by Jennifer Matsui and Stella La Chance
The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt have forced Obama into an uncomfortable but familar posture: On the one hand, in order to preserve at least the appearance of credibility, the candidate of hope and change has to feign solidarity with the people who expressed their hope by flooding into the streets of Tunisia and Cairo demanding change in leadership of their US-sponsored tyrannies. On the other, as the man charged with the responsibility of prolonging the death-gasp of a doomed Empire, Obama had to work overtime behind the scenes to make sure that any political changes forced upon America’s satraps in the Middle East remain cosmetic and trivial. This dilemma accounts for the mixed messages being issued from the White House throughout the crisis as each mangled response contradicts an earlier stance.
More recent developments on Mubarak’s “dignified” exit reveal even more cynical contempt for Egypt’s long suffering people on the part of the Obama administration as Egypt’s recently appointed VP Omar Suleiman, the CIA’s ‘go to guy’ for its offshore torture enterprises has reportedly been installed as Mubarak’s puppet successor.
What better illustrates Obama’s flailing and ineffectual leadership style than a comparison of his rhetoric in Cairo shortly after taking office with his current posture regarding developments in Egypt? In his 2009 Cairo speech, Obama affirmed his “unyielding belief” in the universality of democratic struggle, and the “yearning” of all people to live “under the rule of law and the equal administration of justice, towards government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people”. Words that in retrospect reveal the insincerity behind them as his administration attempts to downplay the “government by the people, of the people . . . ” stuff as it applies to the Arab world, and push forward a more moderate and “realistic” solution to what they consider an unfolding ”crisis” in Egypt and beyond: Millions of people peacefully united in a struggle to break free from a brutal, authoritarian regime headed by a corrupt tyrant.
His audience at the time could be forgiven if they chose to ignore the dramatic, chest-puffing pauses, the Il Duce tilt of the chin and the somewhat condescending tone as he hectored his Muslim non-brethren about that silly tendency of theirs to view the US as a “self-interested Empire”. His reassurances that “government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power” struck just the right note after eight years of his predecessor’s gaffe-ridden and tone deaf rhetoric. In hindsight, “Democracy”, like the ill-fated “Mission Accomplished” has a similar slip of the tongue quality. American politicians and pundits remain entwined in an intimate spooning position on their shared bed, perfecting the necessary linguistic contortions to condemn the violence Mubarak’s paid goons are inflicting upon demonstrators and journalists, without implicating themselves for their enduring support for Egypt’s state-sponsored terrorism.
“Democracy” was Obama’s theme when Mubarak was apparently secure, cashing America’s yearly $1.3 billion hush money check with its boot heel firmly set on the neck of the Egyptian people. Now, however, when those people are in the streets demanding that political realities be reshaped according to Obama’s rhetoric, the offending word has disappeared from the President’s vocabulary. Instead we hear the familiar refrains centered around “stability,” and “reform”. His calls for a “peaceful transition” of power are merely a stalling tactic meant to buy time until a neoliberal carpetbagger is eventually installed to carry out the IMF’S failed policies, and to pre-empt any future resistance outside Israeli-controlled territory to these externally imposed measures of poverty and oppression. That Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt hinges on the regime’s complicit support for Israel’s permanent occupation of Palestinian land does not factor in to the official argument that this “strategic alliance” is somehow “vital” to US interests. Instead Mubarak, the much vaunted “strategic ally” is trotted out whenever his complicit cohorts in Washington need to justify their feet dragging.
An especially comic moment was barely mentioned in the American media involved the dispatch of former ambassador Frank Wisner as Obama’s “envoy” to read the riot act to his good friend Mubarak once it became clear that the dictator’s exit was inevitable. Is it possible that Hillary Clinton didn’t know that Wisner is a partner at the Washington law firm of Patton Boggs, which for years has proudly represented Egypt’s political and economic elite? According to the firm’s website:
“Patton Boggs has been active in Egypt for 20 years. We have advised the Egyptian military, the Egyptian Economic Development Agency, and have handled arbitrations and litigation on the government’s behalf in Europe and the US. Our attorneys also represent some of the leading Egyptian commercial families and their companies, and we have been involved in oil and gas and telecommunications infrastructure projects on their behalf. One of our partners also served as the Chairman of the US-Egyptian Chamber of Commerce, promoting foreign direct investment into targeted sectors of the Egyptian economy. We have also handled negotiation of offset agreements and managed contractor disputes in military sales agreements arising under the US Foreign Military Sales Act.
Patton Boggs maintains a correspondent affiliate relationship with one of Egypt’s most prominent firm of lawyers in Cairo, the law firm of Zaki Hashem.”
Could Wisner realistically be expected to violate the rules of legal ethics by strong-arming his own client? No. Wisner proceeded to further embarrass his already confused boss by going “off message” and announcing in Munich that Mubarak’s “continued leadership is critical; it’s his opportunity to write his own legacy …” This prompted a spasm of clumsy backtracking by the Secretary of State, who immediately informed the groveling press that “He does not speak for the administration … So you would have to ask him what he meant, and how it fits into his view of what’s going on.” However, Wisner’s statement was perfectly consistent with Joe Biden’s assertion a few weeks ago that Mubarak is “not a dictator,” and the Vice President certainly spoke for the Obama administration. But that was then – before it became obvious that Mubarak’s days were numbered – and this is now, when the administration is supposed to be forcing Mubarak out in favor of his freshly appointed stand-in, CIA asset and torturer Omar Suleiman. Someone forgot to tell Wisner to update his file.
Recent statements coming from the Israeli leadership warning the world of the dangers of a democratized Middle East and how threatens Israel’s apartheid state reveal Netanyahu’s fingerprints in glaring relief all over the rhetorical playbook US politicians and pundits refer to when “condemning” their man in Cairo. The US (firmly under the boot of its largest recipient of military aid) remains convinced that its “strategic interests” lie in preventing the imprisoned segment of Israel’s population funny ideas about self-determination, even if this failed policy is at the heart of anti-American sentiments in the region. The failure of the US to adequately gauge the level of anger Egyptians felt over the their government’s betrayal of the stateless Palestinian people, including Mubarak’s active role in enforcing the Israeli blockade of Gaza before and after Israel’s 2008 blitzkrieg, remains a still unacknowledged factor leading to the present uprising. As Obama Inc. is forced to confront this swelling human tsunami of discontent, one thing has become disturbingly clear: US leadership is a wholly illusory facade that masks a rudderless system of entrenched interests, all profiting from endless armed conflict, and all seeking to maintain the political and economic imbalances necessary to procure the cheap resources to sustain it.
The Empire is at the stage when corporal decomposition briefly mimics life-like functions before dissolving into an unsalvageable heap of toxic waste, eventually collapsing in on itself. From this worm ridden detritus we continue to mold Golem-esque monsters like Mubarak, imposing, larger-than-life clay figures programmed to carry out Israel’s vengeance-seeking imperatives and crushing domestic and regional resistance to its land grabbing ambitions.
Like Golem, the obedient, brute stupid clay automatons of Jewish mythology, created in the primitive laboratories of holy men to protect the Jewish ghetto from torch bearing mobs, Mubarak and his cohorts were similarly dreamt up in squalid think tanks in DC suburbs and unleashed upon the world with the same unintended consequences. According to one telling of this hubris-themed legend, the monster was only deactivated when the rabbi removed the first letter of the Hebrew word “emet” (truth or reality) from the creature’s forehead, leaving the word “met,” meaning dead. In a similar attempt to defang a useful-idiot-turned-liability, Washington and Tel Aviv are hoping to defuse a genuine democratic movement with similar sleight of hand techniques, removing trace evidence of their handiwork on Egypt’s internal affairs as they select Mubarak’s remodeled clay replica as his successor.
The timing of the Arab uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt could hardly be more propitious. They occur just now as if to confirm the basic message of the leaked Palestine Papers several weeks ago, which is that the US-sponsored “peace process” is a fraudulent charade and the United States, along its European allies are irrelevant to resolution of the conflict in Palestine — the subtext for the dissolution of proxy dictatorships in the Middle East. Whatever else they may represent, these uprisings offer a rumbling signal to the feckless “international community” that this conflict, will ultimately be solved not by bureaucrats in Washington, London, Paris and Berlin, but by the people who must bear the burden of its irresolution, and the hopelessness and indignity it spawns, every day of their lives.
The US’s duck-and-cover response to Egypt’s spontaneous regime combustion reveals a woeful lack of preparedness and foresight on the part of its policy makers. It is obvious that Obama has spent the larger part of his presidency inhaling the sulfurous ‘dutch oven’ fumes within the fetid, airtight think tanks where the overlapping emissions of policy wonks, strategists and drab Generals mingle with the clean banknote scent of Wall Street money launderers. His administration’s failure to anticipate the inevitable blowback from its continuation of decades of failed foreign policy is evident in their floundering attempts to evoke a “clash of civilizations” scenario to justify its hypocritical about-face on the subject of a democratized Middle East.
In an attempt to further distance himself from his own rhetoric, Obama has left the more brutal assessments of the situation unfolding in Egypt to his Republican cohorts to deliver the message that “stability” under a tyrant’s boot is the best case scenario for the people of the Middle East – a view that is echoed across the political spectrum on both sides of the Atlantic in varying degrees of overt racism by politicians, pundits and “experts” alike. Consensus opinion among the people who are paid handsomely to get it wrong every time insists that Egyptians are only capable of filling the political vacuum left in Mubarak’s wake with a bomb laden Mullah intent on draining the Suez Canal. Notice how little has been made of the sewer monsters that have emerged from the political vacuum of Obama’s flailing leadership at home.
To the chagrin of the mob-fearing, democracy thwarting leaders of the ‘free’ world, the Egyptian people are overwhelmingly unwilling to settle for an interim government led by a defanged and temporarily hobbled ruling party bureaucrat, even if it means sacrificing the the meagre, short-term benefits a return to “stability” would bring. Enter the Muslim Brotherhood whose gains in Egypt’s 2005 parliamentary elections posed a genuine democratic challenge to Mubarak’s authoritarian ‘secular’ regime and not the hoped for theological “threat”, without which Israel and its allies in the west remain hamstrung in their attempts to summon the specter of Bin Laden to hover ominously over Tahrir square where tens of thousands of demonstrators remain steadfast in their demands for Mubarak’s removal. Despite the Brotherhood’s deliberately low profile presence in the ongoing demonstrations and their stated willingness to work within a legitimately elected government, Washington and Tel Aviv’s official storytellers are spinning a Crusade-era yarn with the requisite, turban wearing villains on a suicide mission from God to illustrate the Brotherhood’s moderate aims to reform Egypt’s political institutions.
Thinking back to all the bellicose rhetoric of war in recent years, combined with the vacuous windbaggery of Obama’s preening oratory, you realize those ominous rumblings of fighter jets and unmanned aircraft audible over his finely pitched spoken anthems are just the sound a corpse emits as accumulated gases seek release. As events unfold in Egypt, with millions of its citizens publicly unshackling themselves from a brutal and ruinous status-quo, we are not only witness to a spontaneous irruption of emboldened citizens demanding an end to decades of tyrannical rule, but an insurrection on a global scale that promises to upend Empire and the corrupt institutions that sustain it.
How fitting that the Egyptian people once condemned to eke out a meagre existence among the monuments and relics of another dead Empire have risen en masse from the ruins, bringing down not only a stooge Pharaoh, but revealing American power as little more than a gold-plated hologram carcass signifying the brief reign of its last little emperor.