Comments: Not By Process But By Outcome

This is one of my favorite passages among all the accounts I've read, from Robert Fisk:

In the pantomime world of Mubarak himself – and of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in Washington – the man who still claims to be president of Egypt swore in the most preposterous choice of vice-president in an attempt to soften the fury of the protesters – Omar Suleiman, Egypt's chief negotiator with Israel and his senior intelligence officer, a 75-year-old with years of visits to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and four heart attacks to his credit. How this elderly apparatchik might be expected to deal with the anger and joy of liberation of 80 million Egyptians is beyond imagination. When I told the demonstrators on the tank around me the news of Suleiman's appointment, they burst into laughter.

Posted by Nell at January 30, 2011 10:38 PM

I agree that there seems to be a double standard as to the elections the US supports versus the ones we decry as corrupt, but I also think that we shouldn't just support any and all governments just because they are democratically elected.

If a truly freely elected government takes over in Egypt and still turns out to be an abuser of human rights, or does not provide equality for all, or allow for the freedom of it's peoples, they should be roundly condemned just as much as a sham government put into place under false pretenses. For example, if the people should elect a government that decides Islamic Law is what needs to be put into place, that new government should be roundly criticized, whether it's freely elected into power or not.

In other words, the process must be strongly scrutinized, I absolutely agree. But the outcome is equally if not more important.

Posted by -B at January 31, 2011 09:08 AM
If a truly freely elected government takes over in Egypt and still turns out to be an abuser of human rights, or does not provide equality for all, or allow for the freedom of it's peoples, they should be roundly condemned just as much as a sham government put into place under false pretenses. For example, if the people should elect a government that decides Islamic Law is what needs to be put into place, that new government should be roundly criticized, whether it's freely elected into power or not.

In principle, I agree with you. The thing is, the US government and our political classes are not people who would be qualified to make such criticism, given their total lack of moral authority due to their consistent support of repressive regimes that they can manipulate or control. I would listen to people who have been consistent critics of such regimes in the past, and preferably of our own regime as well; but such people do not get much time in the corporate media (though it's easy enough to find out what they have to say).

You have to bear in mind, for example, that if a "truly freely elected government takes over in Egypt," it will be accused of horrible human rights violations in the US press. Some of these accusations may even be true, but they won't be accurately compared to the far worse crimes of the new government's predecessor. Most of them will be invented. (I'm thinking here of accusations made against Jean-Bertrand Aristide during his first term of office; there are other cases.) While individual citizens will make fair criticisms of such abuses, our government and our media cannot be trusted.

Posted by Duncan at January 31, 2011 10:35 AM

Duncan beat me to it. So, what he said.

Posted by Donald Johnson at January 31, 2011 10:52 AM

I'm WAITING for free and open elections in America.

Posted by Mike Meyer at January 31, 2011 12:08 PM

When you say "our government and media cannot be trusted", that paints with kind of a broad brush. If we can't trust "the media" to sort out what's happening in Egypt, then how will we know what the hell's going on? We can't just assume the gov't is saying the opposite of what it thinks.

Posted by -B at January 31, 2011 12:33 PM

...I also think that we shouldn't just support any and all governments just because they are democratically elected.

Agreed, and nothing I wrote here was meant to imply otherwise. The point isn't that all outcomes are equally laudable, it's that the U.S. stance on the legitimacy of elections is based on the outcome. If the candidate backed by Washington wins, the election is by definition free and fair regardless of the process--and vice versa.

That's why Mubarak isn't a dictator but Chavez is, and that's why Hillary praised the "free and fair election" stage-managed by the coup government in Honduras as having "demostrated a strong and consistent commitment to democratic governance and constitutional order", despite the fact that (as Mark Weisbrot observed) "you cannot carry out free or fair elections under a dictatorship that has overthrown the elected President by force and used violence, repression, and media censorship against political opponents for the entire campaign period leading up the vote, including election day."

Posted by John Caruso at January 31, 2011 12:46 PM

Point taken, and I whole-heartedly agree.

Posted by -B at January 31, 2011 12:48 PM

I found this hilarious:

In Israel, Shock Over U.S. Distancing from Mubarak

Posted by ironbutterfly at January 31, 2011 02:21 PM

More on Egypt's new Vice President Omar Suleiman

First we have testimony from Col. Lang, whose blog is Sic Semper Tyrannis. Colonel W. Patrick Lang is a retired senior officer of U.S. Military Intelligence and U.S. Army Special Forces (The Green Berets). He served in the Department of Defense both as a serving officer and then as a member of the Defense Senior Executive Service for many years. He is a highly decorated veteran of several of America’s overseas conflicts including the war in Vietnam. He was trained and educated as a specialist in the Middle East by the U.S. Army and served in that region for many years. He was the first Professor of the Arabic Language at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.

Suleiman was a career combat arms officer of the Egyptian Arrmy who was appointed as a major general to be head of Egyptian military intelligence. I came to know him well when he served in that capacity for several years. He is an intelligent, worldly man who is also a pious Muslim of the old school. He is respected in Egypt as an honest man. He has carried out many difficult assignments for Egypt and is well thought of in international circles. Like Mubarak, Sadat and Nasser he became an officer through the efforts of the royal government to bring ordinary Egyptians into the officer corps.

And now, a quote from an article at Counterpunch by Stephen Soldz:

Shortly after 9/11, Australian citizen Mamdouh Habib was captured by Pakistani security forces and, under US pressure, tortured by Pakistanis. He was then rendered (with an Australian diplomats watching) by CIA operatives to Egypt, a not uncommon practice. In Egypt, Habib merited Suleiman's personal attention. As related by Richard Neville, based on Habib's memoir:
"Habib was interrogated by the country’s Intelligence Director, General Omar Suleiman.... Suleiman took a personal interest in anyone suspected of links with Al Qaeda. As Habib had visited Afghanistan shortly before 9/11, he was under suspicion. Habib was repeatedly zapped with high-voltage electricity, immersed in water up to his nostrils, beaten, his fingers were broken and he was hung from metal hooks." That treatment wasn't enough for Suleiman, so: "To loosen Habib’s tongue, Suleiman ordered a guard to murder a gruesomely shackled Turkistan prisoner in front of Habib – and he did, with a vicious karate kick." After Suleiman's men extracted Habib's confession, he was transferred back to US custody, where he eventually was imprisoned at Guantanamo. His "confession" was then used as evidence in his Guantanamo trial.

Posted by mistah charley, ph.d. at January 31, 2011 03:14 PM

The "highly useful" link in my posting was actually a pointer to that Soldz article (but on another site).

Posted by John Caruso at January 31, 2011 03:24 PM

What ever happened to the 5th Amendment? I'm trying to guess how many Egyptian Tank Drivers( the ones kissing the people in the street)are from the upper middle class? Third and last. Will Suleiman leave Egypt with Mubarak or stay to "Ride The Hook" as they say.

Posted by Mike Meyer at January 31, 2011 04:45 PM

All of this went so much smoother in Honduras. In with the new, out with the old, democracy be damned.

Posted by LT at January 31, 2011 05:19 PM

fine post, and fine comments, and as usual mistah charley's eye seems especially sharp to me. I like Robert Fisk too, maybe because he's pretty candid about how f'ed up the whole region is. And that was predominantly the handiwork of Colonel Lang et al, on behalf of oil companies and banks.

There's not much written about Saudi Arabia and the Gulf in the US that's any good, so in general there is way more between the lines than in them, but I highly recommend America's Kingdom: Mythmaking on the Saudi Oil Frontier by Robert Vitalis (history of how US segregated "company town" policies were exported from the Old West to Saudi Arabia, where they flourished from the 40s on).

Posted by N E at February 1, 2011 09:31 AM

-B:

If we can't trust "the media" to sort out what's happening in Egypt, then how will we know what the hell's going on?

We have to sort out for ourselves what the media tell us. There is a variety of information out there, and if you're only relying on the corporate media, you are going to be misled, though if you use them critically you can learn something. Still, it's up to you, not to the media.

We can't just assume the gov't is saying the opposite of what it thinks.

Why not? Of course it's more complicated than that -- the government is a bunch of different people, with different interests and standards -- but still, why not?

Mike Meyers:

What ever happened to the 5th Amendment?

What does the American Fifth Amendment have to do with what is going on in Egypt?

Posted by Duncan at February 1, 2011 01:50 PM


By the way, I was told by someone that mobs in Egypt have been chanting "Your plane is waiting!" That's a pretty good chant.

And here's an excellent report on the situation:

http://www.borowitzreport.com/

Posted by N E at February 1, 2011 02:12 PM

The right "to not testify aganist oneself", therefore AT LEAST not haveing to sign a confession while being tortured. Presumably this discussion concerns a confession to be used in some sort of AMERICAN institution.

Posted by Mike Meyer at February 1, 2011 05:06 PM

The right "to not testify aganist oneself", therefore AT LEAST not haveing to sign a confession while being tortured. Presumably this discussion concerns a confession to be used in some sort of AMERICAN institution.

Posted by Mike Meyer at February 1, 2011 05:06 PM

This is good--

a guide how not to say stupid stuff about Egypt

It should be emailed to every person who appears on television. And maybe Joe Biden too. Though come to think of it, he did say his stupid thing on television, so he's covered.

Posted by Donald Johnson at February 1, 2011 05:20 PM

Here's an account of events in Egypt published at the right-wing site American Thinker, said to be written by "an Egyptian student whose good sense [an academic] vouches for." It obviously represents the perspective of someone in the wealthy merchant class, but seems to me to be an honest account.

http://www.americanthinker.com/2011/02/the_story_of_the_egyptian_revo.html

To be specific about ways in which his class perspective colors his account, the anonymous author

a)does not grasp the depth of the anti-Mubarak sentiment among the people in general, which the vast crowds clearly show

b)seems unaware of or at least does not mention that some of the outbreak of lawlessness after the withdrawal of the police was committed by those self-same police

c)obviously favors an "open economy" in the neo-liberal sense

On the other hand, the Army/NDP and parliamentary dynamics described by the author are new to me (very much a novice, Egypt-wise) and seem quite plausible

at another site I read - moonofalabama dot org - the sentiment is expressed that if Mubarak does hang on, his secret police will track down and destroy all who have organized these demonstrations - which also seems to me to be quite plausible

Posted by mistah 'MICFiC' charley, ph.d. at February 1, 2011 06:34 PM

"They've got to be protected,
All their rights respected,
'Till somebody we like,
Can get elected."
- Tom Lehrer

Posted by Marcus at February 1, 2011 06:38 PM

@Duncan:

"Why not? Of course it's more complicated than that -- the government is a bunch of different people, with different interests and standards -- but still, why not?"

Because it's a simplistic way of going about things. I agree that there's obviously a skewing of facts from most of the corporate media, but the media is a bunch of different people with different interests and standards as well.

Our job is to rake through the differing viewpoints and view them with a critical eye, not just assume the gov't is lying all the time.

Posted by -B at February 3, 2011 11:03 AM