“A chance to move beyond rhetoric to support the democratic movement sweeping over Egypt”

From Sunday. LA Times Babylon & Beyond blog:

More than 80 American academics, including Noam Chomsky and several California scholars, posted an open letter online Sunday to President Obama […]

From the Tahrir demonstrations

Here’s the open letter, as posted on the Institute for Public Accuracy site:

Dear President Obama:

As political scientists, historians, and researchers in related fields who have studied the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy, we the undersigned believe you have a chance to move beyond rhetoric to support the democratic movement sweeping over Egypt. As citizens, we expect our president to uphold those values.

For thirty years, our government has spent billions of dollars to help build and sustain the system the Egyptian people are now trying to dismantle. Tens if not hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in Egypt and around the world have spoken. We believe their message is bold and clear: Mubarak should resign from office and allow Egyptians to establish a new government free of his and his family’s influence. It is also clear to us that if you seek, as you said Friday “political, social, and economic reforms that meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people,” your administration should publicly acknowledge those reforms will not be advanced by Mubarak or any of his adjutants.

There is another lesson from this crisis, a lesson not for the Egyptian government but for our own. In order for the United States to stand with the Egyptian people it must approach Egypt through a framework of shared values and hopes, not the prism of geostrategy. On Friday you rightly said that “suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away.” For that reason we urge your administration to seize this chance, turn away from the policies that brought us here, and embark on a new course toward peace, democracy and prosperity for the people of the Middle East. And we call on you to undertake a comprehensive review of US foreign policy on the major grievances voiced by the democratic opposition in Egypt and all other societies of the region.

You can view the signatories here. You can also download a pdf. And, to leave feedback, apparently you can to egyptletter.blogspot.com.

Earlier on Sunday, the Carnegie Endowment published the following statement from its Working Group on Egypt, urging for free and fair elections and recommending a suspension of economic and military aid to Egypt until certain conditions that would ensure a free and fair election are met:

Amidst the turmoil in Egypt, it is important for the United States to remain focused on the interests of the Egyptian people as well as the legitimacy and stability of the Egyptian government.

Only free and fair elections provide the prospect for a peaceful transfer of power to a government recognized as legitimate by the Egyptian people. We urge the Obama administration to pursue these fundamental objectives in the coming days and press the Egyptian government to:

  • call for free and fair elections for president and for parliament to be held as soon as possible;
  • amend the Egyptian Constitution to allow opposition candidates to register to run for the presidency;
  • immediately lift the state of emergency, release political prisoners, and allow for freedom of media and assembly;
  • allow domestic election monitors to operate throughout the country, without fear of arrest or violence;
  • immediately invite international monitors to enter the country and monitor the process leading to elections, reporting on the government’s compliance with these measures to the international community; and
  • publicly declare that Hosni Mubarak will agree not to run for re-election.

We further recommend that the Obama administration suspend all economic and military assistance to Egypt until the government accepts and implements these measures.

The Working Group on Egypt is a nonpartisan initiative bringing substantial expertise on Egyptian politics and political reform, and aimed at ensuring that Egypt’s elections are free and fair and open to opposition candidates.

Laura Rozen’s report on the Egypt working group’s statement provides further insight:

A bipartisan group of former U.S. officials and foreign policy scholars is urging the Obama administration to suspend all economic and military aid to Egypt until the government agrees to carry out early elections and to suspend Egypt’s draconian state of emergency, which has been in place for decades.

“We are paying the price for the fact that the administration has been at least of two minds on this stuff, and we should have seen it coming,” said Robert Kagan, co-chair of the bipartisan Egypt working group, regarding what many analysts now say is the inevitable end of Hosni Mubarak’s thirty year reign as Egypt’s president.

Though the Obama administration has tried to look like it’s not picking sides in urging restraint from violence amid five days of Egyptian unrest calling for Mubarak to step down, “the U.S. can’t be seen as neutral when it’s giving a billion and a half dollars” to prop up the Mubarak regime, Kagan said.

And, from Zaid Jilani at Think Progress:

The position of the Obama administration has been unclear. While administration officials have condemned abuses of civil liberties, they’ve also fallen short of endorsing Mubarak’s ouster or ending support for the regime, with Vice President Joe Biden even going as far as to say that Mubarak isn’t a dictator.

The United States gives nearly $2 billion in aid to the Egyptian regime every year, and offers diplomatic and military cooperation that helps bolster Mubarak. As protesters continue to be beaten, tortured, and killed by internal security forces, it’s important to know that these abuses are being subsidized by U.S. taxpayer dollars. Threatening to reduce or eliminate this monetary assistance to the Egyptian regime would be a powerful tool that the United States could use to help advance democracy and promote freedom in the country.

In light of the open letter from Chomsky et al and the statement from the CEIP’s working group on Egypt, I thought it might be helpful to recap what the Obama Administration said yesterday.

In all her appearances on the Sunday morning shows (video to each interview at the link, courtesy of stacyx), Secretary Clinton began the US call for an “orderly transition” in Egypt.

…with David Gregory on NBC Meet the Press:

What we’re saying is that any efforts by this government to respond to the needs of their people, to take steps that will result in a peaceful, orderly transition to a democratic regime, is what is in the best interests of everyone, including the current government.

…with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday:

Well, we have been very clear that we want to see a transition to democracy, and we want to see the kind of steps taken that will bring that about. We also want to see an orderly transition.

…with Bob Schieffer on CBS Face the Nation:

And therefore, we would like to encourage that people who have been the voice of protest and been the voice of civil society be the ones at the table trying to design what would be an orderly transition to meet the democratic and economic needs of the people.

…with Candy Crowley on CNN State of the Union:

There are many steps that can be taken by reaching out to those who have advocated a peaceful, orderly transition to greater democracy where the Egyptian people themselves get to express their views. That’s what we wish to see.

…with Christiane Amanpour on ABC This Week — Hillary didn’t use the term but said essentially the same thing as “orderly transition” here:

But right now, we are trying to convey a message that is very clear – that we want to ensure there is no violence and no provocation that results in violence, and that we want to see these reforms and a process of national dialogue begun so that the people of Egypt can see their legitimate grievances addressed.

Soon after Secretary Clinton’s appearances, we got word that President Obama had also called for an ‘orderly transition’ in speaking with Middle East and other world leaders:

President Barack Obama voiced support for an “orderly transition” in Egypt that is responsive to the aspirations of Egyptians in phone calls with foreign leaders, the White House said on Sunday.

Obama spoke by phone on Saturday with Saudi King Abdullah, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and on Sunday to British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Getting back to Hillary’s interviews… Christiane Amanpour got right down to business and asked the military aid question straight off the bat:

QUESTION: Perhaps no one is watching this situation more closely than Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and she joins us this morning from the State Department. Has the United States Administration, whether yourself, whether the President or Secretary Gates, told the Egyptian Government specifically that any military crackdown will result in a cutoff of U.S. military assistance?

SECRETARY CLINTON: No. Right now, we’re monitoring the actions of the Egyptian military and they are, as I’m sure your contacts are telling you, demonstrating restraint, working to try to differentiate between peaceful protestors, whom we all support, and potential looters and other criminal elements who are obviously a danger to the Egyptian people. We have sent a very clear message that we want to see restraint. We do not want to see violence by any security forces. And we continue to convey that message. There is no discussion as of this time about cutting off any aid. We always are looking and reviewing our aid.

Remember, this is what the WH had said on Friday:

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said on Friday that the U.S. will review its aid to Egypt. “We will be reviewing our assistance posture based on events that take place in the coming days,” Gibbs said.

I’d say the Administration is doing more hedging than “reviewing.”

Hillary finally mentioned “free and fair elections” in the context of the current situation in Egypt and unless I missed something earlier in the week, that would make her the first person from the Administration to do so. From her CNN appearance:

SECRETARY CLINTON: Again, Candy, this is going to be up to the Egyptian people. But let’s look at what we have. We have a calendar that already has elections for the next president scheduled. So there is an action-enforcing event that is already on the calendar. Can there be efforts made to really respond to the political desires of the people so that such an election is free and fair and credible?

David Gregory pressed Hillary on the issue:

Are you calling upon Egypt to call for free and fair elections, and will you ask Mubarak to say unequivocally that he will not run?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We have been urging free and fair election for many years. I mean, I do think it’s important to recognize that through Republican and Democratic administrations alike, America’s message has been consistent. We want to see free and fair elections, and we expect that that will be one of the outcomes of what is going on in Egypt right now. So we have been sending that message over and over again, publicly and privately, and we continue to do so.

And, on CBS, here’s what Hillary had to say:

Let’s begin to see some meetings with representatives of the government and representatives of civil society. Let’s begin to see some steps taken that will lead toward free, fair, and credible elections in the future.

I know not everyone at Sky Dancing agrees, but I think calling for free and fair elections was an important step for Hillary to take in signaling distance between the Obama Administration and Mubarak. It begins to signal that distance without anyone from the Administration having to explicitly or even implicitly call for Mubarak’s resignation.

Egyptian opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei (via the Washington Post):

“To ask a dictator to implement democratic measures after 30 years in power is an oxymoron,” ElBaradei said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “It will not end until Mubarak leaves.”

The LA Times reports that the White House is quietly preparing for a post-Mubarak era in Egypt:

A tight-lipped White House is taking an even-handed approach to the crisis in Egypt, suggesting that President Mubarak might be able to hold onto power if he allows competitive elections and restores individual freedoms. But inside the Obama administration, there are signs that officials are preparing for a post-Mubarak era after three decades.

One former senior administration advisor said he had spoken to his old colleagues inside the Obama administration in recent days about the unrest in Egypt. As early as last Wednesday, the Obama administration recognized that they would not be able to prop up the Mubarak regime and keep it in power at all costs, the former official said.

That timeline at the end seems odd given Biden’s gaffe on Thursday saying Mubarak isn’t a dictator. “As early as last Wednesday” sounds like damage control to me.

They don’t want to push Mubarak over the cliff, but they understand that the Mubarak era is over and that the only way Mubarak could be saved now is by a ruthless suppression of the population, which would probably set the stage for a much more radical revolution down the road.”

The White House has yet to convince Pulitzer-prize winning historian and biographer Kai Bird. Over at slate.com, Bird warns of Obama’s “Shaw Problem” and says the president appears to be following Carter’s footsteps in trying to have it both ways:

President Barack Obama has a “Shah problem” in Egypt. Recent events in Egypt recall the street protests of 1978 in Tehran when President Jimmy Carter had to decide whether to remain loyal to the Pahlavi regime, a long-standing American-backed dictatorship—or whether the time had come to abandon the Shah and support a popular uprising demanding human rights and democracy. Carter tried to have it both ways, modulating his support for the Shah, calling for political liberalization, and warning the Shah against the use of state violence against unarmed protesters. Obama seems to be following the same script, and the results may well turn out to be equally fraught with unintended consequences.

Bird goes on to say:

Given this reality, how should the Obama administration respond to the current crisis? It is imperative that Washington finds a way to place itself on the side of those political forces advocating change and reform—despite America’s historical baggage of temporizing with Arab kings and dictators. Similar popular demonstrations are already taking place in other Arab nations, and Obama needs to make it clear that America is not aligned with the Arab status quo. Essentially, we need to let the dictators fall or stand without our interference. We need to signal that America’s interests in the Middle East are not driven by our addiction to oil. Washington should clearly say it will support any regime that comes to power through legitimate elections—even if it is the Brotherhood.

…and therein lies the crux of the problem for many American observers, it seems.

At the end of an otherwise predictable column pushing yet again the false choice between “another Khomeini” and “another Nasser,” even conservative Ross Douthat seems to acknowledge that for all our worries, it isn’t our place to control ‘who fills the void’:

The only comfort, as we watch Egyptians struggle for their country’s future, is that some choices aren’t America’s to make.

Returning to Kai Bird’s piece, Bird offers this assessment:

Change is coming to the Arab world. It can no longer be held back. So the pragmatist and not just the idealist in Obama would be wise to make it clear that he really is on the side of the protesters in the streets of Cairo. It is time to stop hedging our bets.

In contrast to that take, via AFP/Raw Story:

Denis Bauchard of the French International Relations Institute (IFRI) said US President “Barack Obama has taken the lead, calling for political reform, without sparing Mubarak, and that’s quite smart.”

I’m not sure when exactly Obama did all that.

Taylor Marsh:

If ever there was an American President who should have been able to unhesitatingly penetrate the Egyptian protests with American purpose and stand with the people, however cloaked in diplo-speak at first, it should have been Pres. Barack Obama and his administration. His Cairo speech held these possibilities.

Now the foreign policy community is taking the lead, along with the leaders of UK-France-Germany, pushing Obama to a position that was once hinted to be a natural inclination for him to make. Instead he seems permanently afflicted with the inability to take a jump and lead, which in a situation as fraught as the collapse of Mubarak is more obvious.

Taylor ends with this:

Obama’s made a tough situation worse through his own Middle East foreign policy. Tactical and reactive responses aren’t a substitute for a regional strategy grounded in what America stands for in the Middle East. Now everything depends on playing it by ear as the situation develops. It’s a risky way to run the world.

Egypt may be leaderless, but we have a void of leadership on our side as well.

Hillary did the best she could in evolving the Administration’s position yesterday, but I can’t say that I have seen any evidence that Obama is ready to “seize” the chance to “move beyond rhetoric” and “turn away from the policies that brought us here.”

On Friday, former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk gave Obama the following advice:

But here’s the horrible dilemma that President Obama now finds himself in. If he distances the United States from Mubarak, he risks toppling a critically important Arab ally which could generate a tsunami of instability that could shake the foundations of all of America’s autocratic Arab allies across the region. Yet if he does not distance the U.S. from the Egyptian pharaoh, he risks alienating the Egyptian people, helping to open the way to a theocratic regime that would be fundamentally anti-American.

Fortunately, we know the consequences of being on the wrong side of history, because we have been living with them ever since the overthrow of the Shah of Iran in 1978 and his replacement by the anti-American ayatollahs. The Shah, like Mubarak, represented a strategic pillar, protecting U.S. interests in the critically important Persian Gulf. Jimmy Carter pressed the Shah to undertake political reforms and respect the human rights of his people, but then backed off for the sake of stability. Similarly, George W. Bush pressed Mubarak to open up political space for a moderate Egyptian opposition to emerge and then backed off after Hamas won the Palestinian elections.

At this point, facing by far the biggest foreign policy crisis of his presidency, Obama cannot afford to backtrack. Yesterday, he came out publicly on the side of the Egyptian people, insisting that Mubarak undertake significant reforms. But it is surely clear by now that the people will settle for nothing less than the removal of Mubarak. So Obama’s options are narrowing. He will soon have to decide whether to tell Mubarak that the United States no longer supports him and that it’s time for him to go.

Indyk goes on to say:

Fortunately, Mubarak’s appointment of Omar Suleiman, the head of Military Intelligence, as his vice president and successor, has made it more possible for Obama to pursue this option with less fear of the potential destabilizing consequences. The United States has a good deal of leverage on the Egyptian military because we have trained, equipped and paid for their armaments. They now hold the key to a positive resolution of this crisis. Mubarak may have appointed Suleiman to shore up military support for his presidency, but he is now dependent on the same military for his survival and they may be willing to abandon him to ensure their own.

That’s the door on which Obama now needs to push. Suleiman needs to be encouraged to take over as Egypt’s new president, order the military to prevent looting but not harm the demonstrators, and announce that he will only serve for six months until free and fair elections allow for a legitimate president to form a new government. If he can put this understanding in place, Obama then needs to call Mubarak and tell him gently but firmly that for the good of his country it’s time for him to go.

Yesterday, bostonboomer did some amazing investigative work connecting the dots on “Omar Suleiman and the U.S. Rendition and Torture Program,” at the end of which she noted:

So if representatives of the Obama administration (including SOS Hillary Clinton) begin touting Suleiman as a good replacement for Mubarak, we should be very very suspicious.

I’m not sure if touting Suleiman as an interim president for six months is much better.

At enduringamerica.com, the liveblog for today’s events in Egypt is aptly titled “So What is an ‘Orderly Transition’?” From their summary of yesterday’s events:

Instead, the regime put out the news that police would reappear on city streets today, and last night Mubarak put out the message via State TV, “The current stage requires us to reorganize the country’s priorities in a way that acknowledges the legitimate demands of the people”. He commanded new Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq to pursue “a wide range of dialogue with all the (political) parties” to “achieve the democratic process.”

Mubarak also called on new government leaders to “stand against anyone committing any forms of corruption” and stressed “the necessity to continue with fair, serious and effective new steps for more political, constitutional and legislative reforms”.

The steps, on the surface, may satisfy the Obama Administration’s demands — made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on television and by the PR machine through the news that the President had called foreign leaders — for the display of moves to reform. It is unclear, however, if Washington’s demand for “orderly transition” means more than reform with the promise by Mubarak that he is standing down — if so, US officials are keeping this implicit for now.

What is clear is that Mubarak does not see the definition of “transition” as his hopping on the next plane out of Cairo. And that in turn brings us back to the opposition, now symbolised in Tahrir Square. This morning the talk is of “a million-person demonstration“, called by the opposition 6 April movement, from the Square.

I suppose we’re going to find out what an “orderly transition” means to Washington, Mubarak, and most importantly the Egyptian people in the coming days. I have to say, though, that waiting for Barack Obama to “move beyond rhetoric” and “lead” is like waiting for Sarah Palin to become a policy wonk.

59 Comments on ““A chance to move beyond rhetoric to support the democratic movement sweeping over Egypt””

  1. RT @NickKristof: I find it deeply sad that #Egypt pro-democracy protesters feel inspired by Tunisia, and stymied by America. #Jan25

    • Pilgrim says:

      very sad indeed

    • dakinikat says:

      This really is sad and it’s why so many developing nations don’t like us and distrust us. They don’t dislike us because they hate our freedom. They dislike us because we seem to hate their freedom.

      • Pilgrim says:

        well said, dak

      • “They don’t dislike us because they hate our freedom. They dislike us because we seem to hate their freedom.”

        Indeed, I’ve seen that being retweeted as “We don’t hate you because we hate your freedom…”

      • dakinikat says:

        a lot of people must see that then …

        all this dude has to say is that he and his son won’t run in September and start lifting the bans on political parties … how can we not make him do that at the very least?

      • “how can we not make him do that at the very least?”

        I guess the same way we can always revolve everything around Israel and what Israel wants, even when it conflicts with our own interests and values.

      • And yes a lot of people have not only seen it but experienced–what is happening now seems to be reconfirming every doubt they ever had about us.

    • dakinikat says:

      There are so many people in our government that are fascists at heart. They want the state to control the agenda to their liking. They fear real democracy. And I agree with people who ask that we question our undying support for Israel. Israel has been going off to the right to the point we should question our values for supporting them. Saying Israel has a a right to not be attacked is sanity, but then watching their government continue to enact what looks like a genocide on Palestinians is insanity. We should say, fine do that, but you get no money or arms from us. We just need to say two state solution or NO MORE MONEY and ARMS. You would think that Israelis of all people would realize what their government is doing by allowing continued colonizations of occupied territories and by stopping even the most basic humanitarian aid. Our policies and theirs create a Hamas and empowers them. It’s like they/we deliberately want an enemy like that so they can continue the clampdowns and the inhuman treatment. We created the shah and the ayatollahs in Iran. We never learn.

      • Sadly Kat, after the Palestine Papers, the entire peace process has been a sham, a bogus theatre, with Israel being made out to having to make compromises and Palestine being made out to not being willing to make concessions when the exact opposite was the case all along! The outlook for a two-state solution looks bleaker than ever.

      • dakinikat says:

        I know. If it wasn’t for our K street captured Congress we could seriously reconsider our investments in the region. They play games with us and it hurts us through out the region. This is not 50 years ago. This is not just another act in the Exodus movie any more. The British did a piss poor job of defining nations back in their colonial days. We’re still paying for it.

  2. I wanted to frontpage this but couldn’t get the audio file to embed properly:


    • dakinikat says:

      I think i’m going to upgrade us to get the better access to media this month. I was going to do that first thing but then securing a URL with the mapping and some of the other things like the ability to have more flexibility with the fonts and template and tracking service got me waylaid. Funny thing is this current template isn’t very flexible at all. There’s not much I can change about it so I won’t burn the money on that feature next year.

  3. The link to view signatories was broken–I fixed it, should work now. Sorry about that.

  4. Pilgrim says:

    I think Taylor Marsh does well to make the point that poor Mr. Obama seems “permanently afflicted with the inability to take a jump and lead.” She has increasingly recognized this unfortunate fact, which the commenter there, Ramsgate, has seen from the beginning.

    And Wonk — waiting for him to develop a spine “like waiting for Sarah Palin to become a policy wonk.”

    Since the Democrats are stuck with him, I’m gonna enjoy watching the Jon Hunstman show.

    • Pilgrim, I thought of you when Tina Brown’s Newsweek ran the Huntsman in ’12 story!

      A lot of us cassandras in 2008 saw right through Obama–that he was neither a leader nor a fighter. I frankly was underwhelmed in 2004. ‘We have buzzward in buzzward state, and we have another buzzward in another buzzward state.’ I couldn’t believe how ga ga people went over that.

    • dakinikat says:

      Remember, this is the guy that used to hide in bathrooms to avoid important votes in the Illinois legislature. He now has more creative places to hide like the Supreme Court Basketball court.

  5. Pat Johnson says:

    At least we have Hillary to be the visible face of this administration. She probably told him to go eat his Wheaties, she’s got it covered.

  6. I love Hillary, but I’m not sure to the Egyptians her being the face of the Admin really changes much. I can’t blame Egyptian protesters if they don’t see much daylight between Hillary and Obama on this, because in the end, no matter how well Hillary packages O’s indecision, it’s still his indecision that she’s representing. Frankly, as much as I love Hill, I don’t know anyone quote unquote ‘electable’ in the American political class who I could be certain would “turn away from the policies that got us here” where it concerns the Middle East. That’s the larger piece of the puzzle that’s missing, and no amount of “orderly transition” statements on Hillary’s part cleaning after Joe-please-stay-in-the-cone-of-silence-Biden changes that. If people wanted it to be her call and her policy to blame her for, they should have elected her. It’s O’s policy and frankly no one has a damn clue what it is as usual.

    • dakinikat says:

      This really should be a no brainer. The more it simmers, the more we will see contagion and it will be in countries that have issues; like Yemen. We’ve have such blinders on when it comes to the middle east. We purposefully misunderstand them. All we think about is Oil and Israel. It warps our values and our priorities.

      • dakinikat says:

        Here’s a headline for you (from Reuters)

        Israel shocked by Obama’s “betrayal” of Mubarak

        If Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak is toppled, Israel will lose one of its very few friends in a hostile neighborhood and President Barack Obama will bear a large share of the blame, Israeli pundits said on Monday.

        Political commentators expressed shock at how the United States as well as its major European allies appeared to be ready to dump a staunch strategic ally of three decades, simply to conform to the current ideology of political correctness.

        Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told ministers of the Jewish state to make no comment on the political cliffhanger in Cairo, to avoid inflaming an already explosive situation. But Israel’s President Shimon Peres is not a minister.

        “We always have had and still have great respect for President Mubarak,” he said on Monday. He then switched to the past tense. “I don’t say everything that he did was right, but he did one thing which all of us are thankful to him for: he kept the peace in the Middle East.”

      • dakinikat says:

        also from that article:

        One comment by Aviad Pohoryles in the daily Maariv was entitled “A Bullet in the Back from Uncle Sam.” It accused Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of pursuing a naive, smug, and insular diplomacy heedless of the risks.

        Who is advising them, he asked, “to fuel the mob raging in the streets of Egypt and to demand the head of the person who five minutes ago was the bold ally of the president … an almost lone voice of sanity in a Middle East?”

        “The politically correct diplomacy of American presidents throughout the generations … is painfully naive.”

      • dakinikat says:

        and more:

        “The question is, do we think Obama is reliable or not,” said an Israeli official, who declined to be named.

        “Right now it doesn’t look so. That is a question resonating across the region not just in Israel.”

        Writing in Haaretz, Ari Shavit said Obama had betrayed “a moderate Egyptian president who remained loyal to the United States, promoted stability and encouraged moderation.”

      • dakinikat says:

        Hosni Mubarak is “moderate”? and the “lone voice of sanity”?

        WTF kind of political ruler do these people have?

      • Thanks Dak, yes I’m all too aware of what “Israel” wants…and ugh. “Hosni Mubarak kept peace in the Middle East” Um no… he kept things at bay so that they could rot and fester and explode in the streets today!

        I was so fed up of hearing what “Israel” wanted and what would be “best for ‘Israel'” over the weekend that I purposely avoided discussing that.This is not about Israel, and besides, *peoples* of all countries are who matter, including the people of Israel, not quote unquote what these bobbleheads who pose as the whole of Israel say. We hear only these mouthpieces discuss what Israel wants in our media, not necessarily what the people want.

        Moreover, this is Egypt’s uprising and it’s about them. This isn’t even about us, for goodness sake, but since we’ve made ourselves part of it with the WH reacting so quickly to protect Mubarak initially, we might as well actually think about our interest and values instead of putting Israel ahead of them. Sorry, I’m just fed up with Obama. They screwed it up long before this happened. Obama thought he could go make a “historic” speech in Cairo, pick up a Nobel Peace Prize, pass historic healthcare that Bill and Hillary couldn’t, realign the country to brand Obama like brand Reagan, go to the Chicago Olympics in 2016 and ride off into the sunset. He had no big vision beyond that, I’m afraid. He sure as hell has shown no sign that he ever thought in his mind how he’d react to a situation like this.

    • Pat Johnson says:

      My mood is sinking faster since I cannot disagree with anything you just said. You are correct in this assessment.

      • dakinikat says:

        Our diplomacy lacks subtlety and it has for about 10 years now. Bush made everything black and white and Obama hasn’t put the broad vision out there that there are things that we will not fund and accept even when they come from our closest allies. We can no longer live with a post colonial world view. Most of the countries there exist because of the British, not because of the people that live there. We haven’t had a strategic thinker for years now and it really shows. Hillary can’t take on big initiatives as an agent for the President. It’s the vision that drives the policy.

  7. WomanVoter says:

    Someone is reporting that youtube is removing video from Egypt.

    Below is the video that got Al Jazeera’s credentials pulled and their news operation in Egypt shut down. The Egyptian government and more importantly Hosni Mubarak was worried because of the reaction of the people of Tunisia when the younger generation got video feed out and posted it and others copied it and reposted it to preserve what happened.

    Here the people who are professionals are the ones facing retribution for reporting the truth. One Al Jazeera reporter was hidden by a colleague in the hotel when they arrested her fellow Al Jazeera reporters and was later helped in leaving the hotel all together. Honestly, it just sounds as if Egypt has an issue with Freedom of the Press and with Freedom of Expression. Maybe they didn’t understand the fine print when they signed onto the United Nations Universal Human Rights clause.

    Hundreds mourn Egypt’s dead
    AlJazeeraEnglish | January 29, 2011 | 155 likes, 5 dislikes

    Hundreds of mourners and protesters gathered in Cairo on Saturday for the funeral of those killed in recent violence in the Egyptian capital.

    The bereaved families were joined by throngs of demonstrators calling for an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

    Al Jazeera’s Dan Nolan reports from Cairo.

    Viewer discretion advised: This package contains images that may disturb or offend some.

  8. dakinikat says:

    eesh, even the FT gets it …

    Egypt’s US and European allies should do everything they can to ensure his retirement comes soon and finally place themselves on the right side of history in the Arab world, of which Egypt is now the throbbing heart.

    and down lower from the same op ed:

    Do the US and the west have a role in this drama, other than as a shambolic chorus? Yes.

    The Mubarak regime is at the centre of a network of regional strongmen the west has backed and bankrolled to secure stability in a neuralgic region, guaranteed oil supplies and the safety of Israel. As waves of democracy have burst over almost every other tyrant-plagued region in the past 30 years, the US and Europe have connived in an Arab exception – and Egypt is its exemplar.

    The west has struck a Faustian bargain with Arab rulers, who have blackmailed them into believing that, but for them, the mullahs would be in charge. There is unquestionably a risk. Arab despots have destroyed political and institutional life, leaving their opponents little option but the mosque and the madrassa.

    But what shallow realists in the west fail to grasp is that the risk grows greater the longer these corrupt regimes, incapable of meeting the aspirations of their young populations, remain in power. Instability is certain; it is the future that is up for grabs. For now, it is young, mostly secular democrats who have taken a courageous initiative in the streets. They deserve support.

    Instead of propping up tyrants for short-term and often illusory gains, western policy needs to find ways of stimulating the forces in Arab society that might eventually replace them. After the 9/11 attack on America, a misguided “they-hate-us-for-our-freedoms” industry emerged. No. What Arabs and Muslims hate is western support for those who deny them their freedoms.

    It is an important signal that Washington intends to review the annual $1.3bn stipend it has paid to Egypt’s army since 1979. The west needs to put its money where its mouth is, with a blatant bias towards democracy and its brave defenders, by supporting competitive politics and open societies, education and the building of institutions, law-based regimes and the empowerment of women – everything the Arabs, against the odds, still find attractive about western society.

    • dakinikat says:

      This op ed from an unquestionably conservative source just makes me want to jump up and down and scream yes!!!!

      We can empower Arab nations and that doesn’t have to threaten Israel or the oil supply. I’m so tired of that old narrative from tired minds and there, again, is the truth is that that don’t hate us for our freedoms, they don’t like that we’ve propped up these tin pot dictators that have left them NO freedoms and very few places to go.

  9. dakinikat says:

    oh, and oil’s gone up to $101 a barrel now … the gamblers are taking advantage of this for sure.

  10. dakinikat says:

    As part of my never ending search to put research above rhetoric:

    Congressional Research Service
    Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations

    and a h/t to Tim Shorrock

    • dakinikat says:

      It includes an array of policy options for congress prior to these protests.

      • WomanVoter says:

        One option that has been restated over and over again is that if Egypt and other countries in the region don’t stay with their dictators, that they will join the Brotherhood. Honestly up until the Egypt situation, I hadn’t even heard of this group.

      • Minkoff Minx says:

        @ WV The brotherhood has been around for a while. I believe there is even a law in Egypt that states they (brotherhood) cannot hold any position in government.

      • WomanVoter says:

        I just saw a report where they are saying that the Brotherhood is thought to be funded by Iran and that the Brotherhood is a supporter of Hamas that is in charge in Palestine.

        Hamas (حماس Ḥamās, an acronym of حركة المقاومة الاسلامية Ḥarakat al-Muqāwamat al-Islāmiyyah, meaning “Islamic Resistance Movement”) is a Palestinian Islamist political party. It also has a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.[5][6] Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by a number of governments, including those of Israel, the European Union,[7][8] the United States,[9] Canada[10] and Japan.[11][12]

        Based largely upon the principles of Islamic fundamentalism that were gaining momentum throughout the Arab world in the 1980s, Hamas was founded as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in 1987, during the First Intifada.[13][14] Sheik Ahmed Yassin declared in 1987 that Hamas was founded for the purpose of Jihad, to liberate Palestine from Israeli oppression and to establish an Islamic state “from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.”[15]

        OK, I get the reason why Israel is concerned, but from everything I have seen these people protesting in Egypt, they aren’t part of the Brotherhood. It would be a shame if all these young people end up with another dictator for another 25 years because of blame they are having thrust upon them because of the Brotherhood. What an loss if they don’t get Freedom and Democracy.

        • dakinikat says:

          Believe me, Suni Muslims are not going to flee to Shia radical groups. Suni’s find shias to be in the same category that Unitarians put Southern Baptists.

          • dakinikat says:

            actually, let me restate that .. Sunis are more like high church Episcopalians. Rumis are more like the Unitarians … or there’s that weird sect in Lebanon that’s probably even closer, the Druze. The Druze are bizarre mix of things. They believe in reincarnation. I don’t know if you know anything about Druze. There’s tons of sects of Muslims. Since the Iranian revolution, we seem to toss them all into one huge basket and sprinkle it with a huge dash of stereotyping.

      • When you leave people’s needs unattended, then you leave the void to be filled by Hamas and Brotherhood and so on and so forth.

      • Something’s off with the nesting….I made my comment@4:55 before Kat’s@5:03, :07, etc.

      • yup, if you were replying from the Admin panel, that’ll do it.

  11. Minkoff Minx says:

    I think calling for free and fair elections was an important step for Hillary to take in signaling distance between the Obama Administration and Mubarak. It begins to signal that distance without anyone from the Administration having to explicitly or even implicitly call for Mubarak’s resignation.

    Wonk, yes exactly. Thank you. I have not read the entire post, or the comments…but I wanted to just highlight you comment. I agree completely with this statement.

  12. dakinikat says:

    Egypt Opposition Plans “March of Millions”
    Despite Gov’t Block of Internet and Shutdown of Transit Services, Activists Seek to Stage Massive Protest Tuesday

  13. dakinikat says:

    From the BBC:

    Egypt’s army has vowed it will not use force against the tens of thousands of people protesting for the removal of the regime of President Hosni Mubarak.

  14. dakinikat says:

    SultanAlQassemi Sultan Al Qassemi
    BBC Arabic: The US gov has dispatched Ambassador Frank G. Wisner to Egypt to meet with the authorities. (no details were given)

  15. WomanVoter says:

    Some weekend work that will (hopefully) enable more Egyptians to be heard
    1/31/2011 02:27:00 PM
    Like many people we’ve been glued to the news unfolding in Egypt and thinking of what we could do to help people on the ground. Over the weekend we came up with the idea of a speak-to-tweet service—the ability for anyone to tweet using just a voice connection.

    We worked with a small team of engineers from Twitter, Google and SayNow, a company we acquired last week, to make this idea a reality. It’s already live and anyone can tweet by simply leaving a voicemail on one of these international phone numbers (+16504194196 or +390662207294 or +97316199855) and the service will instantly tweet the message using the hashtag #egypt. No Internet connection is required. People can listen to the messages by dialing the same phone numbers or going to twitter.com/speak2tweet.

    We hope that this will go some way to helping people in Egypt stay connected at this very difficult time. Our thoughts are with everyone there.

    #Egypt Tweet by leaving a# voicemail:Thanks team/engineers,Twitter, Google & SayNow! http://tiny.cc/o66pb
    info via @EANewsFeed #SidiBouzid #jan25

    WOO HOO! Thank you to the small team of engineers from Twitter, Google and SayNow!

    • WomanVoter says:

      JShahryar Josh Shahryar
      For Egyptians > Numbers for Google’s voicemail tweeting service +16504194196 |
      | +390662207294 |
      | +97316199855 ||
      #Jan25 #Egypt via @draddee

      Here are the numbers.