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“Ted Cruz Loves Freedom, Liberty, And Dictators”: Loving Freedom While Applauding Ruthless Dictatorship

Republican presidential candidate and coloring book star Ted Cruz loves Egyptian dictatorship almost as much as he loves freedom and Candy Crush.

At Thursday night’s WWE-style Republican debate, the junior senator from Texas took a moment to praise the leadership skills and “courage” of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

“We need a president that shows the courage that Egypt’s President al-Sisi, a Muslim, when he called out the radical Islamic terrorists who are threatening the world,” Cruz said to an applauding audience.

It’s not the first time he’s praised Sisi—it’s is a common conservative meme to compare President Obama’s alleged weakness to the supposed manliness of strongmen abroad. And Cruz is far from the only Republican lawmaker to join the Sisi fan club. (Fellow 2016 contenders Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush are pretty much on the same page.) But for all of Cruz’s talk about liberty and democratic freedoms at home, he is giving Our Man In Cairo a hell of a pass abroad.

Sisi—a strongman ruler practically minted in the U.S.A.—came to power in a 2013 coup that ousted the democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi, a leading member in the Muslim Brotherhood. Sisi’s armed forces then began a trigger-happy crackdown on Brotherhood members and supporters, and commenced the typical authoritarian kick of going after the press and imprisoning the opposition. (Morsi himself is waiting to see if his execution is imminent.)

Additionally, in an apparent effort to prove that his regime is even more “Islamic” than the Islamists he deposed, Sisi has presided over a campaign of persecution, prosecution and public shaming of LGBT Egyptians. It’s yet another brutal crackdown that has made Sisi’s Egypt a worse environment for gays than Morsi’s Egypt ever was.

And for all the repression and human-rights violations, his government has not managed to make the Egyptian republic any safer. “Sisi came to power on a platform of security and stability and clearly he’s failing—by any measurable standard, Egypt is more vulnerable to insurgency today than it was two years ago,” Shadi Hamid, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told The Daily Beast last month.

So what’s not to love, Senator Cruz?

The Cruz campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding how the senator squares loving freedom with applauding ruthless dictatorship.

 

By: Asawin Suebsaeng, The Daiyl Beast, August 7, 2015

August 8, 2015 Posted by | Dictators, Human Rights, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A National Embarrassment”: As A Member Of Congress, If Louie Gohmert Say’s It, There Must Be Something To It

About a year ago, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was wrapping up an important diplomatic mission in Cairo when her motorcade was confronted with angry protesters, many of whom threw shoes and tomatoes, while using Monica Lewinsky taunts. And why were these Egyptians so upset? Because they’d heard from right-wing extremists in the U.S. that the Obama administration “harbors a secret, pro-Islamist agenda” and backs the Muslim Brotherhood.

None of the claims were true, but there was a problem — the protesters in the streets of Cairo were relying on comments made by U.S. clowns like Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). You know she’s ridiculous and not to be taken seriously, and I know she’s ridiculous and not to be taken seriously, but all Egyptians heard was that an elected member of Congress’ majority party had made provocative claims about U.S. policy in Egypt that many found credible.

A year later, as Sahil Kapur reports this morning, the problem persists as Rep. Louie Gohmert’s (R-Texas) nonsense about the White House and the Muslim Brotherhood, which Americans know to ignore, is “complicating U.S. foreign policy in the region.”

Anti-American conspiracy theories are rampant [in Egypt], for a variety of reasons related and unrelated to U.S. foreign policy, and hearing it from a United States congressman lends credibility to the theory that the U.S. is teaming up with the Muslim Brotherhood — and even Al-Qaeda — to destroy Egypt.

“I guarantee you nobody in Egypt really knows who Louie Gohmert is or what he’s about. So they could very well point to this and say ‘Look! He’s a member of Congress. This must be serious. There must be something to it,'” said Steven A. Cook, senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. “It doesn’t help in a political environment where everyone is already angry at us to be fueling conspiracy theories against us. In that way it enables an overall level of hostility toward the U.S.”

Shadi Hamid, a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution, told TPM, “[L]ook, this does provide real ammunition to the conspiracy theorists when you have American sources seemingly verifying what they are saying…. It lends these bizarre theories a new code of legitimacy and amplifies them. When Egyptians see this, they don’t realize that just because a U.S. congressman is saying this that it can be wrong or that he can be lying publicly.”

Congratulations, far-right activists, your nonsense now has a global reach and is actually influencing international events among those who can’t tell the difference between serious policymakers and circus clowns from thousands of miles away.

The TPM report added:

The New York Times reported Monday that the U.S.-Brotherhood conspiracy theory has become “widespread” in Egypt, even to the point of being seen by some as common knowledge. Billboards and posters in Egypt tie President Obama to the Brotherhood and accuse him of supporting terrorism against Egypt. And segments of the pro-military Egyptian media have been playing a YouTube clip of Gohmert speaking on the House floor, spliced with ominous background music, likening the Obama administration’s aid to Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi’s government with assisting terrorists.

Gohmert defended his remarks in a statement to TPM, saying he was merely opposing President Obama’s policies and that Egyptians “are able to” make that distinction.

But they’re not able to. Most fair-minded political observers recognize Gohmert as a national embarrassment more in need of counseling than political power, but it’s not realistic to think Egyptians will have a sophisticated understanding of American politics. When they see YouTube clips of elected officials on the floor of our legislative body in Washington, and they hear outrageous conspiracy theories involving Egypt, they haven’t the foggiest idea that Gohmert is a few fries short of a happy meal.

Yes, in fairness, it’s important to note that many who are inclined to believe absurd conspiracy theories don’t really need proof — that, of course, applies to any country — and many Egyptians who want to believe in imaginary U.S. support for the Muslim Brotherhood are going to embrace the non-existent ties whether Gohmert talks them up or not.

But the point is, the right-wing Texas congressman, by recklessly spouting garbage, is making it easier for Egyptian conspiracy theorists to persuade others. Gohmert is obviously free to be as foolish as he wants to be, but one can only hope real-world events in Egypt will push him and his cohorts to be a little more responsible.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 27, 2013

August 28, 2013 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Middle East | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Last Thing Egypt Needs”: The Problems Are So Daunting That The Lack Of Democracy Is Not The Top Priority

In addition to all the experts, thinkers, pundits and others who have been cited about the loss of democracy in Egypt, let me quote a certain West Point expellee who, in a different context, uttered words that now fit the situation: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Rhett Butler neatly summarizes my position on democracy in Egypt.

I hope not to sound too cynical. I have always had a soft spot for Egypt. The people are gracious and aware that theirs is a storied and wonderful civilization. But the issue is not whether Egypt is a democracy or something else. The issue is whether Egypt provides for its people and keeps out of trouble. After that, if Ramses II returns, it’s okay with me.

For 34 years — under three regimes now — Egypt has kept the peace with Israel, which is worth a yearly Nobel Peace Prize. For all but the past two years, this peace was maintained by authoritarian regimes — Anwar Sadat’s and then Hosni Mubarak’s. They had their imperfections, but bellicosity was not one of them.

Democracy is nice, but it is not a panacea. The American insistence that the world mimic us — ain’t we pretty close to poifect? — has always struck me as both patronizing and contemptuous of history. The overriding challenge of all incipient democracies is how to handle minority issues. For a very long time, the United States did not do very well in this regard. We disenfranchised African Americans and used all sorts of devices to keep them in penury and politically powerless. Southern states insisted on Jim Crow laws, and their representatives in Congress — many of whom loathed racial segregation — voted to maintain it lest they wind up losing at the polls. It took the often non-elected courts, Supreme or less so, to remedy the situation. The people are not always wise.

In many cases, the democracies that emerged in Europe after World War I evolved into intolerant, rightist regimes. Hitler — the überexample — had enormous popular support even though Germans were well aware that he was enamored of violence and a bit unbalanced about Jews. To the east, the popularly elected governments of Poland and other nations treated their various minorities roughly — the Jews roughest of all. All sorts of restrictions were imposed on Jews throughout Eastern Europe, everything from “seating ghettos” in Polish universities’ lecture halls to a requirement in Romania that Jewish medical students learn their profession only on Jewish cadavers.

The Holocaust and the ethnic cleansing that followed World War II reorganized Eastern Europe into neat ethnic enclaves — otherwise who knows what would be happening today. The Middle East is not so well-ordered. The Jews are gone — 75,000 or so booted out of Egypt in the 1950s and ’60s, 120,000 out of Iraq around the same time — but Shiites rub up against Sunnis, and Christians against Muslims. In Egypt, the Coptic Christians felt endangered by a government — elected or not — run by the Muslim Brotherhood.

America’s interest is in a stable Middle East. If stability can be combined with democracy, all the better. But it was the authoritarian governments of Egypt and Jordan that signed peace treaties with Israel when, you’d be assured, popularly elected ones would never have done so. (As it was, the treaty cost Sadat his life.)

For Mohamed Morsi, sooner or later he might have had to balance the $1.5 billion that Egypt annually gets from the United States — most of it military aid — against a popular clamor to repudiate the peace with Israel. The Israel question, abetted by an appalling amount of anti-Semitism, is just too easy to demagogue. It is what race was in the Jim Crow South or, to wax truly esoteric, what Belorussians were in inter-war Poland.

After the collapse of Weimar Germany — a democracy but an extremely messy one — some intellectuals, including Hannah Arendt and Theodor Adorno, questioned whether democracy was always a wonderful thing. The answer, of course, is nothing is always wonderful. The Egyptian democracy was tending back toward authoritarianism and, no matter what had happened, the country might have seen its last real election. In the short run, no government can reverse the population explosion, provide jobs for young people or ameliorate what climate change is doing to the Nile Delta. Egypt’s problems are so daunting that the lack of democracy is not the top priority. First things first. Before Egypt needs a democratic government, it just needs a government.

 

By: Richard Cohen, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 8, 2013

July 10, 2013 Posted by | Egypt, Middle East | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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