Saturday, February 5, 2011

Egypt and the Palestinian question

The Mubarak regime has been a tool with which Israel and the US have pressured Palestinians.

Abdullah Al-Arian
Last Modified: 05 Feb 2011 13:50 GMT

There is a widespread view in Egypt that the Mubarak regime has served the interests of the West [GALLO/GETTY]

Along with the laundry list of domestic grievances expressed by Egyptian protesters calling for an end to the regime of Hosni Mubarak, the popular perception of Egypt's foreign policy has also been a focal point of the demonstrations.

Signs and chants have called on Mubarak to seek refuge in Tel Aviv, while his hastily appointed vice-president, Omar Suleiman, has been disparaged as a puppet of the US. Egypt's widely publicised sale of natural gas to Israel at rock bottom prices has featured in many refrains emanating from the crowds.

The widespread view among Egyptians that the regime has served the interests of the West has not been helped by Israel's call for world leaders to support Mubarak, or the apparent unwillingness by American officials to give the protests their full backing.

Plummeting status

In the shadow of the current cries to topple the Egyptian regime, the Mubarak government has had a tough time keeping its role in international affairs out of public view.

In the area where Egypt's foreign policy apparatus has served US interests most directly, Israel's security, the Mubarak regime's complicity in the failure to establish a Palestinian state has become widely publicised in recent years. Its role in placing the stranglehold on the people of Gaza, in conjunction with Israel, has seen Egypt's status in the region plummet to a level it has not reached in decades.

The Palestine Papers, the leaked internal documents of the Palestinian Authority (PA) that were recently exposed by Al Jazeera, provide further confirmation of Egypt's role in the impasse between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.

While much of the coverage of the Palestine Papers has focused on the unprecedented concessions offered by Palestinian negotiators, and how swiftly they were spurned by Israeli and American representatives, Egypt's role as an instrument for added pressure stands out from the internal records.

As the peace process broke down over the past decade, Egypt was a party to many of the discussions and central to the security arrangements made between the PA and Israel.

Egyptian duplicity

Throughout the documents, Suleiman in particular is singled out as the point person whom Israeli and American officials could count on to execute their agenda of dividing the Palestinian factions or pressing the PA for greater concessions.

Barely a few months after the January 2006 Palestinian elections that resulted in a Hamas victory, PA leaders were already appealing for assistance in fending off their political opponents. At a meeting between leading Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and US General Keith Dayton, the latter assured the Palestinians that the American administration is committed to reinforcing the PA's Presidential Guard to maintain Mahmoud Abbas' authority in the face of the newly elected Hamas government.

In support of his pledge, Dayton referred to discussions with Suleiman, who committed Egypt, along with Jordan, to providing training and equipment, "even at their own expense".

Later in the year, as the Palestinian factions were engaged in negotiations over the formation of a unity government, a European diplomat told Erekat that the American position on unifying the Palestinians was "prematurely negative". Erekat agreed, adding that Suleiman had also been discouraging of those efforts, saying that they would not work.

In early 2007, as the siege on Gaza had crippling consequences on the lives of Palestinians, negotiators complained that Egyptian leaders were duplicitous, speaking publicly in support of allowing goods into Gaza, but in reality, "it remains blocked on the ground .... This is a general problem with the Egyptians".

An internal report from April 2007 confirms these suspicions. The Agreement on Movement and Access states: "Although there has been political agreement by Omar Suleiman and President Mubarak on allowing exports through, this agreement has never been translated into operational reality."

Conditions in Gaza only worsened in the months ahead, thanks in large part to the stranglehold imposed by Israel and Egypt. As Hamas assumed sole control of Gaza by preventing a coup attempt by US-backed PA forces, Egypt determined to seal off the border.

In a February 2008 meeting between Ahmed Qurei, a high-ranking PA official, and Tzipi Livni, the then Israeli foreign minister, Qurei relayed the Egyptian position conveyed to him by their leader. "President Mubarak said they'll close down the borders after Sunday and whoever is caught on Egyptian territories will be considered illegal."

The situation came to a stalemate in the months leading up to Israel's December 2008 assault on Gaza that resulted in the deaths of 1,500 Palestinians, most of them civilians. As tensions were heightened, Erekat lamented to his Israeli counterpart that Suleiman was forced to cancel a meeting in the occupied territories. Amos Gilad, the director of Israeli military intelligence, speculated: "Regarding Omar Suleiman, maybe he delayed because he is afraid we will attack while he is here. It will hurt him. He will look like a collaborator."

A tool to pressure Palestinians

The image of Egyptian officials as tools to pressure the Palestinians also emerges out of conversations between US and Palestinian officials. In late 2009, George Mitchell, Barack Obama's envoy to the region, told Erekat that he had spoken with Suleiman and the two agreed that the PA could unilaterally declare new elections without any input from Hamas.

Furthermore, Mitchell and Suleiman agreed that any agreement would have to permanently eradicate any Hamas presence in the West Bank, while at the same time allowing the PA to resume control of Gaza, terms Hamas was sure to reject. But as Egypt was preparing a document on how the PA should proceed, Erekat assured Mitchell that: "Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] won't say no to whatever the Egyptians present to him".

Even when it appeared that the Egyptians were attempting to display some degree of autonomy, it became more evident in the documents that external pressure was never too far behind. Only a few weeks later, Erekat complained to US negotiators that Egypt's latest efforts to reconcile the Palestinian factions were straying from the official line. Daniel Rubenstein, the US consul general and chief of mission in Jerusalem, responded: "I can tell you, we did put pressure on the Egyptians. I read the document. It was a disaster."

As Erekat continued to grumble about the PA's weakened position and Egypt's lack of cooperation, General James Jones, the US special envoy for Middle East security, abruptly ended the meeting with his words: "It's insulting. We'll take care of this."

Jones appeared to have lived up to his promise. Only three months later, in January 2010, US negotiator David Hale assured Erekat that in recent talks with Suleiman: "The Egyptians brought ideas similar to our thinking."

In this instance, the US appeared to put pressure on the PA to accept the latest proposals by giving the impression that the US and its allies in the region were unified in their position. Hale further added of the Egyptians: "They talked with Netanyahu and think he is serious."

'Egypt's number two'

Given the critical role that Suleiman has played in advancing US and Israeli objectives, it was no surprise that Mubarak chose to appoint him as vice-president on January 29, a move rejected by protesters, but reassuring to Egypt's Western patrons. In the leaked documents, Israeli officials were already referring to Suleiman as "Egypt's Number Two" at a time when most observers believed that Mubarak was grooming his son to be succeed him.

Among Western policymakers, it seems Suleiman remains a popular choice to replace Mubarak, as the candidate uniquely suited to maintaining Egypt's current foreign policy, while also addressing domestic grievances expressed by protesters. That remains a distant prospect, given the unlikelihood that the Egyptian opposition would abandon its call to determine the nation's role in regional affairs. But it also demonstrates that, unlike Tunisia, Egypt is far too critical to US objectives in the Middle East to be left to its own devices.

Whatever the outcome in Egypt, it is clear that the recent revelations will have a dramatic impact on the settlement of the Palestinian question. Already weakened by the scandal of the Palestine Papers, Erekat may now have to do without the support of an Egyptian regime he termed, "our ally, our backbone".

In his first interview as vice-president, Suleiman decried as "unacceptable" what he called "foreign interference" in Egypt's current turmoil. Coming from a regime whose ability to endure through the decades is owed largely to foreign interference, the irony of those words will not be lost on the Egyptian people.

Abdullah Al-Arian is a doctoral candidate in the department of history at Georgetown University.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

Egypt protests 'to continue'

Former member of Egypt's parliament says parliamentary republic 'solution' to country's woes.

Last Modified: 05 Feb 2011 02:20 GMT

Moustafa Elgindy, a member of the Egyptian Coalition for the Opposition and a former member of Egypt's parliament, said Egypt's pro-democracy protests will continue until president Hosni Mubarak leaves office.

Elgindy said the solution is a parliamentary republic with a strong army and a prime minister voted on by the people.

He spoke to Al Jazeera from Washington, DC.

Friday, February 4, 2011

What Corruption and Force Have Wrought in Egypt

By Chris Hedges
Jan 30, 2011

The uprising in Egypt, although united around the nearly universal desire to rid the country of the military dictator Hosni Mubarak, also presages the inevitable shift within the Arab world away from secular regimes toward an embrace of Islamic rule. Don’t be fooled by the glib sloganeering about democracy or the facile reporting by Western reporters—few of whom speak Arabic or have experience in the region. Egyptians are not Americans. They have their own culture, their own sets of grievances and their own history. And it is not ours. They want, as we do, to have a say in their own governance, but that say will include widespread support—especially among Egypt’s poor, who make up more than half the country and live on about two dollars a day—for the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic parties. Any real opening of the political system in the Arab world’s most populated nation will see an empowering of these Islamic movements. And any attempt to close the system further—say a replacement of Mubarak with another military dictator—will ensure a deeper radicalization in Egypt and the wider Arab world.

The only way opposition to the U.S.-backed regime of Mubarak could be expressed for the past three decades was through Islamic movements, from the Muslim Brotherhood to more radical Islamic groups, some of which embrace violence. And any replacement of Mubarak (which now seems almost certain) while it may initially be dominated by moderate, secular leaders will, once elections are held and popular will is expressed, have an Islamic coloring. A new government, to maintain credibility with the Egyptian population, will have to more actively defy demands from Washington and be more openly antagonistic to Israel. What is happening in Egypt, like what happened in Tunisia, tightens the noose that will—unless Israel and Washington radically change their policies toward the Palestinians and the Muslim world—threaten to strangle the Jewish state as well as dramatically curtail American influence in the Middle East.

The failure of the United States to halt the slow-motion ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by Israel has consequences. The failure to acknowledge the collective humiliation and anger felt by most Arabs because of the presence of U.S. troops on Muslim soil, not only in Iraq and Afghanistan but in the staging bases set up in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, has consequences. The failure to denounce the repression, including the widespread use of torture, censorship and rigged elections, wielded by our allies against their citizens in the Middle East has consequences. We are soaked with the stench of these regimes. Mubarak, who reportedly is suffering from cancer, is seen as our puppet, a man who betrayed his own people and the Palestinians for money and power.

The Muslim world does not see us as we see ourselves. Muslims are aware, while we are not, that we have murdered tens of thousands of Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. We have terrorized families, villages and nations. We enable and defend the Israeli war crimes carried out against Palestinians and the Lebanese—indeed we give the Israelis the weapons and military aid to carry out the slaughter. We dismiss the thousands of dead as “collateral damage.” And when those who are fighting against occupation kill us or Israelis we condemn them, regardless of context, as terrorists.

Our hypocrisy is recognized on the Arab street. Most Arabs see bloody and disturbing images every day from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, images that are censored on our television screens. They have grown sick of us. They have grown sick of the Arab regimes that pay lip service to the suffering of Palestinians but do nothing to intervene. They have grown sick of being ruled by tyrants who are funded and supported by Washington. Arabs understand that we, like the Israelis, primarily speak to the Muslim world in the crude language of power and violence. And because of our entrancement with our own power and ability to project force, we are woefully out of touch. Israeli and American intelligence services did not foresee the popular uprising in Tunisia or Egypt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, Israel’s new intelligence chief, told Knesset members last Tuesday that “there is no concern at the moment about the stability of the Egyptian government.” Tuesday, it turned out, was the day hundreds of thousands of Egyptians poured into the streets to begin their nationwide protests.

What is happening in Egypt will damage and perhaps unravel the fragile peace treaty between Egypt and Jordan with Israel. It is likely to end Washington’s alliance with these Arab intelligence services, including the use of prisons to torture those we have disappeared into our vast network of black sites. The economic ties between Israel and these Arab countries will suffer. The current antagonism between Cairo and the Hamas government in Gaza will be replaced by more overt cooperation. The Egyptian government’s collaboration with Israel, which includes demolishing tunnels into Gaza, the sharing of intelligence and the passage of Israeli warship and submarines through the Suez Canal, will be in serious jeopardy. Any government—even a transition government that is headed by a pro-Western secularist such as Mohamed ElBaradei—will have to make these changes in the relationship with Israel and Washington if it wants to have any credibility and support. We are seeing the rise of a new Middle East, one that will not be as pliable to Washington or as cowed by Israel.

The secular Arab regimes, backed by the United States, are discredited and moribund. The lofty promise of a pan-Arab union, championed by the Egyptian leader Gamal Abd-al-Nasser and the original Baathists, has become a farce. Nasser’s defiance of Washington and the Western powers has been replaced by client states. The secular Arab regimes from Morocco to Yemen, for all their ties with the West, have not provided freedom, dignity, opportunity or prosperity for their people. They have failed as spectacularly as the secular Palestinian resistance movement led by Yasser Arafat. And Arabs, frustrated and enduring mounting poverty, are ready for something new.

Radical Islamist groups such as the Palestinian Hamas, the Shiite Hezbollah in Lebanon and the jihadists fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan are the new heroes, especially for the young who make up most of the Arab world. And many of those who admire these radicals are not observant Muslims. They support the Islamists because they fight back. Communism as an ideological force never took root in the Muslim world because it clashed with the tenets of Islam. The championing of the free market in countries such as Egypt has done nothing to ameliorate crushing poverty. Its only visible result has been to enrich the elite, including Mubarak’s son and designated heir, Gamal. Islamic revolutionary movements, because of these failures, are very attractive. And this is why Mubarak forbids the use of the slogan “Islam is the solution” and bans the Muslim Brotherhood. These secular Arab regimes hate and fear Hamas and the Islamic radicals as deeply as the Israelis do. And this hatred only adds to their luster.
The decision to withdraw the police from Egyptian cities and turn security over to the army means that Mubarak and his handlers in Washington face a grim choice. Either the army, as in Tunisia, refuses to interfere with the protests, meaning the removal of Mubarak, or it tries to quell the protests with force, a move that would leave hundreds if not thousands dead and wounded. The fraternization between the soldiers and the crowds, along with the presence of tanks adorned with graffiti such as “Mubarak will fall,” does not bode well for Washington, Israel and the Egyptian regime.

The army has not been immune to the creeping Islamization of Egypt—where bars, nightclubs and even belly dancing have been banished to the hotels catering to Western tourists. I attended a reception for middle-ranking army officers in Cairo in the 1990s when I was based there for The New York Times and every one of the officers’ wives had a head covering. Mubarak will soon become history. So, I expect, will neighboring secular Arab regimes. The rise of powerful Islamic parties appears inevitable. It appears inevitable not because of the Quran or a backward tradition, but because we and Israel believed we could bend the aspirations of the Arab world to our will through corruption and force. (Editor's bold emphasis throughout)

What is the US Really Doing in Egypt?

David Swanson's Blog
Let's Try Democracy

Decades in the Making: The U.S. Police State

By davidswanson - Posted on 01 February 2011
Lets Try Democracy

Andrew Kolin's new book "State Power and Democracy: Before and During the Presidency of George W. Bush" actually begins with the war for independence and continues into the Obama years. A 231-page monotone recounting of endless facts, it doesn't pick up with Bush the Lesser until page 137. Kolin chronicles a gradual slide into an imperial presidency that really got going after World War II. Along the way he chronicles the damage done to the forces of resistance, making a compelling case that our movements for peace and justice are weak in part because of the extreme repression of recent decades.

Kolin's second chapter takes us through the early twentieth century, chapter three from Truman to LBJ, chapter four Nixon to Bush the Older, chapter five Clinton and Chimpy, chapters six and seven all Dubya, and chapter eight Captain Peace Prize. Only without the cutesy names (that's me) and without much commentary, analysis, outline, or subheadings. "State Power and Democracy" is like an unrelenting stream-of-consciousness recounting of general trends and, in large part, specific detailed events of the past 60 years. It is thus an excellent reference book, as soon as you figure out where to find things.

Kolin's book is also an excellent corrective, that he himself seems to somewhat miss in his closing paragraphs, to the notion that partisan politics can reverse the movement toward a police state. Kolin says we've arrived at a police state but recognizes, I think, that we can still go further down this path. He recommends, however, that we try to work with the Democratic Party. More valuable perhaps than that bit of advice tacked onto the end of the book is the history Kolin tells of the two-steps-forward-and-a-half-a-step-back progress decade after decade, as Democratic and Republican presidents alike have seized ever greater police state powers. Had this happened under a single political party, the primary difference would probably not have been the increased speed in the fascist advance but the increased awareness and resistance among Americans.

When we get beyond the idea that George W. Bush ruined a perfect republic, and read a fuller account, like Kolin's, of what's gone wrong, it becomes evident that Bush could never have done what he did without Clinton's efforts to expand war and police powers, including the power of rendition. Similarly, Clinton could never have gone down that path without Reagan, or Reagan without Nixon, or Nixon without LBJ, or any of them without Truman, who would have been lost without the already huge accumulation of power in the White House and the abusive precedents of Abraham Lincoln and those who went before. It appears, as many of us warned in 2008, that what Kolin writes in this passage will determine our fate:

"The ultimate measure of whether or not the Obama administration will roll back the police state will depend on whether or not there are prosecutions of Bush administration officials. Past history says this isn't likely; whether it was enslavement of African Americans; ethnocidal policies against American Indians; or the consistent, sometimes violent repression of dissent, government has generally not been held accountable. While Nixon left office and a few of Watergate's perpetrators were punished, the institutional arrangements involving the FBI and CIA that made Watergate possible remained. The imperial presidency was slowed but not halted. When the Iran-Contra conspirators violated the Constitution, President Bush senior pardoned them."

The grammatical construction of the first sentence above should give us a bit of hope: "whether or not there are prosecutions" -- because there may be prosecutions of top Bush officials in Spain, and it will be up to us to communicate to the people and the courts of Spain our deep gratitude and our willingness to take the lesson to heart. Such reversals should, after all, come more easily in Washington if the people of Egypt are able, in the coming days, to remove and -- ideally -- prosecute the dictator of their country who has had the full support of the past seven presidents of ours.


Spiralling Defense Spending: Public Says Cut Pentagon, Obama Says Increase It

By David Swanson

Global Research
February 2, 2011
originally posted at

Did you know that the U.S. public wants military spending cut? Did you know that President Barack Obama wants to increase it for his third year in a row? Actually I already know that most of you didn't know either of these things.

A poll released on Tuesday and in line with other polling over the years asked: "To ensure its safety, should the United States always spend at least three times as much on defense as any other nation?" This question mislabels the military "defense," which most of it isn't, and claims the interest of "safety," albeit in the context of other questions about spending money, and yet only 25% of voters said yes, while 40% said no and 35% were not sure.

In reality, the United States could cut its military budget (just the Department of so-called Defense, not counting the hundreds of billions spent through other departments) by 85% and still easily be the most expensive military on the planet. Taking the DOD down to merely three times the expense of China's military (the world's next largest) would mean cutting it by 55%. Taking it down to twice China's military would mean cutting it by 70%.

The same poll asked "Does the United States spend too much on the military and national security, not enough, or about the right amount?" If respondents had been informed of what the United States spends, then something smaller than 25% of them should have answered "not enough" and "just right" combined. Instead, 27% said "not enough" and 37% said "just right" while only 32% said too much. Despite 35% saying they were not sure on the other question, and nearly everyone not knowing what they were talking about, respondents all had an opinion on this one, and most of them were wrong by their own measure.

When a pollster tells Americans the facts and then asks for opinions, the results are predictably different. When told how much money goes where in the federal budget, 65% of Americans want the military cut. But only a small minority of Americans is aware of that.

And anyone paying attention at all almost certainly believes that President Obama is cutting the military. When he has increased it in the past, the media has made so much noise about particular weapons being cut, that nobody's noticed the overall increase. In Obama's 2011 State of the Union address he claimed:

"The Secretary of Defense has also agreed to cut tens of billions of dollars in spending that he and his generals believe our military can do without."

The English language is flexible enough to avoid calling this a lie if we want to avoid that. But consider these facts. Obama is not here talking about the 2012 fiscal year budget which he is about to propose and for which he will propose a larger military than ever. Instead he is talking about future years, years the budgets for which will not actually be set until they arrive -- at which point it's anybody's guess whether the "cuts" will be made. I put "cuts" in quotation marks because of this other key fact: Obama is not here talking about reducing the military budget even in future years, but rather about scaling back the military's dreams for much larger budgets. That is to say, even with these "cuts" (of $78 billion over 5 years, as proposed by Secretary Gates) the Pentagon budget will still be increasing beyond the rate of inflation. The cuts are not being imagined as made to the current budget level. Instead what's being cut are the projected budgets for future years as dreamed up by the military.

Thus is an increasing budget referred to as having been cut. The Project on Defense Alternatives has explained this trickery here, as has the National Priorities Project here, not to mention Reuters here. And yet, when I bring this up, people complain to me that Obama promised to cut the military and use the money for good things -- they heard it themselves on television.

Now, the unusual thing is that everybody in Washington (other than most Congress members or presidents) is indeed talking about cutting the military. A task force convened by Congressman Barney Frank has proposed cutting $1 trillion over 10 years. The chairs of the President's deficit commission have proposed cutting $100 billion while Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky says $110 billion, and CATO proposes $150 billion. The American Conservative Union (CPAC) has two sessions on cutting the military planned for its upcoming convention.

But Obama proposed, in that same State of the Union speech, to freeze spending on everything other than wars and the military. Contrary to myth, Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid are not part of the federal budget. They are separate programs that fund themselves just fine, thank you. The money in Social Security is loaned to the government and owed back to the people with interest. Politicians have no business touching it. If it starts to run short, that can easily be fixed by asking those with large incomes to pay in at the same rate as those with small incomes. The actual budget funded by our income taxes is dominated by the military. When all types of military and war spending are added up, they amount to more than half of the budget. (editor's bold emphasis throughout) So, the proposed five-year freeze applies only to a minority of the budget, just about all of which has a superior impact on the U.S. economy to military spending.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Egyptian Uprising Must Address U.S Interference and the Role of Israel in the Region

By Ghada Chehade

Global Research
January 31, 2011

As an analyst and observer of the recent rebellions in the Middle East, specifically Egypt, I want to make three developing observations. First, the Egyptian people cannot confront local despots and “regime change” without addressing the patron of Mubarak’s regime--The United States. Second, because of the U.S’ influence and because Egypt is so strategically important to the U.S-Israel agenda for the Middle East, the U.S will attempt to control their investments and their interests by regaining control and maintaining patronage. In other words it will attempt (or may have already attempted) to co-opt the public uprising and manage it at some level and continue to do so. Last, in order to adequately address foreign meddlers within the context of the local region and its politics, one must also eventually address the role of Israel.

Local Revolution must Condemn Western Influence:

The images coming from the streets of Egypt bring a glimmer of hope to all in the Middle East as well as to anyone around the world who is serious about justice. Yet as I watch these images (as a Palestinian-Egyptian from the west) there is one thing that is alarmingly and frustratingly absent—cries of popular condemnation of and rebellion against the U.S’ influence and role in Egypt. There are denunciations of the puppet—Mubarak—but not of those who pull his strings. Any uprising against Mubarak that does not also confront foreign meddling is ultimately flawed and shortsighted. Revolutions against Arab despots must also address these dictators’ western over-lords and the latter’s ongoing colonial/imperial agenda for the region.

An Egyptian uprising that does not simultaneously confront imperialism and the heavy hands of the U.S and Israel is ultimately vulnerable to co-option and micro-management. Any new government (even if it succeeds in resolving the domestic issues of corruption, unemployment and food prices) that continues to receive 1.5 billion dollars in “aid” (i.e. bribery) will be a mere continuation of the Middle Eastern Banana Republic that Egypt is and has been for more than thirty years. It should be noted that the principal recipient of aid in Egypt is the Egyptian military and the vast internal security apparatus (with whom it shares the same branch of government). Consequently the role of the military and the security apparatus—whose patronage cannot allow them to be neutral and therefore genuinely stand with the people—is something that the protesters will inevitability have to contend with when addressing any reforms that may affect the issue of “security.”

U.S Attempting to Co-opt and Manage Egyptian Uprising

The lack of Egyptian condemnation of the U.S and its influence in Egypt may lead to speculations that the U.S is behind these uprisings. The United States has indeed been co-opting and courting Egyptian protest groups (especially youth dissidents) in an effort to work both sides within Egypt [1]. Chossudovsky aptly describes the U.S’ political double-speech as chatting with dictators while they mingle with dissidents [Ibid]. While I agree with much of the analysis I diverge on the issue of whether or not the current popular uprisings in Egypt are being directed by the U.S. Though the U.S has co-opted many opposition groups, what we are witnessing currently on the streets of Egypt is far-vaster in scale than a few meetings with Egyptian youth activists in Washington. I believe that even though the U.S administration has been attempting to appropriate certain opposition elements in Egypt (something it often does in client states), the current popular uprising took even them by surprise.

Moreover, Egypt’s neighbour and the US’ biggest ally and recipient of aid in the region, Israel, seems to be officially holding its tongue, clearly indicating that it is not pleased with this moment. In a recent Haaretz article Israeli media admits that Western and Israeli intelligence did not foresee a change of this scope. While Israeli and U.S intelligence did “predict” possible civil unrest and/or regime change in the Middle East (namely Egypt and Saudi Arabia), “a popular uprising like this was completely unexpected” [2]. In another Haaretz article it is maintained that the new IDF intelligence chief failed to predict the current popular uprising in Egypt [3]. If the Israelis (the eyes and ears of the U.S in the region) are admitting this then by extension, the U.S must also have failed to anticipate the scope of what is now developing into a full-fledged revolution. Gideon Levy, writing in Haaretz even applauds the Egyptian uprising:

“The masses of the Egyptian people- please note: on all levels- took their fate in their hands. There is something impressive and cheering in that.” [4]

While it may not have anticipated or orchestrated the current uprising, what the U.S is now attempting to do is to ultimately be able to control what is happening presently. As the “day of anger” spread into many days of wrath without any indication of dying down, the U.S has shifted its official stance on the uprisings and is increasingly and deceptively trying to present itself as a friend and ally of the protesters. Again, while they are not behind the uprising, there is a clear indication that the U.S seeks to appear supportive of the people in order to deflect criticism of its own role in the country and region and to position itself in order to co-opt and appropriate (typically meaning to threaten and/or bribe) any incoming or opposition government.

That the U.S is trying to cozy-up to the popular uprising and control it after the fact is evidenced in their repeated insistence on the restoration of social networking as a “right” after Mubarak disabled Internet capabilities [5]. Had a U.S- led campaign using online services like facebook and twitter been the catalyst for the uprising, then one might have expected the revolution to diminish as a result of Mubarak shutting down Internet and cell phone service; no such diminution occurred. Moreover, repeated cries from the highest levels of the U.S administration (including Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama) that in addition to the fundamental rights of democracy and free speech, Egyptians should have the “basic right to use social media” [6] (since when did Internet social networking become a basic human right?!), suggests that the U.S is eager to get ahead of the curve and control the uprising, using the Internet as one possible tool.

To demonstrate how much the U.S has depended on the Internet and social networking sites to co-opt opposition in Egypt, one should note that U.S officials have met in the past with dissidents from the April 6 Movement [7] (a youth opposition movement in Egypt that interesting exists mainly online through facebook). This notwithstanding, to reiterate my earlier point, the current uprisings are far vaster than anything the U.S may have been attempting to steer in the past, and have continued despite the shutdown of the Internet and the loss of social networking sites as an “organizing medium.”

In another, more obvious attempt at control, a “secret US file” relating to the aforementioned youth dissident group was leaked (most likely by the US administration). The document discloses U.S “support for Egypt protests” [8]. Clearly, in an effort to appear sympathetic to the authentic Egyptian uprising, the U.S is now shamelessly admitting that it has in the past attempted to co-opt youth dissidents, thus showing its hand at playing both sides in Egypt. In reality this self-leaked “secret document” does not show any authentic U.S support for Egyptian protesters and opposition as much as it proves that they have been infiltrating and co-opting social movements and activists in Egypt, specifically via Internet social networking sites.

In the most recent and brazen attempt to spin the U.S as the ally and anchor of the revolution, mainstream media in the west are openly declaring that the US has been secretly backing the leaders of the Egyptian uprising all along [9]. Such mainstream media framing serves to solidify the U.S as a supposed ally of the revolution while also deflecting much-needed criticism of U.S foreign policy and interference in Egypt and the Middle East. These narratives are intended more for western audiences and one hopes that Egyptians will not fall for this manipulative spin, damage control and blatant attempts at co-option.

Addressing the role of Israel in the Region

One cannot say enough about the special nature of the relationship (at all levels) between the State of Israel and the existing regime in Egypt. U.S aid and influence serve to ensure and solidify this warped relationship (after all the U.S funds the military budget of both nations). U.S aid to Egypt and control of the current regime is intended to support Israel and Israeli regional policy. U.S foreign policy in the region is contradictory at best. While the U.S claims to prefer secular regimes in the Middle East, it opposes or opposed the two main secular regimes of Syria and Iraq under Saddam Hussein [10]. And while it supposedly promotes democracy in the region, it is close friends and allies with Saudi Arabia and Egypt while shunning democratically elected Hamas [11], and the democratic process in Lebanon. As Gilad Atzmon succinctly and aptly explains,

“American policy seems to be a total mess -- unless one is willing to openly admit that there is a clear coherent thread running through American foreign policy: it simply serves Israel’s interests.” [12]

In this respect we cannot critically address the U.S without also addressing those whose interests it serves—Israel. And as a puppet of the U.S administration, the Egyptian state has played a “special” role in protecting Israeli interests. These include signing a peace treaty with Israel, maintaining an Israeli security perimeter on its borders, constant intelligence leading to the bombing of supply tunnels, and closing the borders to Gaza.

Yet it is obvious that the Egyptian people have never been happy with their government’s relationship with Israel. Israeli journalist Gideon Levy correctly points out that one thing all opposition groups in Egypt share is a disdain for Israel. Levy even seems to admit that such disdain is justified given Israel’s illegal actions against the Palestinian people:

“As long the masses in Egypt and in the entire Arab world continue seeing the images of tyranny and violence from the occupied territories, Israel will not be able to be accepted, even if it is acceptable to a few regimes” [13].

Clearly, necessary criticism of Israel already exists within the Egyptian opposition, and it seems that the Israeli media is well aware of these sentiments. Mainstream North American media, on the other hand, are reluctant to link anything happening in Egypt with foreign policy concerning Israel and Egyptian sentiment around it. But let us hope that as the Egyptian revolution continues the Egyptian people and opposition will loudly articulate an anti-Israeli stance and long-term agenda. There will be more to say about this as the situation develops.


Overall, it is apparent that the U.S is (unsuccessfully) attempting to control and manage the uprising in Egypt—especially among the youth. (Editor's bold emphasis throughout) Its schizophrenic shift in its official stance on the uprising (first condemning it, then supporting it, then going as far as to leak its own “secret” documents in an effort to suggest that it has been behind the uprising all along) suggests that they did not orchestrate the uprising but are currently scrambling to try and contain and control it in a manner that will allow them to once again pull the strings of whomever rules the country. Lets hope that the Egyptian people and their revolution are able to resist such brazen efforts. In order for them to do so they must extend their revolt to include a critical reassessment of their relationship with the U.S—and the Israeli interests it serves—and its foreign meddling in and control of Egypt and the region. This implicitly entails (finally) confronting the problem of the Zionist regime--Israel.


I want to end by making a couple of predictions regarding what to look for in terms of the U.S’ response to the revolts and its relationship with Egypt [14]:

•The US will further attempt to manipulate the revolution and position itself to control/threaten/bribe the new government, mainly by gaining the trust of the people vis-a-vis the military (note that mainstream media have already begun to praise the military as a “friend of the revolution”)

•The US will protect Israel’s interests (directly or indirectly) by attempting to display a consistent bi-partisanship about Egypt within the US government. This bi-partisanship will have “security” as their main concern, employing double-speak in reference to “Egyptian security,” which is actually code for Israel’s security. Bi-partisan committees with a rainbow of representation will likely emerge in the coming days and weeks (look for AIPAC to instruct these committees as to how to proceed).

•Israel may (much further down the road) attempt to make a bid for the Sinai. Since the U.S patronage of Egypt has been in the service of Israel, the ways in which it will attempt to control and co-opt any new or resultant government will also surely be in the service of Israel. Part of this service may entail helping to try and create a situation or conflict (i.e. a security or “terrorist” crisis on Israel’s southern borders, probably relating to Gaza) that would allow or “force” Israel to re-occupy the Sinai. Look for this to take shape over a span of the next couple years. Israeli media is already discussing IDF reformulations for its southern border.


[1] Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research  "The Protest Movement in Egypt: "Dictators" do not Dictate, They Obey Orders"

[2] Haaretz, "Egypt Riots are and Intelligence Chiefs Nightmare"

[3] Haaretz, "Intelligence Chief Failed to Predict Egypt Uprising"

[4] Haaretz, "The Egyptian Masses won't Play Ally to Israel"

[5] "Protests Swell as Obama Mubarak Trade Lip-Service Platitudes"

[6] Ibid.

[7] Telegraph UK " Egypt Protests Americas Secret Backing for Rebel Leaders Behind Uprising"

[8Telegraph UK "Egypyt Protests Secret US Document Discloses Support for Protesters"

[9] Telegraph UK "Egypt Protests Americas Secret Backing for Rebel Leaders Behind Uprising"

[10] Telegraph UK  "Liberating the American People"

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Haaretz "The Egyptian Masses Won't PLay Ally to Israel"

[14] Special thanks to Silvestre Lilly for helping me to flesh out these ideas.

Monday, January 31, 2011

String Theory--Extra 3 Dimensional Space?

Editor's Comment:

As readers may be aware, modern physics in an attempt to better understand the laws which govern the cosmos has hypothesized that additional spatial dimensions exist which can not be seen or otherwise appreciated with the 5 human senses. One hypothesis known as "String Theory" posits that as many as 7 additional dimensions of space make up the known universe in addition to one dimension of time.

Einstein taught that space and time really represent 4 dimensions (3 space and 1 time) which are inextricably linked in what he envisioned was a "fabric" now referred to as the space/time continuum or manifold along which all matter and energy of the entire universe are distributed. The following short videos are interesting in that they comment on possible extra dimensional states.

--Dr. J. P. Hubert

Invisibility Cloaking?

American Foreign Policy on Egypt Linked to Radical Zionism

Editor's Comment:

With reference to the piece which follows, one wonders whether Stephen Kinze is unaware of the power which the Zionist Lobby exerts over the American Presidency and US Congress or if he is simply reflecting the radical Zionist views of Newsweek's new owners which include California Congresswoman Jane Harman and her husband.

Unfortunately, US foreign policy is completely skewed in the direction of unconditional support of Israel no matter how immoral its policies vis a vis Arab Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Therefore, official American reaction will likely be calibrated to insure that whatever the outcome in Egypt it is most advantageous to right wing Zionist Israel irrespective of the effect on the Egyptian people.

Look for another dictator to emerge (such as the newly named Vice-President and former military intelligence chief Omar Suleiman) who can be purchased with over a billion US foreign aid dollars per year rather than any real move toward representative democracy.

--Dr. J. P. Hubert

Egypt Protests Show American Foreign-Policy Folly

While popular uprisings erupt across the Middle East, America stands on the sidelines. Stephen Kinzer on why the U.S. should abandon its self-defeating strategy in the region.

By Stephen Kinze

January 29, 2011 "Newsweek" - - One afternoon a couple of weeks ago, I walked into the British Foreign Office for a meeting with Middle East policy planners. “Tunisia is melting down and the Lebanese government has just fallen,” my host said as he welcomed me. “Interesting times.”

During our meeting, one veteran British diplomat observed that since American policy toward the Middle East is frozen into immobility, change there comes only when there is a crisis. I asked where he thought the next crisis might erupt. “Egypt,” he replied.

Events have moved quickly since then President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia has been overthrown, Hezbollah has chosen the new prime minister of Lebanon and thousands have taken to the streets in Egypt to demand an end to Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year dictatorship. The Middle East is erupting—and the U.S. is watching from the sidelines. Unable to guide the course of events, it can do little more than cheer for its sclerotic allies and hope that popular anger does not sweep them aside.

Washington sees the various local and national conflicts in the Middle East as part of a battle for regional hegemony between the U.S. and Iran. If this is true, the U.S. is losing. That is because it has stubbornly held onto Middle East policies that were shaped for the Cold War. The security environment in the region has changed dramatically since then. Iran has shown itself agile enough to align itself with rising new forces that enjoy the support of millions. The U.S., meanwhile, remains allied with countries and forces that looked strong 30 or 40 years ago but no longer are.

Iran is betting on Hizbullah, Hamas, and Shiite parties in Iraq. These are popular forces that win elections. Hizbullah emerged as the heroic champion of resistance to Israel’s 2006 invasion of Lebanon, winning the admiration of Arabs, not only for itself but also for its Iranian backers. Many Arabs also admire Hamas for its refusal to bow to Israeli power in Gaza.

Pro-Iran forces have also scored major gains in Iraq. They effectively control the Iraqi government, and their most incendiary leader, Moqtada al-Sadr, recently returned to a hero’s welcome after an extended stay in Iran. By invading Iraq in 2003, and removing Saddam Hussein from power, the U.S. handed Iraq to Iran on a platter. Now Iran is completing the consolidation of its position in Baghdad.

Whom does America bet on to counter these rising forces? The same friends it has been betting on for decades: Mubarak’s pharaonic regime in Egypt, Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority, the Saudi monarchy, and increasingly radical politicians in Israel. It is no wonder that Iran’s power is rising as the American-imposed order begins to crumble.

The U.S. keeps Mubarak in power—it gave his regime $1.5 billion in aid last year—mainly because he supports America’s pro-Israel policies, especially by helping Israel maintain its stranglehold on Gaza. It supports Abbas for the same reason: he is seen as willing to compromise with Israel, and therefore a desirable negotiating partner. This was confirmed, to Abbas’s great embarrassment, by WikiLeaks cables that show how eager he has been to meet Israeli demands, even collaborating with Israeli security forces to arrest Palestinians he dislikes. American support for Mubarak and Abbas continues, although neither man is in power with any figment of legality; Mubarak brazenly stage-manages elections, and Abbas has ruled by decree since his term of office expired in 2009.

Intimacy with the Saudi royal family is another old habit the U.S. cannot seem to kick—even though American leaders know full well, as one of the WikiLeaks cables confirms, that “Saudi donors remain the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like al-Qaeda.” The fact that the Tunisian leader fled to Saudi Arabia after being overthrown shows how fully the Saudis support the old, eroding Middle East order.

As for Israel itself, it will lose much if new Arab leaders emerge who refuse to be their silent partners. Yet Israel clings to the belief that it will be able to guarantee its long-term security with weapons alone. The U.S. encourages it in this view, sending Israelis the message that no matter how militant their rejectionist policies become, they can count on Washington’s endless support.

The U.S. has long sought to block democracy in the Arab world, fearing that it would lead to the emergence of Islamist regimes. Remarkably, however, the Tunisian revolution does not seem to be heading that way, nor have Islamist leaders tried to guide protests in Egypt. Perhaps watching the intensifying repression imposed by mullahs in Iran has led many Muslims to rethink the value of propelling clerics to power.

Even if democratic regimes in the Middle East are not fundamentalist, however, they will firmly oppose U.S. policy toward Israel. The intimate U.S.-Israel relationship guarantees that many Muslims around the world will continue to see the U.S. as an enabler of evil. Despite America’s sins in the Middle East, however, many Muslims still admire the U.S. They see its leaders as profoundly mistaken in their unconditional support of Israel, but envy what the U.S. has accomplished and want some version of American freedom and prosperity for themselves. This suggests that it is not too late for the U.S. to reset its policy toward the region in ways that would take new realities into account.

Accepting that Arabs have the right to elect their own leaders means accepting the rise of governments that do not share America’s pro-Israel militancy. (Editor's bold emphasis throughout) This is the dilemma Washington now faces. Never has it been clearer that the U.S. needs to reassess its long-term Middle East strategy. It needs new approaches and new partners. Listening more closely to Turkey, the closest U.S. ally in the Muslim Middle East, would be a good start. A wise second step would be a reversal of policy toward Iran, from confrontation to a genuine search for compromise. Yet pathologies in American politics, fed by emotions that prevent cool assessment of national interest, continue to paralyze the U.S. diplomatic imagination. Even this month’s eruptions may not be enough to rouse Washington from its self-defeating slumber.

© 2011 Harman Newsweek LLC

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Why Military Spending Remains Untouchable

By Andrew J. Bacevich

January 27, 2011 "Tomdispatch" -- In defense circles, “cutting” the Pentagon budget has once again become a topic of conversation. Americans should not confuse that talk with reality. Any cuts exacted will at most reduce the rate of growth. The essential facts remain: U.S. military outlays today equal that of every other nation on the planet combined, a situation without precedent in modern history.

The Pentagon presently spends more in constant dollars than it did at any time during the Cold War -- this despite the absence of anything remotely approximating what national security experts like to call a “peer competitor.” Evil Empire? It exists only in the fevered imaginations of those who quiver at the prospect of China adding a rust-bucket Russian aircraft carrier to its fleet or who take seriously the ravings of radical Islamists promising from deep inside their caves to unite the Umma in a new caliphate.
What are Americans getting for their money? Sadly, not much. Despite extraordinary expenditures (not to mention exertions and sacrifices by U.S. forces), the return on investment is, to be generous, unimpressive. The chief lesson to emerge from the battlefields of the post-9/11 era is this: the Pentagon possesses next to no ability to translate “military supremacy” into meaningful victory.

Washington knows how to start wars and how to prolong them, but is clueless when it comes to ending them. Iraq, the latest addition to the roster of America’s forgotten wars, stands as exhibit A. Each bomb that blows up in Baghdad or some other Iraqi city, splattering blood all over the streets, testifies to the manifest absurdity of judging “the surge” as the epic feat of arms celebrated by the Petraeus lobby.

The problems are strategic as well as operational. Old Cold War-era expectations that projecting U.S. power will enhance American clout and standing no longer apply, especially in the Islamic world. There, American military activities are instead fostering instability and inciting anti-Americanism. For Exhibit B, see the deepening morass that Washington refers to as AfPak or the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater of operations.

Add to that the mountain of evidence showing that Pentagon, Inc. is a miserably managed enterprise: hide-bound, bloated, slow-moving, and prone to wasting resources on a prodigious scale -- nowhere more so than in weapons procurement and the outsourcing of previously military functions to “contractors.” When it comes to national security, effectiveness (what works) should rightly take precedence over efficiency (at what cost?) as the overriding measure of merit. Yet beyond a certain level, inefficiency undermines effectiveness, with the Pentagon stubbornly and habitually exceeding that level. By comparison, Detroit’s much-maligned Big Three offer models of well-run enterprises.

Impregnable Defenses

All of this takes place against the backdrop of mounting problems at home: stubbornly high unemployment, trillion-dollar federal deficits, massive and mounting debt, and domestic needs like education, infrastructure, and employment crying out for attention.
Yet the defense budget -- a misnomer since for Pentagon, Inc. defense per se figures as an afterthought -- remains a sacred cow. Why is that?

The answer lies first in understanding the defenses arrayed around that cow to ensure that it remains untouched and untouchable. Exemplifying what the military likes to call a “defense in depth,” that protective shield consists of four distinct but mutually supporting layers.

Institutional Self-Interest: Victory in World War II produced not peace, but an atmosphere of permanent national security crisis. As never before in U.S. history, threats to the nation’s existence seemed omnipresent, an attitude first born in the late 1940s that still persists today. In Washington, fear -- partly genuine, partly contrived -- triggered a powerful response.

One result was the emergence of the national security state, an array of institutions that depended on (and therefore strove to perpetuate) this atmosphere of crisis to justify their existence, status, prerogatives, and budgetary claims. In addition, a permanent arms industry arose, which soon became a major source of jobs and corporate profits. Politicians of both parties were quick to identify the advantages of aligning with this “military-industrial complex,” as President Eisenhower described it.

Allied with (and feeding off of) this vast apparatus that transformed tax dollars into appropriations, corporate profits, campaign contributions, and votes was an intellectual axis of sorts -- government-supported laboratories, university research institutes, publications, think tanks, and lobbying firms (many staffed by former or would-be senior officials) -- devoted to identifying (or conjuring up) ostensible national security challenges and alarms, always assumed to be serious and getting worse, and then devising responses to them.

The upshot: within Washington, the voices carrying weight in any national security “debate” all share a predisposition for sustaining very high levels of military spending for reasons having increasingly little to do with the well-being of the country.

Strategic Inertia: In a 1948 State Department document, diplomat George F. Kennan offered this observation: “We have about 50 percent of the world's wealth, but only 6.3 percent of its population.” The challenge facing American policymakers, he continued, was “to devise a pattern of relationships that will permit us to maintain this disparity.” Here we have a description of American purposes that is far more candid than all of the rhetoric about promoting freedom and democracy, seeking world peace, or exercising global leadership.

The end of World War II found the United States in a spectacularly privileged position. Not for nothing do Americans remember the immediate postwar era as a Golden Age of middle-class prosperity. Policymakers since Kennan’s time have sought to preserve that globally privileged position. The effort has been a largely futile one.

By 1950 at the latest, those policymakers (with Kennan by then a notable dissenter) had concluded that the possession and deployment of military power held the key to preserving America’s exalted status. The presence of U.S. forces abroad and a demonstrated willingness to intervene, whether overtly or covertly, just about anywhere on the planet would promote stability, ensure U.S. access to markets and resources, and generally serve to enhance the country’s influence in the eyes of friend and foe alike -- this was the idea, at least.

In postwar Europe and postwar Japan, this formula achieved considerable success. Elsewhere -- notably in Korea, Vietnam, Latin America, and (especially after 1980) in the so-called Greater Middle East -- it either produced mixed results or failed catastrophically. Certainly, the events of the post-9/11 era provide little reason to believe that this presence/power-projection paradigm will provide an antidote to the threat posed by violent anti-Western jihadism. If anything, adherence to it is exacerbating the problem by creating ever greater anti-American animus.

One might think that the manifest shortcomings of the presence/power-projection approach -- trillions expended in Iraq for what? -- might stimulate present-day Washington to pose some first-order questions about basic U.S. national security strategy. A certain amount of introspection would seem to be called for. Could, for example, the effort to sustain what remains of America’s privileged status benefit from another approach?

Yet there are few indications that our political leaders, the senior-most echelons of the officer corps, or those who shape opinion outside of government are capable of seriously entertaining any such debate. Whether through ignorance, arrogance, or a lack of imagination, the pre-existing strategic paradigm stubbornly persists; so, too, as if by default do the high levels of military spending that the strategy entails.

Cultural Dissonance: The rise of the Tea Party movement should disabuse any American of the thought that the cleavages produced by the “culture wars” have healed. The cultural upheaval touched off by the 1960s and centered on Vietnam remains unfinished business in this country.

Among other things, the sixties destroyed an American consensus, forged during World War II, about the meaning of patriotism. During the so-called Good War, love of country implied, even required, deference to the state, shown most clearly in the willingness of individuals to accept the government’s authority to mandate military service. GI’s, the vast majority of them draftees, were the embodiment of American patriotism, risking life and limb to defend the country.

The GI of World War II had been an American Everyman. Those soldiers both represented and reflected the values of the nation from which they came (a perception affirmed by the ironic fact that the military adhered to prevailing standards of racial segregation). It was “our army” because that army was “us.”

With Vietnam, things became more complicated. The war’s supporters argued that the World War II tradition still applied: patriotism required deference to the commands of the state. Opponents of the war, especially those facing the prospect of conscription, insisted otherwise. They revived the distinction, formulated a generation earlier by the radical journalist Randolph Bourne, that distinguished between the country and the state. Real patriots, the ones who most truly loved their country, were those who opposed state policies they regarded as misguided, illegal, or immoral.

In many respects, the soldiers who fought the Vietnam War found themselves caught uncomfortably in the center of this dispute. Was the soldier who died in Vietnam a martyr, a tragic figure, or a sap? Who deserved greater admiration: the soldier who fought bravely and uncomplainingly or the one who served and then turned against the war? Or was the war resister -- the one who never served at all -- the real hero?
War’s end left these matters disconcertingly unresolved. President Richard Nixon’s 1971 decision to kill the draft in favor of an All-Volunteer Force, predicated on the notion that the country might be better served with a military that was no longer “us,” only complicated things further. So, too, did the trends in American politics where bona fide war heroes (George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, John Kerry, and John McCain) routinely lost to opponents whose military credentials were non-existent or exceedingly slight (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama), yet who demonstrated once in office a remarkable propensity for expending American blood (none belonging to members of their own families) in places like Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. It was all more than a little unseemly.

Patriotism, once a simple concept, had become both confusing and contentious. What obligations, if any, did patriotism impose? And if the answer was none -- the option Americans seemed increasingly to prefer -- then was patriotism itself still a viable proposition?

Wanting to answer that question in the affirmative -- to distract attention from the fact that patriotism had become little more than an excuse for fireworks displays and taking the occasional day off from work -- people and politicians alike found a way to do so by exalting those Americans actually choosing to serve in uniform. The thinking went this way: soldiers offer living proof that America is a place still worth dying for, that patriotism (at least in some quarters) remains alive and well; by common consent, therefore, soldiers are the nation’s “best,” committed to “something bigger than self” in a land otherwise increasingly absorbed in pursuing a material and narcissistic definition of self-fulfillment.

In effect, soldiers offer much-needed assurance that old-fashioned values still survive, even if confined to a small and unrepresentative segment of American society. Rather than Everyman, today’s warrior has ascended to the status of icon, deemed morally superior to the nation for which he or she fights, the repository of virtues that prop up, however precariously, the nation’s increasingly sketchy claim to singularity.

Politically, therefore, “supporting the troops” has become a categorical imperative across the political spectrum. In theory, such support might find expression in a determination to protect those troops from abuse, and so translate into wariness about committing soldiers to unnecessary or unnecessarily costly wars. In practice, however, “supporting the troops” has found expression in an insistence upon providing the Pentagon with open-ended drawing rights on the nation’s treasury, thereby creating massive barriers to any proposal to affect more than symbolic reductions in military spending.

Misremembered History: The duopoly of American politics no longer allows for a principled anti-interventionist position. Both parties are war parties. They differ mainly in the rationale they devise to argue for interventionism. The Republicans tout liberty; the Democrats emphasize human rights. The results tend to be the same: a penchant for activism that sustains a never-ending demand for high levels of military outlays.

American politics once nourished a lively anti-interventionist tradition. Leading proponents included luminaries such as George Washington and John Quincy Adams. That tradition found its basis not in principled pacifism, a position that has never attracted widespread support in this country, but in pragmatic realism. What happened to that realist tradition? Simply put, World War II killed it -- or at least discredited it. In the intense and divisive debate that occurred in 1939-1941, the anti-interventionists lost, their cause thereafter tarred with the label “isolationism.”

The passage of time has transformed World War II from a massive tragedy into a morality tale, one that casts opponents of intervention as blackguards. Whether explicitly or implicitly, the debate over how the United States should respond to some ostensible threat -- Iraq in 2003, Iran today -- replays the debate finally ended by the events of December 7, 1941. To express skepticism about the necessity and prudence of using military power is to invite the charge of being an appeaser or an isolationist. Few politicians or individuals aspiring to power will risk the consequences of being tagged with that label.

In this sense, American politics remains stuck in the 1930s -- always discovering a new Hitler, always privileging Churchillian rhetoric -- even though the circumstances in which we live today bear scant resemblance to that earlier time. There was only one Hitler and he’s long dead. As for Churchill, his achievements and legacy are far more mixed than his battalions of defenders are willing to acknowledge. And if any one figure deserves particular credit for demolishing Hitler’s Reich and winning World War II, it’s Josef Stalin, a dictator as vile and murderous as Hitler himself.

Until Americans accept these facts, until they come to a more nuanced view of World War II that takes fully into account the political and moral implications of the U.S. alliance with the Soviet Union and the U.S. campaign of obliteration bombing directed against Germany and Japan, the mythic version of “the Good War” will continue to provide glib justifications for continuing to dodge that perennial question: How much is enough?

Like concentric security barriers arrayed around the Pentagon, these four factors -- institutional self-interest, strategic inertia, cultural dissonance, and misremembered history -- insulate the military budget from serious scrutiny. For advocates of a militarized approach to policy, they provide invaluable assets, to be defended at all costs.

Egypt and Tunisia Reveal True US Interests--Support for Fascist Dictatorships

Egypt: US-Backed Repression is Insight for American Public

By Finian Cunningham

Global Research
January 28, 2011

As thousands more Egyptian citizens take to the streets in anti-government protests, the country is in danger of witnessing a bloodbath – at the behest of Washington.

Defying a ban on public demonstrations by the government of President Hosni Mubarak, tens of thousands of Egyptians have for the fourth consecutive day rallied on the streets of the capital Cairo and other major cities calling for his abdication. Inspired by the mass uprising in neigbouring Tunisia earlier this month, which forced its president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali into exile, the protesters in Egypt are likewise demanding Mubarak and his government to quit.

Mubarak’s military apparatus has so far shown brutal determination to suppress the uprising. As many as seven civilians have been killed by heavily armed riot police, hundreds are reported injured and more than 1,000 arrests have been made by secret security agents who were videoed bundling protesters into unmarked vehicles. Now the country’s formidable military forces are reported to have taken up positions in public places in Cairo and elsewhere.

But it is Washington’s latest intervention that could trigger an escalation of Egyptian state violence against its people. Speaking to media, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs described the Mubarak government as an “important ally” and that the US “expects” the 30-year-old regime to remain intact. Forget the hollow and cynical plea by Gibbs to the Egyptian government and protesters to refrain from violence, the key message is continuing US support for the regime. In other words, the US is assuring Mubarak that it stands full-square behind his bid to stay in power. Given that the already-lethal response of the Egyptian state did not draw a word of condemnation from the White House nor that the population’s demands for democracy and social justice were unequivocally endorsed can only send the following code to Mubarak: do whatever you must to get these people off the streets.

Meanwhile, an Israeli cabinet minister probably voiced the unvarnished essence of the US position when he was quoted in Israeli media as urging the Mubarak to use lethal force to quell the protests. “They will have to use force, power in the streets...” the unnamed minister said.

Make no mistake. The Mubarak government – which can only be described as a repressive military dictatorship – is well-placed and willing to do its worse, no matter the cost to civilian life. The country’s army and police forces are geared to the teeth thanks to more than $1 billion in military aid a year from Washington. The North African country and the Arab region’s most populous is the second highest recipient of US military equipment after Israel. It has also one of the worst human rights records, routinely detaining and torturing thousands of its citizens, earning itself the reputation as a “torture chamber”.

When the US officially describes Egypt as “an important ally” it is inadvertently referring to Mubarak’s role as a garrison outpost for US military operations and dirty war tactics in the Middle East and beyond. There is clear evidence from international human rights groups that countless “suspects” rendered by US forces in their various territories of (criminal) operations are secretly dumped in Egypt for “deep interrogation”. The country serves as a giant “Guantanamo” of the Middle East, conveniently obscured from US public interest and relieved of legal niceties over human rights.

In collaboration with Israel, and openly described as an “ally” by Tel Aviv, Egypt has shown itself to be the anvil to Israel’s hammer against the Palestinian people. In keeping the Raffah Crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip closed, thus denying badly needed humanitarian aid to Palestinians in the aftermath of Israel’s murderous 2009 assault, Mubarak has shown unspeakable callousness and willingness to collaborate with the criminal US/Israeli policy of “collective punishment” of this civilian population.

The importance of Mubarak’s Egypt to the US government can be illustrated in another way. Imagine the repercussions for Washington if the Egyptian people were to succeed in overthrowing this military state and establishing genuine democracy, one where the abundant resources of that country are used to lift the mass of the population out of grinding poverty instead of serving to enrich a corrupt elite and its masters in Washington. Imagine a country that refuses to continue to be a US garrison and staging post for criminal wars in the region. Imagine the catalytic effect for democracy across the region and likewise the demise of other US puppet regimes.

When it gets down to the nitty-gritty, this is the “vital interest” of the US executive – as opposed to the US public interest. Indeed, the stance by Washington over events in Egypt and elsewhere across North Africa and the Middle East should serve as a salutary insight for the US public of where their own pressing interests really lie and how they are best served. Their government is for dictatorship and repression and steadfastly against democracy, economic justice and human rights – at any human cost. All of which is beginning to sound uncomfortably familiar – and closer to home.


Elbaradei urges Mubarak to quit

Former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency says the nation will collapse if Mubarak stays.

Al Jazeera
Last Modified: 29 Jan 2011 20:10 GMT

Mohamed Elbaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has urged Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's president, to step down.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Elbaradei said the nation will collapse if Mubarak stays.
He said Egypt needs an enitrely different system of governance after 30 years of Mubarak-led rule.


Egypt shuts down Al Jazeera bureau

Network's licences cancelled and accreditation of staff in Cairo withdrawn by order of information minister.

Al Jazeera
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2011 10:01 GMT

Al Jazeera denounced the closure of its bureau, saying the move was designed to stifle free reporting

The Egyptian authorities are revoking the Al Jazeera Network's licence to broadcast from the country, and will be shutting down its bureau office in Cairo, state television has said.

"The information minister [Anas al-Fikki] ordered ... suspension of operations of Al Jazeera, cancelling of its licences and withdrawing accreditation to all its staff as of today," a statement on the official Mena news agency said on Sunday.

In a statement, Al Jazeera said it strongly denounces and condemns the closure of its bureau in Cairo by the Egyptian government. The network received notification from the Egyptian authorities on Sunday morning.

"Al Jazeera has received widespread global acclaim for their coverage on the ground across the length and breadth of Egypt," the statement said.

An Al Jazeera spokesman said that the company would continue its strong coverage regardless.

'Designed to stifle'

"Al Jazeera sees this as an act designed to stifle and repress the freedom of reporting by the network and its journalists," the statement said.

"In this time of deep turmoil and unrest in Egyptian society it is imperative that voices from all sides be heard; the closing of our bureau by the Egyptian government is aimed at censoring and silencing the voices of the Egyptian people.

"Al Jazeera assures its audiences in Egypt and across the world that it will continue its in-depth and comprehensive reporting on the events unfolding in Egypt.

"Al Jazeera journalists have brought unparallelled reporting from the ground from across Egypt in the face of great danger and extraordinary circumstances. Al Jazeera Network is appalled at this latest attack by the Egyptian regime to strike at its freedom to report independently on the unprecedented events in Egypt."


Cairo protesters stand their ground

Warplanes and helicopters flew over the main square and more army trucks appeared in a show of force but no one moved.

Al Jazeera
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2011 16:02 GMT

Egyptian air force fighter planes buzzed low over Cairo, helicopters hovered above and extra troop trucks appeared in a central square where protesters were demanding an end to President Hosni Mubarak's rule.

State television said that a curfew has been imposed in the capital and the military urged the protesters to go home.

But the thousands of protesters in Tahrir Square choosed to stay on Sunday.
The show of defiance came as Egypt entered another turbulent day following a night of deadly unrest, when looters roamed the streets in the absence of police.

Opposition groups in the country have called for national unity, and Mohamed Elbaradei, a leading opposition figure, is said to be heading to Tahrir Square to join the protests.

The Muslim Brotherhood movement also backed Elbaradei to negotiate with the government, a leading member said on Sunday.

ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, came back to Egypt on Thursday.

As the protests continue, security is said to be deteriorating and reports have emerged of several prisons across the country being attacked and of fresh protests being staged in cities like Alexandria and Suez.

Thirty-four leaders from the Muslim Brotherhood were freed from the Wadi Natroun jail after guards abandoned their posts.

The protesters in Cairo, joined by hundreds of judges, had collected again in Tahrir Square afternoon to demand the resignation of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president.

Al Jazeera's correspondent, reporting from the scene, said that demonstrators confronted a fire truck, at which point army troops fired into the air in a bid to disperse them.

He said the protesters did not move back, and a tank commander then ordered the fire truck to leave. When the truck moved away from the square, the thousands of protesters erupted into applause and climbed onto the tank in celebration, hugging soldiers.

Main roads in Cairo have been blocked by military tanks and armoured personnel carriers, and large numbers of army personnel have been seen in other cities as well.

Reporting from Cairo earlier on Sunday, Al Jazeera's Dan Nolan said it was a "long way from business as usual" in the Egyptian capital on the first working day since protests peaked on Friday.

He said that extra military roadblocks had been set up in an apparent attempt to divert traffic away from Tahrir Square, which has been a focal point for demonstrators.

"It's still a very tense scene to have so much military in the capital city of the country."
Earlier in the morning, Al Jazeera's Jane Dutton, also in Cairo, reported that the city appeared deserted in the early hours.

"The streets are very dirty, there is debris everywhere. The police have just disappeared. Any security at this stage is in the hands of the army."

Al Jazeera's correspondents in the port city of Alexandria have also said that anti-government protests have begun there, with hundreds of people on the streets.

The air force in Cairo has been attempting to disperse protesters, with fighter planes flying low over Tahrir Square on Sunday.

Al Jazeera correspondents say the noise from the planes was deafening and that the planes repeatedly flew over the crowds.

The security situation in the capital has prompted the country's interior minister to hold meetings with top officials on Sunday.

Habib al Adli met Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the defence minister, and vice president Omar Soliman, state television reported.

As the police withdrew from streets across Egypt, Adli has been the target of growing criticism by the protesters who have called on him to resign.

The absence of police has given looters a free rein, forcing ordinary citizens to set up neighbourhood patrols.

According to Dina Magdi, an eyewitness, unidentified men on Sunday morning came out of the interior ministry compound in a car and dumped a body on a street. They then opened fire on people present in the area and fled. There were no immediate reports of casualties in that attack.

'Chaotic' scenes

Al Jazeera's sources have indicated that the military has now also been deployed to the resort town of Sharm el Shaikh.

Sherine Tadros, Al Jazeera's correspondent in the city of Suez, said the city had witnessed a "completely chaotic night", but that the streets were quiet as day broke.


Citizens are forming neighbourhood patrols in several cities to protect their property
She reported that in the absence of police and military, people were "tak[ing] the law into their own hands", using "clubs, batons, sticks, machetes [and] knives" to protect their property.

"People are trying to get back to normal, but of course this is anything but," she said, adding that as the day wore on, the military had set up several checkposts in an attempt to "show people that they are here and ... will provide some kind of security".

Rawya Rageh, our correspondent in Alexandria, reported similar scenes, saying that people were particularly concerned about their personal safety and that of their property.

She reported that the military in Alexandria was not focusing on protesters, attempting instead to prevent any further damage or theft of property.

Anti-Mubarak protests have engulfed Middle East's most populous nation since last Tuesday. More than 150 people have been killed in the unrest.

On Saturday, an embattled Mubarak sacked his cabinet and appointed a vice-president and a new prime minister. But the move has failed to douse anger on the streets.

Dutton said that protesters are unlikely to stop demonstrating, as they "want one thing, and one thing only: they want the leadership to go".

As international powers express concern regarding events in Egypt, the US state department has reduced its diplomatic presence in Egypt, saying it had authorised the voluntary departure of dependents of diplomats and non-essential workers.