of Egypt’s modern military.” It could include “a cabal of colonels,” seeing a chance to seize power to address longstanding grievances, especially regarding US and Israeli policies, or perhaps promise change but maintain continuity.
So far, no coup d’etat signs have emerged. While Egypt’s military remains disciplined under a chain of command, “those trying to manage the crisis from the top cannot forget” their country’s history of successful mid-level commander coups. Given Egypt’s growing instability, another one is possible.
Washington and Israel are maneuvering for control. Egypt’s fate, believes Friedman, “lies in the ability of the military to not only manage the streets and the politicians, but also itself.”
He also said plainclothes Egyptian security forces are destroying public property, media reports blaming it on protesters. It also bears repeating – an overt police presence is absent, and military forces aren’t stopping demonstrations or enforcing curfews, appearing to back (or at least not oppose) dissident groups instead.
Omar Suleiman’s Role
On January 29, New Yorker writer Jane Mayer headlined, “Who is Omar Suleiman? saying:
Well-known in Washington, he’s poised to become president after Mubarak. As intelligence chief, he was CIA’s “point man in Egypt for renditions,” the agency’s snatch and grab policy against “terror suspects from around the world,” sending many to Egypt, perhaps to disappear as Marjorie Cohn explained in her book “Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law,” quoting a former CIA agent saying:
“If you want a serious interrogation, you send a prisoner to Jordan. If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear (after torture and interrogation) – never to see them again – you send them to Egypt,” a place of no return for many, Suleiman in charge as impresario.
America Backing Regime Change?
On January 28, London Telegraph writers Tim Ross, Matthew Moore and Steven Swinford headlined, “Egypt protests: America’s secret backing for rebel leaders behind uprising,” saying:
For the past three years, regime change plans have been ongoing, according to WikiLeaks released documents, accessed through the following link:
Dated February 2008 from the US Cairo embassy to Washington, they “disclose the extent of American support for” Mubarak opponents, saying “Egyptians need to replace the current regime with (the appearance of) a parliamentary democracy. Under undisclosed US control, of course, “several opposition forces – including the Wafd, Nasserite, Marama and Tagammu parties, and the Muslim brotherhood, Kifaya and Revolutionary Socialist movements – have agreed to support an unwritten plan for a transition to (a new order), involving a weakened presidency and an empowered prime minister and parliament, before the scheduled (September) 2011 presidential elections.”
Though previously supporting Mubarak, the documents show US supporting backing forces while publicly praising him as an important ally. They also revealed regular contact with opponents throughout 2008 and 2009, planning regime change, but not what protesters have in mind.
In June 2006, the National Security Network (NSN) was established “to revitalize America’s national security policy (by) developing innovative national security solutions (to counter) emerging threats….”
Arab populations have long heard variations on Washington’s theme, repeated in a NSN January 27 press release, saying: “The Obama administration seeks to encourage political reforms without destabilizing the region.”
In other words, democracy is messy and unreliable. Dictatorships are much easier to control, and when one despots proves unreliable or outlives his usefulness, replace him with another, perhaps smoothed by transitional authority.
Mubarak’s time has passed. Business as usual is planned. Democratic rhetoric masks it, the same kind US audiences hear from leaders flouting it at home and abroad.
Comments on The Angry Arab News Service
Edited by Professor As’ad AbuKhalil, it provides daily commentaries on regional events. On January 29, it cited “Comrade Joseph” saying:
“I am very worried that the Americans have taken over the direction of the Egyptian revolution. Let us remember that all possible candidates to replace Mubarak (are US) handpicked….including (ElBaradei) as well as Army chief of staff Anan, or anyone else for that matter. Obama has proven once more that” America is the Arab world’s strongest anti-democracy ally.
As a result, Arabs must be vigilant and “very cautious (about) what happens next. (America) wants to mortgage the freedom of all Arabs” to secure Western and Israeli interests.
Responding, AbuKhalil expressed less concern, saying: “there is (only) so much that the US can do to control the situation.” However, he sees a “US coup at the top” because America and Israel want regime continuity without Mubarak. What follows depends on “how hard (Egyptians) press. (He) think(s) that they won’t be fooled, even if the process of change take(s) a while, a year or more.”
However events play out, they face formidable Washington and Tel Aviv adversaries, waging wars to solidify power, especially in strategically important places.
A Final Comment
Unless America plans war or wants foreign adversaries vilified, rarely ever do US media report overseas news, especially like Middle East uprisings. Notably, little about Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen or Algeria was covered. But Egypt’s turmoil is main-featured on television and in print. Moreover, coverage includes unheard of pro-opposition views, meaning official Washington supports them.
In addition, though protesters want Mubarak out, anti-American signs aren’t evident or reports of Washington’s longstanding pernicious influence. Reform, however, requires ending it. Otherwise, new faces will continue old policies leaving deep-rooted hardships unaddressed.
In other words, everything will change but stay the same. Regional turmoil, especially Egypt’s, will only reshuffle the deck to look different when, in fact, neoliberal exploitation will persist, covert forces well positioned to assure it.
Moreover, skilled Western and regional media will keep US and foreign audiences fooled, assuring support for new Washington favorites thought different from old ones, when, in fact, they’re the same.
STEPHEN LENDMAN lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
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