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The Right Smears ElBaradei

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Posted on Feb 3, 2011

By Joe Conason

To his fellow Egyptians and to most observers across the world, Mohamed ElBaradei looks like a hero—an international diplomat who might well have lived out his days in the comforts of Geneva and New York but instead returned home to provide leadership despite serious personal peril. But to leading figures on the American right, ElBaradei is a figure to be mocked, scorned and dismissed as a stooge of darker forces in Egyptian politics and the Mideast.

Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his years of stewardship of the International Atomic Energy Agency, he is suddenly the target of insults and attacks from Republicans who deem themselves expert on the politics of the Middle East. Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton calls ElBaradei a “dilettante,” and former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer goes further, calling him “a bad guy.”

The opinions of these veterans of the Bush White House, perhaps the least successful U.S. government since the Herbert Hoover years, are not worth much—except as a reminder of the continuing ill wind blowing from that defunct administration and its policies. Their hostility to ElBaradei and to the mass civic movement in Egypt reveals the hollowness and uselessness of the neoconservative worldview at a moment of intense crisis for American diplomacy.

To everyone else, it is obvious that Hosni Mubarak cannot abide much longer as president of Egypt, despite the billions in aid that we have lavished on him these past three decades. And to everyone else, it is also obvious that whenever he goes, the most promising alternative is ElBaradei, a secular liberal with strong ties to the West.

But to the neoconservatives, the possibility that ElBaradei might help preserve his country’s 80 million souls from bloody chaos matters much less than the fact that he disagreed with them about the invasion of Iraq and that he still disagrees with them about a pre-emptive strike against Iran. He committed the unforgivable sin of being right when they were wrong about Iraq’s mythical nuclear weapons program, and he has insisted on pursuing a peaceful resolution of Iran’s atomic ambitions as well.


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With their peculiar belief that what we always need is more armed conflict in the Mideast, the neoconservatives despise ElBaradei—although the U.S. would have saved thousands of lives and trillions of dollars if only we had listened to his truth rather than their lies.

Among those lies, of course, was the notion that “regime change” in Baghdad would spark a democratic renaissance across the Mideast beneficial to America and Israel as well as the people of the region. That didn’t happen, but today a burgeoning movement of youths demanding democracy and human rights has appeared—and the neoconservatives now warn us to fear and reject them.

Let us hope that the Obama administration is sufficiently sensible to ignore such awful advice. Balancing our national security interests against the complexities of places like Egypt and Jordan, with strong Islamic political movements, will be difficult to say the least. But there is no point in nostalgia for the friendly dictators of the past and the arrangements we once made with them. Hysteria over the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood should be assuaged by the example of Turkey, where the ruling Islamist party is seeking even now to restore ties with Israel and join the European Union.

Neglect, arrogance and cynicism have left us with little knowledge and few relationships that will be useful as we cope with momentous changes in the Mideast. If we face that fact, then the last thing we should do is undermine those, like ElBaradei, who might help us negotiate this challenging course.

Joe Conason writes for The New York Observer.

© 2011

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By firefly, February 5, 2011 at 5:49 pm Link to this comment

Good article.

El Baradei is/was loathed by the Bush administration
because he insisted that the Nuclear weapons inspectors
hadn’t had enough time to find weapons and had not
found any evidence of weapons. Bush and his wicked
cronies were so desperate to go into Iraq, they didn’t
like anyone questioning their reasons or their
convictions. It would be great if El Baradei did become
president, he may have some truths to tell about that

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By Dale Headley, February 5, 2011 at 3:54 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Those neocons and Bushies, like John Bolton,  who stubbornly cling to their
dreams of world conquest and imperial rule must be slumping, mouths agape, as
they watch on al Jazeera as their evil intentions dissipate in the popular clamor for
democracy, not only in Egypt but, increasingly, throughout the middle east   They
blathered endlessly about the need to attack Iraq in order to spread “democracy
and freedom” in the middle east.  Well, now they’re seeing the fruits of their
labors: REAL democracy exploding all around, which is exactly what they DIDN’T
want.  One thing they DID want, even at the expense of hundreds of thousands of
innocent lives destroyed, was OIL, OIL, OIL.  Now it looks like that dream may be
evaporating, as well.

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By stephen miller, February 4, 2011 at 10:51 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Well said; I sincerely hope this is the caliber of analysis Obama is getting now.

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By Blueboy1938, February 4, 2011 at 10:22 pm Link to this comment

El Baradei has emerged as the single most identifiable personage of the
opposition.  He has world-wide name recognition and a reputation for “telling it
like it is”.  It doesn’t really matter what Bolton and Fleischer say about him.  He
will likely emerge as the man of the hour - assuming he survives - when
Mubarak finally gets it and leaves.

Just what that will mean in the transition of Egypt to something else is unclear. 
Thankfully, neither Bolton nor Fliescher have anything to to with U. S. foreign
policy at this point.  While there is always a danger that Islamists - the Muslim
Brotherhood included - might co-opt what started as a grassroots revolt in
Egypt, it doesn’t look as though El Baradei is their tool.  He has pretty much
always acted as an unaffiliated professional so far.

Whether anything like a functioning democracy can rise from the current chaos
is a huge question mark.  The current U. S. administration’s efforts to stay
engaged but not push for any particular outcome, except to ease Mubarak out
sooner rather than later, is good strategy.  Whoever the U. S. appears to back
will lose credibility.

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By berniem, February 4, 2011 at 9:13 pm Link to this comment

Deliberating whether Mubarak should or should not go and if, when, to be replaced by who, misses a crucial point. As revealed by Aljazeera, the Mubarak clan, Pa, Ma, and the two Sonny-Boys, all told, have managed to appropriate roughly 20 billion in, I’m sure, hard earned dollars which they will undoubtedly try to slither away with as they go off into exile. Truly, if we care about the future of Egypt as a functioning state, that fortune should remain in country and old Hosni, et al, should be forced to open a little deli or something wherever he may end up. Otherwise, if Egypt is not deemed the legal owner of said funds, such should be returned to the good ol’ USA since we’ve kept this crook bankrolled to the tune of about 1.2 billion per year for how long now? If the pig and his sty-mates manage to abscond with this loot such would be a crime on a scale compared to hies 30 year reign of terror as well as an affirmation of our lousy foreign policy!

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By severed2009, February 4, 2011 at 3:26 am Link to this comment

The righties believe that failure comes when you dont try hard enough, so the way
to deal with Egypt is to try so hard that things go our way.  Support Hosni, throw
money at him, and brand all opposition to him as playing into the hands of the
Muslim Brotherhood (as he does).

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By gerard, February 3, 2011 at 8:38 pm Link to this comment

Key sentence in this article on ElBaradei:
  “He committed the unforgivable sin of being right when they were wrong. “
  Seems to be almost inevitably true, and points to a key weakness in the Right.  They are wrong so often because they are either deeply ignorant or wishfully misinformed, or both.  “Liberals” need to keep this in mind, IMO, and try to work on tactics to counteract the obvious right-wing weaknesses—hopefully, to help them change their habituated
“frame of mind.”
  In addition to ignorance and the resulting susceptability to swallow additional ignorance is the combination of fear and anger such people exhibit.
  People like ElBaradei—a “foreigner”, an “intellectual” with a diplomatic ability to stand up for truth and worldly experience in nonviolent solutions to difficult problems—people like this are always a threat to Rightists because against them the Rightists have no suitable defense, they know it in their hearts, and this causes even more resistance.
  Hence the hasty and single-minded resort to anger, threat and, if necessary, persecution regardless of the facts in any given case. They want to be told what they want to hear.  Nothing else.
  Until we learn how to “get around” this mind-set, I don’t see much chance for change in reaction from the Right.  They are stuck because for them, change means defeat of what they “know” is “true.”  For them, any sophisticated mind is automatically suspect, it not downright “evil.”

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By McTN, February 3, 2011 at 3:02 pm Link to this comment

The right, pro Mubarak forces would have us believe that this Nobel Prize laureate would be a stooge for the Dark Men of the Muslim Brotherhood and that Egypt would become a theocracy under his stewardship. 

We lack a vision of the world that can provide leadership.  We’re told that bombing a country like Iraq to smithereens or waging an endless war in Afghanistan is to help bring democracy to an oppressed people.  Now, suddenly, you have oppressed people clamoring for democracy, no terrorists in sight, no war needed—and we stand mute?  Is democracy impossible unless a war is waged and we get to control the new leadership? 

Israel in the meantime supports Mubarak, damn democracy, especially if it threatens Israel.  We should tell the people that they can’t have reform because it would make Israel too nervous.

I’m waiting for a clear, unequivocal statement from our president.  He called for innovation in the workplace. How about some innovation in government? Why not model that for us?

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By M L, February 3, 2011 at 1:02 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Consider the source. No one takes these losers (Bolton and Fleischer) seriously.The American people can tell the difference between the hero ElBaradei and losers like Bolton and Fleischer. Actions speak louder than words.

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By Anna-Marina, February 3, 2011 at 11:41 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

To our own demise:

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By JesusWasASocialist, February 3, 2011 at 10:44 am Link to this comment

The noisy republicans remind me of Garth Algar: “We fear change.”

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By Big B, February 3, 2011 at 9:17 am Link to this comment

ElBaradaie has already sealed his fate with the US. He did the day many years ago when he dared not support the US position that Iraq had WMD’s. He has learned that it matters not whether it was a democrat or republican in the white house. If you don’t tow the US company line you are our enemy.

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By Mike789, February 3, 2011 at 8:53 am Link to this comment

As of the camel/horse charge on the civic minded protestors, the U.S. should invoke the U.N. Security Council to intervene for a legitimant process in the transition of power.

Since we’ve played the 30 year dictatorial card for stability with Israel and an open Suez Canal, we’re in no position to dictate anything that would further alienate the Egyptian populace. The seeds ye sow.

Expatriot ElBaradei may have a chance as a tranitionary leader. The shoe seems to fit as long as the hard liners, who still detest Israel, remain a marginal force.

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By RayLan, February 3, 2011 at 8:14 am Link to this comment

It’s on the subject of Iraq that the US has the least credibility and this recent uprising exposes that double-think. From the Whitehouse, with which the Right concurs , we are hearing a rhetoric of non-interference which is transparent hypocrisy when the obvious reason for the gloved hand is Israel. If we are supposed to believe that the US cares about oppressed peoples, then its posture vis-a-vis Mubaraka has no credibility politically and morally. Egg on the face of the body politic.

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By Lou, February 3, 2011 at 8:11 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This should say AIPAC Smears ElBaradei since “the Right” is inevitably
manifestations of the Jewish Lobby in every aspect of US foreign policy.
AIPAC has the best US government money can buy.

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By poonckie, February 3, 2011 at 6:49 am Link to this comment

Why is this a surprise? They have been clamboring for an invasion of Iran for years. McCain even put the desire for carnage to music “bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran…” Bush was a little premature when he insisted on destroying Iraq, ironically enough, our staunch strongman in the region.

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By aacme88, February 3, 2011 at 4:49 am Link to this comment

He was warned. “You’re either with us or you’re against us” wasn’t just whistling Dixie.
To his great credit and ultimate Nobel recognition, he wasn’t with them. But they’re still against him.
If there is a hell, the they have opened a new wing for the neocons.

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