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Playing President

By Robert Scheer
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Hey Obama, Read WikiLeaks

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Posted on Feb 9, 2011
AP / Tara Todras-Whitehill

Egyptian Wael Ghonim, center, the 30-year-old Google Inc. marketing manager who was a key organizer of the online campaign that sparked the first protest on Jan. 25, talks to the crowd in Tahrir Square in Cairo on Tuesday.

Q & A - Live Chat with Robert Scheer

A live Q & A session related to this column took place on February 11, 2011 at 1:30 pm PT.

Click here to view the transcript.

By Robert Scheer

After a good start, the Obama administration’s response to the democratic revolution in Egypt has begun to exude the odor of betrayal. Now distancing itself from the essential demand of the protesters that the dictator must go, the administration has fallen back on the sordid option of backing a new and improved dictatorship. Predictably, it is one guided by a local strongman long entrusted by the CIA, Vice President Omar Suleiman, described by U.S. officials in the WikiLeaks cables as a “Mubarak consigliere.” The script is out of an all-too-familiar playbook: Pick this longtime chief of Egyptian intelligence who has consistently done our bidding in matters of torture and retrofit him as a modern democratic leader. But this time the Egyptian street will not meekly go along. 

The first test was on Tuesday, after the weekend theatrics of Suleiman making a show of meeting with the opposition but rejecting its demands. A huge crowd—inspired by a most modern protest figure, a Google executive—showed up to reject defeat as a compromise. Defeat, because under Suleiman’s plan all of the levers of oppressive power would remain, including Hosni Mubarak as president and a state of emergency denying fundamental freedoms that dates back four decades. Conning the masses with fears of a foreign enemy is a political art form in Egypt going back to the pharaohs, but this time, perhaps thanks to new empowering technology, or just too much suffering, it is not working.

The scenes of the demonstrators in recent weeks have in some ways been reminiscent of those I witnessed in Cairo back in 1967, but their significance is exactly the opposite. Back then, when huge crowds took to the streets their anger got perversely twisted by nationalist rage into the demand that Gamal Abdel Nasser, who had presided over a humiliating defeat in the Six-Day War, not make good on his threat to resign. The failure of the Egyptian street to hold Nasser accountable for the stark failures of his dictatorship ushered in a 44-year reign of tyranny, corruption and stagnation at the heart of the Arab world. 

Mubarak is the final inheritor of that era, the heir to the military rebels who toppled King Farouk and, instead of implementing a too-long-promised enlightened view of pan-Arab nationalism, turned vile bureaucratic corruption into an Egyptian way of life. A corruption that the U.S., Israel and the oil-rich Arab monarchies found very much to their liking. That attitude continues, as The New York Times reported on Tuesday: “Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates have each repeatedly pressed the United States not to cut loose Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, too hastily, or to throw its weight behind the democracy movement. …” Once again, as in 1967, the argument is being made that the secular military dictatorship in Egypt is needed to combat radical Islam, as represented by the Muslim Brotherhood, and that democracy might be “hijacked,” as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned.

The U.S. presidents whose military aid purchased the Egyptian government as America’s lackey have known the cost to Egyptians in omnipresent corruption, bribes, torture and political oppression. On the surface it seemed like a good deal: For a couple of billion dollars per year in military and other assistance, Egypt lined up with Israel in making the post-Six-Day-War occupation of Palestine permanent, and pan-Arab nationalism descended into a bargain between the oil sheikdoms and those without petrol to preserve the bizarrely skewed class divisions in the region. That the suffering of ordinary folks was well known to American policymakers right up to the moment of the current explosion is documented in the WikiLeaks cables and stands as an exposé of our foreign policy cynicism. But it was blithely assumed that the dictatorship would continue in the person of Mubarak’s son Gamal because, as one cable said, “due to the paranoia of the Egyptian dictatorship, no other name can safely or respectfully be bruited as a candidate.”


Square, Site wide
In the cables there is no sense of alarm that something might be awry with this planned succession in the Mubarak dictatorship from father to son because the Egyptian elite was quite happy with the arrangement: “Many in the Egyptian elite see his [Gamal’s] succession as positive, as his likely continuation of the current status quo would serve their business and political interests.” That the young—many of them overeducated for the stagnant job market—and the Egyptian majority that lives in abject poverty, along with all those fed up with life in a police state endured for half a century, might complicate the U.S. alliance with the Egyptian dictatorship was dismissed by the deep cynics who run our foreign policy. A key cable discussing the enormous unpopularity of both Anwar Sadat and Mubarak, who replaced him 30 years ago, states: “Mubarak seems to have managed the dilemma better in at least one key area: he has systematically and ‘legally’ eliminated virtually all political opposition.” Our kind of guy?

Click here to check out Robert Scheer’s new book,
“The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street.”

Keep up with Robert Scheer’s latest columns, interviews, tour dates and more at


Click here to check out Robert Scheer’s book,
“The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street.”

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Previous item: Egypt’s Youth Will Not Be Silenced

Next item: Self-Obsessed Washington’s Confused Response to Egypt

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prisnersdilema's avatar

By prisnersdilema, February 9, 2011 at 12:30 pm Link to this comment

Soon the Marines will land to make Egypt safe for Democracy. Then business can return
to normal. President OJama, will explain it to everyone on TV. Or course you won’t be
encouraged to try and understand things for yourself. What a radical notion. OJama has
lots of practice with betrayal. So this should come as no surprise, after all he’s been
betraying the American voters since he got elected. Obey, and move along, nothing to
see here. Go back to work.

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By rend, February 9, 2011 at 12:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

@ By GoyToy,

No kidding you should read the comment sections for the articles in the Pakistani press that
are covering the Raymond Davis affair..

Good piece up on counterpunch yesterday about the absurdity of it all.

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Robert's avatar

By Robert, February 9, 2011 at 12:21 pm Link to this comment

How Zionism infiltrated the US

Interview with Scholar and Journalist, Mark Bruzonsky.

February 05, 2011

Mark Bruzonsky, a Jewish, American Scholar and Journalist, has been a key member behind the scenes of the Israeli Palestinian peace initiative in the 1980s, meeting with Former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and with Palestinian officials.

In this exclusive interview with Press TV’s Autograph, Mr. Bruzonsky talks about the challenges and missed opportunities he witnessed first-hand, and how Zionist groups infiltrated American politics, US institutions and organizations.

He goes further to explain the specific time and day Obama sold out to the AIPAC lobby, and how President Obama would never dare oppose the stronghold of the Zionist, Israeli Lobby in the US.”


“When Obama ran for president he stood for human rights, he was bright and principled, but then during the campaign certain things happened.

First of all the top financiers of the Democratic Party half of them are Jewish and almost all of those are quite Zionist and quite involved with the Israelis. At the time when Hilary Clinton and Obama were competing for support AIPAC had its annual convention. On that day Obama gave a speech and he gave more than what was expected. Lee Hamilton who was on Obama’s advisory board said to me that he went too far - he shouldn’t have said what he said about Jerusalem - we’re going to be correcting it. After the speech, behind the scenes, he was taken to meet the Board of Directors of AIPAC. Rahm Israel Emanuel, former White House Chief of Staff escorted him upstairs to the hotel room.

This is very unusual, presidency candidates don’t usually get interviewed by boards of directors like this, but AIPAC is different. The way the Israeli community signaled that they were going to support Obama, without actually announcing that they had even had a meeting with him, was to have Rahm endorse Obama. So a few hours later Rahm came out in public and did that, which was the signal to the rest of us that Obama had made his peace with this lobby and that he wasn’t going to be able to do anything they weren’t going to approve of.


Click on link to watch this short interview & revealing video:

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, February 9, 2011 at 12:21 pm Link to this comment

Of course I expect your kind of criticism.  This neoliberal did not
say the US is not involved.  Maybe better reading glasses are needed. 
I said shallow-minded Americans ought not to be so conceited as to
prescribe what ought action the US must take.  Are you privy to what
‘Barack’ is saying to ‘Hosni’?  I give the people of Egypt much more
credit than you reactive leftist(s) do.  I am saying it is going to take
a deliberating amount of time and the world ought not to be too
impatient for a people whose very lives are at stake if precipitous
action is taken and other countries need to restrain themselves until
something firms up as to what course the protest will take.  The US
is publicly urging Mubarak to leave as soon as possible.  The Egyptian
people say they want him to leave immediately but that is mob reaction
and they seem not to be thinking what repercussions they would face
without a government.  Egypt is a large and complex nation, much
bigger than Cairo.  Do you not really pay attention to anything but
your own hubris?  In your sanctimony what are you directing that
everyone outside of Egypt do, exactly?

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David J. Cyr's avatar

By David J. Cyr, February 9, 2011 at 12:05 pm Link to this comment

Robert Scheer quoted a Wikileaks leaked U.S. diplomatic cable:

“Mubarak seems to have managed the dilemma better in at least one key area: he has systematically and ‘legally’ eliminated virtually all political opposition.”

Apparently, the “difference” between Mubarak’s dictatorship and America’s corporate state “democracy” is the massive amount of money spent by the corporate (R) & (D) party here on its political campaigns to pretend that there’s a difference.

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By wrldtrvlr3341, February 9, 2011 at 12:05 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Well guys, you seem intent on ignoring a reality, that
Israel calls the shots on foreign policy in the Middle
East.  Our president’s just get to posture.

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thebeerdoctor's avatar

By thebeerdoctor, February 9, 2011 at 12:00 pm Link to this comment

How ridiculous it is to say that U.S. is not involved. After Israel, Egypt is the largest recipient of United States military aid. Our torture by proxy state, where “our good friend” Hosni has stolen between 40 to 70 $billion. How evil and lame is the neoliberal response. Let’s pretend that the USA has no responsibility for all of this.

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JohannG's avatar

By JohannG, February 9, 2011 at 11:55 am Link to this comment

this shallow-minded American thanks you for your deep
insights with all his shallow heart. Especially like
this one: “Nothing is ever as simple as some think life
is.” Very true.

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, February 9, 2011 at 11:47 am Link to this comment

It is too too easy for a shallow-minded American audience to judge
the intrigues of the Middle East and glibly give prescriptions to what
Obama ought or ought not to do.  The entire spectrum of opinions
have been volleyed against him, it is just laughable.  As if arm-chair
and computer-keyboard mentality can solve the problem. 

It is unquestionable the right of every human to have certain
freedoms but those freedoms are not naturally endowed, they are
always desperately won from despots, always have been and always
will be until all despots are dethroned.  Since there is always one
lurking under rocks or in the woodwork like snakes and roaches, it
is not very likely to completely rid the world of the tyrant-minded.

The people of Egypt seem perfectly able to conduct the course of
succeeding to get what they want.  “Nudging” is the current buzzword,
hilarious as it is.  Nothing is ever as simple as some think life is.  One
does not cut off the nose to spite the face, is an axiom the wise have
tattooed on the inside of their foreheads.  What is at stake is that with
the immediate removal of Mubarak, how would Egypt continue as a
viable nation?  So easy for those who have nothing at stake to answer
with so many other people’s welfare is at stake. 

It is thoughtless to pressure an incoherent or disorganized mob into a
directorate that would not be able to address the problems for which
the protest erupted.  Would a military coup take care of the people? 
What military government ever has?  Do not forget the military tyrant
Franco and Spain for decades of social oppression. 

A leader is slow to emerge but there are a couple rearing their heads
but yet to find traction with the majority of the protestors.  Permanent
change is in the wind, the people appear unshakable and tenacious and
will prevail, but it is not going to be an easy ride.  It is amazing that so
far killing has been kept to just a couple of people.  With hundreds of
thousands collecting it is truly a wonderment.  The impatience of the
world is always pressure to force resolutions that may or may not be
for the best. Unless the people are attacked, Americans and all other
countries ought to stay out as much as we can.

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Leefeller's avatar

By Leefeller, February 9, 2011 at 11:14 am Link to this comment

“America’s lackey have known the cost to Egyptians in omnipresent corruption, bribes, torture and political oppression” Lakeys, Yes, one can safely say ..... the historical world wide collection of them! Remember the Iranian Pshaw and recently Sadist insane.

The supremes said collaborations are people too, maybe Wal Mart feels threatened along with Monsanto, GE and and all the other good old boy for profit opportunists? After all, goon squads are a think of the past!

New world order, meet the old world order!

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By GoyToy, February 9, 2011 at 10:49 am Link to this comment

Our foreign policy “experts” sure know how to piss off just about everyone in the world.

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By ikallicrates, February 9, 2011 at 10:26 am Link to this comment

‘After a good start, the Obama administration’s response to the democratic revolution in Egypt has begun to exude the odor of betrayal’, writes Scheer. What good start? From the beginning, Obama avoided taking sides, no doubt hoping that Mubarak would ‘restore order’. He betrayed the revolution before it started.

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By MK Ultra, February 9, 2011 at 10:11 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I hate to disagree but I have to.  There was never ‘a good’ start for the Obama administration.  How could there have been if it is because of the USG that Mubarak has been able to retain power in Egypt for 30 years?  Isn’t this an oxymoron?  A ‘good start’ would have been for the US to do absolutely nothing or, in the alternative, done the right thing and force him to leave.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I know.  Look at how well that all worked out in Iraq.  And, yes, I’m being sarcastic, I realize that the whole Iraq debacle is a completely different ball game than the one in Egypt.

The bottom line is that the USG will never, ever do the right thing because the right thing is against it’s own best interests which are those of the ruling elites and, in particular, those of the MIC.

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JohannG's avatar

By JohannG, February 9, 2011 at 10:08 am Link to this comment

From today’s New York Times, reporting on the
attitudes of Egyptian pro-democracy protesters:

“Many at the protests buttonholed Americans to
express deep disappointment with President Obama,
shaking their heads at his ambiguous messages about
an orderly transition. They warned that the country
risked incurring a resentment from the Egyptian
people that could last long after Mr. Mubarak is

Obama and his kind need to go. He is as phony as a 3-
dollar bill.

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By RdV, February 9, 2011 at 9:59 am Link to this comment

great article-but didn’t the wikicables reveal that the repugnant Suleiman was the heir apparent with Israel’s endorcement?

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RayLan's avatar

By RayLan, February 9, 2011 at 9:42 am Link to this comment

Wikileaks just affirms what the Egyption people already know- that Suleiman is of the same autocratic stripe as Mubarak. I just find the whole idea of negotation and process of transition very amusing.
These assholes aren’t going to relinquish power they’ve seized illegitimately from the people through any transition or negotiation. They’re thieves. The people know this. The people are uncompromising in their demands.

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By, February 9, 2011 at 9:38 am Link to this comment

Egyptians deserve everything any other citizenry does, and let’s hope they follow MOST of what America’s system provides, but not ALL: See

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By zagostino, February 9, 2011 at 9:14 am Link to this comment

Thank you Robert Scheer and Wikileaks….I copied this
link to other posts, hope others do likewise

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BarbieQue's avatar

By BarbieQue, February 9, 2011 at 9:10 am Link to this comment

Once again Robert Scheer lays it out in plain sight.

Rembrandt with a keyboard.

The problem is there are only a few inmates even clanking their tin cups across the bars.

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thebeerdoctor's avatar

By thebeerdoctor, February 9, 2011 at 8:58 am Link to this comment

Poster’s note: It is DAMN clear that Inherit The Wind is sick and tired of being sick and tired. What two words define better the abuses and corruptions of empire than “strategic interests”?

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By Inherit The Wind, February 9, 2011 at 8:42 am Link to this comment

After all these years I may seem naive, but I do NOT understand why the President sees the need to interfere in Egyptian politics. 
Isn’t it DAMN clear that this is NOT a religious movement?
Isn’t it DAMN clear that this is NOT about Egypt and Israel?
Isn’t it DAMN clear that this is NOT about Gaza?
Isn’t it DAMN clear that this is about Egypt, about corruption and repression IN EGYPT?
Isn’t it DAMN clear that another dictator is just kicking the can down the road another few years?
Isn’t it DAMN clear that if Egypt is to EVER have a chance at freedom, democracy and growing, it has to be allowed to take care of its own internal politics?

When I read that Jeanne Kirkpatrick and other “thinkers” of the Right think it’s perfectly OK to overturn democracy and freedom in other nations to protect OUR freedom and democracy, that setting up little Francos is justified, I was amazed that the people of those nations didn’t consider it an act of war, and even a war crime.

How would we Americans feel if we were forced to live under a corrupt tyrant (and, trust me, Mubarak is FAR worse than even Dubya was), in poverty, so that another nation, say China, could live in comfort and prosperity?  And, then, to add insult to injury, preached to us about what was wrong with our society and how we should live?

No, we need to let Egypt solve its own problems, and say “It’s their business and whatever happens, we want to help them live at peace with their neighbors”.  We’ve done enough, supporting this sadistic prick.

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