Egypt from Obama to Trump: Relentless crimes against humanity

A World to Win News Service for 19 January 2019 contains one article. It may be reproduced or used in any way, in whole or in part, as long as it is credited.

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Egypt from Obama to Trump: Relentless crimes against humanity

19 January 2019. A World to Win News Service. Trump’s foreign policy chief Michael Pompeo gave a major speech in Cairo, Egypt, at the start of a tour of the Gulf countries, Jordan and Iraq. He came to announce – and implement – what he called “a new beginning”, supposedly overturning the orientation set out by Obama in an address in the same city a decade ago.

Both men claimed, as Obama put it, “The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress the world has ever known.” What both men have in common is that they lied outrageously. The overarching aims of American foreign policy have not fundamentally changed and have nothing to do with progress, and everything to do with dominating the world’s peoples as well as US rivals. The case of Egypt shows that, although it’s only one of many, many examples.

But Pompeo, as the bearer of the foreign policy of the fascist Trump-Pence regime, was there to make some changes too. The US has been “too timid in asserting ourselves”, he warned. “The age of self-inflicted American shame is over”. In contrast to Obama, whose support for the murderous Egyptian strongman al-Sisi was shrouded in secrecy and hypocrisy, Trump’s henchman shamelessly celebrated him. This gives a clear signal to the Saudis and other Arab monarchies and reactionary regimes in the region and around the world that the US will not let them go no matter how many people they murder. Moreover, while Obama’s aim was to maintain the “stability” of American domination – what Pompeo called “timidity”, Trump is looking at the deteriorating US domination of the region, while new challenges to its ability to shape the world have come to the fore. He sent Pompeo on tour as part of strengthening US-Saudi ties and the reach of Saudi power, including its strong and growing hold on Egypt, which in turn is important for subduing Yemen, suffering horrendously from the ongoing war there. The aim is to recast the region, with a key plank of this being to confront Iran, even at the cost of mass murder today and the prospect of killing on an almost unimaginable scale.

America’s Egypt

Egypt’s military has long been at the core of the country’s ruling class, whose wealth and power are dependent on subordination to the world imperialist system and especially the US. The US state has poured more money into Egypt than any country besides Israel, directly financing its huge armed forces and shoring up the economy in which Egypt’s generals are the central players. This has enabled the US imperialists to use Egypt, by far the most populated of the Arab countries, along with the tiny but immensely wealthy Saudi Arabian monarchy and the US military outpost called Israel – three states that support one another and are somewhat interdependent – as pillars of US domination of a region that in turn has been a key to its drive for world hegemony.

For decades that situation was embodied in the rule of Hosni Mubarak, whom many Egyptians came to see as responsible for their suffering and frustration. Then the “Arab spring” erupted in 2011: inspired by the revolt in Tunisia that chased out the Ben Ali regime there, hundreds of thousands of people conducted a non-violent sit-in in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. But even as the Mubarak regime gunned down hundreds during 18 days of just mass rebellion, the Obama government cynically held onto Mubark until the last minute. In the end, the Egyptian military stepped in and deposed him, with the US’s blessing, in order to prevent the uprising from developing further and weakening the state as a whole. Through the twists and turns that followed, even as Egypt’s youth and others turned against the military’s repression and stubborn defence of the oppressive social order and fought to continue the rebellion, the US never wavered in its support for the military even as soldiers and snipers once again gunned down hundreds of protesters – many of whom undoubtedly gave some credence to America’s so-called “democratic ideals” that Obama called “the hope of humanity.”

At that point, the election of a “moderate” Islamist government posed yet another challenge to the US’s broader interests, so how did the US ensure Obama’s promise of “progress” and “democracy”? By giving a green light as Egypt’s army once again stepped in to directly take the reins of power. The slaughter of more than 800 people in an Islamist sit-in and round-ups of youth movement members and others who opposed permanent military rule didn’t make Obama’s government change its basic course, despite a few clucks of disapproval. Eventually the general at the top of Egypt’s regime today, Sisi, got himself elected president, thus demonstrating the dispensable character of elections in the imperialist system’s states.

The Sisi regime is now holding more than 60,000 political prisoners, according to Human Rights Watch. While Sisi claims this is a necessary by-product of a war against Islamist “terrorism”, the resurgence of reactionary armed Islamic fundamentalist groups has been fuelled by his regime’s murderous repression. US officials under both Obama and Trump have known that many of those killed in Egypt’s war on such groups in the Sinai Peninsula, with active Israeli military involvement, have actually been civilian villagers or political prisoners who were tortured to death elsewhere and their bodies dumped here. (New York Times journalist David Kirkpatrick, Into the Hands of Soldiers, p. 289)

Further, in a country where Islam is the official religion, where “insulting religion” is a crime, and where official life continues to be organized around religious affiliation, the Sisi regime itself promotes the most harmful religious ideas, especially against women. Rapists continue to enjoy virtual impunity because, the authorities say, women who fail to conform to religious standards are a fundamental menace to society. A young mother who posted a criticism of the government’s tolerance of sexual assault was recently sentenced to two years in prison for distributing “fake news”. Similar charges are routinely applied to media people, bloggers, artists, defiantly secular intellectuals and others. Many youth movement figures have been sentenced to long terms or life in prison and mostly kept in solitary confinement.

Trump’s invitation to Sisi to visit in early 2017 did represent the end of a certain kind of hypocrisy: because Egypt’s reign of terror and enforced backwardness is now more in line with the Trump regime’s own explicit goals, what it’s trying to impose in the US in the name of what Pompeo called “God’s truth” – the Bible.

The Sisi regime’s bloody record of crimes against the Egyptian people calls to mind the regime of the Shah of Iran, a former pillar of US regional domination until his downfall in the 1979 revolution that brought Islamism to power. That alone shows that the Trump regime’s opposition to Iran has nothing to do with opposition to the thoroughly reactionary nature of the Islamic Republic, nothing to do with promoting “good” in the world, and everything to do with brutally reasserting control over the region in the name of its own god, and its own empire, at the expense of the region’s and the world’s people.

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