Why Washington Turns a Blind Eye to Egypt’s Thugocracy

The National Interest is an American bimonthly international affairs magazine published by the Center for the National Interest. It is associated with the realist school of foreign policy thought (1).  On 30 May 2018, it has published a detailed article by Doug Bandow who is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and was a former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan, and is the author of several books. Cato Institute is an American Libertarian Think Tank headquartered in Washington (2). The article is titled, Why Washington Turns a Blind Eye to Egypt’s Thugocracy (3).

This article describes in detail the inside picture of Egypt’s politics – removal of Mohamed Morsi’s elected government by a military coup by General el-Sisi and the flagrant tyranny and human repression by General el-Sisi’s government – and how US not only turns a blind eye to that tyranny, but also in a way praises General el-Sisi’s government. For the current system of General el-Sisi’s government in Egypt, the author uses the term ‘Thugocracy’. Some of the extracts of this article are worth noting.

About Mohammad Morsi’s government the author mentions, There was much to criticize about the brief presidency of Islamist Mohamed Morsi elected in 2012, but he was no tyrant. To the contrary, he failed to control the bureaucracy, police, or military. Antagonistic businessmen sought to create economic chaos. The police refused to protect his party’s headquarters from a mob. He was ousted after Saudi Arabia funded street protests and promised aid to el-Sisi if the latter seized control. The revolutionary regime that was supposed to liberate Egypt morphed into the dictatorship that it had replaced, just like in George Orwell’s Animal Farm”.

And about General el-Sisi’s government the author highlights, Five years ago General el-Sisi staged a coup, arrested the elected president, Mohamed Morsi, killed hundreds of pro-Morsi demonstrators, and jailed tens of thousands of opponents, critics and demonstrators. Having suppressed all serious opposition, el-Sisi took over as president and in 2014 staged a faux election, winning more than 97 percent of the vote over minor opposition”. “El-Sisi staged an electoral repeat in March. This time several would-be opponents, including with military backgrounds, sought to oppose him, but he arrested or intimidated them all. For instance, Abdel Moniem Aboul Fotouh, a 2012 presidential candidate, was detailed along with fifteen party members and placed on the official terrorism list. Sami Anan, el-Sisi’s predecessor as army chief of staff, was arrested, and a top member of his campaign, Hisham Geneina, el-Sisi’s former anti-corruption chief, was sentenced to five years in prison”.

These acts of extreme repression have been so clearly visible that, according to the author, Even the State Department, despite President Trump’s bromance with his Egyptian counterpart, painted a grim picture. According to the State Department’s human-rights report last year, which spanned fifty-nine pages, “the most significant human-rights problems were excessive use of force by security forces, deficiencies in due process, and the suppression of civil liberties.” Among the specifics: Use of preventive custody and military courts, unlawful killings, torture, “restrictions on freedoms of expression and the media, as well as on the freedoms of assembly and association,” disappearances, “harsh prison conditions,” politicized court verdicts, “restrictions on academic freedom” and civil society, corruption, infringement of religious liberty, and “impunity for security forces.”

However, despite these reports, including even that of US’ State Department’s own, US prefers to turn a blind eye to these extreme violations of human rights – though US otherwise poses as the foremost champion of human rights.  In that context the author mentions, Alas, the United States and other Western governments have gone soft on Egyptian repression because they value stability more than liberty. They assume that only obsequious support can preserve Egypt as an ally”.

And it is not only turning a blind eye to such extreme human repression, US’ officials factually also praised it, as highlighted by the author, However, the Trump administration prefers to embrace dictatorship. On election day U.S. charge d’affaires Thomas Goldberger sounded like he was employed by el-Sisi: “As Americans we are very impressed by the enthusiasm and patriotism of Egyptian voters.” Vice President Mike Pence visited Cairo and offered embarrassingly obsequious comments, opining that el-Sisi “said to me again that his dedication is to all of the people of Egypt”.

This article is worth reading, especially by US’ public, to clearly see the reality of US’ policy making relating to the target countries in the international arena. On the one hand the governments of US and some of its Western allies continue touting, for their public’s consumption, their efforts to promote the principles of human rights and democracy etc. even if through their overt or covert interventions in the geopolitically targetedcountries; and on the other hand they try to prop up subservientgovernments in such countries even if that government is of a tyrant who retains control through extreme human repression. The aforementioned case of Egypt is an example; in which the finances of a US’ ally Saudi Arabia were used.