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State Department Releases Statement on Protests in Egypt & a Note on Democracy Promotion *updated*

January 26, 2011

Protests in Cairo


We are monitoring the situation in Egypt closely. The United States supports the fundamental right of expression and assembly for all people. All parties should exercise restraint, and we call on the Egyptian authorities to handle these protests peacefully.

As Secretary Clinton said in Doha, people across the Middle East – like people everywhere – are seeking a chance to contribute and to have a role in the decisions that will shape their lives. We want to see reform occur, in Egypt and elsewhere, to create greater political, social, and economic opportunity consistent with people’s aspirations. The United States is a partner of Egypt and the Egyptian people in this process, which we believe should unfold in a peaceful atmosphere.

We have raised with governments in the region the need for reforms and greater openness and participation in order to respond to their people’s aspirations – and we will continue to do so.

BTW, the Egyptian government has blocked Twitter in an effort to take an important activism tool away from the Egyptian people who are protesting for democracy and free elections.

Also, the Guardian has excellent coverage on the situation in Egypt with constant updates. The US media once again is put to shame.

Tahrir Square being closed by riot police

UPDATE:An interesting commentary about this administration’s democracy promotion in light of the revelations in the Palestine Papers (which continue to largely be ignored by the MSM in the US). You may agree with this or not, but I think it’s worthy of discussion in light of the stalemate in the I-P negotiations and the upheaval in the Arab World:

The democracy protests that swept Tunisian President Zine el Abedine Ben Ali from power are going viral, but sadly President Obama and other Western leaders seem immune.

Indeed, it is quite likely that the president and his colleagues in Europe are as frightened of the potential explosion of people power across the Middle East and North Africa as are the sclerotic autocratic leaders of the region against whom the protests are being directed.

The question is, why?

Why would Obama, who worked so hard to reach out to the Muslim world with his famous 2009 speech in Cairo, be standing back quietly while young people across the region finally take their fate into their own hands and push for real democracy?

Shouldn’t the president of the United States be out in front, supporting non-violent democratic change across the world’s most volatile region?

The known knowns

The answer, as is increasingly the case, comes from the ever-growing cache of leaked documents from WikiLeaks and other sources that are providing inside evidence of America’s true interests and intentions in the Middle East.

Specifically, as The Palestine Papers revealed by al Jazeera demonstrate (and which I will analyse in more detail in my next column), the US under Obama-as much if not more so than under his predecessor-demands that leaders remain in place who will do its bidding even if it means subverting the will of the citizens of a country and maintaining a system that manifestly harms their interests.

Thus the administration at least twice threatened to cut funding to the Palestinian Authority if elections were called and anyone other than Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad remained in power.

And it actively works with Israeli and Palestinian security services to deny the democratic will of Palestinians.

What is clear, then, is that Obama not only prefers the status quo, but the United States will actively subvert democracy in order to ensure that governments that will follow its policies remain in power.

If the administration has taken such an anti-democratic line with Palestinians, imagine how it must feel about the protests that have just exploded in Egypt, where substantive democratic change and a truly representative government would no doubt be far less amenable to US policies and strategic objectives regarding Israel and the war on terror than is Mubarak’s.


So the question really needs to be asked – whose interests is President Obama serving by remaining silently supportive of the status quo when he could, and by any measure, should, be lending vocal, public support for the peoples of the Arab world as they finally rise up against their leaders?

Is it companies like Lockheed Martin, the massive defence contractor whose tentacles reach deep into every part of the fabric of governance (as revealed by William Hartung’s powerful new book, Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military Industrial Complex)?

Is it the superbanks who continue to rake in profits from an economy that is barely sputtering along, and who have joined with the military industrial complex’s two principal axes-the arms and the oil industries-to form an impregnable triangle of corrupt economic and political power?

…[emphasis mine]

Someone here remarked in the comments yesterday that they agreed with MJ Rosenberg that Palestinian elections would probably be necessary. I agree, but I think we have to ask, does the US really want that? Democracy is a double-edged sword and we seem to promote elections in other nations insofar as we believe we can either help determine the outcome or in the alternative, based on whether we agree with the results. Democracy means accepting the will of the people. The US likely fears more anti-Western, pro-Islamic factions being elected into office. The irony of course is that our heavy-handed, biased and Israel-centric handling of the Mideast conflict may ensure just that.

UPDATE II: In 2010, demolition of Palestinian homes in Area C in the West Bank TRIPLED. This ethnic cleansing transfer is both inexcusable and illegal and yet we (the United States) speak out of both sides of our mouth. We can’t ignore and silence the nonviolent resistance in the Palestinian Territories while sitting back and watching Israel take part in actions which make hatred and violence all but a foregone conclusion. Do we stand for the rule of law or not? Israel may be a sovereign nation but when it comes to violations of international law – violations propped up by U.S> taxpayer dollars and the military industrial complex, since when do we remain quiet?

13 Comments leave one →
  1. Seamus permalink
    January 26, 2011 9:14 am

    Thanks for the links. The Guardian does a great job on all foreign policy/world news coverage.

    I noticed that the State Dept. didn’t use the word democracy or call for free and fair elections like you all do when it’s a country you don’t like.

    The coverage here where I am is largely critical of the US response although coming on the heels of the revelations of US and Israeli bullying in the Palestine Papers that’s to be expected- we’re just not that into you right now ;). I love you Yanks but you really must do something about your schizo foreign policy. You rail against despots you don’t like but prop up the ones you do!

    Of course to be fair the UK isn’t much different in that regard.

  2. GeorgeS permalink
    January 26, 2011 11:45 am

    Thanks for posting this Stacey. You have a lot of credibility because you refuse to simply make excuses for administration despite your obvious loyalty to Secy Clinton. Only by speaking out can we effect change.

    I think it’s important to keep the Palestine Papers in the discussion as much as possible in the blogosphere since the US media is ignoring it. Ironic that the Israeli media isn’t ignoring it. What is it with American Jews that they tolerate no discussion of facts critical of Israel out of a misplaced sense of loyalty but Israeli Jews DEMAND such discussion? Makes no sense.

    All the pro-Israel big mouths are noticeably silent now, aren’t they? All those years of claiming only Israel was making concessions has come back and hit them in the ass.

    Former Sen. Fritz Hollings was right when he said nothing gets done in the US government regarding Israel unless it gets AIPAC’s stamp of approval.

  3. January 26, 2011 1:44 pm

    I agree with Stacy that “The US likely fears more anti-Western, pro-Islamic factions being elected into office. The irony of course is that our heavy-handed, biased and Israel-centric handling of the Mideast conflict may ensure just that.”

    Our propping up of these dictators (e.g., Egypt and Saudi Arabia, not to mention the Shah in Iran) for decades financially, militarily and diplomatically also drives out moderate voices and propels people toward extreme positions. There is no venue for people to pursue political expression or change.

  4. Steve permalink
    January 26, 2011 1:48 pm

    From the Hill regarding what Obama DIDN’T say in his State of the Union. This admin. is in danger of losing all credibility on human rights and support for civil society. I think that there was such an outcry over Clinton’s statement that the Egyptian govt was “stable” that the State Dept. then released the statement Stacy posted today, which is a little bit more supportive of the protesters. In fairness to Clinton, Obama has been almost totally silent on events taking place in the Middle East- from Palestine to Tunisia to Egypt to Algeria.

    The Arab world sees that the Emperor has no clothes:

    The US media has never done a good job of covering foreign policy but they have reached a new low in their coverage of the Middle East this week. Ethan Bronner was particularly pathetic on the Palestine Papers, which he basically wrote off. The media is ignoring the implications of the papers and the obvious US double standard, not to mention how the influence of the Israel Lobby has ensured that two states never happen. Bronner has a total conflict of interest on this one, as do many Israel Firsters in the media.

  5. Lulu permalink
    January 26, 2011 2:55 pm

    What a mess:

    Israel is now circling E. Jerusalem to ensure it never is officially transferred to the Palestinians. Their ethnic purity arguments are really shocking. Jew-only this, Jew-only that. They are literally cleansing the land of Arabs.

    What goes around comes around

  6. January 26, 2011 6:26 pm

    I agree, but I think we have to ask, does the US really want that? Democracy is a double-edged sword and we seem to promote elections in other nations insofar as we believe we can either help determine the outcome or in the alternative, based on whether we agree with the results. Democracy means accepting the will of the people. The US likely fears more anti-Western, pro-Islamic factions being elected into office. The irony of course is that our heavy-handed, biased and Israel-centric handling of the Mideast conflict may ensure just that.


  7. January 26, 2011 6:27 pm

    Oh and thanks as always for the great foreign pol/Hillary coverage, Stacy!

  8. Carolyn-Rodham permalink
    January 27, 2011 1:56 am

    The only way I keep the faith with Hillary is by believing that she is simply being loyal to her Commander-in-Chief and carrying out Obama’s foreign policy directives. But even this die-hard Clinton fan is beginning to wonder — would things have been all that different with a President Clinton and SOS Holbrooke?

    • January 27, 2011 7:55 am

      I think the problem is with long-standing US foreign policy and the special interest groups that make it impossible to have a more rational approach to issues, particularly in the Middle East. I’m not making excuses for this administration but as soon as they tried to be more even-handed in their approach to the region the push back began from the usual suspects.

      That said, I’m not convinced Hillary’s foreign policy would be that much different. If anything, she seems much more hawkish on most things- anything having to do with the military, Iran, and of course, she’s been staunchly in the AIPAC wing of Middle East fopo for over a decade now. I’ve sort of just had to accept that I don’t agree with her on everything. Of course, there isn’t a single politician with whom I agree on every single thing. Who knows how much of her hawkishness has been due to her own personal beliefs vs. the reality of being an elected official, particularly one from NY? Lets be honest, unless you have the Israel Lobby behind you, you’re going nowhere fast politically and that is a travesty because what has the Lobby accomplished? Only a deterioration in the Mid-East conflict and Israel becoming practically a pariah state- not because of anti-Semitism as they’d like us all to believe but because of their heavy-handed, no accountability, repression of the Palestinians. Go Team.

      The Palestine Papers paint a terrible picture of the peace process. The US has coddled the stronger party at the expense of the weak and we’ve not only entrenched the Occupation but in some instances actively promoted it and ensured it’s continuation, all the while blaming the Palestinians for every single thing that goes wrong. This administration killed the Goldstone Report which dealt a huge blow to our credibility in the conflict- our refusal to allow the Palestinians to have any legal recourse EVER for potential crimes committed against them is just fueling radicalism in the region. And for some reason which I simply can’t understand, Hillary and Obama have remained totally silent about the repressive crack-down on Palestinian peace activists in the Territories. Why on earth would Israel ever change it’s ways if they know the US will rubber-stamp everything they do, even when it involves the death of US citizens (Israel just found itself “Not Guilty” on all counts in their attack on the Gaza flotilla- big surprise there). Of course, the US Jewish community isn’t being too helpful- blind support of Israel, right or wrong is just ridiculous, as is totally knee-jerk blind support of anything.

      Egypt and Jordan get tons of $$ from the US because they signed peace treaties with Israel and because they serve as a front against Islamic extremism in the region. That seems to be more important than democracy at this point.

  9. January 27, 2011 12:44 pm

    Interesting statement released from el Baradei. Here is a powerful excerpt. “Then, as protests built in the streets of Egypt following the overthrow of Tunisia’s dictator, I heard Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s assessment that the government in Egypt is “stable” and “looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people”. I was flabbergasted—and I was puzzled. What did she mean by stable, and at what price? Is it the stability of 29 years of “emergency” laws, a president with imperial power for 30 years, a parliament that is almost a mockery, a judiciary that is not independent? Is that what you call stability? I am sure not. And I am positive that it is not the standard you apply to other countries. What we see in Egypt is pseudo-stability, because real stability only comes with a democratically elected government.

    We are staring at social disintegration, economic stagnation, political repression, and we do not hear anything from you, the Americans, or for that matter from the Europeans

    If you would like to know why the United States does not have credibility in the Middle East, that is precisely the answer. “

    • January 27, 2011 2:07 pm

      I’ve always had tremendous respect for el Baradei- what a thankless job he had at the IAEA. And of course he turned out to be right about Iraq and the US waged a behind-the-scenes diplomatic war against him during the Bush years.

      He’s right of course. He’d make a very good leader of Egypt.

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