Taking a break from watching and reading about the revolutionary activity in Egypt so I can, ya know, write about it. It’s called “processing.” Or vomiting, your pick.
So the WaPo was the first Respectable Beltway News Organ to publish an opinion piece giving George Bush credit for the wave of popular democratic uprisings against Middle Eastern dictatorships. Yes, Instapundit and its clones jerked that knee first, but until it makes traction with the big boys, it’s not a meme with real revisionist potential. Yet you knew it was coming. When the national security threat posed by Iraq began to look shaky (much earlier for the more observant and better informed than for others, btw), exporting free market democracy was a fallback position. Neocons took a perfectly reasonable position — that the U.S. has been supporting dictatorships in the Middle East in a devil’s bargain that will do us more long-term harm than good — and turned it into a reason to wage wars of expansion, resource pillage and client state building. Now they are treating popular uprisings against U.S. client states as comparable to an illegal invasion and occupation that cost hundreds of thousands of lives. For Iraqis themselves, the irony is not lost.
Another irony is that throughout Bush’s presidency, neocons were quite critical of what they considered a betrayal by the administration of Egyptian democratic aspirations. Here from an opinion piece at the American Enterprise Institute — the neocon think tank where so many bullshit rationalizations for the Iraq invasion were gestated:
On April 30, the Egyptian government extended the country’s emergency laws for two more years. Under such laws, the government can censor media, ban public demonstrations and detain political dissidents indefinitely. Most political activists had hoped that Mr. Mubarak, under pressure from Washington, would annul them. But the White House remained silent.
Determining U.S. rhetoric to be hollow, Mr. Mubarak pushed further. On May 18, thousands of police clamped down on demonstrators expressing solidarity for two pro-reform judges, Hesham Bastawisi and Mahmoud Mekki, who sit on Egypt’s highest appellate court. The government harassed the judges after they questioned government vote rigging during September’s presidential election. Security forces have rounded up scores of other pro-democracy activists.
Still, democracy activists continued their vigils. President Bush’s words at his second inauguration seem to have resonance in the Arab world: “All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors.” But excuse the oppressors is exactly what the White House did.
As the latter piece makes clear, these uprisings have been a long time coming, and are independent of the policy desires and national interests of foreign powers, including those of Washington, DC. Robert Grenier expresses eloquently and with some humor thoughts I have been having lately as I have watched my government struggle to come to terms with the events in Egypt:
Events in the Middle East have slipped away from us. Having long since opted in favour of political stability over the risks and uncertainties of democracy, having told ourselves that the people of the region are not ready to shoulder the burdens of freedom, having stressed that the necessary underpinnings of self-government go well beyond mere elections, suddenly the US has nothing it can credibly say as people take to the streets to try to seize control of their collective destiny.
All the US can do is “watch and respond”, trying to make the best of what it transparently regards as a bad situation.
Our words betray us. US spokesmen stress the protesters’ desire for jobs and for economic opportunity, as though that were the full extent of their aspirations. They entreat the wobbling, repressive governments in the region to “respect civil society”, and the right of the people to protest peacefully, as though these thoroughly discredited autocrats were actually capable of reform.
They urge calm and restraint. One listens in vain, however, for a ringing endorsement of freedom, or for a statement of encouragement to those willing to risk everything to assert their rights and their human dignity – values which the US nominally regards as universal.
Grenier continues with thoughts on the limits of American influence in the region, limits made narrower by the betrayals and compromises Washington has made in the name of my country. With the recent appointment of Omar Suleiman as Mubarak’s V.P. — the go-to guy for the CIA’s program of extra-rendition of terror suspects it wanted to torture without getting its hands dirty — we should be incredibly skeptical about Secretary of State Clinton’s bureaucratic insistence on an orderly six-month transition process. This here video should put that shit in perspective.