As ThinkProgress reported earlier today, a number of high-profileright-wing figures have risen to the defense of the embattled Hosni Mubarak government in Egypt. Yet as thousands of Egyptians continue to fight for their freedom, the eyes of the international community are falling squarely on the Obama administration.
Only free and fair elections provide the prospect for a peaceful transfer of power to a government recognized as legitimate by the Egyptian people. We urge the Obama administration to pursue these fundamental objectives in the coming days and press the Egyptian government to:
- call for free and fair elections for president and for parliament to be held as soon as possible;
- amend the Egyptian Constitution to allow opposition candidates to register to run for the presidency;
- immediately lift the state of emergency, release political prisoners, and allow for freedom of media and assembly;
- allow domestic election monitors to operate throughout the country, without fear of arrest or violence;
- immediately invite international monitors to enter the country and monitor the process leading to elections, reporting on the government’s compliance with these measures to the international community; and
- publicly declare that Hosni Mubarak will agree not to run for re-election.
We further recommend that the Obama administration suspend all economic and military assistance to Egypt until the government accepts and implements these measures.
The position of the Obama administration has been unclear. While administration officials have condemned abuses of civil liberties, they’ve also fallen short of endorsing Mubarak’s ouster or ending support for the regime, with Vice President Joe Biden even going as far as to say that Mubarak isn’t a dictator.
The United States gives nearly $2 billion in aid to the Egyptian regime every year, and offers diplomatic and military cooperation that helps bolster Mubarak. As protesters continue to be beaten, tortured, and killed by internal security forces, it’s important to know that these abuses are being subsidized by U.S. taxpayer dollars. Threatening to reduce or eliminate this monetary assistance to the Egyptian regime would be a powerful tool that the United States could use to help advance democracy and promote freedom in the country.
As ThinkProgress reported today, former Bush administration official and U.N. Ambassador John Bolton abandoned his supposed belief in “democracy promotion” and told right-wing radio host Mark Levin that the Egyptian pro-democracy protests are a “big opportunity” for jihadists, siding with the Mubarak dictatorship.
Now, yet another high-profile Republican is disparaging the protest movement and openly siding with Egypt’s dictator. In a statement posted on his website last night, GOP Conference Chair Rep. Thaddeus McCotter wrote that “the Egyptian demonstrations are not the equivalent of Iran’s 2009 Green Revolution” and that “America must stand with her ally Egypt to preserve an imperfect government capable of reform.” He even went as far as to say that “freedom’s radicalized enemies are subverting Egypt” with the demonstrations:
“The Egyptian demonstrations are not the equivalent of Iran’s 2009 Green Revolution. The Egyptian demonstrations are the reprise of Iran’s 1979 radical revolution.
“Thus, America must stand with her ally Egypt to preserve an imperfect government capable of reform; and prevent a tyrannical government capable of harm. [...]
“This is not a nostalgic “anti-colonial uprising” from within, of all places, the land of Nassar. Right now, freedom’s radicalized enemies are subverting Egypt and other our allies.
McCotter’s remarks are as offensive as they are ignorant. To start with, the congressman is right that the demonstrations in Egypt are different than those in Iran. The protest movement in Iran was organized around its candidate in the election, who actually was literally an Islamist. Meanwhile, the demonstrations in Egypt were mostly spontaneous and led by younger progressive Egyptians; it was days before the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood even began taking part in the protests, and even now, they are far from the dominating force.
And while there are many legitimate concerns about the participation of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egyptian politics, it is important to note that the Egyptian Brotherhood has long denounced violence, even taking part in the movement to end violence against Coptic Christians.
Furthermore, it is almost comical to claim that Mubarak’s government is “capable of reform” and to say that the current government is opposed to a future “tyrannical government.” After all, in a desperate attempt to appease the democracy movement, Mubarak appointed vice president and prime minister who are essentially loyal to him; the appointed vice president was actually the head of the country’s notoriously brutal intelligence service.
Needless to say, it is insulting to the thousands who are demonstrating and many who have given their lives battling the Mubarak dictatorship for McCotter to baselessly suggest that they are actually the tools of violent jihadists and that we should continue our bankrupt policy of backing the dictatorship in Egypt.
During the Bush years, one of the justifications the administration most relied on for many of its policies in the world was that it was engaging in “democracy promotion.” One of the most vocal members about this supposed cause was Bush administration U.N. ambassador John Bolton.
Throughout his tenure as a high-level administration official, Bolton repeatedly insisted that one of his top priorities was helping spread freedom, respect for human rights, and democracy throughout he world. He was instrumental in the Bush administration’s refusal to join the U.N. Human Rights Council, supposedly out of his objection to the poor human rights records of several of the council’s members.
Yet during an interview with right-wing radio host Mark Levin yesterday, Bolton used his time on the show to attack and undermine the pro-democracy protest movement currently underway in Egypt. The former U.N. ambassador claimed that the “real alternative” to the Mubarak government is not “Jeffersonian democracy” but rather the opposition Muslim Brotherhood. After Levin postulated that “every Jihadi nutjob is probably pouring into Egypt right now,” Bolton followed up by saying this is the “big opportunity” for jihadists and mocked the calls of the international community to restore internet services, saying that the “Muslim Brotherhood knows how to use Twitter just like naive college students do”:
LEVIN: So what do you make with what’s going on in Egypt right now?
BOLTON: Well, I think it’s a real crisis for the regime. I think the outpourings in the street that have now been joined by the Muslim Brotherhood really do put the issue squarely on the table [...] My take is that they are digging in for a fight, they intend to resist, and that the real alternative is not Jefferson democracy versus the Mubarak regime, but that it’s the Muslim Brotherhood versus the Mubarak regime, and that has enormous implications for the U.S., for Israel, and our other friends in the region.
LEVIN: See, that’s my take on it too. I’m not aware of these spontaneous Jeffersonian democracy drives in the Arab world. Maybe I could be missing something. Mike Ledeen makes the point, I think he’s right, that every Jihadi nutjob is probably pouring into Egypt right now.
BOLTON: Oh, this is the big opportunity. That’s why so much of the Obama administration opposition to it has been feckless. [...] And the Muslim Brotherhood knows how to use Twitter just like naive college students do. So I don’t disagree. There are a lot of people in the streets who have legitimate grievances, they want more open government, so even if Mubarak were to fall, those idealistic people aren’t going to create the new government, the Brotherhood is.
Listen to it:
For starters, Bolton is conflating a much wider movement for democracy with the Egyptian Islamist political movement known as the Muslim Brotherhood. The current demonstrations started on January 25, a date which had no religious significance but rather marked the date of an anticolonial police revolt against the British. The protests, largely lead by Egypt’s more progressive younger generation, went on for days before the Brotherhood even became involved.
Second of all, while there are many legitimate concerns about the nature of the Muslim Brotherhood’s politics, they are not equivalent to anti-American jihadists. The Egyptian brotherhood “renounced violence years ago, but its relative moderation has made it the target of extreme vilification by more radical Islamists. Al Qaeda’s leaders, Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri, started their political lives affiliated with the Brotherhood but both have denounced it for decades as too soft and a cat’s paw of Mubarak and America.” In other words, Bolton is attacking a mostly nonviolent Islamist movement that has acted as a bulwark against violent extremism. Following brutal attacks against Coptic Christians late last year, the Muslim Brotherhood unequivocally condemned the terrorism, calling for peace.
Lastly, and most importantly of all, as former CIA officer and chair of the Obama administration’s 2009 Afghanistan and Pakistan strategic policy review Bruce Reidel writes, “Egyptians will decide the outcome, not Washington. We should not try to pick Egyptians’ rulers. Every time we have done so, from Vietnam’s generals to Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai, we have had buyer’s remorse. … [We] should not be afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood. Living with it won’t be easy but it should not be seen as inevitably our enemy. We need not demonize it nor endorse it. In any case, Egyptians now will decide their fate.” In other words, supporting democracy overseas does not mean supporting only leaders who we have no disagreements with.
If Bolton is siding with Mubarak against the legitimate aspirations of the Egyptian people — which include but are far from limited to nonviolent Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood — he should no longer pretend to be a friend of democracy (something he admitted in 2010 when he said that democracy is “not always the answer“).
During an appearance on CNN’s John King USA, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) refused to commit to cutting off funding to the Mubarak regime and also repeatedly warned against including the Muslim Brotherhood in a future democratic process.
,Despite repeated goading from CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that the Egyptian uprising may be “bad for the US,” Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) insisted that democracy is better than the status quo in the Middle East. “Because ultimately, the more Democratic the Middle East is, the less likely it is we’re going to have conflagration and conflicts between countries. That’s my view. I hope that turns out to be right,” he said.