Egypt & America -- Connotations of Torture or Martha Stewart Sheets? Reality Check Time! (Marjorie Cohn’s Take)
Marjorie Cohn in her article "U.S. Chickens Come Home to Roost in Egypt" points out that the US has supported Egyptian Prez Mubarak with $1.3 billion annually, most of it in military aid. Egypt in return collaborates with Israel to blockade Gaza and offers “logistical support” to America for its wars.
2 million Egyptians are now revolting against Mubarak and the US is being called out internationally for its own corruption and war criminality and war criminality enabling. We all know the US is eager to have a pro-US replacement for Mubarak, the best replacement US money (that US citizens desperately need) and weaponry (that humanity in general does not need) can buy.
The welfare of the Egyptian people themselves was no big priority clearly to the Mubarak regime nor to an America supporting it with this vast sum of money. Marjorie Cohn on the standard of living of the Egyptian citizenry:
Mubarak’s “whole system is corrupt,” said Hesham Korayem, an Egyptian who taught at City University of New York and provides frequent commentary on Egyptian and Saudi television. He told me there is virtually no middle class in Egypt, only the extremely rich (about 20 to 25 percent of the population) and the extremely poor (75 percent). The parliament has no input into what Mubarak does with the money the United States gives him, $300 million of which comes to the dictator in cash each year.
Also troubling, the “torture business” provided by Egypt for the American CIA. Cohn provides some chilling commentary:
Torture is commonplace in Egypt, according to Korayem. Indeed, Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s intelligence chief whom Mubarak just named Vice-President, was the lynchpin for Egyptian torture when the CIA sent prisoners to Egypt in its extraordinary rendition program. Stephen Grey noted in Ghost Plane, “[I]n secret, men like Omar Suleiman, the country’s most powerful spy and secret politician, did our work, the sort of work that Western countries have no appetite to do ourselves.”
In her chapter in the newly published book, “The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse,” Jane Mayer cites Egypt as the most common destination for suspects rendered by the United States. “The largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid after Israel,” Mayer writes, “Egypt was a key strategic ally, and its secret police force, the Mukhabarat, had a reputation for brutality.” She describes the rendering of Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi to Egypt, where he was tortured and made a false confession that Colin Powell cited as he importuned the Security Council to approve the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Al-Libi later recanted his confession.
The State Department’s 2002 report on Egypt noted that detainees were “stripped and blindfolded; suspended from a ceiling or doorframe with feet just touching the floor; beaten with fists, metal rods, or other objects; doused with hot or cold water; flogged on the back; burned with cigarettes; and subjected to electrical shocks. Some victims . . . [were] forced to strip and threatened with rape.”
In 2005, the United Nations Committee Against Torture found that “Egypt resorted to consistent and widespread use of torture against detainees” and “the risk of such treatment was particularly high in the case of detainees held for political and security reasons.”
About a year ago, an Italian judge convicted 22 CIA operatives and a U.S. Air Force colonel of arranging the kidnapping of a Muslim cleric in Milan in 2003, then flying him to Egypt where he was tortured. Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr told Human Rights Watch he was “hung up like a slaughtered sheep and given electrical shocks” in Egypt. “I was brutally tortured and I could hear the screams of others who were tortured too,” he added.
A former CIA agent observed, “If you want a serious interrogation, you send a prisoner to Jordan. If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear – never to see them again – you send them to Egypt.”
So Suleiman is being offered as a leader by Mubarak? Fat chance. Cohn declares that The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has serious influence and will not begin to abide that. The Brotherhood, by the way, is advocating non-violence and hopefully US interference or the threat of it will not catalyze it to be otherwise. According to Cohn quoting Scott MaLeod of Time magazine “its leaders are for the most part moderate and responsible.” The Brotherhood is known for providing social programs to enhance public services there.
Indeed, the Brotherhood supports Mohamed ElBaradei to negotiate with the Egyptian government. ElBaradei, the former U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency chief and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, recently returned to Egypt to stand with the protesters. He told Fareed Zakaria that the Brotherhood favors a secular state, and “has nothing to do with the Iranian movement, has nothing to do with extremism as we have seen it in Afghanistan and other places.”
Cohn reminds us that with Biden’s comment on PBS News Hour that he would not refer to Mubarak as a dictator, the Obama administration is profoundly and pathetically out of synch with reality right now and losing even more international good will. Its hypocrisy is showing. It's wrong side of history-ness. This is an epic time for Egypt and the world. Two million people are saying no to oppression. The US always pretended to support democracy around the world. I guess Obama, like Bush, is determined to completely end that illusion.
The Obama administration looks away from real spiritual, humanitarian leadership, whether at home or abroad. In this case, a deserved Nobel Peace Prize winner, ElBaradei. Cohn:
ElBaradei criticized Obama for supporting Mubarak in the face of the popular revolt in Egypt. “You are losing credibility by the day,” he told CBS News. “On one hand you’re talking about democracy, rule of law and human rights, and on the other hand you are lending support to a dictator that continues to oppress his people.”
Finally Cohn addresses the toxic enmeshment of Mubarak's Egypt, the US and Israel:
Korayem sees the United States’ uncritical support for Israel as key to the problems in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East. If the United States acted as an honest broker, even “slightly fair to the Palestinians,” that would go a long way to solving the difficulties, he said. But, according to Gareth Porter, “The main function of the U.S. client state relationship with Egypt was to allow Israel to avoid coming to terms with Palestinian demands.” Chris Hedges adds, “The failure of the United States to halt the slow-motion ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by Israel has consequences. The failure to acknowledge the collective humiliation and anger felt by most Arabs because of the presence of U.S. troops on Muslim soil . . . has consequences.”
We are seeing those consequences in the streets of Egypt and the likelihood of similar developments in Jordan, Yemen, and other Middle Eastern countries. Until the U.S. government stops uncritically supporting tyrants, torturers, and oppressors, we can expect the people to rise up and overthrow them.
Jordan, Yemen, other Middle Eastern countries as well? Will the US and Obama use this momentous, teachable moment and wise up? End America's vile and brutal imperialism and corruption?
I hope more than I think so.