Dear Egypt: Sorry About the Torture, Tear Gas; Can We Borrow Your Protesters?
America’s most established journalists are telling us this morning that the Obama Administration, careening like a pinball between ineptitude, arrogance, and its pretend empire has this super secret plan — conveniently leaked to Carl Bernstein and the New York Times’s David Sanger — to rescue the Egyptian regime from the anger of its own people. God help us all.
Remember, this is the same inept Administration that can’t give clear instructions to Obama’s personal emissary to Mubarak about what to say and when to keep his mouth shut as he contradicts the Administration’s latest version of its extend and pretend Egyptian policy.
As Bernstein describes it, in what may be the most articulate statement by any mainstream US media, the Obama White House wants to keep President Mubarak nominally in power for the time being, in a powerless, figurehead role, while a select group of wise men make the necessary changes to the Egyptian Constitution to allow someone other than an undesirable legislative Speaker to become the new President. Yeah, they’ve got a Speaker Boehner problem too.
Then this group will oversee a peaceful transition leading to new elections next fall. This engineered solution would reportedly exclude the Muslim Brotherhood from seizing power. [More from the NYT reporting on initial meetings with opposition, including Muslim Brotherhood.]
The Times’ Sanger seems to confirm the essential pieces, which suggests these elements are carefully planted leaks from the White House. It’s painted to be thoughtful, deliberate, strategic, as though Obama has a plan and is in control, despite his repeated statements, now revealed as lies, that gosh, it’s up to the Egyptians to decide how all this turns out and who’s in charge.
By now, the Egyptian people must understand that neither the American government, nor the U.K (whose Prime Minister just lamented how all those non-Brits — shhh; Muslims — are diluting his culture), nor any other Western government places the “aspirations of the Egyptian people” for democracy or economic justice above their own strategic interests. They care about returning Egypt to a condition of “stability,” apparently defined as a regime that protects access to the Oil Canal, doesn’t threaten war against Israel, and doesn’t become a springboard for violent, anti-Western radicalism. The West’s indifference to authoritarian oppression in Egypt has been on display not merely for the 30 years of Mubarak’s regime but for 150 years, or is it 2000? We just used them to help us torture our kidnap victims and looked the other way when Mubarak tortured and murdered his own people.
We need to borrow the Eygptian protesters because the regime that needs a “transition” is not merely Mubarak’s; it’s our own. There are gradations of authoritarian regimes and we’re obviously different from most of the regimes we tolerate and prop up, but not much. We too engage in torture and state-sanctioned terrorism, massive domestic surveillance and violations of human rights. We’re rapidly becoming a one-party regime, a kleptocracy of corruption and crime driven by corporate power and money, in which democracy and economic justice are being systematically undermined by a narrowing band of economic and political elites who control most of the nation’s wealth and have bought our Congress.
So it should not surprise us that Obama, the perfect representative of America’s single party, and his corporate Tea-GOP-conservaDem allies in Congress would oppose democracy in Egypt by keeping “threatening” elements out of power. They did exactly the same thing to ACORN, whose true crime in the Party’s mind was to register millions of poor people who might oppose the regime and help them fight back against the corporate-friendly institutions that relentlessly steal their money, their housing, their dignity and their children’s future.
The Obama governing pattern is consistent: When the economic elites crash and loot the economy, devastating millions, tell the public you’ll fix this. But then make only superficial changes in the power structure, promise to oversee them better using the people who were asleep or complicit the first time, but leave the essential structure and those who crashed it or let it fail in power. Hold no one in power accountable: not the criminals on Wall Street nor the insurers in Hartford nor the drugsters that bilk us and Medicare for billions nor the fraudulent lenders and money changers in every city in the nation, nor the criminally negligent regulators in Washington who cheered on the banksters before their Ayn Rand hero told us, in a moment he soon forgot, that his world view might have been wrong. Now the same people who tanked the system and caused so much suffering are back, stronger, more arrogant than before.
In the meantime, it’s extend and pretend at the White House. Stretch it out, keep the victims and demonstrators from dictating the pace or the magnitude or the authors of change. Obama did that with Wall Street, with the health care and health insurance industries, with the drug manufacturers, with the mortgage industry. He’s doing it now with the pollution industries. He’s pursuing extend and pretend in Egypt.
America is not Egypt, but we have proportionally as much or more income and wealth inequality here as they do. We have 15 million or more unemployed, many for more than a year. We have the highest level of poverty ever, the highest number of uninsured, the most murders by guns, the worst drug problems. Our cities and states are in the worst budgetary crisis in half a century.
And worse, the Ruling Party has no major initiatives to do anything meaningful about any of this. The quarreling elements of America’s corporate party are now united that government should not use its power too much to relieve the suffering. It should instead cut everyone else to save the elites but call it something like “reducing the deficit.” Are these not the hallmarks of a repressive regime?
They are united that the rich may not be taxed but everyone else’s retirement and health benefits must be slashed to relieve the fears of invisible bond vigilantes. They agree we can’t tax reckless financial transactions or make hedge fund managers pay their share of taxes on billion dollar paydays.
The supposedly “adult” Bowles-Simpson Commission would shift income and wealth even more towards the wealthy. Never mind Egypt; just watch Alan Simpson and Candy Crowley on CNN this morning. Their contempt for the ordinary people they’re hoping to screw is palpable.
O Egypt! Lend us your protesters! Come here. We know this is our job, but we need your courage. Come to Capital Mall and teach us your chants, “Leave! Leave!” We will join you.
Update from Marcy Wheeler at emptywheel on Suleiman commitments to “restore order.”