MuBarack, the President and the Fox
You would think they’d be delighted; in the tenth year of the ‘War on Terror’ (a war which Barack Obama continues to wage, even if he never calls it by that name) democracy, as promised by the neo-con ideologues, just might be spreading throughout the Middle East. However, the uprising in Egypt has been greeted by American politicians and media at best with ambivalence, at worst with condemnation.
The Egyptian Revolution is world news, and has (I hope!) been adequately covered by the British media, so I am not going to spend a lot of time explaining what is probably obvious – that democracy promotion and ’regime change’ from below was never part of America’s plan, and that Egyptian dictator Mubarak is a key-pin of the whole US strategy in the Middle East – a strongman who has kept leftists and Islamists under his thumb, and who has played a crucial role in enforcing the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Instead, I want to focus on the reaction of the media and politicians here in the US, to show just how wrong footed they have been by events in Egypt.
First, take Glenn Beck - please! (This joke was stolen from a papyrus found in an Egyptian pyramid). This Fox News host has become the unofficial mouthpiece of the Tea Party movement, and by extension of the Republican right. His angle is to hysterically proclaim the Obama administration a threat to freedom, and to accuse opponents of being communists or Nazis (or usually both). So faced with an actual dictator, you would think he would be delighted at the prospect of his removal by people power? Not a bit of it; he explained to fellow Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly that the movement in Egypt was being run by Islamists and communists. (Communism, in the Stalinist sense of the word, today only exists in two places – North Korea and Glenn Beck’s imagination). According to Beck the ‘radical left’ in the US and ‘Islamic radicals’ are plotting nothing less than ‘the destruction of the Western world.’ I had no idea the American left was so powerful.
Given their Islamophobia, it is perhaps not surprising that Beck, O’Reilly and co should cheer on somebody who is killing Arabs, even if that person is an Arab himself. In the more mainstream news media, the tone has been less pro-Mubarak, and more ‘what’s in it for us?’ Never mind the Egyptians dying at the hands of Mubarak’s thugs; how will this affect oil prices? So-called foreign policy experts have reminded us that Mubarak has been a source of stability, a friend of Israel, and a bulwark against radical Islam. The strategic significance of the Suez Canal has been mentioned so often you would think it’s 1956.
More importantly, Obama and his administration were less than enthusiastic about the outbreak of democracy in the Middle East. We don’t know what deals are being cut right now between Obama and Mubarak, but it appears that, now they see which way the tide is flowing, the US government wants to ease Mubarak out (preferably in favour of his former intelligence chief, Vice President Omar Suleiman. The Americans know him well from his cooperation with CIA’s ‘extraordinary rendition’ torture program).Their initial response was very different, however; Vice-President Joe Biden said “Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things… I would not refer to him as a dictator.” Hillary Clinton also saw stability as more important than democracy; she made the curious statement that the US had backed democracy in Egypt for over thirty years (the same thirty years that Mubarak has been in power), and has talked only of an ‘orderly transition’ in power. As for vacillator-in-chief Barack Obama, while he has begun gently suggesting Mubarak should go, he has done his best not to put any real pressure on him (such as threatening to cut off the 1 billion-per-year military aid he receives from the US). Maybe he is keeping quiet for fear of drawing too much attention to his and previous US presidents’ friendship with the Egyptian dictator? Type ‘Obama Mubarak’ into a Google images search and you will get over 85 million results.
Finally, one important fact has been missed by nearly all the US media; the upheavals in the Arab world are as much about bread as they are about democracy. When Hillary Clinton talked of the people of the Middle East wanting ‘economic freedom’, she forgot that it has been economic ‘freedom’ in the form of neo-liberal policies that sparked the rebellion in Tunisia, which began with the suicide of an unemployed man. This is the same economic philosophy that has been destroying the livelihoods of American workers for the last thirty years. Compare Egypt with the USA; one is a sham democracy dominated by a corrupt wealthy elite, with growing poverty, inequality and social divisions. The other has pyramids.