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“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

” Washington’s Most Beautiful Demagogue”: John Boehner Would Rather Not Deal With Michele Bachmann

Rep. Michele Bachmann, Washington’s Most Beautiful Demagogue, has an enviable seat on the House Intelligence Committee, because, after the Republicans took control of the House, Rep. John Boehner thought that would be a good idea that wouldn’t end up embarrassing him and the Republican Party and the nation as a whole. Who could’ve predicted that Bachmann would use the position to advance dingbat conspiracy theories, seek press attention with wild accusations, and generally continue acting as Michele Bachmann has always acted?

Bachmann actually got more pushback than she probably expected when she accused Hillary Clinton adviser Huma Abedin of being in league with the nefarious Muslim Brotherhood. John Boehner said “accusations like this being thrown around are pretty dangerous,” which seems to suggest that the person leveling the accusations shouldn’t have a privileged position related to national security and intelligence. Bachmann is reportedly worried that her committee assignment is in jeopardy.

Here’s the problem, though: The more extreme House Republicans don’t actually have any respect for Majority Leader Boehner, who always wants them to do lame non-conservative stuff like “raise the debt ceiling after winning stunning concessions on entitlements from President Obama and the Democrats.” Michele Bachmann, who has a huge campaign war chest and a national following, is a bit more influential with this crowd. Lots of activist conservatives think even criticizing her crusade against shadow agents of Islamofascism was cowardly and out of line.

And Robert Costa reports that Boehner is basically scared to remove her from the Intelligence Committee. That’s not quite how he phrases it, but the implication is there. Boehner is sort of hoping people just stop paying attention to Bachmann so that he doesn’t have to do anything about her:

Bachmann doesn’t appear ready to back down. Instead, sources tell NRO, she is working behind the scenes to generate support for her intelligence-committee post. Conservative talk-show host Glenn Beck, who has spoken with Bachmann on his program about the Abedin story, has reported that Bachmann is “facing pressure to apologize for her comments” or risk being “removed from her position.” Republican House aides roll their eyes at the Beck story. No such pressure, they say, is being exerted on the congresswoman. If anything, a third leadership source reiterates, Boehner is doing his best to avoid spending time on the Bachmann matter, publicly or privately.

Yet the general goodwill that has existed between Bachmann and Boehner for the past year seems to be gone. Bachmann, long a force during closed-door conference meetings, is now a backbencher once again, at least in the eyes of many congressional politicos. Boehner may be pressured to kick her off the committee, but with her star power fading, he doesn’t seem in any rush to make her a martyr.

Yeah, this seems like spin from Boehner. He knows he’ll catch hell if he actually punishes Bachmann, and he’d just much rather focus on anything else. So he says she’s embarrassed herself and no one will pay her any mind in the future, because as we all know Michele Bachmann is very concerned with not seeming like a deranged kook. Boehner’s “just don’t look” strategy means she doesn’t actually need to worry about any repercussions for her irresponsible statements, and she will likely feel free to continue making them.


By: Alex Pareene, Salon, July 27, 2012

July 28, 2012 Posted by | Islamophobia | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Dominionist Worldview”: Michele Bachmann’s Teacher In Hate

Huma Abedin, a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was placed under police protection this weekend in response to a threat made against her. This came in the wake of Rep. Michele Bachmann’s insinuation that Abedin may be a Muslim Brotherhood spy. Bachmann targeted Abedin by name in a letter sent last month to the inspector general of the State Department, and despite widespread condemnation from Republicans and Democrats alike, Bachmann doubled down on her Muslim witch hunt last week. On Friday, she accused Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, a fellow Minnesota lawmaker, of himself being tied to the Muslim Brotherhood. Even her boss on the intelligence committee, Chairman Mike Rogers, who had initially praised Bachmann, said her “assertion certainly doesn’t comport with the Intelligence Committee.”

We know one of Bachmann’s inspirations for her Muslim witch hunt is Frank Gaffney, the former Reagan defense official who has made a second career out of finding terrorists hiding in every closet. Bachmann cites him prominently and often. But another inspiration may be John Eidsmoe, a law professor who taught Bachmann at Oral Roberts University and became something of a mentor to her. As the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza reported last year, Bachmann worked for Eidsmoe on several projects and internalized his Christian-Dominionist worldviews. If biblical law conflicts with civil law, Eidsmoe teaches that “the first thing you should try to do is work through legal means and political means to get it changed.” He told Lizza that Bachmann’s views are entirely consistent with his own.

In August of last year, Bachmann told the Rediscover God in America conference in Iowa that Eidsmoe is “absolutely brilliant.” He “had a great influence on me … He taught me about so many aspects of our Godly heritage,” she said.

Eidsmoe isn’t so popular with everyone, however. Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center explains Eidsmoe this way: “He was a member for a while of the League of the South, which is a neo-Confederate hate group, which has said things like slavery is God-ordained and is explicitly racialist. He also spoke to the Council of Conservative Citizens, which is a flat-out white supremacist group. They’re against interracial marriage, they’ve said things like — direct quote from them — ‘blacks are a retrograde species of humanity,’ so you get the idea. So, he’s hung out with hate groups, he’s been a member of hate groups, and his views are just so far outside of the mainstream that it’s amazing. I mean, really, it’s a little shocking to think that the congresswoman would be openly willing to admit that she’s influenced by him,” Beirich told Salon. (Eidsmoe did not respond to requests for comment.)

In Alabama last year, Eidsmoe declared that states have a right to secede, explaining, that Confederate president Jefferson Davis “understood the Constitution better than did Abraham Lincoln.” He was disinvited from a Tea Party rally in Wisconsin in 2010 after the AP brought his past comments to the attention of organizers.

Eidsmoe, consistent with this Christian-Dominionist worldview, has also spoken often about the dangers of Islam. On his website, he lists several seminars he offers, including “Islam & the Crusades.” In the talk, which can be heard in a 2010 recording from a Presbyterian Church in Tennessee, he pretends to be a Crusader who just escaped after 900 years in a Turkish jail. Indeed, Eidsmoe’s view on the relationship between Muslims and Christians doesn’t seem to have evolved much from the past millennium — essentially, they are still at war with each other.

“I think the correct view of the crusades is to say that they did what was necessary to preserve Western Christianity. And we should be grateful to them for that … There really is a hatred of The West within Islam,” says Eidsmoe, who is a member of the modern day Knights Templar, the Sovereign Military Order of The Temple of Jerusalem. At the beginning of his talk, he warns that the world’s Muslim population is growing quickly and could overtake Christians one day.

“We’re seeing more and more attempts to bring Shariah law, that is, Muslim law, into place in the United States … When we look at the history of Islam, we see not just a striving to find tolerance in other parts of the world, but an attempt to take over and impose their system on everybody else. And coming in and asking for exceptions on Shariah law is just the first step. We’ve seen it over and over again in history. We see that it doesn’t end there,” Eidsmoe said in an Internet radio interview.

It’s easy to see how a Dominionist worldview — that is, one that believes in trying to construct a Christian “God’s kingdom” on earth — would be hostile to Muslims in general, and not just extremists. Bachmann is an adherent to the same kind of ideology. As the Daily Beast’s Michelle Goldberg wrote during the Republican presidential primary, “If you want to understand Michele Bachmann … understanding Dominionism isn’t optional.”


By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, July 23, 2012

July 24, 2012 Posted by | Islamophobia | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Dangerous And Crazy Bigot”: The End Of Michele Bachmann?

Following John McCain’s condemnation of Michele Bachmann’s letter to the Department of State’s Inspector General, demanding an investigation of imagined ties of Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin to the Muslim Brotherhood, other Republicans are piling on.

GOP strategist Ed Rollins, who at one time managed Bachmann’s failed presidential campaign, weighed in at Fox News:

Having worked for Congressman Bachmann’s campaign for president, I am fully aware that she sometimes has difficulty with her facts, but this is downright vicious and reaches the late Senator Joe McCarthy level…

The Republican Party, which John McCain led as our nominee in 2008, is going to become irrelevant if we become the party of intolerance and hate. The party founded by Abraham Lincoln was a party that fought slavery and intolerance at every level.

I can assure Mrs. Bachmann, that Ms. Abedin has been thru every top clearance available and would never have been given her position with any questions of her loyalty to this country.

As a member of Congress, with a seat on the House Intelligence Committee, Mrs. Bachmann you know better. Shame on you, Michele! You should stand on the floor of the House and apologize to Huma Abedin and to Secretary Clinton and to the millions of hardworking, loyal, Muslim Americans for your wild and unsubstantiated charges. As a devoted Christian, you need to ask forgiveness for this grievous lack of judgment and reckless behavior. (emphasis mine)

House Speaker John Boehner today called Bachmann’s accusations “pretty dangerous.”

This appears to be an important moment of Republicans finally trying to dial back the party’s Islamophobia wing, defending public servants from the wild-eyed imaginings of Frank Gaffney’s protégés. Bachmann and the four other signatories to her letter—Republicans Trent Franks (AZ), Louie Gohmert (TX), Thomas Rooney (FL), and Lynn Westmoreland (GA)—open their argument with one of the central lies of Gaffney’s Islamophobia complex: the US government itself, they write, “has established in federal court that the Muslim Brotherhood’s mission in the United States is ‘destroying the Western Civilization from within’—a practice the Muslim Brothers call ‘civilization jihad.’” As a result, they contend, “the apparent involvement of those with such ties raises serious security concerns that warrant your urgent attention.”

Setting aside the fact that Bachmann et al. rely entirely on Gaffney—who has been dismissed by fellow conservatives as a “crazy bigot”—for their unsubstantiated claim that Abedin has Brotherhood ties, their supposed proof of the Brotherhood’s theocratic ambitions in the United States is a fabrication. For her proof, Bachmann cites an exhibit from the US government’s prosecution in the Holy Land Foundation terror financing case. Here’s what I wrote about that exhibit, and that case, over a year ago:

This claim that the Muslim Brotherhood’s aim is a worldwide theocracy, and that all American Muslim organizations fall into lock-step with it, stems solely from a single 20-year-old document written by a single Brotherhood member in 1991. In the controversial terrorism financing trial of the Holy Land Foundation, which first resulted in a mistrial in 2007, and convictions in a 2008 re-trial, federal prosecutors introduced a document, “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America.”

Gaffney and others have seized upon this document developing theories that the goal of “radical Islamists” is a global theocracy and that the Muslim Brotherhood lurks in every corner of America. GWU’s [Nathan] Brown, who testified in the first Holy Land Foundation trial, said, “Nobody has ever produced any evidence that the document was more than something produced by the daydream of one enthusiast.” Noting that he has been studying Palestinian, Egyptian, Kuwaiti, and Jordanian Brotherhood movements since 2005, Brown added, “Nothing in anything that I have heard has ever struck me as similar in tone or content to the ‘master plan.’”

Yet this single document has been used to create a mythology around a supposedly global plot. Brown, addressing the document, notes that “The prosecution in the Holy Land Case painted with a broad brush and probably should not be relied upon. There is indeed a loose coordinating international structure for the Muslim Brotherhood, but it has no real authority over the chapters.” But that hasn’t stopped Gaffney, who said recently, “It is now public knowledge that nearly every major Muslim organization in the United States is actually controlled by the MB or a derivative organization. Consequently, most of the Muslim-American groups of any prominence in America are now known to be, as a matter of fact, hostile to the United States and its Constitution.”

Based on the ‘explanatory memorandum’ document identifying a number of American Muslim organizations as allies in its author’s aspirations, prosecutors in the Holy Land Foundation trial publicly labeled over 200 American Muslim organizations “unindicted co-conspirators,” a highly controversial move derided at the time by legal experts as contrary to Justice Department policy and in violation of the groups’ constitutional rights. Eventually, the court ruled, on the motion of three of the groups, including the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), that publicly identifying them as “unindicted co-conspirators” did violate their Fifth Amendment rights. That didn’t stop The National Review’s Andrew McCarthy—a former federal prosecutor himself—from falsely claiming at CPAC, “those people were all convicted” in the Holy Land Foundation trial.

Meanwhile, the Family Research Council has just appointed Lt. General William G. “Jerry” Boykin (Ret.) as executive vice president. Boykin, among other things, has claimed that “we need to realize that Islam itself is not just a religion—it is a totalitarian way of life. It’s a legal system, shari’ah law; it’s a financial system; it’s a moral code; it’s a political system; it’s a military system. It should not be protected under the First Amendment, particularly given that those following the dictates of the Qur’an are under an obligation to destroy our Constitution and replace it with shari’ah law.” Bachmann is taking heat from fellow Republicans for her attempted witch hunt of Abedin. But will those Republicans back away from the FRC’s Values Voters Summit this fall in protest of Boykin’s history of Islamophobia?


By: Sarah Posner, Religion Dispatches, July 19, 2012

July 20, 2012 Posted by | Islamophobia | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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