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Media Bias on Egyptian Violence

The Nightly News at NBC is a perfect example of unbalanced reporting – it’s not that they slanted the news toward a liberal or conservative narrative.  They slanted it toward cynicism by focusing on the violence at Tahrir Square over the last few days and under-reporting the reasons for that violence.

Any violence in Tahrir Square is a result of the military council’s refusal to move promtly towards fullfilling the democracy it claims to protect.  The last straw was the SCAF’s guidelines for a new constitution that earmarked military prerogatives over civilian rule.  That was exactly the model Mubarak used to control Egypt for 40 years. And this model would destroy any moves towards real democracy in Egypt.

The violence was in reaction to a police route of peaceful demonstrators demanding an end to military rule.  But at least the Western media echoes the fears of President Obama and others that things may get out of hand with elections in Egypt taking place over the next month.

The US government can’t straddle this issue.  If it doesn’t come full force in favor of the democratic demands of the reform movement, it sides with the resurfacing of the old regime.  Sec. Clinton can’t say the delay of elections by the military council if ‘appropriate’ and still claim the US is behind the protesters.

The American people were transfixed with the Egyptian Arab Spring, but now the news media makes it look like that Spring is going nowhere.  Once again, the Middle East is being profiled as irreparably violent and sectarian.

Expect the Obama Administration to go easy on the military council, SCAF, in fear of ‘democratic chaos’.  The chaos, however, will continue until the Egyptian people elect their own civilian government.

 

 

 

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WHERE is OBAMA on SLAUGHTER in EGYPT?

Sec. Clinton has been talking out of both sides of her mouth.   Two weeks ago, she said the SCAF’s delay for Presidential elections until 2013 was ‘appropriate.’   This past wee, she has been verbally scolding SCAF.  But look, every US president who served the last 40 years scolded Mubarak but never left his side.

The Obama Administration is overly concerned about security and Egypt’s treaty with Israel.  Repression by SCAF isn’t going to ensure either.  Stability will come with elections to Parliament, the Presidential election date set for next Spring and overturning the emergency law.

SCAF itself is the provocateur for chaos.  It has sewn dissent between Copts and Muslims.  It has reneged on promises.  It continues to give mixed signals in a volatile situation.  SCAF is either setting the stage for more repression or incredibly clumsy and stupid.

Obama needs to move on this immediately.

 

 

 

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Hundreds of Thousands Egyptians Demand Civilian Rule

UPDATE:  Todays papers report that many ‘liberals’ did not participate in the demonstrations.  However, the April 6th Movement, a key force behind the Arab Spring, did.  However, the NYT reports yesterday’s outpouring was a show of force by Islamists demanding civilian rule.

Most factions of the democratic movement in Egypt came together today at Tahrir Square demanding that the military cede authority to civilian rule without delay.  Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as secular parties, united in this one demand for authentic civilian government.

Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians packed Tahrir Square today demanding an end to military rule.  Islamists and non-Islamist forces combined forces on the eve of Parliamentary elections in a show of popular strength demanding a real, rapid transition from military rule to democracy.  The size of the turnout and the unity of the message will send a strong, and incredibly important, message to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces: it should not delay a transition to civilian rule, it should back off from its proposed pro-military supra-constitutional document, and it should stop its abuses of military courts and emergency law.

Those Egyptians!  No one said it would be easy.  But they won’t give up!

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Mubarak’s Ghost

Just a few weeks after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed approval of the Egyptian military delaying presidential elections until 2013, she shifted tone:

“If, over time, the most powerful political force in Egypt remains a roomful of unelected officials, they will have planted the seeds for future unrest, and Egyptians will have missed a historic opportunity,” Mrs. Clinton warned.

“When unelected authorities say they want to be out of the business of governing,” the United States expects them “to lay out a clear road map” and “abide by it,” she added.

PLEASE!  The cozy Mubarak-US pattern is re-emerging full throttle in Egypt.  Not only has SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) delayed elections, it has refused to lift Mubarak’s emergency law and is currently drafting a constitution that would give it powers over a future civilian government.

And the most the US Secretary of State can say is: “…they will have planted the seeds for future unrest…”!  ‘Deja vu’ all over again! Picture 40 years worth of US Presidents who expressed identical sentiments to Mubarak but supported his autocracy anyway.  The betrayal of Egyptian democrats is now, not in some more convenient ‘future’ for Clinton .  Unless the US puts teeth into its pronouncements, they mean nothing, as surely as decades of calls for Mubarak to democratize meant nothing.

This is a sinister symbiotic relationship:  the US gives the Egyptian military $1.5 billion a year, and in return, Egypt maintains its peace treaty with Israel.  Everything else about Egypt – elections, a new constitution, the force of the Tahrir democratic movement – is secondary to the Egyptian military and its US enablers.

The Obama Administration has been working with SCAF since before Mubarak even left the scene. There is little chance a US president would call for Mubarak’s ouster without being assured of continuity in Egypt’s relationship with Israel.  The Egyptian people are being played like pawns in yet another ‘Great Game’ powered by the USA.

 

 

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Arab League Deal: Now You See It – Now You Don’t

The Christian Science Monitor reports that less than 24 hours after al-Assad agreed to a peace proposal from the Arab League, which included opening dialogue with the opposition, the opposition vowed to mobilize large demonstrations against it.  Meanwhile, the Free Syrian Army, composed of deserters and their supporters, are killing almost as many Assad forces as Assad is killing protesters.

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Will Field Marshal Tantawi Run for Egyptian President?

Several blogs specializing in Africa and the Middle East report two ominous signs that the head of Egypt’s Military Council may seek the Egyptian presidency.  First, during Sec. of State Clinton’s visit last week, he was seen on Cairo streets shaking hands and greeting people, something rare for Tantawi.  Pictures also showed him in civilian clothes, a first.  Two days ago, two or three neighborhoods in Cairo and Alexandria were plastered with Tantawi posters suggesting he would be most capable to ensuring the ‘stability’ of the Egyptian state.   A previously unknown group “Egypt Above All” were said to be behind the posters.

Last March, I made a point of saying Egypt’s Tahrir Square movement was a reform movement, not revolution.  Although the old Mubarak party is dissolved, the SCAF are high level military lifers with close ties to the former president and to the US military.

Obama Pledges Support for Egyptian Military

Meanwhile, the White House released a read-out of President Obama’s October 24th call to Field Marshal Tantawi:

President Obama called Egyptian Field Marshal Tantawi today to reaffirm the close partnership between the United States and Egypt and to underscore his full support for Egypt’s transition to democracy. The two leaders agreed that Egypt’s upcoming elections must be free and fair and be held in accordance with democratic standards. The President underscored that the United States supports a strong, peaceful, prosperous and democratic Egypt that responds to the aspirations of its people, and that the outcome of the election is for the Egyptian people to decide. He welcomed Egypt’s willingness to accept international election witnesses and urged that Egypt lift the emergency law and end military trials for civilians. The two leaders also discussed Egypt’s economic situation. The President emphasized his support for full funding by the Congress of the Administration’s request for assistance for Egypt, without conditions, and stressed his commitment to help Egypt secure international assistance to address its economic needs.

Just replace the Field Marshal’s name with Mubarak and this sounds like a run-of-the-mill statement such as the WH delivered to Mubarak under several presidents.  It is certainly a statement of support for “Egyptian stabiity”, not a warning against anti-democratic actions taken by the military council.  And how many times did American presidents’ ‘urge’ an Egyptian leader to lift the 40-year-old emergency law?  It meant nothing.

Egyptian Instability: Suspicious Origins

Much of the ‘instability’ faced by Egyptians over the past several months have suspicious origins:

1.  Soccer thugs attacked the Israeli embassy after splitting off from a peaceful pro-democracy demonstration near Tahrir Square.  No Egyptian police were to be found.  Major news organizations said the Israeli ambassador to Egypt called Netanyahu who called Sec. Clinton who called President Obama, who called the Supreme Military Council in Egypt to tell them the Israeli embassy was under attack in their own backyard.  Stranger that fiction?  Maybe not.

2.   After a Coptic Church was vandalized, the army attacked protests, killing two dozen people, some crushed by tanks rolling over them.  Many observers believe the SCAF is deliberately throwing fire on to sectarian biases.  So far no one has been brought to justice.

3.   The Emergency Law remains in effect.

4.   SCAF postponed presidential elections until 2013, against the wished of Democrats.  Clinton supported the postponement.

5.   Pro-democracy activists are still being thrown in jail at security services will under the emergency law and some are being tortured.

 

 

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Surprise Twist in Tunisia Elections

Nobody seemed to take the Popular Petition Party seriously until they won 26 seats in the Tunisian Parliament.  Founded and funded by a London-based media executive whose TV station used to be critical of the Ben Ali regime and later collaborated with his regime on commercial deals, the Petition Party had strong showings in rural areas of Tunisia.

So when the Election Committee annulled the election of three Petition Party candidates, voters in Sidi Bouzid rose up in protest.  This is the city where a young man set himself on fire to protest corruption and sparked the Arab Spring.  A curfew has been imposed.

One of the expelled candidates had previously run as a candidate for the old ruling party, a violation of Tunisian electoral laws.   According to the Guardian, however, the Popular Petition Party has strong ties to Ben Ali’s defunct RCD Party.  Observers suspect that remnants of that party mobilized grassroots networks of rural supporters to gain a surprise victory.

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Iraq, Afghan Constitutions Based on Islam & Sharia Law

Next time you hear a blowhard complain that a country such as Libya, whose rebels the US supports, dare to proclaim their state an Islamic Republic or their constitution based on Sharia Law and Islamic values, remind them that George Bush, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld supported constitutions in Iraq and Afghanistan that did the same thing in  2004 and 2005.

Juan Cole translates:

Afghanistan, 2004

Article One Ch. 1. Art. 1: Afghanistan is an Islamic Republic, independent, unitary and indivisible state.Article Two Ch. 1, Art. 2: The religion of the state of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is the sacred religion of Islam.

Followers of other religions are free to exercise their faith and perform their religious rites within the limits of the provisions of law.

Article Three
Ch. 1, Art. 3

In Afghanistan, no law can be contrary to the beliefs and laws [ahkam] of the sacred religion of Islam.

Iraq, 2005

Article 2:
First: Islam is the official religion of the State and is the primary basis for legislation:

A. No legislation may be enacted that contradicts the established laws of Islam

B. No law may be enacted that contradicts the principles of democracy.

C. No law may be enacted that contradicts the rights and basic freedoms stipulated in this Constitution.

Second: This Constitution guarantees the Islamic identity of the majority of the
Iraqi people and guarantees the full religious rights to freedom of religious belief
and practice of all individuals such as Christians, Yazidis, and Mandean Sabeans.

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