Egypt Protests Test U.S. Democracy Campaign

The Bush administration's campaign for democracy in the Arab world is facing its toughest test yet in Egypt, according to international online commentators.

Three hundred Egyptian judges staged a silent protest last week against the government over interference in the judiciary. The country's best known blogger, Alaa Abd El-Fatah, was arrested earlier this month together with other activists engaged in a peaceful demonstration (the blog he co-authors with his wife, Manal Hassan, continues with message posts smuggled out of prison). Meanwhile, Ayman Nour, a liberal who finished second in last year's presidential election, was sentenced to a five-year jail term on disputed charges of forgery.

Longtime President Hosni Mubarak, a U.S. ally who is grooming his son to succeed him, faces a "revolt of the Egyptian elite," says Ahmed Amr in the Middle East Times.

"Since winning a fifth term in office, Mubarak has systematically and methodically gone about the business of reigning in the opposition. The reviled Emergency Laws have been extended. Previously scheduled municipal elections have been postponed and the casually attired state sponsored goons have violently confronted peaceful demonstrators."

Earlier this month, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack condemned Egypt's actions, saying "both Mr. Nour's ongoing detention and the Egyptian government's handling of dissent raise serious concerns about the path of political reform and democracy."

As unease mounts over anti-democratic signals from Mubarak's government, Egyptian commentators are looking to see what Washington will do.

Despite the Bush administration's rhetoric, the United States is not going to help the Egyptian opposition, predicts Emad Mekay, Washington correspondent for the Al-Ahram Weekly.

"Washington has signaled that it now views its interests in the region as best served by the status quo. This is especially true in light of tensions with Iran and the rise of Islamic- oriented groups," he writes.

"The Bush administration has called on Congress to keep annual aid to Egypt of nearly $2 billion dollars intact for the next fiscal year, arguing that America's strategic interests will be harmed if aid to the Egyptian government is cut."

Mekay quoted U.S. officials stressing Egypt's pivotal role in its military strategy in the region, with $2.5 billion worth of military assistance designed to "create a defence force capable of supporting US security."

"Given such favours, officials expressed only the usual 'concern' over the Egyptian government's repression of dissent at home," Mackey wrote.

The Financial Times notes that Bush's conservative supporters "are questioning the wisdom of a democratisation strategy that has brought unpleasant consequences in the Middle East."

Mubarak's crackdown "represents a major challenge to Mr. Bush's campaign to promote democracy in the Middle East," says the Toronto Globe and Mail. "How Mr. Bush responds will say a lot about how serious he is. From the beginning it has been clear that, if his fine words about democracy were to have any weight, he would have to put pressure not just on rogue regimes and hostile nations but on Washington's Mideast allies."

"All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors," declared President Bush in his 2005 inaugural address. "When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you."

Egyptians seem to be standing up -- will Washington weigh in?

By Jefferson Morley |  June 1, 2006; 10:40 AM ET  | Category:  Democracy
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"Egyptians seem to be standing up -- will Washington weigh in?"

Not on the side of true democracy, I'm afraid. Democracy, in muslim countries, means democratic power to muslim governments. This goes without saying. It is a truism to say so.

Now no US administration wants true democracy in muslim hands. To put it in a nutshell, true democracy is bad for he who seeks world hegemony and intends, as in Shakespeare, to tell the whole world whether what its finger points to is the moon or not. The shrew needs be tamed!

Yet, as was concluded in the Globe and Mail, "there is a middle ground between hurling Egypt into the void and standing quietly by as Mr. Mubarak stomps on his democratic opponents." But the current President of the United States of America is no buddhist, does not have the reputation of one who would know a middle road even existed.

Posted by: Robert Rose, Canada | June 1, 2006 11:28 AM

Here we go again. Our leadership decides to buy another week or two from another country, Egypt. As if the writing on the wall wasn't clear enough already; ALL THEY CARE ABOUT IS THE MONEY. Are we going to continue on this path until we finally turn every nation on Earth against us? The friend today, foe tomorrow reality rears its ugly head again but no one in the White House can see beyond TGIF.

Posted by: Richard Merrill | June 1, 2006 07:40 PM

Here we go again..., read my lips.
Our leadership decides to BUY another week or two of favor from another Muslim country, Egypt, under the guise of "maintaining the status quo". Mubarak is a DICTATOR. We don't deal with dictators, do we??? Haven't we had enough of the friend today, foe tomorrow lessons yet? Maybe we can just invade Egypt after we get through with Iran after we get through with Iraq after we get through with Afganistan... We'er just making friends all over the globe, just ask any Canadian.

Posted by: Richard Merrill | June 1, 2006 07:54 PM

Washington's effort to "promote democracy" ,whether it is genuine or a coverup, in the Arab world should not be welcomed, period. Washington officials must understand that they do no own the lives or even the rights of the people of the Middle East.

Pressure can be made through independent Human Rights organizations (such as Amnesty or Human Rights Watch) that have no links to any government. Many of the US NGOs that claim to "promote democracy" are de-facto extensions of the US government. Many are headed by former high-ranking US officials, sometimes even by former CIA directors.

Posted by: Karim | June 5, 2006 06:27 PM

Yeah thats why I got my self out of the U.S. Army after a year. Okay so Im half Iranian, and thought that I would make a difference until I saw what I was fighting for was a L-I-E. According to my superiors "monkeys" cant do anything. So much for talking things out.. My whole family was appauled at my efforts to begin with. I will not fight for something I dont believe in nor as treacherous as the Bush Administration. God bless you America, for we will truely need it.

Posted by: | June 6, 2006 12:13 PM

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