Hillary Can’t Decide Whether to Impose Democracy or Not

On Saturday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told attendees at a security conference that our torturer, Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman, should manage the transition to democracy in Egypt.

She backed off that stance yesterday.

CBS White House Correspondent Mark Knoller:

On flight home from Germany, Secy of State Clinton says “we cannot and would not try to dictate any outcome” in Egypt.

Clinton says “I am no expert on the Egyptian constitution,” but if Mubarak resigns, presidential elections would have to be held in 60 days.

State Department Spokesperson PJ Crowley:

#SecClinton today: The transition to #democracy (in #Egypt and elsewhere) will only work if it is deliberate, inclusive and transparent.

Secretary #Clinton today: There needs to be an orderly, expeditious transition. The people of #Egypt will be the arbiters of this process.

Meanwhile, Robert Fisk lays out in detail the same thing I raised to explain Frank Wisner’s apparent flip-flop on whether Mubarak should go or not. Here’s what I said:

Wisner is a lobbyist for Patton Boggs, representing the Government of Egypt.

PJ [Crowley] would have been better served to say somsething like, “having utterly failed in his mission for his country, Wisner has gone back to his day job pushing whatever policy his clients think, regardless of its benefit to America.”

Here’s Fisk’s explanation.

The US State Department and Mr Wisner himself have now both claimed that his remarks were made in a “personal capacity”. But there is nothing “personal” about Mr Wisner’s connections with the litigation firm Patton Boggs, which openly boasts that it advises “the Egyptian military, the Egyptian Economic Development Agency, and has handled arbitrations and litigation on the [Mubarak] government’s behalf in Europe and the US”. Oddly, not a single journalist raised this extraordinary connection with US government officials – nor the blatant conflict of interest it appears to represent.


Patton Boggs states that its attorneys “represent some of the leading Egyptian commercial families and their companies” and “have been involved in oil and gas and telecommunications infrastructure projects on their behalf”. One of its partners served as chairman of the US-Egyptian Chamber of Commerce promoting foreign investment in the Egyptian economy. The company has also managed contractor disputes in military-sales agreements arising under the US Foreign Military Sales Act. Washington gives around $1.3bn (£800m) a year to the Egyptian military.


Nicholas Noe, an American political researcher now based in Beirut, has spent weeks investigating Mr Wisner’s links to Patton Boggs. Mr Noe is also a former researcher for Hillary Clinton and questions the implications of his discoveries.

“The key problem with Wisner being sent to Cairo at the behest of Hillary,” he says, “is the conflict-of-interest aspect… More than this, the idea that the US is now subcontracting or ‘privatising’ crisis management is another problem. Do the US lack diplomats?

“Even in past examples where presidents have sent someone ‘respected’ or ‘close’ to a foreign leader in order to lubricate an exit,” Mr Noe adds, “the envoys in question were not actually paid by the leader they were supposed to squeeze out!”

By and large, the Obama Administration response to this admittedly difficult challenge has been not-horrible. But both Wisner’s selection as envoy (which would have been horrible even without the Patton Boggs connection, given his ties to his daddy’s coup-happy CIA, Enron, and AIG) and Hillary’s outspoken support for Omar Suleiman were unforced errors.

  1. radiofreewill says:

    It certainly looks like Hillary ‘accidentally’ showed the Ace of Dollar Signs in her hand, before playing along and following Obama’s suit…

  2. WilliamOckham says:

    Wow, we sent the dictator’s hired lobbyist to represent our interests. In what world does that make sense. I’ve thought up to now that our administration was doing an ok job with this whole thing (mostly by keeping their comments harmless), but the mind boggles at this.

    • emptywheel says:

      It stinks when you can see it, but our even greater point of leverage is through the military. Is that any better or more valid? We think because we trained these men they’ll side with us over their own self-interest against Mubarak, after we have backed their support for Mubarak for a generation?

      Meanwhile, how much of our actions here are being dictated not from an interest in democracy or (more realistically) a self-interest arising from geopolitical concerns, but from an unwillingness to reconsider Israel’s role in our geopolitical plans?

      In other words, it’s ridiculous we sent Wisner. But no more ridiculous than the stuff we can’t see.

      • klynn says:

        …but our even greater point of leverage is through the military. Is that any better or more valid? We think because we trained these men they’ll side with us over their own self-interest against Mubarak, after we have backed their support for Mubarak for a generation?

        My guess is that the U.S. training involved a great amount of language about protecting freedoms…If we used the language of democracy at all in the recruitment and training of the military, then a movement for democracy is a natural result.

        • Arbusto says:

          My guess is that the U.S. training involved a great amount of language about protecting freedoms…If we used the language of democracy at all in the recruitment and training of the military, then a movement for democracy is a natural result.

          Yep; much in the way we taught democracy to South American military types through the US Army School of the Americas.

      • klynn says:

        In other words, it’s ridiculous we sent Wisner. But no more ridiculous than the stuff we can’t see.

        That thought would be a great point to expound upon.

  3. klynn says:

    Thanks EW, the flip-flop made for a great post.

    Thank you for posting on Wisner. It is a story that needs to be addressed. Often.

    Blatant conflict of interest seems to be our nation’s capital’s middle name.

    Washington “Blatant-Conflict-Of-Interest” D.C.

  4. mzchief says:

    Thank you, EmptyWheel. Yeah, the smell of conflict-of-interest of interest in the morning with legal firm Patton-Boggs and Ambassador Frank Wisner.

    Meanwhile, Rumsfeld is touting his new book, Known and Unknown: A Memoir (embedded video in “Donald Rumsfeld to Diane Sawyer: ‘It’s Possible’ Troop Decisions Were a Mistake in Iraq” by Rick Klein for ABC, Feb. 7, 2011)

    George Stephanopoulos tells us “Diane, this is the *real* Donald Rumsfeld” [camera pans in close to the book cover] … { puke, puke }

  5. Jim says:

    Obama couldn’t even stand up to Republicans with a Supermajority. Why would he or any of the lackeys in his cabinet be able to affect Egypt. He won’t cut funding, so, as always with Obama it’s all bullshit.

  6. klynn says:

    I posted this earlier on another post. It fits here too.

    Thought everyone would find this interview engaging.

    A snip:

    What is happening in Egypt will complicate the US’s Middle East policies and America’s unconditional support for Israel. US support for Mubarak and other unelected Arab leaders has been interpreted across the Middle East as a hypocritical element of American foreign policy, particularly in the past eight years, during which the Bush administration made promoting democracy the centerpiece of its diplomacy in the region.

    The Muslim Brotherhood in particular has used US support for Mubarak, who has jailed members of the Islamist opposition for years, to stir up anti-American sentiment in Egypt and beyond. Of course, US policies are not criticized by the Arab public only because of American ties with authoritarian governments but also because of the pro-Israeli positions of the US. What is happening in Egypt will complicate the US’s Middle East policies and America’s unconditional support for Israel. US support for Mubarak and other unelected Arab leaders has been interpreted across the Middle East as a hypocritical element of American foreign policy, particularly in the past eight years, during which the Bush administration made promoting democracy the centerpiece of its diplomacy in the region.

  7. HelenaHandbasket says:

    Could the quartet working on the “Road Map to Peace” in Israel and Palestine take a breather and focus on Egypt; but, only if they ‘forget’ to include Tony Blair?

  8. onitgoes says:

    This was the “other shoe” that I was waiting to drop. It stands to reason that the PTB here in the USA will not cede their power without a fight. Anyone who had the slightest inkling that Obama & Clinton would stand of the side of the small people (be they middle class or otherwise) of Egypt just hasn’t been paying attention to how Obama “rules,” which is to do what his corporate overlords tell him (and Hils) to do. Utterly unsurprised.

  9. Scarecrow says:

    I see this differently. Suppose the Prez wants to send a personal envoy to M to convey a rather difficult message, so he wants to send someone that M knows and Egyptians trust. But he also wants someone who’s ultimate loyalty is to the US and its diplomatic interests — that is, given his obvious conflicts, his loyalties are clear — and who would understand that for this purpose, he to speak for the Prez, and only the Prez. He’s not a free lancer, and he’s not there to represent the interests of his firm or his firm’s clients.

    The law firm can’t waive the privilege, but the clients can. So the Eyptians guys say, Okay, we trust this guy, and so we’ll listen to what he says.

    Everything is fine to that point. Wisner meets with M, conveys the message and reports back.

    What went off the rails next is that Wisner and/or the WH didn’t think through what happens next. Once he undertook the mission, Wisner has now reassumed his role as a representative of the US, not an adviser to M, so he can’t just switch hats and shoot his mouth off about his own preferences, especially in the middle of the discussions.

    So either the State Dept and WH didn’t think about what happens next and perhaps should have made clear he speaks for the WH or keeps his mouth shut, or this guy is an inexcusable mistake for a diplomat. I lean towards the latter, because anyone who’d been a diplomat would and should have understood the ground rules and known they can’t mouth off on their own.

    Just a guess.

    • greenwarrior says:

      I’m thinking the opposite is possible: that Wisner said what he said with the behind-the-scenes blessing of the White House. Obama wants the regime to continue, be it with Mubarek or Suleiman.

  10. Masoninblue says:

    I believe Obama and Hillary must have known Wisner represents Mubarak and the Egyptian Government when they selected him to deliver a message and that is why they chose him. I suspect the message was something like, “We’ve got your back and we’ll work with Suleiman to put down the uprising and restore you to power.

  11. SanderO says:

    The US is working this for an excuse to land more troops and protect more of interests in the ME and do Israel’s bidding at the same time.

    We this puppet don’t work, we’ll get another one. And we could care less as long as we get what we want.

    And “we” will.

    We’re at war with Islam and we’re gonna kick ass.

  12. sfmikey says:

    If Obama gets the ‘transition’ and ‘stability’ he wants under Suleiman, I should expect this represents a death sentence for many involved in the uprising. I think for some in the Egyptian uprising this is a life-and-death zero-sum game. There will be controlled violence (i.e., executions) to follow if Washington gets its way. IMHO.

    • Knut says:

      That’s my reading, too. And I think the demonstrators know it as well. The police already picked up a Google exec who some say was instrumental in the uprising. They will ‘disappear’a lot of people and it will be like Chile and Argentina all over again. Still, the days of the American imperium are now clearly numbered.

      • sfmikey says:


        Following is what I posted on Suin’s commentary a little earlier:

        After–what?–nearly two weeks of protests, and the tyrant has not been frog-marched out of Cairo? Hmm, this doesn’t seem good to me. The army, being an instrument of the state, will break on the side of the state, I’m afraid, and forcefully disperse the protesters in the name of stability, law and order. The rebellion will be crushed, unreported executions will follow, and Obama and Clinton will be pleased to have control reestablished in their satrapy.

        I hope to dog I’m wrong.

  13. Mary says:

    I think what happened with Wisner is even more simple. I think he was picked bc the Egyptians would trust him; he was sent to sell the workaround that Obama and Clinton had patched together, i.e., that Mubarak step down and they would take care of him while Suleiman stepped in to take care of everyone; Obama (the con-law scholar) and Clinton and individuals at State (I’m wondering where Koh has been during all this) and military and CIA etc. who put together the workaround just assumed that if Mubarak stepped down, his VP stepped up; as soon as the news hit that Obamaco might want Mubarak to step down and Suleiman to rule the not-so-stupid Egyptian press and politicos pointed out that it wouldn’t be Suleiman that would rule in such a circumstance.


    Wisner then went out and fell on his sword (for both his Obamaco and Egyptian interests) and backtracked to lead the conversation back to Mubarak staying bc of all the chaos and all the things to be worked out – when in fact they just wanted him to stay so that they could have their solution of Suleiman ruling while they found a way to sell the Egyptians on the fact that they were going to neuter Mubarak’s power, which was going to be a justasgoodas solution.

    And now that isn’t selling supergreat either and they are all kicking at each other over why no one remembered that nations have constitutions and sometimes they are even followed.

    I don’t believe Wisner spoke out of school at all. I think he did what was asked of him even though it made him look bad. And I’m wondering why no one at State in legal (unless they weren’t consulted) chimed in with the info on how succession would actually work if Mubarak did step down (i.e., that it isn’t like the US and you don’t get a Ford/Suleiman solution).

    BTW – has Cap’n Jack popped up yet with an op ed describing how wonderful it is when you let the Exec suspend constitutional protections like trials and replace them with worldwide kidnap programs and disappearances and secret forever detentions? After all, the Egytpians want democracy – where is the good ol Cap’n when he’s needed to explain to them that having government thugs sent around to kill and disappear people based on an Exec branch secret thumbs up IS how democracy works.

    • emptywheel says:

      Btw, Cap’n Jack had some pretty interesting things to say in this forum on Wikileaks. I’ve been trying to go back and rewatch it–after which I’m going to do a post on it.

      But Cap’n Jack did say it’d be stupid to prosecute Assange.

      • Mary says:

        Remember Cap’n Jack, who held back on what was going on in the WH while it was politically expedient for his career to do so, did then “sell” his observations made as a hired public servant for cash and cache and in doing so, he got a few visits from guys mentioning classified info and states secrets. When it comes to acting for your personal interests in holding back info from the American public that employed you so that you can later sell that info for a profit, it’s ok if you’re a Cap’n.

      • bigbrother says:

        Interesting that wikileaks is exposing the underpinnings of establishment corruption world wide. AOL/HUFP link up and twitter is used to cover stories on a media blackout.
        The corruption stories are so big with 203 sovereign nations that the Arab/Egyptian story is a needle in a haystack. The world political power structure in founded on corruption self dealing insiders. Wikileaks has the key to many of these stories. Look forward to that post.

  14. juliania says:

    There is something going on here that we are missing, and that is to be expected since we are not Egyptians. I cannot see, if the Obama regime has control of the situation, why the demonstrations have been ‘allowed’ to reach the dimensions they have in Egypt. There is a lack of control there which can’t be fronted over by slick media presentations of ‘discussions’ that don’t amount to a hill of beans.

    While the army has remained noncomittal in many respects and has done some pro forma martialling of aspects of crowd control, they have never been made to proceed openly against their own people in the past, and that is not how they have thought of their own mission. In order to retain that sense of duty, which is to the Egyptian people much more than to any hastily shuffled into place ‘leadership’ cadre, the people do still have the upper hand.

    We have seen that there has been resistance to violence on the part of the army also. The defence minister was cheered when he came into the square recently, and though he requested the people to leave they did not do so and he did not make them. You don’t see outright support for the people in this, but it is something to consider. The army, unlike ours, is conscripted. They are keeping their families safe. And I don’t believe someone like Sulieman will be any more acceptable to the army than he is to the people at large. But of course, this is speculation on my part; I really don’t know.

    We have said that the army is the critical element. It is, and it has shown itself to be protecting the people. They know better than we that once the protest is dispelled the crackdown won’t just involve the protesters – it will involve the army as well.

    We may be on the cusp of moving from protest to civil war. I surely hope not, but I am wondering if that comes next. The people have given the Mubarak regime the chance to end this peacefully. It doesn’t look as though they are going to take the opportunity. Tunisian overlords were wise to get out quickly. Instead of disappearing folk it might be wiser to disappear yourselves, regime. Who’s that guy in the Balkans we haven’t caught to prosecute for war crimes? Oh yes, and there’s always Bin Laden too.

    Surely our regime can find you a safe hiding place. Go. Go now.

    • wendydavis says:

      Small point, maybe, but the Army appears to be decreasing the size of the protest area with concrete stanchions or barricade sections. (hint, hint, clue, clue?)

    • Mary says:

      That’s the kind of thing we have discussed in several of the threads and comments and I thought it would, at least in the intial stages, be hard to get the Egyptian army to turn on its own.

      What has me concerned, though, is how the money will play out. Right now, goods are getting harder to come by and more expensive with the demonstrations and ships not being offloaded etc. OTOH, threats to cut off the army, which is in essence what Obamaco and our delegations are doing with threats to cut off aid, could change the dynamics in all kinds of ways. Pro or con, imo, fwiw.

      BTW – the US has been successfully getting EU loans and IMF funds held vis a vis Pakistan as pressure to get them to release Raymond Davis, and all apparently with no concern for what that might do with respect to the army and intel agencies there, so it looks like a trigger Obama and Clinton are at least fingering wistfully – whether they’d pull it or not with the world watching is the question.

  15. jedimsnbcko19 says:

    the CIA is running the show! using what some call THE BLACK ARTS

    In the USA they call this the CON JOB

    Bush = Obama (no change what so ever)

    the same can be applied to Egypt

    Mubarak = Sueliam (no change what so ever)

    Hillary, Bill, Madeline Albright, always put Israel ideas and policies before the USA.

    Obama is just a figure head.

    With the current group of clowns running DC, and calling the shots,
    Me Thinks the MID-EAST is going to go up in SMOKE.

  16. Mary says:

    Wouldn’t you love to see a presser, or read an MSM story, where Obama/Clinton reps are asked things like:

    Given Mr. Wisner’s employment by Patton Boggs, which is the long time law firm of the Egytpian government, what went into the selecton of Mr. Wisner to carry the Administration’s position and was he given some kind of Executive waiver of his duties to represent the interests of his firm’s client, the Egyptian government?

    Is a successor government likely to want to explore the human rights abuses during the Mubarak rule or has President Obama given the successor government the direction that it should look forward and not back? If not, is there a reason he feels that type of a direction is more relevant to the United States citizens than to Egyptian citizens? Is a successor government likely to heed President Obama’s direction to look forward and ignore past government crime?

    Can you tell us what role VP Suleiman, as head of Mubaraks secret police and intel, had in the exercise of powers to disappear Egyptians without trial and subject them to torture? Isn’t that role likely to be examined by a successor government looking into human rights abuses? Would the Obama administration’s advice to human rights investigations in Egypt be that, as long as those responsible for disappearing and torturing Egyptian and foreign citizens and journalists were acting in good faith belief that such things were necessary to Egypt’s security, the Egyptian people should just look forward and not bother with looking too closely at those actions?

    If the head of the secret police is the chief operational executive of the Egytpian government – either de facto or de jure – how would there be any credible investigation?

    Can Sec of State Clinton comment on the role Mr. Suleiman played in renditions by her husband’s government, as well as ex-President Bush’s administration? Is this relationship a part of why the preference would be for Mr. Suleiman to be running a successor government rather than be a possible target of investigations by such a successor government?


    Never mind – I know when I’m dreaming.

  17. wendydavis says:

    Mmmm…hold the phone. Either Al-Jazeera or the Guardian first reported that Wisner flew back to Washington ‘with his hands thrown in the air’ (as in despair, I think it was reported. Word was he’d been sent to ask Mubarak to step down (doubtful, but…) and had failed in his mission.

    Then two or three days later he goes public with his opinion Mubarak should stay? Does.Not.Compute.

    Also, some on the boards pointed out that after Obama’s ’30-minute conversation with Mubarak’, M came out publicly with even more hubris. Did O give him a reprieve, or did M spit in his eye?

    Does any of it matter while the Army and Intel/Security apparatus jockey for influence?

    Damn; they’re probably committing nothing to cable or memo any more, fearing ‘leaks’. Back to Diplomatic pouches, maybe?

  18. revisionist says:

    This IS Clinton we are talking about. Everything must be baby steps and be incrimentally moved along at a glacial pace.

    But seriously. Foreign policy was supposed to be this admin’s one bright spot. They dont appear to be able to handle anything.

  19. nextstopchicago says:


    There was some hope a week ago that what you’ve written might be true. But there is a difference between the army and the officer corps, and there are only narrow conditions during which an army might be expected to follow the sympathies of its enlisted men. At this point, we’ve seen army units arrest journalists and activists, hold pro-democracy people out of Tahrir at checkpoints, attempt to dismantle barricades and to draw boundaries in Tahrir. Each of these was not only an action taken against the protesters, it was also a test by army leadership of who could be counted on. Enlisted men who sympathize with protesters have no way of showing their sympathies without reprisal. No colonel or lieutenant broke ranks to create a rallying point for such sympathies.

    At this point, there is simply no question that the army is working as a compliant (and in many cases willing) tool of the regime. It may be mildly constrained by the opinions of its privates. But oddly enough, it is more constrained by world public opinion, and the effect that public opinion can have on various corporate and governmental partners of the Egyptian government. Don’t count on the army – exercise your own power by letting your elected officials know you support democracy in Egypt. It’s a small thing, but in aggregate, it’s powerful.

    (White House = 202 456-1111; senators are typically found at lastname.senate.gov)

    I’d suggest that Google might be another source of power that could be wielded on the part of the democracy forces. At this point, they’ve used very few of the tools at hand to attack the government that has kidnapped one of their employees. A note on the main google search page mentioning that the Egyptian government has been kidnapping people like Ghonim would be amazingly powerful in turning world opinion away from Suleiman. And it would get Ghonim freed very quickly.

    • Mary says:

      “At this point, we’ve seen army units arrest journalists and activists”

      I hadn’t seen that – are there some links? I’ve seen the police and secret police, clips and articles, but missed the army also arrensting journalists and activists.

      • canadianbeaver says:

        Oh noes. It was the evil Mubarak don’t you know! With him tossed out, democracy will flower up out of nowhere. LOL.
        At the end of the day, Egypt could be led by a communist camel with a limp and 3 legs, but the economy would be in the exact same place it is today. I am truly surprised that progressives and liberals somehow think free elections and democracy will somehow make Egypt a bastion compared to what it is now. How does that work in the US? Canada? England? Guess Egyptians will know democracy when they too can freely vote for the lesser of evils every so many years. As the IMF and global elite rule in the background. Viva le democracy!!

  20. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I wrote about your and Fisk’s coverage of this in a comment yesterday. The claim that Wisner was acting in a “personal” capacity when he made those remarks about Mubarak is laughable. It’s like saying the captain of the ocean liner that sank after hitting an iceberg had been drinking in his personal capacity, but giving commands in his official one.

    The administration’s non-response about Wisner’s obvious conflicts – at least the appearance of gross conflicts – says more about Obama and Daley than it does about Wisner and Patton Boggs.

  21. nextstopchicago says:

    I followed the link about the Pakistani situation above, which spurred me to look up membership in the House Armed Services committee. Amusingly, the committee webpage carries a meta-tag title (the thing that shows up in the titlebar of your browser) of “Armed Services Republicans”. They really think they ARE the House now.

    A small request – I’m a pretty regular visitor, and even I have trouble following the various snide nicknames and shorthand used here. I did track down Cap’n Jack (former AG Jack Goldsmith) after 5 references to him yesterday and today, through EW’s link. But it would help the newbies, and even some of us non-newbies, if posters would identify people you’re talking about. I don’t mind snide, and certainly most of it is deserved, but I say this because I think that when occasional visitors are befuddled about who and what we’re talking about, they’re less likely to take in the important information and lessons here.


    • Mary says:

      Sorry – I’m probably one of the worst offenders on that. It’s bc I get in a hurry with real work and don’t want to take the time to do a private email to say snide things. Usually when I do it, they are just snide things and not super relevant to the discussion, but mea culpa.

      Jack Goldsmith, now a professor at Harvard law, who was instrumental in developing legal theories that, if you are a big enough, strong enough, country you don’t have to worry about international law

      http://www.amazon.com/Limits-International-Law-Jack-Goldsmith/dp/0195168399 because no one is big enough to make your Executive branch do anything other than what it wants to do.

      John Yoo took those kinds of legal theories and ran with them. Goldsmith was brought into the Pentagon to help out Rumsfeld and Jim Haynes (now emplyed by Chevron) as a special counsel while they were generating all their *military can torture illegal combatants as long as they don’t do it on US soil and they have a memo that calls it something other than torture and there’s an exec order from the Commander in Chief that allows it” theories (completely ignoring the Consitutional grant to Congress to make rules for the military and the prohibitions in the uniform code of military justice prohibiting things like assaults on prisoners). With *some* expertise in archaic maritime law, he apparently thought that illegal enemy combatants were like pirates at sea.

      He was then drafted to head the OLC in the wake of the Bybee/Yoo torture memos, which (after reading the IG report and seeing where his theories led and knowing that his name would be associated with the tortured under his tenure) he ambiguously withdrew and endorsed. Pretty much selling out Yoo, who had after all been relying primarily on the kind of inane glibness that Goldsmith and Posner sold as legal theory before getting the IG report that walked their theory back to bodies in the ground and tortured innocents.

      He’s also been and remained, even after getting all his OLC access to info on falsely detained human trafficking victims at GITMO, a huge advocate for forever detentions of individuals kidnapped or purchased from around the world, on an Executive’s say so alone and with no oversight – this so endeared him to Elena Kagan that she brought him in to help form that as legal theory for Harvard grads and she’s smilingly taken her appreciation for that kind of “legal theory” into a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court by Obama.

      It’s hard to provide all the necessary context to “Cap’n Jack” that has evolved over the years, especially when you are in a hurry.

      • bmaz says:

        Me too; sorry, Cap’n Jack is my fault for entry into the lexicon. Just so you know though, the full original version is Captain Jack “He of the Law of the Sea” Goldsmith. (Goldsmith’s specialty was originally really the Law of the Sea, not Constitutional law).

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Another legal specialty the US long went out of its way to dismiss, at least until global warming began opening up a true NW Passage between Canada and the North Pole. Now everyone’s scrambling to get up to speed on whether they can use it to their best advantage.

        • bmaz says:

          Yeah, we pretty much screwed the pooch on that. And after being one of the moving forces behind it too, we are now one of only three countries not signing and adopting the thing. Excellent point about how the thawing ice caps may make even a further hash of that.

  22. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Glenn Greenwald pokes a sharp jab at American exceptionalism. He points out the NYT’s breathless coverage of cronyism and corruption in Egypt – where politicians convert their privilege into money and power – implies that such a thing could never happen in America. Glennzilla then gives multiple examples of how routinely it happens here, from wives of presidents and Supreme Court justices making fortunes from their husband’s work to how readily the Koch Brothers and the relative minnows swimming in their wake buy not just individual politicians, but the political process, in Washington.

  23. nextstopchicago says:

    Al Jazeera live-blog reports Ghonim has been released.

    Is anyone maintaining a list of kidnappees? This campaign of temporary detention is interesting. A sign of both the strength and the weakness of the regime. I think it’s the thing to keep attention focused on. It continues to show the bad faith of Suleiman. That’s why I’d really like to see someone maintaining a list and keeping it up-to-date. I’d love to see it as a statistical database, with names, detention dates, release dates, which could be hit by a web program using a drop-down box, so that you could, for instance, click:

    The Kidnapping Victims of Omar Suleiman:

    – current detainees

    – total number of detainees

    – average length of detention

    – category of detainee (journalist, activist, mistaken identity, support employee of journalist or activist entities, etc.)

    Anyone want to set it up? This could be the sort of thing that could be embedded into anyone’s web site who wanted to publicize it.

  24. Sebastos says:

    This reveals the world-historic ineptitude of the Obama administration. They can’t meet the demands of competently amoral Realpolitik, any more than those of humanitarian statesmanship. Listen to this, if you haven’t already:

    Rose, Charlie. U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on the turmoil in Egypt. The Charlie Rose Show. 2011 Feb 3. Available from: http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/11450.

    Charlie Rose interviews former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger about U.S. responses to the Egyptian Revolution. Kissinger criticizes U.S. policy for being too tightly linked to the news cycle, and for attempting to micro-manage aspects of the transition to democracy that should be left to the revolutionaries and to the Egyptian Army.

    Kissinger’s diplomatic phrasing cannot fully conceal his contempt for this administration. One gets the feeling that the master of Realpolitik would have liked to say “This is a tough situation, but hell, Dick Nixon and I could have handled it better than this.”

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Before assessing Henry’s comments, one should always ask which parties in Egypt Kissinger & Associates have been or are representing.

      • nextstopchicago says:

        Dunno exactly which interests Kissinger is advancing, but the Post profile of Wisner last week had him dining regularly with former Kissinger Associates managing director (current vice-chair of the firm) and fellow wise old man of State J. Stapleton Roy. So be assured that the interests of Kissinger and Associates intersect nicely with those of Patton Boggs.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          They might well have separate client lists, but do many of the same things, including accept enormous fees to act as fixers and insurance policies. But like every other lobbyist, they have no disinterested or objective opinions, something the MSM never seems to grasp. Whenever they speak or act, it is on behalf of a client or to get lucrative new ones.

  25. nextstopchicago says:

    UK PM Cameron in the Guardian:

    >I believe it is time for Europe to take a more hard-headed approach, where the conditions on which we give money are real and insisted upon. I reaffirmed this message in a call at lunchtime today with vice-president Suleiman and urged him to take bold and credible steps to show the transition they are talking about in Egypt is irreversible, urgent and real.

    That sounds like putting the money on the table. It’s easy to be cynical about what he means by “the conditions.” Bears watching. But this at least sounds like what I want from Western governments – if I said that the money depends on “transition that is irreversible, urgent and real”, I know what it would mean.

    I’d also note that Germany suspended arms sales to Egypt this afternoon. This move isn’t cynicism-proof either. It’s easy to look at and say “well, they’ve suspended, but they’ll take it up again as soon as the crisis ends.”

    But doing the right thing would look something like this. (I wrote ‘exactly like this’, but that was overstating the case) And I have to ask why the ratcheting up today – whatever you believe motivates it, this is at least a rhetorical escalation. It fits well with the idea that they are genuinely angry at the continuing disappearances. Who knows, it could fit well with darker explanations as well. Bottom line, it does put more pressure on the regime, and it does tend to validate voters in Britain and Germany who are angry and pushing their government to support Tahrir.

    • frang says:

      It is an enlightening interview.

      It’s difficult for me to accept that Wisner’s background (both his own and that of his family) would not be known to Obama, Hillary, etal, and it’s even more difficult to believe that Wisner was speaking for himself only and not sending out a trial balloon. It may be that Wisner’s action (if the report from Al Jazeera is true) was taken to make it seem as if Washington were on top of things and not being left to twist in the wind with Mubarak’s refusal to resign. I feel the same way about Hillary’s statement. During such a crisis, it is highly likely that any statement about how the U.S. regards the way that power should be maintained in Egypt, even one from the SoS, would have to be approved by Obama and his closest advisors. And, if the appointment of Wisner and Hillary’s statements were not approved directly by the White House, that shows an extraordiary sloppiness.

      Vijay Prashad layed out very nicely this morning exactly why Wisner would not be seen as a person to trust by the Egyptian people in the Mideast:

      President Obama turned to Frank Wisner, Jr. Frank Wisner, Jr., has had a 36-year career in the State Department. He is the son of Frank Wisner, Sr., a man very well known at the CIA, who was the operational chief to conduct at least three coups d’état—Arbenz in Guatemala, Mossadeq in Iran, and the attempted coup in Guyana. He was also, Frank Wisner, Sr., the man who created Wisner’s Wurlitzer, where the United States government paid journalists to go and do propaganda in Europe and in the rest of the world.

      Frank Wisner, Jr., had a more steady career in the State Department, was the ambassador in Egypt between 1986 and 1991. During that period, he became very close friends with Hosni Mubarak and, at the time, convinced President Mubarak to bring Egypt on the side diplomatically of the United States during the first Gulf War. Subsequently, Frank Wisner was ambassador in the Philippines and then in India, before returning to the United States, where he became essentially one of the great eminences of the Democratic Party. One of the things he did during this recent period is author a report for the James Baker Institute, where he argued that the most important thing for American foreign policy is not democracy, which they treat as a long-term interest, but stability, which is the short-term interest.

      And I’m pretty sure those involved in the protests know all about Frank Jr. and Sr.’s backgrounds.

  26. nextstopchicago says:


    Yesterday’s account by NYTimes reporters Mekhennet and Kulish of their own detention mentions “the soldiers who delivered us” to secret police HQ. It’s accompanied by a photo of “protesters escorted by soldiers”, except that they’re escorted with their hands on the back of their heads in the standard posture of prisoners. On p.2 of the article, it talks about being driven to a military base, then to several more military bases and about further conversations with a soldier detaining them.


    This is not the only reference I’ve seen to detentions made or managed by the military, but it was the quickest to track down.

  27. Mary says:

    This is the kind of thing that would be done more easily than getting the army to fire on people in the square, but it opens the doors and starts the ball rolling, creating the them v. us ideology. MPs rounding up targeted individuals v. shooting at demonstrators. But it moves the ball in a new direction.

  28. dabear says:

    I made a post at the State Department Dipnote Blog yesterday critical of their position on Suleiman. I felt sure the post would be moderated out. I had checked a few times throughout the day and it was not there. Low and behold it is there today. If anyone else wants to give it a try, post over there, on threads about Egypt, I say we go for it.

  29. YYSyd says:

    There was this nonsense about a 3AM phone call during the campaign. While it probably meant something even bigger than the Egyptian uprising in the abstract of foreign policy crisis metaphors, it is evident that both Clinton and Obama have not really passed the 3AM phone call test with regard to this issue, unless the 3AM call was a request to herd cats. In fact the entire foreign policy establishment (such as it is) have shown how clueless it is.