February 5, 2011

Under US Plan, Egyptian Protesters to Be Thrown Under the Bus?

UPDATE: The BBC is reporting, "US special envoy Frank Wisner has said that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak should remain in power to oversee a transition to democracy." As I've mentioned, this would give Mubarak eight more months in which to track down and eliminate those who have opposed him, destroy evidence, further enrich himself and his friends, and otherwise improve his own position.

(At right, the banner lists the protesters' demands.)

Yesterday I caught part of a radio program on NPR, "To the Point," featuring Robert Springborg, Prof. of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School, and Samer Shehata, Prof. of Arab Politics, Georgetown U., among others. Here's a rough transcript of remarks starting about 9 min. in:

Springborg: US negotiations are on track; its intent is to retain the Egyptian military in power, without Mubarak; but Frank Wisner's probably done what he was assigned to do, i.e. to come to terms with the military, because our intent is to retain the military in power. It would have been far better to open discussion with the opposition so as to legitimate them, but no doubt Pres. Obama instructed Wisner NOT to do that, and so as time goes by the opposition will become not only marginalized but they'll fear for their lives because they're being left in the lurch.

Q: But what about the idea of a civilian democracy?

Springborg: We didn't entertain that. To entertain that, Wisner would have had to publicly embraced the opposition, but he didn't do that. Ambassador Margaret Scoby held little sessions with them on the side but those were meaningless. The military will of course have some kind of civilian face, and so we saw Amr Moussa show up in Tahrir Square, who now when he's asked come elections can say he was there; and he's someone the military can live with. And he's Sec. General of the Arab League, and he's known to be someone who's had a bit of a tiff with Mubarak; so he's the most acceptable face that the military's going to allow.

Q: How can the Egyptian government get away with killing of the opposition?

Springborg: Just yesterday, security forces rounded up members of the Center for Legal Rights, from their office right on Tahrir Square, right out in the open, and they haven't been seen since. Two hours ago we were told, Mohamed Rashid has been arrested, passport taken, assets seized – a prominent, independent thinker with real integrity, opposed to some of the things the military's done. And if they can do this to these people, they can do it to anyone, and they will.

Q: Why would the US want the military to remain in power?

Springborg: Because they've done our bidding. We do not trust the pro-democracy protesters. What we see is fascist behavior by the military. Yet we are making it possible. We pledged continuation of foreign assistance to the military. Our Vice President has been speaking directly to the military, etc.; our lines of communication are entirely with them.
Next, Prof. Shehata agrees and adds his own thoughts, well worth listening to. (As of last night, you could hear the program online at the link above.) Springborg went into more detail in an article just brought to my attention, in Foreign Policy.

What Springborg and Shehata said rings only too true, given the otherwise unaccountable failure of the military to protect the protesters from Mubarak's hired thugs, among other things.

Re- the relationship between the US and the Egyptian military, see The Guardian.

So it seems El Baradei et al. never had a chance . . . and the US should probably offer asylum to the protesters, or at least to their leaders . . . but we won't, because that would be inconsistent with our denial of the truth, that we threw them – and their aspirations for democracy – under the bus. Does the US imagine that oppressed peoples of the world won't notice?

Meanwhile, the US cables published by Wikileaks say, "Egypt's military is in decline"; "sole criteria for promotion is loyalty"; "fire officers it perceives as being 'too competent.'"

Note that the US government is, from an Assange-ist p.o.v., conspiring with the Egyptian military insofar as both authorities are saying one thing to their people and doing something else.

One more thing: this does not mean I think it's hopeless to continue to support efforts toward democracy. One must of course know what one's up against; I believe many of the protesters do.

Nothing is inevitable, except defeat for those who give up without a fight. – "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" (1961), script by Irwin Allen and Charles Bennett.

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