Obama to America: I'm Backing Democracy and Human Rights; Egyptian Human Rights Activist: No, You're Not!
Mr. President…over recent months, statements by your administration have similarly failed to address violations and have even blamed protesters and victims for violence committed in the context of demonstrations. Indeed, the stances of your administration have given political cover to the current authoritarian regime in Egypt and allowed it to fearlessly implement undemocratic policies and commit numerous acts of repression.
He then admirably dissects the true implications of the current U.S. government’s statements on Egypt:
Statements that "Egypt is witnessing a genuine and broad-based process of democratization" have covered over and indeed legitimized the undemocratic processes by which the Constituent Assembly passed the new Constitution….
Calls for "the opposition [to] remain non-violent" and for "the government and security forces [to] exercise self-restraint in the face of protester violence" have allowed the police and the current Egyptian administration to shirk their responsibilities to secure demonstrations and to respond to the demands of the Egyptian people, and have allowed them to place the blame for violence and instability on protesters themselves.
Urging "the opposition [to] engage in a national dialogue without preconditions” is meaningless since, these "dialogues" seldom result in anything more concrete than a photo-op with the president.
And then he concludes:
Is it a coincidence that the statements issued by your administration reflect the same political rhetoric used by the new authoritarian regime in Egypt?
No, every U.S. government has supported dictatorships abroad. President Franklin Roosevelt had to align with Stalin’s USSR to defeat Nazi Germany. During the Cold War, American presidents backed dictatorships in Latin America, South Vietnam, and other parts of the world to defeat Communism. The merits of these policies can be assessed on a case by case basis. Could this be justified by national security needs? Was there a better alternative which combined a more pro-democratic, pro-human rights approach with legitimate American interests?
But what do you call it when the U.S. government supports dictatorships to defeat…what exactly? Backing Sunni Islamists doesn’t defeat Islamism, and if they act against al-Qaida in their own interests they ally themselves with Salafists whose views are almost identical to those of al-Qaida. Indeed, in Syria, U.S. backed opposition groups unanimously defended the local al-Qaida affiliate from an American attempt to isolate it.
Yet perhaps, as is often said in the United States, Obama really has no influence in Egypt, Syria, or other such places. That’s not what the local people think. Hassan refers to “The world’s superpower—the one most able to have a positive or negative impact on policies in Egypt and the region, not to mention the biggest donor and material supporter of the Egyptian regime for the past 35 years….”
All Hassan requests is that U.S. officials stop making statements of the above sort which give verbal backing to the Brotherhood regime and are used by it to justify its own behavior and intimidate the opposition. (Give up, even the Americans support us and won’t help you!)
Americans themselves should expect a lot more from their government.
PS: I can’t help but remember a July 2009 open letter from Central European leaders asking Obama to help them against Russian ambitions under Putin. Despite being endorsed by virtually all of the great heroes of the democratic battle against the Soviet bloc, that letter was also ignored. We are continually told that Obama's policy has been supportive of democracy and human rights, and that people all around the world love him for it. While I know that polls can be cited -- sometimes misleadingly -- I have never met a single anti-Islamist Arab, Iranian, or Turk who thought that way. Come to think of it, the same applies to Central Europeans, Chinese, and a number of other nationalities.
(Thumbnail on PJM homepage assembled from multiple Shutterstock.com images.)