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by Jacob G. Hornberger
Among the people who might be most disturbed about the popular revolts in the Middle East are public schoolteachers across America. No, not because they necessarily oppose popular uprisings against brutal dictatorships but rather because they’re likely to be hit by an uncomfortable question from their students.
“Ever since the first grade, we’ve been taught that the U.S. government is exceptional because it is a democracy-lover and a democracy-spreader. Now, all we’re seeing on television, the newspaper, and the Internet is that the U.S. government is the world’s most ardent supporter of dictatorships in the Middle East. Who is lying — our teachers or the press?”
The truthful answer would be: It’s the state that’s been lying. The popular revolts in the Middle East are exposing the lies, myths, and delusions that have long characterized U.S. foreign policy.
By now, everyone knows that the Egyptian people have been suffering under a brutal unelected dictatorship for some 30 years.
How has that dictatorship maintained its grip on power? Through its military, one of the largest in the world.
How did it build up its large military? Through U.S. military aid, paid for by money extracted by the IRS from American taxpayers.
If the revolt against the Egyptian dictatorship is violently suppressed by the Egyptian military, the tanks, bullets, tear gas, jet planes, bombs, and military personnel carriers used to do the killing will all have stamped on them “Made in the USA.”
One Egyptian citizen, Gamal Mohamed Manshawi, expressed it succinctly when he showed a Washington Post reporter smashed gas canisters and rubber bullets that had been fired by Egyptian police against the protestors:
“You see,” the 50-year-old lawyer said, displaying the items. On the bottom of each were the words, “Made in the USA.” “They are attacking us with American weapons,” he yelled as men gathered around him.
According to the New York Times, “Since the 1978 Camp David accords, the United States has given Egypt $35 billion in military aid, making it the largest recipient of conventional American military and economic aid after Israel.”
As Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch pointed out, “Egypt has been a police state for 30 years.” As the New York Times stated, “The officer corps of Egypt’s powerful military has been educated at defense colleges in the United States for 30 years. The Egyptian armed forces have about 1,000 American M1A1 Abrams tanks, which the United States allows to be built on Egyptian soil.”
It wasn’t a coincidence that when the protests broke out in Egypt, two dozen senior Egyptian military officials were visiting their counterparts in the Pentagon. The standing armies of the United States and Egypt have been closely working together for decades.
The American people are not only receiving a lesson in the realities of U.S. foreign policy in Egypt, they might also have the chance of seeing why America’s very own Founding Fathers opposed standing armies. The Founding Fathers understood that standing armies are the means by which tyrannical governments maintain ultimate control over the citizenry, especially when the economic situation turns sour owing to governmental policies. (Gun control is another method.) If the citizens protest what the government is doing to them, the government simply has the military kill them until the people quiet down. Just ask the Chinese people or the Iranian people.
In fact, Iranians know about this sort of thing first hand. In 1953, the CIA secretly engineered a coup that ousted their democratically elected prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, a man who was widely respected in the country and who had been named Time magazine’s Man of the Year. The CIA installed the Shah of Iran into power, who proceeded to rule the country with the same brutality and terror with which the U.S. –supported Egyptian dictator, Hosni Mubarak, has been ruling Egypt for the past 30 years. Torture. Indefinite detention. No elections. No dissent. Secret police. Centrally planned and controlled economy. High taxation and regulation. And all fully supported by the U.S. government.
That’s the way the U.S. Empire works and has worked for the past many decades. It supports brutal dictators who agree to do the bidding of the Empire in the international arena. If the United States needs votes in the United Nations, for example as part of a coalition of the willing to attack some Third World country, it knows it can count on the members of the Empire to deliver them. Or if it needs a prisoner to be tortured, it can count on its loyal dictators to do the torturing for it. Or if it needs to establish a secret dungeon to keep or even execute prisoners, it can call on one of its favorite dictatorial regimes. That’s why, in fact, U.S. officials love military dictators. The military types are much less squeamish about doing the nasty things that need to be done, and they’re much more willing to use force to maintain “order and stability” within the country.
Do you recall those CIA agents who were recently convicted in Italy for kidnapping a man in Milan? Guess where they took the kidnap victim to be tortured. You guessed right: Egypt. The CIA knows that Egypt’s police state has some of the best torturers and torture facilities in the world and officials who are eager to perform whatever torture services the Empire requests of them.
What does the dictator get out of this? He gets to stay in power, where he and his compatriots get to live lives of plenty with the plunder and loot that is extracted from the citizenry.
In 1979, after suffering 25 years of dictatorship under the Shah, much to the chagrin and anger of U.S. officials the Iranian people revolted against their U.S.-supported dictator, much as the Egyptians are now revolting against their U.S.-supported dictator.
U.S. officials are saying that the Egyptian people should not resort to violence. Why not? Isn’t that what the Declaration of Independence, which U.S. officials purport to uphold, states — that people have a right to resort to force to overthrow a tyrannical regime and institute new government? Why should the victims of tyranny have to continue having to submit to the torture, rapes, execution, dungeons, unreasonable searches, indefinite detentions, centrally planned economies, and high taxation and regulation that come with a police state? Why shouldn’t they resort to violence to resist tyranny? Isn’t that what British citizens did in 1776?