Morally Depraved Obama Fails in Response to Egyptian Massacre

The New York Times headline for its story summarizing Barack Obama’s statement yesterday on the violence in Egypt parrots the administration’s hapless plea that Obama has few options in dealing with Egypt: “His Options Few, Obama Rebukes Egypt’s Leaders“. Obama’s grand statement delivered the stinging blow of canceling joint military exercises with the Egyptians. We also are reminded later in the article that the US has delayed delivery of four F-16 fighter jets without also being informed that this delay was announced prior to the massacre of Egyptian civilians.

In his statement, Obama never addressed the huge piece of leverage that the US does have in relation to Egypt. The roughly $1.5 billion in US aid that flows to Egypt each year is primarily for the military and supports about a third of the military’s budget. The article in the Times goes to great lengths to explain to us just why Obama can’t cut off this aid. We are told first that if we cut off aid, “Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates” will rush into the void to provide the missing funding And if that isn’t scary enough, we are told a couple of paragraphs later that cutting off the aid would open the door for Russia and China to step in.

With the death toll from the crackdown now above 600 and likely to go much higer, and with grisly videos surfacing of civilians being gunned down in cold blood by the military, we see a quote from the standard anonymous “senior official” who says “There’s a basic threshold where we can’t give a tacit endorsement to them.”

Just wow. The Egyptian military has staged a coup in which they have removed a democratically elected (although dysfunctional and failed) government and massacred over 600 of its citizens in cold blood. None of that rises to the level of the “threshold where we can’t give a tacit endorsement to them”? What on earth do they have to do to get the US to cut them off?

One answer to that question is in the next paragraph:

And it could destabilize the region, particularly the security of Israel, whose 1979 peace treaty with Egypt is predicated on the aid.

It would appear that Egypt can kill all of its own civilians it wants with the weapons and money we provide as long as they don’t also kill any Israelis.

But there is another insidious tie in the US aid to Egypt. US defense contractors are making tons of money off of it. From a Bloomberg piece describing US support of the Egyptian military two years ago at the beginning of the uprising against Mubarak:

The Pentagon has 625 personnel in Egypt, helping keep the peace along the border with Israel and coordinating aid and weapons sales from such companies as General Dynamics Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp., Boeing Co. andUnited Technologies Corp.

Egypt assembles U.S.-designed Abrams tanks under contract with Falls Church, Virginia-based General Dynamics and the U.S. Army. The Egyptian Air Force flies F-16s from Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed Martin, CH-47 Chinook transport helicopters from Chicago-based Boeing and Black Hawk helicopters made by Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., a division of United Technologies of Hartford, Connecticut.

Cutting off funding to Egypt is cutting off the flow of big bucks to the superstars of US defense contractors, and that just isn’t done. It was this thought that led me to send out this Tweet yesterday:

For the last bit of just how depraved Obama’s handling of the Egyptian coup and massacre has been, the Times reminds us that the one person in the Washington scene who has gotten this situation right and has called outright for a cutoff of aid to Egypt is none other than Mr. “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” John McCain:

Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who just returned from a trip to Cairo at Mr. Obama’s request, was sharply critical of the president for not acting more forcefully against the military takeover, citing a law requiring the cutoff of American aid to countries where a military coup has dislodged an elected government. Mr. McCain has said the Muslim Brotherhood needs to accept that Mr. Morsi will not be returned to power, but he has also urged the military to establish a democratic process. “We violated our own rule of law by not calling it for what it is,” Mr. McCain said on CNN. “We undercut our own values.”

When John McCain has the moral high ground on any issue where foreign policy and military matters are concerned, we are well and truly fucked.

15 replies
  1. Casual Observer says:

    I was wondering when the I-word would finally whimper out from a WH senior official.

    Great rant Jim.

  2. jerryy says:

    The admin’s response sounds like crack and meth dealers complaining because their customers are drug addicts.

  3. C says:

    In many ways I think this is worse than even your dark summary. The Egyptian Military has used excessive force (apart from Syria this is now the largest civilian massacre by a government having surpassed even Tienamen Square). Now there are reports that “Brotherhood Supporters” have been responding by bringing automatic weapons to public areas and “shooting at random buildings.”

    So not only do we have a moral failure in responding to the massacre but Egypt is sliding into civil war anyway.

  4. Strangely Enough says:

    Similar to Bahrain, in that perceived U.S. strategic interests allow a brutal crackdown on unarmed protestors.

    “Morally depraved” might be an understatement.

  5. Jessica says:

    It really angers me that the NYT would include the bit about the jets without disclosing that they were delayed prior to our most recent “statement”. It was a tiny bit – minuscule – nice to see that the delay was (so the guardian piece says) based on concerns for the junta’s call for mass protests. But I’m sure delay means just that: let’s delay until no one is looking, then we’ll send ’em right over. It soul-crushing to know these decisions are politically calculated rather than compassion for humanity. Such is the nature of power.

    Thanks for covering this, Jim. You do excellent work on heart-breaking, blood-boiling topics.

  6. CTuttle says:

    Name one spot, anywhere in world, where US foreign policy is working for the good of anyone other than defense contractors. I’ll wait….

    Let’s not forget the role of Big Oil either, Jim…! 8-(

  7. Clark Hilldale says:

    Jim, it is the Saudis who are calling the shots in Egypt right now, and Obama is going along with their scheme.

    The Saudis are deathly afraid of Muslim Brotherhood activity in the Kingdom, which would put the Royals out of business for good. Even Israel – no friends of the MB – is playing along with with KSA here.

    The spin in the US media that the United States’ currently has limited leverage over Egypt is true to the extent that our $1.5 billion in military aid (and additional OGA funds) pale in comparison to what we know Saudi and UAE are kicking in at this point.

    Good post, as usual (especially your observations about US defense contractors).

  8. Evangelista says:

    All criticisms of any middle-eastern state’s current government’s reacting with violence, any level of violence, to protest expressions is nullified by the actions and examples where eruptions from protests to “regime change” purposed violations and destructions of in-place, and working, orders, whatever the natures of those orders and however working, and by the actions in those instances by outside states not legitimately involved or even threatened,(especially NATO and the U.S.) to encourage and escalate in those cases, forst from protest to violence, and then from violent protest to rebellions.
    First, interferences to overthrow existing state orders, whether in Iraq, Libya, Syria or wherever, are illegal under the founding principles of the United Nations.
    Second, Each preceding example in the series leading to Egypt today has demonstrated greater success for the state exerting more force more rapidly. Saddam’s case in Iraq hardly counts, since he never had a chance, Quadaffi waffled and begged his people, Assad responded definitely, not tentatively, but slowly, and his trouble escalated. Assad escalated in response, viciously, and Assad is doing the best so far. The lesson to Egypt’s military is clear: “Don’t fool around, react quick, react harshly, stamp out every spark and every whisp of smoke that appears.”
    “Democracy” (whatever it means) requires exchange of ideas, and exchange of ideas requires a forum in which to exchange must be maintained. Maintenance of a forum requires encouragement of peace, not encouragement to violence and of violence. Supplying “tactical support”, weapons, warplane cover, missile, and bombing attacks to destroy existing social and economic structure, to “soften” and “open up” to aid rebels and rebellion destroys any chance for “democracy”.
    The present Egyptian military’s “lethal response” is response to demonstrated U.S. and NATO policy. It is evidence of having learnt lessons from what protests have escalate and been escalated to by outside interest interferences in the past. No protest in Egypt today has any chance. The order is “preventative maintenance”. Protestors are assumed rabid and shot first. So it goes if they weren’t rabid: Look what happened to those before who took a chance.

  9. Bill Michtom says:

    “When John McCain has the moral high ground on any issue where foreign policy and military matters are concerned, we are well and truly fucked.”

    Perfect, Jim, absolutely perfect.

  10. BrianK says:

    Nice to see someone mention the link to defense contractors. We have a militarized government, and the arms will continue to Egypt either directly or indirectly.

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