- Throughout decades of brutal rule, Mubarak remained a
steadfast US ally. As a result, Washington rewarded him generously. US
administrations also ignored his crimes, corruption, and lawlessness, as
late January released WikiLeaks cables reveal, showing Obama knew he kept
power through ruthless state terror.
- On January 15, 2009, ambassador Margaret Scobey called
security force brutality "routine and pervasive," saying:
- "(P)olice using force to extract confessions from
criminals (is) a daily event. (US informants) estimate there are literally
hundreds of torture incidents every day in Cairo police stations alone."
- Political activists and opponents are also targeted,
- "(T)he GOE (government of Egypt) is probably torturing
(an April 6 activist) to scare other....members into abandoning their political
activities." It also referred to the "sexual molestation of a
female 'April 6 activist,' " and that another victim's torture only
stopped "when he began cooperating."
- Moreover, "standing orders from the Interior Ministry
between 2000 and 2006 (instructed) the police to shoot, beat and humiliate
judges in order to undermine judicial independence."
- A July 28, 2009 embassy cable said:
- "(A) recent series of selective (government) actions
against journalists, bloggers and even an amateur poet illustrates the
variety of methods available to the GOE to suppress critical opinion, including
an array of investigative authorities and public and private legal actions."
- A January 12, 2009 cable admitted that Mubarak ruled
through police state "emergency powers" for decades, saying:
- "Egypt's State of Emergency, in effect almost continuously
since 1967 (since Nasser and Sadat), allows for the application of the
1958 Emergency Law (EL), which grants the GOE broad powers to arrest individuals
without charge and to detain them indefinitely," omitting what's also
common in America and US-controlled offshore torture prisons extra-judicially.
- According to the International Federation for Human Rights
(IFHR), Egypt's EL grants "broad power to impose restrictions on the
freedoms of assembly, movement or residence; the power to arrest and detain
suspects or those deemed dangerous, and the power to search individuals
and places without the need to follow the provisions of the Criminal Procedure
- It violates Egypt's constitutional personal freedom,
inviolability of private homes, and freedom of movement, letting Mubarak
trash legal principles and rule despotically. It also criminalized assembly
of five or more people that could "threaten public order."
- Other cables identified Egypt's military as the real
center of power. One on July 30, 2009 said, along with state security forces,
- "would ensure a smooth transfer of power, even to
a civilian," to assure seamless succession under new leadership.
- Moreover, cables revealed longstanding US knowledge of
extreme security force brutality, including recent arrests, torture, and
assassinations of protesters demanding regime change.
- Egypt also partnered with Washington and Israel by enforcing
Gaza's siege. Moreover, it did it for internal security reasons because
of the Muslim Brotherhood's alleged ties to Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and
- Anatomy of Mubarak's Dictatorship
- Since the 1970s, Egypt shifted from defying Western imperialism
to becoming a reliable strategic partner. Sadat hastened a trend already
underway called "infitah," or open-door policy, to attract foreign
capital by loosening currency controls, creating tax-free investment zones,
and privatizing state industries. Political changes followed, including
rapprochement with America to resolve conflict with Israel and remove the
threat of war.
- At the time, Egypt's crumbling infrastructure, fragile
transportation and telecommunications networks, as well as fear of re-nationalizations
deterred foreign investments. As a result, relaxed import controls facilitated
flooding Egypt's market with luxury goods for the rich, not economic growth
that deteriorated instead, mostly harming its workers and poor.
- In November 1977, Sadat extended peace overtures to Israel
in Jerusalem. A year later, Camp David followed, establishing full diplomatic
and economic relations as well as getting Egypt expelled from the Arab
League (AL), its headquarters moved from Cairo to Tunis. In 1989, Egypt
was readmitted. In 1990, AL's headquarters returned to Cairo.
- Sadat hoped economic growth would follow as well as US
aid. His October 1981 assassination elevated former air force commander/deputy
defense minister/air chief marshall/vice president Mubarak to power, replacing
him. From then until now, he served reliably as a US puppet, profiting
handsomely from the relationship, besides what he gained from other high
- He allied with America's 1991 Gulf War, collaborating
again in 2003 by giving Pentagon forces priority Suez Canal access and
unrestricted use of Egypt's airspace. At the time, David Welch, Assistant
Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs called America's partnership
with Egypt "a cornerstone of our foreign policy in the Middle East."
It leveraged its relationship to secure other regional allies. In return,
Mubarak and Egypt's ruling class profited handsomely at the expense of
their deeply impoverished people, the spark, along with extreme repression,
that erupted in protests.
- In her February 4 Foreign Policy article titled, "Anatomy
of a Dictatorship: Hosni Mubarak," Elizabeth Dickinson said millions
of Egyptians forced him not to run again for office, but demand more. "The
president, they charged, was an autocrat, a repressor, and a tired leader.
He had to go....Mubarak's Egypt," in fact, "is a textbook police
state. For 30 years, anger and frustration brewed among his subjects, bottled
up and sealed with fear."
- Egypt's brutal police enforced hardline control, targeting
activists, dissidents, Islamists, opposition forces, and anyone perceived
threatening as well as ordinary citizens suspected of crimes or looking
suspicious. In June 2010, a young man, Khaled Said, was beaten to death
for not showing his identity card after entering an Alexandria Internet
cafe. Torture and disappearances are also commonplace as are sham elections.
- "Even if a candidate manages to successfully jump
through (numerous) hoops, the Political Parties Commission, (responsible
for registering parties) has broad authority to close offices, seize funds,
or refuse to recognize a party in the first place - meaning that in practice,
elections are only as competitive as Mubarak wants them to be."
- A 2010 WikiLeaks released cable said the "Interior
Ministry uses (state security) to monitor and sometimes infiltrate the
political opposition and civil society, and to suppress political opposition
through arrests, harassment and intimidation."
- Mubarak also claims threatening Islamic extremism to
justify harsh repression and extract more Western aid. Moreover, a 1996
press law criminalizes defamation, insults, and libel as a way to suppress
press freedom and speech, including against bloggers.
- "Academia isn't safe either: Since the state controls
promotions, appointments, and university administration, a subtle self-censorship
prevails." As a result, professors have been fired and students harassed,
especially leaders for organizing.
- Moreover, women are regularly mistreated, their rights
compromised by sexual abuse, harassment, and assaults. A 2008 Egyptian
Center for Women's Rights report said over 80% of women suffered public
sexual humiliation, from groping to criminal attacks.
- Gays and other minorities are targeted as well, including
mass arrests of men accused of homosexual acts. Though religious freedom
is allowed, Christians at times clashed with police.
- Especially disturbing "are reports of the regime's
treatment of street children," numbering thousands in Cairo alone.
Human Rights Watch estimated 11,000 arrests and detentions for weeks in
unsanitary, hazardous conditions, "often with adult criminal detainees
who abuse them." In addition, they're denied adequate food, water,
bedding and medical care.
- Amnesty International's 2010 Egypt Report
- It explained that Emergency Law powers are used "to
detain peaceful critics and opponents as well as people suspected of security
offenses or involvement in terrorism." Some are detained administratively.
Others get unfair military trials. Many are tortured. Death sentences are
freely imposed. Freedom of speech, assembly and association are extremely
- "Rising food prices and poverty fueled a wave of
strikes by private and public sector workers." A UN Special Rapporteur
for human rights criticized Mubarak's counterterrorism policy, human rights
abuses, and repressive emergency powers, called the "norm" under
- Besides various lawless acts discussed above, forced
evictions have also been commonplace. In 2008, residents of 26 Greater
Cairo areas were affected, their communities called "unsafe"
under a government master development plan. Administrative orders were
implemented "without notice or prior consultation," preventing
the likelihood of legal challenge.
- In November 2009, AI issued a report titled, "Egypt:
Demand Dignity: Buried Alive: Trapped by Poverty and Neglect in Cairo's
Informal Settlements," saying:
- Evictions from areas called unsafe "breached the
international standards that states must observe, (requiring they) have
procedural safeguards in place." Instead, hundreds of homes were demolished
with inadequate or no notice or consultation given affected communities,
including plans for resettlement. As a result, homelessness and other state-imposed
harshness followed. Egypt's poor, marginalized population suffers grievously
under repressive regime policies.
- A Final Comment
- Given this backdrop and sustained visceral mass protests,
the Obama administration is stalling for time, a White House February 5
press release saying:
- "The President emphasized the importance of an orderly,
peaceful transition, beginning now, to a government that is responsive
to the aspirations of the Egyptian people, including credible, inclusive
negotiations between the government and the opposition."
- In fact, Omar Suleiman's vice presidential appointment
signified Washington approving his leadership heading new faces with old
policies, what Egyptian masses won't accept. They demand all remnants of
Mubarak's regime ousted, replaced by new officials they choose in free,
fair, open elections.
- On February 7, Al Jazeera said two weeks of protests
show no signs of abating despite some emerging normality in parts of Egypt's
capital. Dr. Sally Moore, representing the Popular Campaign in Support
of ElBaradei (one of six groups comprising the "Youth of the Egyptian
Revolution" coalition) said:
- "The word 'stability' is a word the regime uses
all the time - but - what is stability without freedom. We are in for the
long haul. The regime is trying to play us against the people in Tahrir
Square, but we always remind them they are our people, our families. (They)
want radical change, not minor reform."
- Al Jazeera's Cairo correspondent said:
- "Protesters tell me Obama still hasn't come up with
any statement that they want to hear. They want immediate change and the
feeling among many of them is that the way the US is handling this crisis
is not good for the way America is perceived both here and in general in
the wider region."
- In fact, from the outset, the Obama administration acted
duplicitously to maintain imperial control throughout the region, especially
by ensuring continuity in Egypt, under Suleiman and other reliable figures.
On February 5, Secretary of State Clinton endorsed him saying:
- "I think it's important to support the transition
process announced by the Egyptian government, actually headed now by Vice
President Suleiman (and) an orderly establishment of the elections that
are scheduled for September."
- She also backed Egypt's military "as a respected
institution" and its banking sector. In other words, money and martial
power are crucial ingredients of Washington's imperial control.
- In contrast, Sunday protesters declared February 6 a
"day of martyrs," commemorating thousands of Mubarak security
force torture, disappeared, and murder victims.
- How and when this ends remains uncertain, but one thing
is clear. Millions of Egyptians exhibited extraordinary sustained courage.
So far, they're not backing down from one of the region's most brutal regimes,
financed and supported by imperial Washington, maneuvering to keep it empowered
as a reliable vassal state.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
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