By Jacob G. Hornberger
The New York Times, along with other members
of the mainstream media, is in a tizzy over the
Egyptian government's decision to charge three
American NGO's, along with 19 American officers of the
organizations, with criminal violations. Apparently
the NGO's failed to comply with Egypt's registration
requirements prior to engaging in "pro-democracy"
political activity in Egypt.
In an editorial on the subject, the Times
suggests that the U.S. government's should consider
terminating the $1.3 billion in U.S. foreign aid that
the U.S. government gives annually to the Egyptian
What? Don't we at least have to worry about
"national security"? After all, what other
justification would there be for sending some $39
billion to a brutal military dictatorship for the last
Not surprisingly, the Times just doesn't get
it. The paper doesn't delve deeper into the issue by
asking some profound questions, such as: Why has the
U.S. government been funding a military dictatorship
for three decades — and a brutal one at that? Why is
the U.S. government interfering with the internal
affairs of another country by funding organizations
that refuse to comply with the laws of that country?
Indeed, why should the U.S. government be funneling
taxpayer money into foreign regimes and supposedly
The uncomfortable fact — one that the Times would
never dare to openly acknowledge — is that the U.S.
government loves dictatorships, especially military
ones. Consider just a few examples:
* The Shah of Iran's dictatorship, which the U.S.
government installed into power after ousting the
democratically elected prime minister of the country.
* The succession of military dictatorships in
Guatemala that the U.S. government installed into
power after ousting the democratically elected
president of the country.
* Augusto Pinochet's military dictatorship in Chile
that the U.S. government helped install into power,
which entailed the ouster of the democratically
elected president of the country, and then supported
with massive amounts of foreign aid.
* The military dictatorship in Argentina, which the
U.S. government long supported.
* The dictatorships in Saudi Arabia, Jordan,
Kuwait, Egypt, and elsewhere in the Middle East.
* The Musharraf military dictatorship in Pakistan.
* The dictatorships in some of the former Soviet
Indeed, with its almost $40 billion in aid to the
Egyptian military dictatorship over the last 30 years,
the U.S. government has been doing everything it can
to sustain the regime, a brutal dictatorial regime
that has been oppressing the Egyptian people during
that entire time.
In fact, let's not forget that the U.S. government
chose Egypt's military dictatorship to serve as one of
its loyal rendition-torture partners. That's where the
CIA took the guy it illegally kidnapped in Italy to be
tortured and detained without trial.
Why did the CIA choose Egypt? Because it knew that
Egypt ranked among the top brutal regimes in the
world, especially when it came to torturing people.
Why choose the worse torturers when you've bought and
paid for the best with billions of dollars in U.S.
foreign aid? U.S. officials chose the Egyptian
military dictatorship precisely because they knew that
they could count on it to torture their victims well,
efficiently, and brutally.
The Egyptian military regime is now obviously
concerned with the possibility that the U.S.
government, sensing the winds of change in the Middle
East, might be changing positions. After all, it
wouldn't be the first time that the U.S. government
has turned on pro-U.S. dictatorships.
Recall Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. It was a
partner and ally of the U.S. government in the 1980s.
But then the U.S. government turned on Saddam and
ended up ousting him from power.
Recall also that the U.S. government employed the
dictatorships in Syria and Libya to torture people on
its behalf, and then later turned against them.
Indeed, don't forget how the U.S. government
recently turned on Egypt's longtime dictator Hosni
Mubarak after having supported and partnered with him
Moreover, isn't it a bit hypocritical for the U.S.
government to be complaining about the criminal
prosecution of those NGOs and their officers? After
all, it's not as if those organizations get their
money entirely from the private sector. On the
contrary, they get large amounts of their money from
the U.S. government — or, to be more precise, from the
hard-pressed U.S. taxpayer.
What business does the U.S. government, either
directly or indirectly, have interfering with the
internal political processes of other nations?
There's also a bit of hypocrisy at play here. Let's
suppose that the Iranian government was violating
federal law by funding unregistered political groups
here in the United States as well various
congressional campaigns. What would be the reaction of
the U.S. government? It would scream like a banshee
and immediately do what the Egyptian government is
doing — criminally prosecuting the malefactors or,
even worse, grabbing them and whisking them away to
Guantanamo Bay or some friendly pro-U.S. regime,
perhaps even Egypt, for the purpose of torture and
indefinite detention. Why, it might also engage in an
unfriendly bombing campaign on Iran in retaliation.
The NGO's say that the Egyptian regime has been
dragging its feet with the respect to the NGO
registration process. Well, there is a simple remedy
for that: comply with the law and butt out of Egypt's
political affairs. If instead they choose to engage in
civil disobedience, that's great. But if things go
wrong, the U.S. government should not serve as their
daddy to bail them out of their difficulty.
The best thing that could ever happen is a total
cessation of all U.S. foreign aid, not only to the
Egyptian military dictatorship but also to every other
regime in the world — and a total cessation of support
to private organizations. Not only would the American
people no longer be supporting brutal military
dictatorships, such as that in Egypt, they also would
be free to retain their own money and use it to
support any cause they want.
P.S. We were treated to a great lecture on U.S.
foreign aid last evening as part of our Economic
Liberty Lecture Series, which we do in conjunction
with the George Mason University Econ Society, a
student-run group interested in libertarianism and
Austrian economics. The lecture was by Claudia R.
Williamson, a post-doctoral fellow at the Development
Research Institute at New York University. The video
of the lecture is posted here.
Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of the
Future of Freedom Foundation.