Why Not Permanently Terminate Foreign Aid to Egypt?

21 March 2012

By Jacob G. Hornberger

A March 17 Washington Post editorial entitled "A Bad Decision on Egypt" criticizes a decision by U.S. officials to consider renewing foreign aid to Egypt, given that the Egyptian government is still prosecuting certain non-governmental political organizations for operating in violation of Egypt's registration requirements.

After U.S. officials had threatened a cut off of the aid unless Egypt terminated criminal proceedings against Americans, Egypt permitted the Americans to leave the country, causing U.S. officials to now consider renewing the aid.

In order to renew the aid, however, U.S. officials must grant a "national security waiver" exempting the State Department from issuing a congressionally required certification that Egypt is "implementing policies to protect freedom of expression, association, and religion, and due process of law."

The Post opposes such a waiver because it would "send the wrong message," especially since the prosecution of the NGOs is resuming in April, albeit without the Americans who were permitted to leave the country. The Post says that such a waiver would indicate that the U.S. government is concerned only about American citizens and not about underlying principles of freedom and democracy.

But since when has the U.S. Empire been concerned about freedom and democracy in Egypt and about the well-being of the Egyptian people?

For some 30 years, Egypt has been ruled by a brutal military dictatorship. That's been the nature of its political system — a military dictatorship. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, a military dictatorship is the opposite of a democratic political system.

A military dictatorship is run by military officials, none of whom stands for election. Under such a regime, the entire country is run just like the army — in a top-down, command-and-control manner. The economic system is centrally planned, with the military at the center of everything. Rules and regulations are the order of the day. In Egypt the military has come to play as big a role in the Egyptian economy as the U.S. military plays here in the United States.

That's the military dictatorship that was headed by Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak, the brutal dictator who served as ruler of Egypt for decades and who was finally ousted from power by the Egyptian protestors. Since Mubarak's ouster, the military has made it clear that any new political system in Egypt must accept the military, and all its commercial enterprises, as the foundation of Egyptian society.

If the military gets its way, it will continue to reign in Egypt albeit with a faηade of democracy by virtue of the fact that the citizenry will be permitted to elect certain public officials. But the ultimate power will still reside with the military.

Unfortunately, the Post editorial failed to point out that for the past 30 years, the U.S. Empire has been the principal supporter and enabler of Egypt's military dictatorship. Billions and billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars have been funneled into the dictatorship in the form of both money and armaments, which have been used to maintain "order and stability" within the country.

What has such "order and stability" meant for Egypt? Tyranny! Yes, a brutal tyranny, plain and simple. That's what military dictatorships are all about — brutal and vicious tyranny.

Oh, sure, the Egyptian military officials never saw things that way. They viewed their brutal oppression in terms of maintaining "order and stability" — in terms of protecting people from the "terrorists" and other threats to "national security."

Over time, tyrannical regimes inevitably begin expanding their conception of "terrorists" and threats to "national security" to encompass those who question and challenge the dictatorship and what's it is doing to the citizenry. That means arbitrary arrests, round-ups, assassinations, torture, executions, military dungeons and prison camps, spying on the citizenry, arbitrary searches and seizures, and indefinite incarceration without due process or trial.

Not surprisingly, that's what the Egyptian military dictatorship has been all about for 30 years. Why do you think the Egyptian people finally risked their lives in peaceful rebellion? It's because they were willing to die than suffer any more under a brutal, mean, vicious, tortuous regime.

That's the regime that the U.S. Empire has supported for decades, knowing full well what it was doing to the Egyptian people. The fact is that U.S. officials not only knew what the dictatorship was doing to the Egyptian people, they embraced it — they supported it — they loved it. In their minds, they agreed with the Egyptian military officials — that all this was absolutely necessary to maintain "order and stability" and to keep the country safe from the "terrorists" and to protect Egypt's "national security."

Do you recall that guy the CIA kidnapped in Italy? Why do you think the CIA chose Egypt as the country to rendition the guy to? The CIA was fully aware of the Egyptian military's torture facilities and its extremely efficient and brutal methods of torture. After all, that's part of what those billions of dollars in U.S. foreign aid, year after year, had gone into building and maintaining. They wanted the best torturers, and they knew that Egypt's torturers were among the best in the world.

The Post recommends that U.S. foreign aid be suspended until Egypt complies with U.S. demands to dismiss the criminal prosecution of those NGOs and until it's clear that the military has surrendered power to a democratic regime.

But such a suspension is unlikely because, as the Post editorial points out, a production of F-16s here in the United States might have to be shut down because Egypt needs the U.S. foreign aid to pay for them. How's that for a moral justification for continuing foreign aid to a brutal military dictatorship?

It's time for Americans to raise their vision to a higher level, especially given out-of-control federal spending and debt that is threatening the economic well-being of the American people.

The right thing to do is not condition U.S. foreign aid on Egyptian compliance with the demands of the U.S. Empire. The right thing to do is for U.S. officials to apologize to the Egyptian people for having funded and enabled their military dictatorship for some 30 years and the horrible tyranny that came with it. The right thing to do is to terminate all foreign aid to Egypt and, for that matter, every other foreign regime, permanently. Indeed, the right thing to do is to dismantle America's vast overseas military empire and restore a constitutional republic to our land.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation.


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