The New York Times Has It Wrong on U.S. Aid to Egypt

08 Feb 2012

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 regime.

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 30 years?


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 private organizations?

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 bloc countries.

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 for years.

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.



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