The Republicans are now pushing the notion that the attempted overthrow by the people of Egypt is vindication for George W. Bush and his legacy of "freedom."
The Washington Post recently published a piece claiming as much by Elliott Abrams, who quoted a Bush speech from 2003 to back up his claim:
Are the peoples of the Middle East somehow beyond the reach of liberty? Are millions of men and women and children condemned by history or culture to live in despotism? Are they alone never to know freedom and never even to have a choice in the matter?
First off, Abrams isn't exactly an objective observer. He was a national security adviser to W during his dismal failure of a presidency. But his column, backed by the good name of the Washington Post, is being used by Fox News to trot out the line over and over again: Democracy in Egypt will be part of George W. Bush's legacy of freedom.
Ludicrous. The Egyptian people are of course rebelling against the iron fist of
Hosni Mubarak. And Bush, of course, was one of Mubarak's biggest fans. He praised Mubarak often as a leader in the "freedom and justice movement" in the Middle East. In fact, in that very speech that Abrams claims shows that Bush was a visionary of things to come in Egypt, the former president also said the following:
The great and proud nation of Egypt has shown the way toward peace in the Middle East, and now should show the way toward democracy in the Middle East. [applause] Champions of democracy in the region understand that democracy is not perfect, it is not the path to utopia, but it's the only path to national success and dignity.
You can read more of his praise for Mubarak in this Media Matters piece. The bottom line is that Bush (and Obama, for that matter) looked the other way as Mubarak abused his nation and made a mockery of democracy and freedom. The reason for that, of course, is that Mubarak played ball with the U.S. and Israel and helped keep radical factions in Egypt at bay.
We'll soon see if the tradeoff -- moral fortitude for political expediency -- was worth it for the United States. America has been a terribly dishonest broker in the Middle East. That's a big reason a whole lot of people over there hate us. If this revolution succeeds, it will be up to Obama to forge a new relationship that hopefully won't be steeped in so much hypocrisy and lies.
Yesterday, Obama called for an "orderly transition" in Egypt from Mubarak. That's about as close as he could come to flat-out calling for Mubarak to step down. Some leaders and journalists in Israel were apparently apoplectic about the speech, claiming it was some kind of major betrayal by Obama of a dear ally. Forget that his abuses so crushed the populace that most of the Egyptian people want to string him up on the nearest lamppost.
What does the current Egyptian mess teach us? It teaches us yet again that America, in its relationship with the world, doesn't really put a high priority on freedom, peace, or justice. Although those are the qualities we love so much about our country, it amounts to little more than lip service outside our borders.
We have seen this play out over and over again with the massively corrupt dictators we've supported because they play our game (Somoza, the Shah, Pinochet, Saddam Hussein, etc.). Think about the oppressive regimes each of those ruled over while we touted them as our friends. Our high principles and morality go right out the window when it comes to protecting the interests of number one.
It's easy to look the other way while thugs and crooks are doing your bidding around the world, but our hypocrisy in these matters almost always comes back to bite us -- just look at what happened with the dictators on that short list.
I know this isn't a simple matter; Egypt is a monstrously complicated subject, especially in regard to Israel. An undoing of the Sadat-Begin pact (brokered by Jimmy Carter, a president who actually tried to bring some form of morality to international relations) is absolutely not the direction we want to go. Should we have abandoned Mubarak for his crimes against his people? No. This wasn't a failure of strategy; it was a failure of diplomacy. America had great leverage in Egypt, much of it bought by trade and the $1.5 billion in aid we send to the country every year. The tear gas the government has used to quell protesters? It was made in the USA.
But we didn't keep those checks on Mubarak. We didn't shape him in the spirit of those American ideals we talk so much about. We let him run roughshod over his people, arresting political rivals, neglecting the majority of the impoverished populace while helping himself and a privileged elite to become disgustingly rich. People are talking about Obama cutting off the aid checks to Egypt now? They should have been talking about it years ago as the vampire-faced Mubarak slowly ground his country into the dust.
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Now we see it again in Egypt, and we should just hope that our country's seeming love of all things Mubarak won't help skew the balance of the populace against the United States as Egypt is being reformed.
It raised some alarm bells, so I asked Parlavecchio about it this week. And she too denied that she had ever received anything from Morgenstern or any of his companies, including Elan Landscaping. "He's been a dear friend of mine for 20 years, longer than I've known my husband," said Parlavecchio, a realtor who has also represented concerns that have done business with the city in the past. "But no, he's never given me anything."
OK, that's what she says. The relationship still doesn't smell right. Parlavecchio added that of the photos I've published of her, she prefers the one above.