US Material Support for the Egyptian Junta

The US is on the verge of offering a major support package to the Egyptian junta. According to the Daily Beast,

Congress is preparing to allow the Obama administration to give more than $1 billion dollars to the Egyptian government and military.

… The Obama administration has been lobbying Congress for permission to give the aid to the Egyptian government.

… Congress is set to unveil the omnibus spending bill for the remainder of fiscal year 2014 Monday afternoon. The Daily Beast obtained the text of the section that deals with U.S. aid to Egypt. It states that the president must certify that Egypt is “sustaining the strategic relationship with the United States,” and “meeting its obligations under the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty.”

Following that certification, Congress would allow Obama to give the Egyptian government $250 million in economic support. Also, Obama could give the Egyptian military $1.3 billion in two installments: $975 million after Egypt holds its constitutional referendum and $576.8 million after presidential and parliamentary elections.

Contrast the US support for a brutal dictatorship in Egypt with the policy rhetoric in, say, Obama’s famous Cairo speech about supporting democracy and human rights. It’s hard to imagine a regime in more flagrant violation of these core principles than Egypt. In Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech, he said:

I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

… America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments – provided they govern with respect for all their people.This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. No matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power: you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party.

In contrast to these ideals, the present regime in Egypt, a military junta, massacres its political dissidents and has criminalized independent journalism. Sharif Abdel Kouddous reports that

Egypt has become one of the most dangerous places on earth to be a journalist. The Committee to Protect Journalists ranked it the third deadliest country for journalists in 2013 and among the world’s top ten worst jailers of journalists.

According to a recent Amnesty International report,

The Egyptian authorities are using every resource at their disposal to quash dissent and trample on human rights …

The briefing entitled Roadmap to repression: No end in sight to human rights violations, paints a bleak picture of the state of rights and liberties in Egypt since the ousting of President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.

“Egypt has witnessed a series of damaging blows to human rights and state violence on an unprecedented scale over the last seven months. Three years on, the demands of the ‘25 January Revolution’ for dignity and human rights seem further away than ever.

 The third anniversary of the ouster of Egyptian dictator Mubarak (also a major US ally at the time), occasioned a major crackdown, according to Amnesty:

As celebrations got underway for the third anniversary of Egypt’s uprising against the rule of Hosni Mubarak, elsewhere across the country security forces also sought to prevent anti-government gatherings, breaking-up marches and rounding up hundreds of protesters and bystanders.

The scale of arrests was staggering. More than 1,000 people were arrested in a single day according to the Interior Ministry. At least 64 people were killed and hundreds injured in the violence that broke out as security forces tried to clear the protests.

The report interviews protestors who were tortured and arbitrarily held captive. For example, one eye-witness

said she was taken to a military building and held alongside male detainees in an outdoor space.

“They made the men strip down to their underwear, blindfolded them, forced them to kneel and then used a sort of electric black taser to shock them on the shoulders and backs,” she said.

Samar was held there for two days before being released.

If the US were serious about promoting an agenda of democracy and human rights in Egypt and elsewhere, it would halt all forms of aid to countries in the region, and use the UN to pressure the Egyptian junta to reverse its crackdown on political dissent, reinstate the fairly elected Egyptian president, and schedule constitutional elections under the auspices of international observers.

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