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Sinking in US-Created Quicksand in the Middle East

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clinton-obamaby Jacob G. Hornberger

One thing is for sure: All the love that the U.S. government claims to have generated among the people of the Middle East with its sanctions, invasions, occupations, democracy-spreading operations, and other interventionist actions has failed to manifest itself during the past few days. On the contrary, all we see is tremendous anger, rage, and hatred directed toward the United States.

By intervening in Libya with bombs in the attempt to oust Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi from power, U.S. officials undoubtedly were figuring that the Libyan people would fall in love with the U.S. government. Clearly, the people who murdered American ambassador J. Christopher Stephens were overcome by rage, not by love. But then again, perhaps they were fully aware of the U.S. government’s rendition-torture partnership with Gaddafi, which existed during the time that the U.S. government was loving and embracing him, long before U.S. officials decided to oust him from power.

It was really no different with Iraq. During the 1980s, the U.S. government loved and embraced Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, before turning on him in 1990 during the Persian Gulf War. Then, after more than a decade of brutal sanctions against Iraq, which contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, the U.S. government invaded and occupied the country, under the assumption that the Iraqi people would then love and embrace the U.S. government for liberating them from the dictator the U.S. government had once loved, embraced, and supported.

Alas, it was not to be. Today, after more than a decade since the invasion of Iraq, not only single American family, especially the families of U.S. officials, would dare to go on summer vacation to Iraq. It would be too dangerous given the deep anti-American sentiment in the country.

For decades, the thrust of U.S. foreign policy has been to embrace Middle East dictators and support their brutal oppression over their own people. That’s the reason, for example, for the billion dollars a year in cash and weaponry that the U.S. government has long furnished the Egyptian military — to enable it to maintain its dictatorial iron grip on power over the Egyptian people. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, if the Egyptian people ever tried to revolt against the military dictatorship under which they have long suffered, they would inevitably confront the Egyptian military, with its billions of dollars of U.S.-supplied guns and tanks.

The U.S. mainstream press has always described these cozy partnerships with dictators as relationships with “friendly regimes.” The regimes have always been considered friendly because they’re on “our side” — that is, they are willing to do the bidding of U.S. officials in return for U.S. foreign aid to help keep them in power.

Another good example, of course, is Bahrain, a country headed by a dictatorship that brutally oppresses its own people. The Bahrain regime, which the U.S. government has long supported with foreign aid, is considered “our friend” because it allows a big U.S. military base to be there.

Largely ignored in all this has been the populace who have been suffering under these brutal U.S.-supported tyrannies. They simply don’t matter. If their government is pro-U.S. it is just naturally assumed that the country itself, including the populace, is pro-U.S.

One of the most fascinating parts of all this involves Egypt. For decades, it has been ruled by a pro-U.S. military dictatorship, one of the most brutal in the region. In Egypt, the military and the intelligence force (i.e., their CIA) have long had the emergency powers to take people into custody, hold them indefinitely without trial, torture them, and even execute them. It was the exercise of those powers that was in large part responsible for the citizen revolt that culminated in the ouster of Hosni Mubarak from power.

Throughout the decades, the U.S. government has loved the Egyptian military and believed in it, which is precisely why it has fortified it with billions of dollars in money and armaments. U.S. officials have long taken the position that since the dictatorship is pro-U.S., that’s all that matters. Thus, it surprised no one when the U.S. government chose Egypt to be one of its major rendition-torture partners. The Egyptian military and intelligence force were both ready and willing on a moment’s notice to accept prisoners and torture them on behalf of the U.S. government.

However, today the situation is somewhat different in Egypt. The military still holds the dominant reins of power and refuses to subordinate itself to civilian rule. The U.S. government continues to love the military, as reflected by its continued funneling of cash and armaments directly into the military’s coffers.

But what’s different is that while the military permitted Egypt’s new president to assume office, it was not the military that chose him. Instead, Mohamad Morsi, the new president, was elected in a national election.

So, what’s different? It’s increasingly obvious that Morsi is refusing to become a lackey of the U.S. government, as Mubarak did. Instead, he is making decisions that are clearly independent of the U.S. Empire. For example, according to the New York Times, he waited 24 hours to condemn the killing of Ambassador Stephens rather than do it immediately, as U.S. officials expected him to. Several weeks ago, he spoke at a conference in Iran, the arch-enemy of the U.S. government, at which he received a thunderous applause. U.S. officials were upset that he traveled to Iran, given the sanctions the U.S. government has imposed on Iran. Morsi also traveled to China, which U.S. officials consider is an economic “rival,” where he lined up several economic contracts for Egypt.

In other words, Morsi is making decisions that are independent of the U.S. Empire, which is upsetting U.S. officials as well as proponents of the Empire. He’s just not supposed to be doing that. Like Mubarak, or the Shah of Iran, or Saddam, he’s supposed to do only those things that are consistent with U.S. interests. After all, the country is receiving U.S. foreign aid, right? And every welfare recipient in the world knows that he who pays the piper calls the tune.

Even President Obama is showing his chagrin over the situation. Asked about Egypt in the aftermath of Stephen’s killing, Obama said, “I don’t think that we would consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy.”

Actually though, Obama is being a bit disingenuous. There is no doubt that Obama considers the Egyptian military to be an ally. He just doesn’t consider Morsi to be an ally. That’s what makes the Egyptian situation so fascinating.

My hunch is that despite the grumbling among Morsi’s independence, the flow of aid to Egypt’s military will continue but the check won’t be co-payable to Morsi. In that way, the U.S. government can insure its bets by reserving the power to effect a regime-change operation in Egypt via military coup, much as it did in Chile in 1973.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation.


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