Report From Egypt
by Eric Margolis: Dateline:
CAIRO – Tahrir
Square, epicenter of the earthquake that ousted Egypt’s western-backed
dictator, Husni Mubarak, is quiet – for the moment.
speakers, and scruffy youngsters mill about. But the by now world-famous
square has a forlorn, leftover look, with more street people than
revolutionaries. But violence still crackles like static electricity.
notoriously brutal, heavily armed security police and their armored
vehicles are massed nearby. In the ancient Khan al-Khalili Bazaar,
I saw vanloads of government thugs waiting to attack demonstrators.
Our film team, was almost arrested when we began taking photos.
at Tahrir showed me canisters of expended tear gas that caused some
deaths and many casualties. Whether they were the usual anti-riot
CS gas, or the six times stronger, carcinogenic CR that can kill
or blind, I could not tell. But all the canisters were marked, "Made
in the USA" and everyone knew it.
Clinton was gushing about democracy in Egypt, shipments of US made
anti-riot gear, including truncheons, gas, and rubber bullets, are
being airlifted in from the US. At the same time, the US was providing
money and weapons to Uzbekistan, one of the world’s worst human
State Department appears to be timidly backing Egypt’s revolution,
at least in word. But the real power in US foreign policy, the Pentagon,
is standing firmly behind Egypt’s 500,000-man armed forces.
I just observed
Egypt go to the polls in a series of complex parliamentary elections.
The vote was remarkably clean and fair, a triumph for all Egyptians.
Two more regional
polls are yet to be held, but the outcome is clear. The Muslim Brotherhood
and its Islamic ally,Wasat, won over 40% of the vote. The Salafist
al-Nur Party, which seeks a state run under Islamic law, won 24%.
The secular Egyptian Bloc won only 13.4%.
All the preppy,
upscale, youth armed with cell phones and Blackberries first seen
in Tahrir that became the darlings of the western media vanished.
Revolutions are made by political and economic issues, not social
want democracy and parliamentary government, as do people across
the Arab world. They also appear to want a society that follows
the tenets of Islam. How far these are to go remains uncertain.
Egypt’s mighty military-security establishment, nearly 900,000-strong,
and its western backers do not: they are fighting a bitter action
to slow down the development of real democracy and to safeguard
their extensive privileges and power.
Egypt’s military gets $1.3billion in US funds and arms each year.
The real figure is much higher when millions more in "black"
money from CIA and the Pentagon is added as well as no-charge arms
and munitions transfers – in addition to $250 million in annual
the 1978 Camp David Accords, the US has paid Egypt some $2 billion
annually not to confront Israel. Egypt and Israel (which gets well
over $3 billion in US aid each year) together account for a third
of all US foreign aid.
The US supplies
all of the Egyptian military’s key weapons systems and retains control
of the spare parts keeping them operating. Munitions supplies are
kept short so that Egypt could not wage war on Israel for more than
a few days.
The most important
US intelligence and security agencies maintain large stations in
Cairo to protect the regime and monitor the region. Half of Egypt’s
food imports are financed by the US.
Many of Egypt’s
key generals "trained" at US military colleges and defense
courses where they were vetted by CIA and DIA. Egypt’s military
controls at least 10% of the economy.
As with Turkey’s
half-million man armed forces – at least until nine years ago –
Egypt’s military was joined at the hip to the US defense establishment
and arms industry. In exchange, Egypt agreed to become a tacit ally
of Israel and a foe of the Palestinians.
role as a virtual US protectorate, the flood of hypocrisy now issuing
from Washington, London, Paris and Ottawa over their alleged support
of Egyptian democracy is striking. For the past thirty years, these
powers have ardently backed Egypt’s notably ruthless, brutal dictatorship
whose security forces used torture, rape, and murder to terrorize
a lot of nasty third world dictatorships in my time. Mubarak’s Egypt
was one of most repressive, frightening police states I’ve seen.
Egyptians are only now creeping out from under cover to smell the
fresh air of free speech and free expression.
want democracy, the military wants political figureheads and the
right to intervene in politics to protect its interests aka "national
security" – the same demands used for decades by the rightwing
Turkish military to block democracy.
insist there be no investigations of human rights abuses.Washington
is trying to sustain the Egypt-Israel alliance that all Egyptians
detest and regard as humiliating. But none are calling for war against
its US backers, Israel, and some misinformed western media warn
the Muslim Brotherhood will turn Egypt into another Iran. This is
is conservatives, timid and focused on social issues. In Egypt’s
political context, it is a moderate party. Egypt’s Sunni Muslims
have next to nothing in common with Iran’s fire-and-brimstone Shia.
In fact, there is a good deal of historic animosity between Iran
jobs, housing, food, education and a rescue for the deeply ailing
economy, not worldwide jihad as many ill-informed westerners claim.
In fact, the Brotherhood’s principal rival is al-Nur’s Salafists
who seek a far more Islamic state under Sharia law that bans alcohol,
skimpy bathing suits, and use of women’s bodies to sell products.
western powers fail to seize this historic opportunity and work
with the Brotherhood’s moderates, they will end up with the scimitar-wavers.
This is just what occurred in Algeria in 1991 after its western-backed
army crushed moderate Islamists after they won the Arab world’s
first clean election.
The west should
begin by apologizing to Egyptians for so long sustaining Mubarak’s
brutal dictatorship. Next, Americans should be told the truth about
their long support for sadistic Arab police states. Third, let’s
see America start practicing what it preaches by truly supporting
democratic forces, even if we don’t like what they say.
him mail] is the author of War
at the Top of the World and the new book, American
Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the
West and the Muslim World. See his
© 2011 Eric Margolis
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