Egypt, much like Pakistan, is becoming a real problem for the Bush administration.
Despite the rhetoric concerning spreading democracy in the Middle East — one of the alleged justifications for the illegal invasion of Iraq — the Bush administration has been more than content to support dictatorships that serve its objectives.
Most recently, the Secretary of State has found herself unable to explain how and why the United States continues to back a regime — that of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak — that cracks down on dissent in a manner that contradicts Bush administration rhetoric. The most recent situation of Egyptian blogger Abdel Kareem Suliman Amer is a case in point. Convicted of criticizing the president and defaming Islam, the real issue here is one of freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
The Bush administration has decided to ignore this situation, as they have so many others when it comes to their allies.
The United States has cultivated Egypt as a client state since the early 1970s when, in a surprise move, then Egyptian president Anwar Sadat switched sides in the Cold War, dropping its alliance with the Soviet Union. The United States has been willing to tolerate, if not openly support, Sadat's and, later, Mubarak's repression of dissent.
Ironically, both Sadat and Mubarak were prepared to ally with the ultra-conservative Islamist Muslim Brotherhoods when they sought common cause against dissent arising from the political left. A pattern unfolded, however, of then cracking down on the Brotherhoods (and other Islamists) when the danger from the Left passed and the right-wing Islamists had gained too much strength.
Egypt, like Pakistan in central Asia, is a key ally for the Bush administration in its so-called War on Terror. This means that they are given a pass when it comes to human rights abuses and violations of democratic rule. A comparison with the Bush administration's attitude toward Zimbabwe is instructive.
The Zimbabwe government of President Robert Mugabe has been involved in ongoing repression of political opponents. Those opponents include both an organized political parties — the Movement for Democratic Change — as well as non-party opponents, such as the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. The Bush administration never tires of criticizing President Mugabe and his allies for precisely the same sorts of behavior committed by the regime of Egypt's President Mubarak. The willingness of the United States to tolerate, if not actively support, the repression of left-wing secular and religious opposition movements in Egypt by the Sadat and Mubarak regimes means the right-wing Islamists are the ones who remain standing and have now become the major organized force in opposition to Mubarak. Thus, instead of democracy, Egypt has a despotic, puppet regime propped up by the United States, and faces some of the same forces that the United States accuses of being in league with Islamic terrorists — forces that not very long ago were in fact allies of both Mubarak and the United States in their past war against the left!
It's enough to make one dizzy, sick or simply furious that we are played for suckers on a regular basis by our government in the name of opposing whoever happens to be the enemy of the moment.
Bill Fletcher Jr. is a longtime international labor activist and writer.