[Ikhras Note: The Arab American community must remain aware of the continuing revolutionary struggle of the Egyptian people, support their fight for freedom, dignity, and justice, and highlight the role of our own American government in Egypt and the region. The Egyptian people continue a struggle for freedom, full sovereignty and independence, and social justice. The outcome is not yet determined, but their victory, in this most geopolitically important Arab state, can break foreign imperialist domination of the region and create a new Egypt and with it a new Arab world. Arab-Americans should make the success of the Egyptian people and their 2011 uprising a central concern. Ikhras Friend Roqayah Chamseddine* takes a look at the relationship between the regime of Hosni Mubarak and the United States, and what the ouster of American imperialism’s main ally in the region means for the future of our beloved Egypt and the Arab world. This article first appeared on The Cynical Arab website on February 13, 2011 under the title Apologies For An Empire.]
The Middle East is often spoke of by the elite and their apprenticed citizens in a way an overlord would speak of his slave; commanding, repressive and domineering. For far too long the West has remained the dominant, hegemonic entity in the region – that is until recently. As of late their role in the Middle East has been threatened, ironically by the very ideal they enjoy planting in territories they occupy - Democracy.
The fall of Mubarak’s Regime has turned many stomachs, especially those in Israel and Washington. Israel has lost a decisive collaborator and Washington, a vital puppet and strategic ally.
On June 2, 2009, no more than 9 months ago, while speaking to BBC’s Justin Webb prior to his widely-acclaimed speech in Cairo, President Obama refers to recently ousted Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak as a “…stalwart ally of the United States” and a “…force for stability and good”.
If we look at the statements stemming from the Obama Administration and its actions, prior to Mubarak’s much awaited resignation, we will not only witness a cascade of blatant hypocrisy but the pathetic attempts of a waning empire to more or less save-face as they stand face to face with a region ready to break free of imperialist shackles.
Joe Biden, Vice President of the United States – “…I would not refer to [Mubarak] as a dictator.“ When Biden was asked whether or not Mubarak should step down, his gave a clear answer: “No.”
United States President Barack Obama – “The United States has a close partnership with Egypt and we’ve cooperated on many issues, including working together to advance a more peaceful region…We are committed to working with the Egyptian government and the Egyptian people.”
The US-Egypt Relationship: They Knew All Along
The US provides Egypt with $1.5 billion a year, making it the second largest beneficiary of US aid after Israel; Egypt is an investment, their dictatorship was a pillar upholding US hegemony.
The US provided officers from the Egyptian secret police with training at the FBI; Members of Egypt’s opposition were routinely tortured, including many bloggers and journalists.
In a leaked cable Margaret Scobey, the US ambassador to Cairo, dated January 15, 2009, notes “routine and pervasive” police brutality and “police using force to extract confessions from criminals” on a daily basis.
A May 19, 2009 letter explains that Mubarak had been “encouraged” by Obama and Clinton and that he was anxious to demonstrate Egypt remained the central US ally in the region.
A US embassy cable predicted Hosni Mubarak, if still alive in 2011, would run again for presidency ‘and, inevitably, win.’
What these shameless facts mean is quiet simple – The United States of America, specifically the most recent administration, has known about the perverse disregard for human rights in Egypt and saw no problem with it. In light of this, the Obama Administration continued to fund Mubarak’s regime in spite of a laundry list of international human rights violations. After-all, how could the United States argue against torture, indefinite detention without representation et al. in Egypt when the US continues to run a facility which is known by its name across the globe -Guantánamo Bay.
Until the very end, all while Mubarak arrogantly paraded himself on Egypt State TV in attempt to silence dissidence and end protests, the United States was attempting to make amends between the Egyptian people and their defunct government.
On January 28th Obama stated that “…governments have an obligation to respond to their citizens.” and that “…all governments must maintain power through consent, not coercion.” yet the very regime he has been shamefully supporting never once fulfilled a single demand of its people. There is not a single accomplishment that the Mubarak regime can tout, not a single issue solved – on the contrary, the regime has aggravated the level of social distress and economic grievances which have included extreme poverty and a high unemployment rate.
The United States and much of the West happened to be taken aback by the events which transpired in Egypt – Robert Gibbs, former Press Secretary, was brazenly unprepared during every meeting between himself and a slew of journalists/reporters. Imagine, the largest and most powerful hegemonic empire was severely unprepared for not just an uprising of this magnitude but any uprising. Egypt, the most treasured pawn and possession in their imperialist game, was now falling out of their hands and they were fairly reluctant to admit it. Even Israeli politicians are shaking in their steel-toed boots for fear of a new democratic Egypt.
The Mainstream Left: Apologies For An Empire
When does the command of a President end and where does it begin? According to a plethora of those who make up much of the mainstream American left the sins of former President George W. Bush still have much to do with current US President Obama as the ghost of former President Bush still seems to haunt the left on a regular basis. In lieu of the uprising in Egypt there were many bloggers, activists et al. who became enthralled with the events; adding their voices to others as they declared themselves to be in solidarity with Egyptians rising up against a dictators. Yet when faced with their unwavering support of President Obama and his policies towards the Middle East, specifically his relationship with Hosni Mubarak, you see the same reactions: indignant denial, shy ignorance or callous apathy.
President Obama bolstered Hosni Mubarak’s dominance over the Egyptian people, the United States of America was the enabler in this petulant game of expansionism.
The Egyptians liberated themselves from the clutches of tyranny on February 11th and on this fateful day US President Barack Obama delivered a speech, highlighting the momentous occasion – riding the wave more or less and attempting to sheepishly veer away from his relationship with the ousted dictator.
Obama called on the Egyptians military to protect “…the rights of Egypt’s citizens” by “…lifting the emergency law, revising the constitution and other laws to make this change irreversible. And laying out a clear path to elections that are fair and free. Above all, this transition must bring all of Egypt’s voices to the table, with spirit of peaceful protest and perseverance that the Egyptian people have shown can serve as a powerful wind at the back of this change.”
Change. It is a word many have come to abhor, especially when it is dripping from the lips of an imperialist with no respect whatsoever for humanity. To many Arabs, then gathering in celebration with one another, this was comparable to a slap in the face. The speech was an insolent back-hand.
For decades the Egyptian people were an insignificant matter of fact, they existed only in proverbial speech’s and through the aid of a teleprompter. For decades they felt the chains, they tasted the salt of their sweat and the blood of their wounds.
Yet now a US President has the audacity to congratulate them and call for their military, which is funded primarily by the United States of America, to respect their rights. Barack Obama had the audacity to extend his right hand in support and solidarity while his left was gripping the hand of their dictator.
This is not a sign of support but a disdainful sign of dominance, a deafening colonialist message – The Egyptian people now have the approval of the United States to be free. So as not to show any sign of weakness the US empire is attempting to hang on to whatever little power they have left over the masses and over the region.
Prior to the uprising there was absolute silence stemming from the Obama Administration in respect to the torture, the oppression, the dictatorial system. And now the advice is never-ending, the support of the Egyptian people is upfront and clear.
But, the Egyptians are not fools. They know very well who was weaponizing the regime, who was enabling the secret police etc.
There is a saying in my native Arabic, that one cannot hide spit under a rock. Just the same, one cannot hide the collaboration of the United States of America. The Egyptians know of this collusion and a speech, much like a basket of fruit or any other pitiful redress, will not make up for it.
The people of the world now realize that there is strength in unity and that the eagle cannot reign over them any longer. They are free when they wish to be free; the slave has thrown off his shackles. The US empire is collapsing.
*Roqayah Chamseddine is a Lebanese-American journalist and international humanitarian activist; she was a member of the first Gaza Freedom March which took place in December of 2009 in Cairo, Egypt. Recently during the winter of 2010-2011 she spent one month documenting the lives of men, women and children living in the Palestinian Refugee Camps of Lebanon including the camps of Sabra and Shatila and Burj el Barajneh. She is an undergraduate student majoring in Political Science/Pre-Law and Journalism with an emphasis in International Criminal Law. She will be seeking an MA in Journalism during the coming fall. Her work has been featured in foreign and domestic news agencies such as: Al Manar, Mondoweiss, All Voices, Ikhras, Global Voices and a plethora of independent news sources where she is featured as a guest writer or frequent contributing author. She can be reached via:thecynicalarab [at] gmail.com