Birth Pangs of a New Middle East Part Two

Posted on January 26, 2011


I was not completely unserious when I repurposed Condoleeza’s Rice’s disgustingly inappropriate and repulsive “birth pangs” comment as a hopeful wish for the future of the American allied Middle East. Today’s happenings in Egypt only aggregate that feeling, though it’s still too early to tell if that energy will  even last into Wednesday.

One thing you can count on, however, is hypocrisy from the United States. Here’s Hillary Clinton pretending that she’s unaware of the hundreds of millions of dollars we give to the Mubarak regime, with the full knowledge that their emergency laws produce a police state where protest and political participation exist only at the whim of the government.

We support the fundamental right of expression and assembly for all people, and we urge that all parties [in Egypt] exercise restraint and refrain from violence.  But our assessment is that the Egyptian Government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.

Yes, of course you support those demonstrations today. It’s just that you actually didn’t yesterday. In early 2010, Clinton and Obama instituted new procedures and surgical funding cuts so that USAID funding could only go to groups okayed by the Mubarak regime.

Mr Obama’s proposal for the 2010 budget eliminated all USAid funding for unregistered groups and whittled down funding for civil society organisations to a mere $7m from a previous annual sum of $32m…

This means that groups championing more transparency, political participation or human rights were unlikely to survive in Egypt. Most notably, this alteration of US funding practices occurs in the run up to parliamentary elections and a contentious electoral fix for Mubarak’s Presidential re-up.

Here’s Press Secretary Gibbs adding another layer of bs to the cake:

We support the universal rights of the Egyptian people, including the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. The Egyptian government has an important opportunity to be responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people, and pursue political, economic and social reforms that can improve their lives and help Egypt prosper. The United States is committed to working with Egypt and the Egyptian people to advance these goals.

More broadly, what is happening in the region reminds us that, as the President said in Cairo, we 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 free of corruption; and the freedom to live as you choose – these are human rights and we support them everywhere.

But as the National and Foreign Policy reported last year, the US has been quietly insuring that a certain amount of money, dubbed “Mubarak’s Trust Fund”, will be out of the purview of worrying US eyes so concerned with human rights. Foreign Policy noted:
…the endowment’s lack of a clear governing structure is cause for concern — Congress ought to be wary of allocating resources while leaving those details to be determined after the fact, which would risk turning the endowment into the slush fund that critics fear. In addition, while support for economic and political reform has long been a core component of U.S. economic aid to Egypt, it is troubling that this new endowment will likely include neither.
The proposal for what many here are already calling “Mubarak’s trust fund”, after Egypt’s long-serving president, Hosni Mubarak, has furthered the view among pro-democracy activists that the Obama administration is willing to ignore Egypt’s poor record on human rights and democratic governance in order to ensure its continued co-operation as one of America’s strongest political partners in the Arab world.
Even the pro-Obama Project for Democracy in the Middle East worried that:
…the administration is now exploring the establishment of an “endowment” proposed by the Egyptian government, which ultimately could remove a significant portion of U.S. economic assistance to Egypt from  normal channels of congressional oversight.
It’s quite clear that the Obama administration may have been concerned about the appearance of Egypt’s poor human rights record. It doesn’t seem like they were or are concerned with the reality or details.
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