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Obama’s Dark Theatrics

by PAUL GOTTINGER

The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate himself, Obama, weighed in on the human rights abuses being carried out by the U.S. trained and funded General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Egypt on August 23 saying “We care deeply about the Egyptian people,” and “We deplore violence against civilians.” These statements came after a vicious attack on protestors on August 14 that Human Rights Watch called, “most serious incident of mass unlawful killings in modern Egyptian history.”

The day of the Egyptian security forces attack on the non-violent protestors John Kerry did his best to conjure up indignation in response to the events. In the stiff and passionless manner of a marionette, which is convincing only in that he is “deeply concerned” with not forgetting his lines, he stated, “The violence is deplorable.”

So one would imagine this peacenik president who is deeply troubled by the violence in Egypt would unleash the hoards of humanitarians to protect the Egyptian civilians he cares so much about. But instead Obama stated, “America cannot determine the future of Egypt. That’s a task for [Egyptians].”  

Then on August 19 Chuck Hagel changed the tone slightly (he’s the Secretary of Defense, so he has to sound tough) by focusing on America’s impotence in regards to Egypt. He stated, “[The U.S.’] ability to influence the outcome in Egypt is limited” and that “All nations are limited in their influence in another nation’s internal issues”.

On August 22 the LA Times echoed much the same stating, “Obama’s inability to ease the crisis reflects America’s diminished ability to influence political outcomes in [Egypt].”

The media continued the theme of failing U.S. influence in Egypt by focusing on the fact that the three richest monarchies in the gulf pledged $12 billion in cash and loans to Egypt. The Wall Street Journal wrote, ‘The U.S.’s closest Middle East allies undercut American policy in Egypt by encouraging the military to confront the Muslim Brotherhood rather than reconcile, U.S. and Arab officials said.’

The idea we’re supposed to have about Obama’s policy towards Egypt couldn’t be clearer: Obama would really love to stop all that awful violence in Egypt, but unfortunately America just isn’t powerful enough to save everyone. Come on, Obama isn’t superman.

The consistency with which the mainstream media adhered to this message demonstrates the strict discipline the major newspapers maintain in their role as ideological managers.

But just as the population of most of the planet was about to collectively erupt in simultaneous celebration at the end of American military hegemony, Obama stated he was considering a military strike on Syria.

We’re supposed to swallow that the situation in Egypt is beyond the realm of American power, but Syria, where the U.S. has significantly less influence, is within the capabilities of the U.S.

Apparently the forecast of the decline of American power from the mainstream media was a bit premature. Perhaps there is a lesson here: whatever the mainstream media is saying about U.S. foreign policy, you can be almost certain it’s not true.

However, it is true that U.S. power has been in decline since the end of World War II when it was at its most powerful, but the U.S. still is far and away the most powerful country in the world. This will likely be the case for a long time to come.

In order to understand the cynicism of Obama’s rhetoric, one must be familiar with the U.S.’ long record of support for brutal dictators with awful human rights records. This is especially the case in Egypt where the U.S. supported Anwar El Sadat beginning in the early 1970s, and also supported his successor Hosni Mubarak until nearly the end of the 2011 protests.

If the Peace Laureate president had any sincerity with regards to stopping the human rights abuses in Egypt he could pressure the military government there. With Egypt’s small economy (a GDP of around 260 billion dollars) the military government could be easily bought, or enticed with a long stalled IMF deal and debt forgiveness. This is especially true because the Egyptian economy has suffered serious unemployment and inflation for years.

Even if the U.S. didn’t want to spend a dime on Egypt it could take Turkey’s suggestion and bring the issue of violence against civilians to the UN Security Council and Arab League with the hopes of influencing the military government.

The U.S. could also assert its influence on its close allies the Gulf States and Israel. But the U.S. is fine with the military government in Egypt and allows the aid from the Gulf States to reach Egypt.

Another instructive element to the political crisis in Egypt was the Obama administration’s fake attempts to resolve the situation diplomatically.

The New York Times reported that Chuck Hagel made, “17 personal phone calls” to the Egyptian military government, but they “failed to forestall” the crisis. Perhaps Hagel would have had more luck if he tried contacting the General el-Sisi on Facebook.

The next act in the made for New York Times special was the diplomatic trip of John McCain and Lindsey Graham to Egypt on behalf of Obama. The New York Times reports Graham spoke to John McCain about General el-Sisi saying, “If this guy’s voice is indicative of the attitude, there’s no pulling out of this thing.”

This conjures up the image of the Egyptian military commander as a runaway train and all the bros from Washington are pulling as hard as they can on the break, but somehow the general is just too strong for them.

You see it’s imperative that the media portray the U.S. as powerless to stop the violence of dictators the U.S. likes. However, when the U.S. doesn’t care for the leader, be they democratically elected like Hamas in 2006, or Chavez in 2002, or a dictator like Saddam, Qaddafi, or Assad, then the U.S. is capable of anything, usually devastating violence.

Just when you think there is not a sensible member of the U.S. government John McCain stated that he recommending the U.S. cut aid to Egypt. But the reason he gave for why he recommended this was telling. He said, “[the U.S.] has no credibility. “We know that the administration called the Egyptians and said, ‘look, if you [have] a coup, we’re going to cut off aid because that’s the law.’ We have to comply with the law. And … this administration did not do that after threatening to do so.”

McCain’s reasoning for supporting a cut to aid has nothing to do with protecting human rights in Egypt, but is solely about American credibility. The logic is this: if the U.S. makes threats, we have to follow threw with them. This is the same logic used when raising a child, which tells us much about how the U.S. views its relationship to Egypt and much of the rest of the world.

When we put aside the dark theatrics of the Obama administration’s rhetoric it is obscenely obvious that el-Sisi and the Egyptian military have very close connections to the U.S. and serve U.S interests.

For decades the Egyptian leaders have played an important role for the U.S. by allowing U.S./Israel to act with impunity against the Palestinians.

The closeness of the ties between the Egyptian military and the U.S. is demonstrated by the fact that General el-Sisi spent a year at the Army War College in Pennsylvania in 2006. The same Army War College trains 500-1000 Egyptian military officers every year.

Since 1979 Egypt has received the 2nd most bilateral aid behind only Israel totaling 68 billion dollars. The U.S. buys relationships with the militaries of countries like Egypt to insure influence.

This is why Obama has allowed and will continue to allow the human right abuses to continue in Egypt. Despite his pretty talk and composed outrage, he actually is just fine with protestors being gunned down in the street, the brutal repression of a political party (Muslim Brotherhood), the prevention of freedom of speech, and the destruction of Egypt’s brief experiment with democracy (which resulted from the sacrifice of 800 hundred lives with 6,000 injured and 12,000 hauled before military courts).

Obama is A okay with military curfews and a state of emergency. Obama has no problem with attacks on Christian churches, attacks on journalists, and “Nightmare scenes that Egyptians could never have imagined could take place in [their] country.” Obama sees nothing wrong with tear gas being fired into hospitals, and Islamists being portrayed as terrorists or even animals.

Obama has no problem with any of this because he knows he can count on el-Sisi to follow U.S. orders. Egyptian civil society’s destruction simply makes controlling the country easier for the U.S.

Noam Chomsky stated in the Turkish paper Yeni Safak, that ‘the reserved statements made by the European Union, Israel, and the United States show that they all had expected the events to take place in Egypt, and even planned for them.’

Whether or not the U.S. knew about the military coup ahead of time the U.S. seems to be following a predictable PR plan.

1. The Obama administration strongly condemns the violence and calls for a return to democracy. 2. There is a semantic battle waged over the whether or not to classify the events as a coup. 3. When it looks bad to support a thug overtly, you engage in superficial detachment from the leader of the coup. (This is the canceling of the joint military operations) 4.Then if necessary, as in the 2009 coup to the somewhat progressive Manuel Zelaya in Honduras, cut some amount of aid as a slap on the wrist, but then quietly restore it later.

Obama’s policies are all predictable. It’s the same story once again: the U.S. destroys yet another country. The revolution in Egypt is back at square one. Morsi is detained and Mubarak has been released from prison. The U.S. has done its best to destroy the progress of the Arab Spring.

But more protests are being called for in Egypt on Friday, August 30. The question is can Egypt regain the spirit of the January 25 revolution and continue to fight for basic rights? Perhaps for us as Americans the more important question is how much longer will Americans tolerate the dark theatrics of our government’s foreign policy? When we witness the immense bravery of the Egyptians challenging their government and getting massacred don’t we have a responsibility to challenge our government when the risks for us are far less? As Americans we must work to protect victims of U.S. violence, and the best way for us to do that is to get off the Internet and get in the street.

Paul Gottinger is a writer from Madison, WI where he edits whiterosereader.org.  He can be reached at paul.gottinger@gmail.com

 

Paul Gottinger is a journalist based in Madison, WI whose work focuses on the Middle East. He can be reached via Twitter @paulgottinger or email: paul.gottinger@gmail.com

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