Saturday, December 17, 2011

A year later, the US should still be embarrassed by the death of Mohammad Bouazizi

Ben Ali was a dictator over whom the US held a tremendous amount of leverage long before Mohammad Bouazizi died.

All Americans should be embarrassed by Bouazizi’s death and by the fact that the United States did not act in line with the its own professed founding values long before by making a full transfer of sovereign power to popularly accountable political bodies a condition of US cooperation.

All Americans should be more embarrassed that in Jordan, in Saudi Arabia, in UAE in Kuwait and other countries, the US maintains its relationships with unaccountable pro-US dictators that reflect the colonial relationships many of those same governments had with imperial Great Britain a century ago.

Lastly, Egypt’s current pro-US dictatorship has communicated to the Western news establishment that it hopes to continue to hold Egypt’s foreign policy outside of the control of any elected government.

December 1, 2011 – New York Times:
The new majority is likely to increase the difficulty of sustaining the United States’ close military and political partnership with post-Mubarak Egypt, though the military has said it plans to maintain a monopoly over many aspects of foreign affairs.
December 18, 2011 – New York Times:
But the generals have insisted that they retain full control of the interim government, and they have sought to carve out permanent institutional autonomy and political powers under the new charter.
The Obama administration calls for the dictatorship to cede “real power” to the civilians. But real power is not necessarily all power and is not necessarily inconsistent with the plans the pro-US dictatorship has expressed. Imperial Great Britain offered “real power” to Egypt in 1922, as long as that power did not impinge on the British prerogative to direct policy on matters Britain considered important.

The US State Department on November 25, 2011:
The United States strongly believes that the new Egyptian government must be empowered with real authority immediately. We believe that Egypt’s transition to democracy must continue, with elections proceeding expeditiously, and all necessary measures taken to ensure security and prevent intimidation. Most importantly, we believe that the full transfer of power to a civilian government must take place in a just and inclusive manner that responds to the legitimate aspirations of the Egyptian people, as soon as possible.
Now that Egypt’s dictatorship has publicly expressed to the US news media that it intends to retain control of Egypt’s foreign affairs – which it currently executes under the direction of the United States – after it has fully transferred the powers it intends to transfer to a civilian government, the US has notably not publicly or even off of the record expressed opposition or disapproval of this plan.

The United States has a military that is fully subordinate to its elected government. American presidents, officials, press, analysts and commentators should be embarrassed by the plans of the pro-US dictatorship to deny that sovereignty to the people who elect Egypt’s government.

More than a generation from now, memoirs may be released and records declassified that show the full extent of US involvement in the plans of the pro-US Egyptian dictatorship to deny political power to any elected government. The US and Britain officially denied their role in wresting power from the elected bodies of Iran for decades after 1953.

But even what is known today about US policy in the Middle East should be, by America’s professed founding values, an embarrassment to every aware person in the United States. That embarrassment should have existed long before, while still being greatly magnified by, the death of Mohammad Bouazizi.

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