During last Sunday's "Sixty Minutes" joint interview with President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Obama boasted that "You know, when it comes to Egypt, I think, had it not been for the leadership we showed, you might have seen a different outcome there."
It's hard to disagree with the president. His administration contributed to the turmoil now gripping Egypt and leading to what some observers on the ground there have characterized as "a complete state of collapse," to quote Al Jazeera.
Under Obama's self-described "leadership," his administration promulgated the false image of the Muslim Brotherhood as "moderate Islamists" (an oxymoron if there ever was one). Just last September, for example, an administration official, defending the White House's plan to forgive $1 billion in Egyptian debt, said of the Muslim Brotherhood's supposed commitment to economic reform: "They sound like Republicans half the time." And let's not forget Director of National Intelligence James Clapper's memorable description of the Muslim Brotherhood in February 2011 as “largely secular.”
As a consequence of his delusions about the good intentions of the Muslim Brotherhood, Obama tilted U.S. policy in their favor to lead the post-Mubarak regime at the expense of the more pro-democracy secularists who sparked the revolution in Tahrir Square in the first place two years ago.
On the second anniversary of the revolution last Friday, violent clashes broke out in Cairo and other Egyptian cities. There were protests aimed at the Muslim Brotherhood's highjacking of the revolution with its Islamist-infused Constitution that marginalized women’s and minority rights. Over the weekend, confrontations with the police also erupted in response to the death sentences handed down by a court against 21 soccer fans in Port Said for their role in a deadly riot last February. As a result, at least 50 people lost their lives and more than 300 have been injured in the last few days, many of them at the hands of the police.
"Down, down Morsi, down down the regime that killed and tortured us!" people in Port Said chanted as the coffins of those killed on Saturday were carried through the streets.
Bel Trew, a journalist reporting from Cairo, was quoted as telling Russia Today:
"There are still bloody and chaotic scenes in Port Said…the army has been deployed…eyewitnesses say they see tanks on the street at the moment.
Right now here in the capital there are clashes raging between protesters and security forces on the…lots of tear gas in the air here in down-town Cairo. Rocks have also been exchanged. Security have upped up their presence around government buildings, as the focus of the anger here for protesters is very much against Morsi’s administration… the situation in Egypt really descends into a bit of a crisis.”
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood's hand-picked candidate, responded on Sunday with a declaration of a state of emergency in the three Suez Canal provinces hardest hit by the violence including Port Said. His edict suspends the ordinary judicial process and many civil liberties in favor of extraordinary presidential and police powers. It seems that Morsi has had a great deal of practice in issuing emergency decrees in recent weeks.
Morsi was reportedly angry and almost screaming during his televised address announcing the state of emergency.
In the words of the Associated Press, Morsi is "using tactics of the ousted regime to get a grip on discontent over his Islamist policies and the slow pace of change."
Nevertheless, the protests are continuing.
What does the Obama administration have to say about the rising anger against the Muslim Brotherhood-backed regime and President Morsi's clamping down on the liberties that Obama thought he had helped usher in with his support of the revolution and Morsi's election? Precious little.
A senior Obama administration official, who would speak only on condition of anonymity, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that the Morsi regime was "obviously having growing pains."
To ease those "growing pains," the Obama administration is reportedly going ahead with plans to provide Morsi's government with F-16 fighter jets and military tanks, part of at least a billion dollars in aid that is on top of the loan forgiveness the Obama administration has in the works.
The State Department has not responded to a request for comment about the report of the pending delivery of the F-16 planes. However, Obama's nominee to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, Senator John Kerry, last week during his confirmation hearing defended the Obama administration’s plans to gift the Morsi regime with at least four F-16 fighter jets. Sure, Kerry conceded, Morsi's recently disclosed hateful insults against Jews that he uttered in 2010 were “reprehensible” and “unacceptable by anyone’s standard.” But they should not get in the way of our "critical interests with Egypt." Unsaid were whether those "critical interests" include Morsi's willingness to use military tanks against his own people, his cozying up to Iran and the threats his Muslim Brotherhood patrons have made against Israel that our F-16s can be used to carry out.
The Obama administration's policies in Egypt have been an abysmal failure. And Obama is doubling down in his reliance on Morsi's hollow assurances that he is committed to democracy. But for the "leadership" that Obama showed in Egypt during and after the revolution that deposed Mubarak, we might well "have seen a different outcome there" - a far better one for the Egyptian people and American national security interests.
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