By William Muller, Contributor
For 30 years, Hosni Mubarak ruled Egypt in a reign of oppression, censorship, brutality and torture. After 18 days of mass protests that included violent clashes with police, the Egyptian people toppled a dictator.
In politics, there are two kinds of dictators. Mubarak was the kind we liked. During Mubarak’s iron-fisted tenure, Egypt was the second-largest recipient of long-term U.S. military and economic aid. Mubarak amassed $70 billion during his rule, making him one of the richest men in the world, according to the Guardian (guardian.co.uk).
Vice President Biden mused on PBS that Mubarak was not a dictator because he was a friend and important ally of U.S. geopolitical interests in the region. During his 2009 visit to Cairo, President Obama replied in the negative when asked by the BBC if Mubarak was an authoritarian leader and added he doesn‘t “use labels for folks.” Recently, Obama called Mubarak a “patriot.”
For decades, America has had a bad habit of giving financial aid and military hardware to autocratic rulers like Mubarak, Ali Abdullah Saleh, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and, at one time, Saddam Hussein. As long as the relationships helped secure American economic and military dominance in the Middle East, we turned a blind eye to human rights abuses.
In the events leading up to Mubarak relinquishing power, Obama offered vague, lukewarm sentiments to the protestors and reaffirmed support for the military strongman until public sentiment made it no longer feasible. Obama had the attention of the whole world and blew it. Faced with the emergence of a popular, bottom-up democratic movement, Obama leaned on the side of the military and ruling elite.
The Lotus Revolution that ushered Mubarak out of office left a vacuum with another autocrat waiting in the wings.
Omar Suleiman, former vice president and Mubarak’s heir, was the point man in Egypt for the CIA’s rendition program. Egypt’s torture-friendly environment and network of secret detention facilities served as a destination point for terror suspects abducted by the CIA during Bush’s War on Terror. ABC News reported that when asked by the CIA for a DNA sample from a suspected terrorist, Suleiman offered an entire arm.
Suleiman is regarded by the protestors in Tahir Square as “Mubarak II,” as corrupt and brutal as the former president. He has openly dismissed demands for civil rights from the demonstrators and responded with thinly veiled threats on Egyptian state television.
In an interview with the Guardian, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed Suleiman as the White House’s pick to be the man to lead Egypt in a “transition to democracy.” She added that his first order of business is to clear the streets of those troublesome protestors and restore order.
It’s impossible to reconcile our democratic principles with the objectives of empire, and there seems to be a huge disconnect in Washington regarding our policies with Egypt.