i have been thinking of freedom house too much as a narrowly right-wing outfit

The Protest Movement in Egypt:
“Dictators” do not Dictate, They Obey Orders

Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, Jan 29 2011

The Mubarak regime could collapse in the a face of a nationwide protest movement. What prospects for Egypt and the Arab World? “Dictators” do not dictate, they obey orders. This is true in Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria. Dictators are invariably political puppets. Dictators do not decide. Mubarak was a faithful servant of Western economic interests and so was Ben Ali. The national government is the object of the protest movement. The objective is to unseat the puppet rather than the puppet-master. The slogans in Egypt are “Down with Mubarak, Down with the Regime.” No anti-US posters have been reported. The overriding and destructive influence of the US in Egypt and throughout the Middle East remains unheralded. The foreign powers which operate behind the scenes are shielded from the protest movement. No significant political change will occur unless the issue of foreign interference is meaningfully addressed by the protest movement. The US embassy in Cairo is an important political entity, invariably overshadowing the national government. The Embassy is not a target of the protest movement. In Egypt, a devastating IMF program was imposed in 1991 at the height of the Gulf War. It was negotiated in exchange for the annulment of Egypt’s multibillion dollar military debt to the US as well as its participation in the war. The resulting deregulation of food prices, sweeping privatisation and massive austerity measures led to the impoverishment of the Egyptian population and the destabilization of its economy. The Mubarak government was praised as a model “IMF pupil.” The role of Ben Ali’s government in Tunisia was to enforce the IMF’s deadly economic medicine, which over a period of more than twenty years served to destabilize the national economy and impoverish the Tunisian population. Over the last 23 years, economic and social policy in Tunisia has been dictated by the Washington Consensus.

Both Hosni Mubarak and Ben Ali stayed in power because their governments obeyed and effectively enforced the diktats of the IMF. From Pinochet and Videla to Baby Doc, Ben Ali and Mubarak, dictators have been installed by Washington. Historically in Latin America, dictators were instated through a series of US-sponsored military coups. In today’s world, they are installed through “free and fair elections” under the surveillance of the “international community.” Our message to the protest movement: Actual decisions are taken in Washington, at the US State Dept, at the Pentagon, at the Langley headquarters of the CIA, at the H Street NW headquarters of the World Bank and the IMF. The relationship of “the dictator” to foreign interests must be addressed. Unseat the political puppets but do not forget to target the “real dictators.” The protest movement should focus on the real seat of political authority; it should target the US embassy, the delegation of the European Union, the national missions of the IMF and the World Bank. Meaningful political change can only be ensured if the neoliberal economic policy agenda is thrown out. If the protest movement fails to address the role of foreign powers including pressures exerted by “investors,” external creditors and international financial institutions, the objective of national sovereignty will not be achieved. In which case, what will occur is a narrow process of “regime replacement,” which ensures political continuity. “Dictators” are seated and unseated. When they are politically discredited and no longer serve the interests of their US sponsors, they are replaced by a new leader, often recruited from within the ranks of the political opposition. In Tunisia, the Obama administration has already positioned itself. It intends to play a key role in the “democratization program” (i.e. the holding of so-called fair elections). It also intends to use the political crisis as a means to weaken the role of France and consolidate its position in North Africa. AFP reported in US helping shape outcome of Tunisian uprising on Jan 26:

The US, which was quick to size up the groundswell of protest on the streets of Tunisia, is trying to press its advantage to push for democratic reforms in the country and further afield. Top-ranking US envoy for the Middle East Jeffrey Feltman was the first foreign official to arrive in the country after Ben Ali was ousted on Jan 14 and swiftly called for reforms. He said on Tuesday only free and fair elections would strengthen and give credibility to the north African state’s embattled leadership. “I certainly expect that we’ll be using the Tunisian example” in talks with other Arab governments, Asst Sec State Feltman added. He was dispatched to the north African country to offer US help in the turbulent transition of power, and met with Tunisian ministers and civil society figures. Feltman travels to Paris on Wednesday to discuss the crisis with French leaders, boosting the impression that the US is leading international support for a new Tunisia, to the detriment of its former colonial power, France. Western nations had long supported Tunisia’s ousted leadership, seeing it as a bulwark against Islamic militants in the north Africa region. In 2006, then US Sec Def Rumsfeld, speaking in Tunis, praised the country’s evolution. US Sec State Clinton nimbly stepped in with a speech in Doha on Jan 13 warning Arab leaders to allow their citizens greater freedoms or risk extremists exploiting the situation. There is no doubt that the US is trying to position itself very quickly on the good side.

Will Washington be successful in instating a new puppet regime? This very much depends on the ability of the protest movement to address the insidious role of the US in the country’s internal affairs. The overriding powers of empire are not mentioned. In a bitter irony, Obama has expressed his support for the protest movement. Many people within the protest movement are led to believe that Obama is committed to democracy and human rights, and is supportive of the opposition’s resolve to unseat a dictator who was installed by the US in the first place. The cooptation of the leaders of major opposition parties and civil society organizations in anticipation of the collapse of an authoritarian puppet government is part of Washington’s design, applied in different regions of the world. The process of cooptation is implemented and financed by US-based foundations including the National Endowment for Democracy and Freedom House. Both FH and the NED have links to the US Congress, the Council on Foreign Relations and the US business establishment. Both the NED and FH are known to have ties to the CIA. The NED is actively involved in Tunisia, Egypt and Algeria. Freedom House supports several civil society organizations in Egypt. Stephen Gowans wrote in Jan 2011:

The NED was established by the Reagan administration after the CIA’s role in covertly funding efforts to overthrow foreign governments was brought to light, leading to the discrediting of the parties, movements, journals, books, newspapers and individuals that received CIA funding. As a bipartisan endowment, with participation from the two major parties, as well as the AFL-CIO and US Chamber of Commerce, the NED took over the financing of foreign overthrow movements, but overtly and under the rubric of “democracy promotion.”

While the US has supported the Mubarak government for the last thirty years, US foundations with ties to the US State department and the Pentagon have actively supported the political opposition including the civil society movement. According to Freedom House press releases:

Egyptian civil society is both vibrant and constrained. There are hundreds of non-governmental organizations devoted to expanding civil and political rights in the country, operating in a highly regulated environment.

In a bitter irony, Washington supports the Mubarak dictatorship, including its atrocities, while also backing and financing its detractors, through the activities of FH, the NED, among others:

Freedom House’s effort to empower a new generation of advocates has yielded tangible results and the New Generation program in Egypt has gained prominence both locally and internationally. Egyptian visiting fellows from all civil society groups received unprecedented attention and recognition, including meetings in Washington with US Sec State, the National Security Advisor, and prominent members of Congress. In the words of Condoleezza Rice, the fellows represent the “hope for the future of Egypt.” (Source)

In May 2009, Clinton met a delegation of Egyptian dissidents, visiting Washington under the auspices of Freedom House. These were high-level meetings. These opposition groups are playing an important role in the protest movement. The US is presented as a model of Freedom and Justice. The invitation of dissidents to the State Dept and the US Congress purports to instil a feeling of commitment and allegiance to US democratic values. The puppet masters support dissent against their own puppets? It’s called “political leveraging,” “manufacturing dissent.” Support the dictator as well as the opponents of the dictator as a means of controlling the political opposition. These actions on the part of Freedom House and the National Endowment for Democracy, on behalf of the Bush and Obama administrations, ensure that the US-funded civil society opposition will not direct their energies against the puppet masters behind the Mubarak regime, namely the US government. These US funded civil society organizations act as a “Trojan Horse” which becomes embedded within the protest movement. They protect the interests of the puppet masters. They ensure that the grassroots protest movement will not address the broader issue of foreign interference in the affairs of sovereign states. In relation to the protest movement in Egypt, several civil society groups funded by US based foundations have led the protest on Twitter and Facebook. VoA reported on Jan 25 2011:

Activists from Egypt’s Kifaya (Enough) movement, a coalition of government opponents, and the Apr 6 Youth Movement organized the protests on the Facebook and Twitter social networking websites. Western news reports said Twitter appeared to be blocked in Egypt later Tuesday.

The Kifaya movement, which organized one of first actions directed against the Mubarak regime in 2004, is supported by the US-based International Center for Non-Violent Conflict. In turn, Freedom House has been involved in promoting and training the Middle East North Africa Facebook and Twitter blogs:

Freedom House fellows acquired skills in civic mobilization, leadership, and strategic planning, and benefit from networking opportunities through interaction with Washington-based donors, international organizations and the media. After returning to Egypt, the fellows received small grants to implement innovative initiatives such as advocating for political reform through Facebook and SMS messaging. (Source)

From Feb 27 to Mar 13 2010, Freedom House hosted 11 bloggers from the Middle East and North Africa for a two-week Advanced New Media Study Tour in Washington. The Study Tour provided the bloggers with training in digital security, digital video making, message development and digital mapping. While in Washington, the Fellows also participated in a Senate briefing, and met with high-level officials at USAID, State Dept and Congress as well as international media including Al-Jazeera and the WaPo. (Source)

One can easily apprehend the importance attached by the US administration to this bloggers’ “training program,” which is coupled with high level meetings at the US Senate, the Congress, the State Dept, etc. The role of the Facebook Twitter movement as an expression of dissent must be carefully evaluated in the light of the links of several civil society organizations to Freedom House, the National Endowment for Democracy and the US State Dept. BBC News World (broadcast in the Middle East) quoting Egyptian internet messages, reported on Jan 29 2010:

The US has been sending money to pro-democracy groups.

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt constitutes the largest segment of the opposition to Mubarak. According to some reports, the Muslim Brotherhood dominates the protest movement. While there is a constitutional ban against religious political parties, Brotherhood members elected to Egypt’s parliament as “independents” constitute the largest parliamentary block. The Brotherhood, however, does not constitute a direct threat to Washington’s economic and strategic interests in the region. Western intelligence agencies have a longstanding history of collaboration with the Brotherhood. Britain’s support of the Brotherhood via MI6 dates back to the 1940s. Starting in the 1950s, Robert Baer wrote in “Sleeping with the Devil” (2004), p 99:

The CIA funnelled support to the Muslim Brotherhood because of the Brotherhood’s commendable capability to overthrow Nasser.

These covert links to the CIA were maintained in the post-Nasser era. The removal of Hosni Mubarak has, for several years, been on the drawing board of US foreign policy. Regime replacement serves to ensure continuity, while providing the illusion that meaningful political change has occurred. Washington’s agenda for Egypt has been to “hijack the protest movement” and replace Mubarak with a new compliant puppet head of state. Washington’s objective is to sustain the interests of foreign powers, to uphold the neoliberal economic agenda which has served to impoverish the Egyptian population. From Washington’s standpoint, regime replacement no longer requires the installation of an authoritarian military regime as in the heyday of US imperialism, It can be implemented by co-opting political parties, including the Left, financing civil society groups, infiltrating the protest movement and manipulating national elections. With reference to the protest movement in Egypt, Obama stated in a Jan 28 video broadcast on YouTube:

The government should not resort to violence.

The more fundamental question is what is the source of that violence? Egypt is the largest recipient of US military aid after Israel. The Egyptian military is considered to be the power base of the Mubarak regime. Finian Cunningham wrote in Egypt: US-Backed Repression is Insight for US Public, Global Research, Jan 28 2010:

The country’s army and police forces are geared to the teeth thanks to more than $1b/yr in military aid from Washington. When the US officially describes Egypt as “an important ally” it is inadvertently referring to Mubarak’s role as a garrison outpost for US military operations and dirty war tactics in the Middle East and beyond. There is clear evidence from international human rights groups that countless “suspects” rendered by US forces in their various territories of (criminal) operations are secretly dumped in Egypt for “deep interrogation.” The country serves as a giant “Guantanamo” of the Middle East, conveniently obscured from US public interest and relieved of legal niceties over human rights.

The US is no “Role Model” of Democratization for the Middle East. US military presence imposed on Egypt and the Arab World for more than 20 years, coupled with “free market” reforms, are the root cause of State violence. The US’s intent is to use the protest movement to install a new regime. The People’s Movement should redirect its energies: Identify the relationship between the US and “the dictator.” Unseat the US’s political puppet but do not forget to target the “real dictators.” Shunt the process of regime change. Dismantle the neoliberal reforms. Close down US military bases in the Arab World. Establish a truly sovereign government.

3 Comments

  1. moonkoon
    Posted January 29, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    The internet can be and is being used by destabilizing elements as a weapon in these recent revolutions. Those who use it in this way are like people who use axes to attack people; what is a useful tool in most hands becomes a means of wreaking havoc for the thoughtless or malicious amoung us. Should people like that have access to the tool? My gut feeling says no. 🙂

    Let’s face it, people are gullible, we are easily fooled or mislead. Now, with the aid of Twitter type apps, a few provocateurs with cred can cause a meme to be exponentially amplified. Personally I don’t want counterproductive and reactionary civil disorder bringing down a functioning administration be it a democracy or a dictator or anything else.
    The state must be entitled to defend itself against such handy tools that have become dangerous weapons in the hands of their (external) enemies. The main protagonists of these faked up revolutions who use the web to incite the gullible and/or idealistic are the people who, if we are not careful will precipitate more offical crackdown on inter-connectivity.

    I am surprised that the media swallows the superficial “these revolts are purely domestic affairs” line when they report on these obviously engineered uprisings.

  2. niqnaq
    Posted January 29, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Well, you know, revolutions are dynamic, dialectical phenomena, they necessarily morph as they transpire. The ex-marxists among the neocons always knew this, even if the liberal imperialists didn’t.

  3. jock mctrousers
    Posted January 29, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    I think your initial assessment of Freedom House was correct.

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