The Oval Hates the Square

by Lock Bailey

Chess board Tahrir Square

Why Washington’s Oval Office never supported the Egyptian revolution on Tahrir Square

If for thirty years Hosni Mubarak played the violin while Egypt burned, then the United States tightened the strings and provided the bow.

Yet many Americans look aghast and astounded when they see that the anti-American government placards have been especially pervasive in recent months on Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt.

The reason for the hate is quite clear. The United States has given roughly $2 billion in military aid each year to Egypt since 1979. This is particularly significant as only two years following this annual gifting Hosni Mubarak gained the presidency and then commenced a thirty year rule with Crook and Flail.

Not until quite recently, at the height of the Egyptian revolution in 2011, did US President Barack Obama shave the yearly allotment to $1.5 billion. He has even withheld delivering fighter jets to Egypt’s General el-Sisi—promised originally by George Bush and all but pre-packaged for Obama with the “Merry Christmas, Hosni” tags dangling in the cockpits.

Yet some raise a finger and point to the possibility of an uninformed United States. Simple reasoning seems to answers this. The most militarily sophisticated state would not be ignorant of a country that it regularly awards such a large annual largess. Certainly, its cold stethoscope picked up the political dysrhythmia within Egypt and yet prescribed the military aid anyway.

Still, others may find this insufficient. Evidence is needed, so the following case offers a near game, set, and match of the United States’ complicity, or at the very least its awareness, of Hosni Mubarak’s violations of Egyptian human rights.

On February 17, 2003, the Central Intelligence Agency kidnapped suspected terrorist Abu Omar on a street in Milan, Italy. The agents placed Abu Omar on a plane to Egypt where torture of prisoners was custom. Mubarak’s vice president and spy chief, Omar Suleiman, overlooked the detention. Abu Omar then spent years in Egypt where he was raped and electroshocked and flogged—one hit deafened one ear permanently. Egypt released him in 2007.

Years after his kidnapping, in 2013, Italian courts indicted Abu Omar on suspicions of terrorism. Omar was found guilty in absentia and was sentenced to six years in prison. Italy then convicted 22 CIA agents in absentia, all of whom will never be extradited from the United States. The CIA chief in Milan responded to the indictment in Il Giornale: “I’m only responsible for carrying out orders that I received from my superiors.” The United Nations’ Conventions against Torture states in article 2(3): “An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.”

The United States further contravened the United Nation’s Conventions against Torture in sending Abu Omar to Egypt. Under article 3(1) it states: “No State Party shall expel, return (“refouler”) or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.” The United States broke these international laws. It deserves international punishment.

The human rights violation case above is one of thousands in the thirty year relationship between Hosni Mubarak and the United States. Drawing randomly from this tattered hat of crime discloses a variety of atrocities committed under Mubarak’s “emergency state” rule: the incarceration of a young man for 4 years for posting unapproved blogs; the estimated 30,000 imprisoned or tortured or both for suspected sedition; the thousands of street children gathered by Cairo police (partly funded by US military aid) whom were then locked into prisons where they were then molested and raped and denied clean water and clean food—all for “likely delinquency.”

And yet despite this, and despite the regular alarms from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, billions and billions of US dollars continued to cascade into Egyptian military.

Then, at the cusp of the Egyptian revolution in 2011, President Barack Obama said, “The people of Egypt have rights that are universal…The United States will stand up for them everywhere.”

It is of little wonder, then, why to many Egyptians the United States seems to be a jester juggling disparate ideologies in the World Court—with the red, white and the blue seen merely as pied blotches on a harlequin’s suit.

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