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February 09, 2011

Now That's More Like It

When Obama talked about "Change We Can Believe In," he apparently meant our Egyptian strongman was going to change to a guy who tortures people personally:

Egypt figured large as a torture destination of choice, as did Suleiman as Egypt’s torturer-in-chief. At least one person extraordinarily rendered by the CIA to Egypt—Egyptian-born Australian citizen Mamdouh Habib—was tortured by Suleiman himself.

In October 2001, Habib was seized off a bus by Pakistani security forces. While detained in Pakistan, at the behest of America agents he was suspended from a hook and electrocuted repeatedly. He was then turned over to the CIA, and in the process of transporting him to Egypt he endured the usual treatment: his clothes were cut off, a suppository was stuffed in his anus, and he was diapered and “wrapped up like a spring roll.” In Egypt, as Habib recounts in his memoir, My Story: The Tale of a Terrorist Who Wasn’t, he was repeatedly subjected to electric shocks, immersed in water up to his nostrils, beaten, his fingers were broken and he was hung from metal hooks. At one point, his interrogator slapped him so hard that his blindfold was dislodged, revealing the identity of his tormentor: Suleiman. Frustrated that Habib was not providing useful information or confessing to involvement in terrorism, Suleiman ordered a guard to murder a shackled Turkistani prisoner in front of Habib, which he did with a vicious karate kick. In April 2002, after five months in Egypt, Habib was rendered to American custody at Bagram prison in Afghanistan, and then transported to Guantanamo. On January 11, 2005, the day before he was scheduled to be charged, Dana Priest of the Washington Post published an exposé about Habib’s torture. The US government immediately announced that he would not be charged and would be repatriated home to Australia.

On the other hand, our big favorite in Iraq for a while was Iyad Allawi, who personally shot seven prisoners. So maybe Suleiman is step up.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at February 9, 2011 12:53 PM

Broken link is to:

Posted by: Cloud at February 9, 2011 01:18 PM

I don't think the US govt. wants Egypt to go democratic. They're much happier with it being part of the 'Police State umbrella' which they believe safeguards our and Israel's interests no matter what the people may want. Obama is in a 'holding pattern' while the CIA and Mossad are surely doing everything they can 'behind the scenes' to disrupt, divide and destroy this new movement.

Posted by: Roger Lafontaine at February 9, 2011 06:23 PM

What exactly was it that made Saddam Hussein so bad?

Suleiman is supposed to provide Egypt with "stability" which is threatened by democracy.

Posted by: Edward at February 9, 2011 06:55 PM

YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK toward a happier more secure America. KEEP PAYING, KEEP PLAYING.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at February 9, 2011 07:42 PM

I was going to link to info about Amnesty International's day of solidarity protests on 12/2 but it appears they're only happening in D.C. and Chicago (and London and 3[!] Oz cities) so I'm not sure how useful that'd be. Ohwotthehell I'll link to it anyway.

Global Day of Action: Egypt, The Middle East & Africa

Posted by: weaver at February 9, 2011 10:18 PM

Governments act much like the Mafia, making an example out of one person for the benefit of others is a common trait both have. So is stealing, murdering, raping, and the like.

Posted by: rob payne at February 9, 2011 11:58 PM

Roger LaFontaine

Impressively cynical, but not cynical enough. As for democracy, what did old HK say about Chile--"I don't see why we have to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people." Most Egyptians may want democracy in Egypt, but not the Egyptians who benefit from the way things are now, and certainly not other governments in the region or here. Christ, I think Elliot Abrams was talking about democracy the other day while "reporters" took notes. Talk about mocking ourselves. Most of the governments we support, and probably all in the region, are tyrannies for most of their populations in such a dramatic way that it's astonishing everyone here can constantly forget it.

But don't be so sure the goal is necessarily to destroy the "new movement." All that ruckus in the region in 1979 definitely had a goal other than to destroy the "new movement" in Iran--in that case that goal was to get us into the region in a serious way, which Carter promptly then did, because he was a politician and that became politically wise. I don't know what's going on in Egypt now, but I am sure the folks you mention and others are using their considerable influence and skill with a purpose, either together or perhaps at cross purposes. You can bet that what comes on the heels of Mubarak won't be Nassarism or a pan-arab movement, and keep your eyes open down the road to the changes that don't get talked about. Sometimes it's necessary to make a change to make other changes. When Sadat was killed in October 1981, the Israelis gained more freedom to go into Lebanon the next summer without worrying about whether it would be too much of a betrayal for Sadat to tolerate, genuinely or just politically (not that they necessarily did it).

I suspect that Mubarak and his administration have become a hindrance rather than a help now, but I can't say how. I can say that thinking Facebook and Twitter are revolutionary instruments which will bring freedom and democracy in Egypt (or Iran) is idiotic and people need to not be that naive.

Posted by: N E at February 10, 2011 06:55 AM

"I am sure the folks you mention and others are using their considerable influence and skill with a purpose"

Never forget that Egypt hosts the Suez Canal, which is probably the world's pre-eminent oil trans-shipment choke point. (OK, maybe tied with the Panama Canal. Remember Panama?) Britain and France invaded Egypt (with Israel's help) over this once before.

Posted by: Dunc at February 10, 2011 07:05 AM

You know, is the hands-on aspect better or worse? A lot more people have been murdered with memos.

Posted by: N E at February 10, 2011 07:05 AM

Governments act much like the Mafia

Democracy don't rule the world,
You'd better get that in your head.
This world is ruled by violence
But I guess that's better left unsaid.

---Bob Dylan

Posted by: mistah 'MICFiC' charley, ph.d. at February 10, 2011 08:00 AM

Roger Lafontaine, exactly right, in fact it just has come out that the Egyptian military has been torturing captured protesters. The two biggest foes to democracy in the world today is the U.S. and Israel.

Posted by: rob payne at February 10, 2011 10:46 AM

WE may not have Egypt "with" US anymore, but WE'll always have GITMO, Ilsa.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at February 10, 2011 12:16 PM

Whatever they did to the guy, he wasn't "electrocuted repeatedly." "Electrocuted" means killed by electricity. That only happens once.

Posted by: cervantes at February 10, 2011 02:38 PM

mistah charley

Thanks for the Dylan, but maybe your caption has it backwards. Perhaps Tim McVeigh got his last statement right when he quoted Justice Brandeis: "The government is the potent omnipresent teacher. For good or ill it teaches the whole people by its example."

It's the mafia that acts like the government.

Posted by: N E at February 10, 2011 03:37 PM

Well you soul selling no-good
Son-of-a-shoe-fittin' fire starters
I ought to tear your no good
Perambulatory bone frame
And nail it to your guv'ment walls
All of you, you bastards
You da-gum guv'ment
You sorry rackafratchits
You got yourself an itch a
And you want me to scratch it
Well you dad-gum, dad-gum, dad-gum guv'ment
Of don't you know
Oh don't you love 'em sometime
-Roger Miller

Posted by: godoggo at February 10, 2011 04:07 PM

Mistah Charley PH.D.,

I love the quote, very apt. Thanks for posting it.

Posted by: rob payne at February 10, 2011 07:33 PM

There's been a slaughter here!
Five to one, Baby
One to five
No one here gets out alive
The old get old
And the young get stronger
May take all week
Yeah it may take longer
They've the guns, Baby
We've got the numbers
Come on Baby,
Yeah we're taking over
Come On!-----The Doors.

Friday looks to be a rough day for Egypt.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at February 10, 2011 07:57 PM

Hmm, that was kind of a pissed off sounding lyric I copied and pasted, now that I look at it. Sorry about that.

Posted by: godoggo at February 11, 2011 01:44 AM

Meanwhile the media has been giving the public the impression that Obama supports the Egyptian people. Here's the reality:

Posted by: Tom at February 11, 2011 05:36 AM

you can click on my name for the link. link

Posted by: Tom at February 11, 2011 05:38 AM

Watching the crowds in Cairo after the announcement of Mubarak's resignation, I'm reminded of the joy and hope felt by most Americans when Obama was elected. Remember Oprah Winfrey weeping in joy in the crowd in the Chicago Park election night?

Let's hope Egyptians are less disappointed a few years from now.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at February 11, 2011 11:37 AM

mistah charley, ph.d.,
being happy a dictator has been overthrown is not the same as naively thinking a politician they elected will represent them.

Posted by: Tom Murphy at February 11, 2011 12:27 PM