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When Corporations Choose Despots Over Democracy

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Posted on Feb 1, 2011

By Amy Goodman

“People holding a sign ‘To: America. From: the Egyptian People. Stop supporting Mubarak. It’s over!” so tweeted my brave colleague, “Democracy Now!” senior producer Sharif Abdel Kouddous, from the streets of Cairo.

More than 2 million people rallied throughout Egypt on Tuesday, most of them crowded into Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Tahrir, which means liberation in Arabic, has become the epicenter of what appears to be a largely spontaneous, leaderless and peaceful revolution in this, the most populous nation in the Middle East. Defying a military curfew, this incredible uprising has been driven by young Egyptians, who compose a majority of the 80 million citizens. Twitter and Facebook, and SMS text messaging on cell phones, have helped this new generation to link up and organize, despite living under a U.S.-supported dictatorship for the past three decades. In response, the Mubarak regime, with the help of U.S. and European corporations, has shut down the Internet and curtailed cellular service, plunging Egypt into digital darkness. Despite the shutdown, as media activist and professor of communications C.W. Anderson told me, “people make revolutions, not technology.”

The demands are chanted through the streets for democracy, for self-determination. Sharif headed to Egypt Friday night, into uncertain terrain. The hated Interior Ministry security forces, the black-shirted police loyal to President Hosni Mubarak, were beating and killing people, arresting journalists, and smashing and confiscating cameras.

On Saturday morning, Sharif went to Tahrir Square. Despite the SMS and Internet blackout, Sharif, a talented journalist and technical whiz, figured out a workaround, and was soon tweeting out of Tahrir: “Amazing scene: three tanks roll by with a crowd of people riding atop each one. Chanting ‘Hosni Mubarak out!’ ”

Egypt has been the second-largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid for decades, after Israel (not counting the funds expended on the wars and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan). Mubarak’s regime has received roughly $2 billion per year since coming to power, overwhelmingly for the military.

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Where has the money gone? Mostly to U.S. corporations. I asked William Hartung of the New America Foundation to explain:

“It’s a form of corporate welfare for companies like Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics, because it goes to Egypt, then it comes back for F-16 aircraft, for M-1 tanks, for aircraft engines, for all kinds of missiles, for guns, for tear-gas canisters [from] a company called Combined Systems International, which actually has its name on the side of the canisters that have been found on the streets there.”

Hartung just published a book, “Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.” He went on: “Lockheed Martin has been the leader in deals worth $3.8 billion over that period of the last 10 years; General Dynamics, $2.5 billion for tanks; Boeing, $1.7 billion for missiles, for helicopters; Raytheon for all manner of missiles for the armed forces. So, basically, this is a key element in propping up the regime, but a lot of the money is basically recycled. Taxpayers could just as easily be giving it directly to Lockheed Martin or General Dynamics.”

Likewise, Egypt’s Internet and cell phone “kill switch” was enabled only through collaboration with corporations. U.K.-based Vodafone, a global cellular-phone giant (which owns 45 percent of Verizon Wireless in the U.S.) attempted to justify its actions in a press release: “It has been clear to us that there were no legal or practical options open to Vodafone ... but to comply with the demands of the authorities.”

Narus, a U.S. subsidiary of Boeing Corp., sold Egypt equipment to allow “deep packet inspection,” according to Tim Karr of the media policy group Free Press. Karr said the Narus technology “allows the Egyptian telecommunications companies ... to look at texting via cell phones, and to identify the sort of dissident voices that are out there. ... It also gives them the technology to geographically locate them and track them down.”

Mubarak has pledged not to run for re-election come September. But the people of Egypt demand he leave now. How has he lasted 30 years? Maybe that’s best explained by a warning from a U.S. Army general 50 years ago, President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He said, “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

That deadly complex is not only a danger to democracy at home, but when shoring up despots abroad.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 900 stations in North America. She is the author of “Breaking the Sound Barrier,” recently released in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.

© 2011 Amy Goodman

Distributed by King Features Syndicate


New and Improved Comments

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By a2m, February 11, 2011 at 4:53 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

@drbhelthi

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States
“The United States of America (also referred to as the United States, the U.S., the USA, or America”

I already put . (dot) between ‘U’ and ‘S’.
Did you seen them?

regards

Report this
drbhelthi's avatar

By drbhelthi, February 8, 2011 at 5:58 am Link to this comment

a2m,Which “US” are you relating to ?

US: lower socio-economic strata, nos. 1-4 = has
reached about 60% and increasing

US: middle s.e.s. no. 5 = currently reduced to
approximately 39.99997 %

US: top s.e.s.= .00003%

US: WWII NAZIs who have overtaken the USA and western
world via the CIA

US:  Zionists who control the Federal Reserve and
banking system

US:  the US military that takes orders from the US
NAZIs & Zionists

The term “US”  no longer refers to Americans.

Report this

By a2m, February 8, 2011 at 1:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

U.S. produced many weapons and sell to other country
but
U.S. want the world peace.. that sounds so funny,
right?

Report this

By Ben, February 5, 2011 at 7:28 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Of course DN will give straight up reporting, with
plenty of detailed history & perspective…the kind
of perspective not in the best interest of our
ongoing foreign policy efforts…as bad as they are,
even as we have not changed them much in the past 50+
years.

When NPR delves into these sticky ‘details’ with
senior journalists on the DC beat, lets say, as a
Cokie Roberts, all you are going to get is a
Washington mouth piece for the status quo and bottom
line…the imperial villagers do not stray far from
the empire’s and insiders cause. So, perspective is
all in the spin. Of course main stream media/status
quo will say the same of the independent press, they
are agenda driven etc…but how much traction does
that argument really have? One has to look at motive
and profit…not much of either with the
independents, they are truly seeking the origins of
this conflict.

NPR may still be salvageable at some later date, but
for now our politics are greatly disabled, and systemic change is still far in the future, leaving
truth to power wishful thinking in an organization
such as NPR. True reformist leadership that has the
strength and conviction is long ways off…we always
hope it will be the ‘next generation’ we shall only
get to say that for so many years, then nature will
just take it’s course, as it eventually does in all
matters. Hopefully we are developing leadership that
will someday realize the urgency of sustainable long
term global systems, and that all living entities on
this beautiful orb are justified and entitled.

Report this

By zagostino, February 5, 2011 at 12:14 pm Link to this comment

I do support DN. But I won’t shut off NPR,
frustrating as it is to listen to it. I want to be
able to score well on their weekend program “Wait,
Wait, Don’t tell me. ” And, occasionally the do have
some good reporting.

News has become grist for the comic mill like Stewart
and Colbert and news quiz shows, like Wait,Wait.

News used to provide a different function.

C. Hedges has a really good section in his book
“Death of the Liberal Class” on the change role of
the Media.

Report this

By gerard, February 4, 2011 at 2:34 pm Link to this comment

Send some money to Democracy Now to help pay the expenses of getting first-
hand, off site reporting.

Turn off NPR.

Report this

By zagostino, February 3, 2011 at 2:48 pm Link to this comment

Same as yesterday. Driving to work, listening to
NPR boot up at work, and stream Democracy Now.

NPR had a reporter look out his window to tell us
what he sees, Democracy Now has Sharif Abdel
Kouddous, their Senior Producer, out on the
frontline interviewing people and broadcasting
their voices to us at great personal risk.

NPR mirrors Obama’s tepid response. Obama’s high
minded rhetoric of Cairo in 2009 contrast with his
guarded and cautious approach now and creates a
real sense of democratic dissonance.

We live in a Hypocracy(sic) Democracy….

Report this

By Tolerance, February 3, 2011 at 1:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Best , most hopefull story to come out of Egypt so far.
When the Brotherhood of Muslims,  eventually came out & started shouting, they were
drowned out by the crowds who chanted, ” Muslim, Christian, we are all Egyptian!”

Report this
Fat Freddy's avatar

By Fat Freddy, February 3, 2011 at 9:53 am Link to this comment

Great. Let’s end all corporate subsidies, grants, and IP rights and end all foreign aid, except maybe for natural disasters. Seriously. Then when you tell me we need to subsidize alternative energy, and and healthy food alternatives, for example, I will point you to this article. You can’t pick and choose. End them all. Denial is not a river in Egypt, so don’t try to justify some subsidies, and demonize others. All subsidies are evil. That would be like a drug addict who rationalizes drinking alcohol while trying to quit heroin.

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By RupertRead, February 3, 2011 at 9:31 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Check out http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/01/31/exclusive-vodafone-justifies-censorship-in-egypt-over-national-security/ for an addition to the story…
If anyone fancies supporting me on the comments string to that story, I’d be grateful! Some trolls are defending Vodafone…

Report this
Mike789's avatar

By Mike789, February 3, 2011 at 8:35 am Link to this comment

zagostino ~ Thanks for the DN tip. I’ll see if a replay is in the works. I’m a long time NPR devotee and I have to agree that since year 2000 or so when the top guy there was a Republican appointee, (I’m not sure if things have reversed with BO), they’ve walked on egg shells. Right now, for sure, they’re concerned about losing gov. funding. IMHO, I think they’d be better off totally supported by the public.

Report this

By clearwaters, February 2, 2011 at 11:33 pm Link to this comment

“Meet the Pinkertons, Egyptian style, out to protect access and profit.”

All true, they will use all means possible to protect their interest but you still must
proceed. You will never out gun them. No one ever said nonviolent direct action
was without danger and sacrifice; only that violence results in more of the same
dead-end results. You get what you do in this life. We need to live the change we
want to see.

Report this
mack894's avatar

By mack894, February 2, 2011 at 10:08 pm Link to this comment

I wish I could believe that those mercenaries riding camels and horses were
organized by Mubarak alone.  But as Amy points out, profits and corporate
interests are at stake and there’s no way those interests want decisions made by
idealistic democrats.  Meet the Pinkertons, Egyptian style, out to protect access
and profits.  If it means a dictator, so be it.  But they’re not going to give 2 billion
dollars to the Brothers or to the man with integrity El baradei.

You would think the west would be jumping for joy—a nation wants a democracy
and it doesn’t have to be bombed or fought.  I guess not when corporate interests
are at stake.

Report this

By clearwaters, February 2, 2011 at 9:30 pm Link to this comment

Ya, thats how it works, the MIC will get it’s profits weather the bombs and guns
are used or not. In Egypt, in the face of the nonviolent will and courage of the
people, and the humanity of the Egyptian army soldier, these arms have been
useless in deflecting the revolutionary spirit of the people. I love it. Lets hope
that the example of the Tunisian and the Egyptian courage and commitment to
nonviolence will inform and inspire the rest of the middle east. The violent
pursuit of change in that part of the world has only brought death and more of
the same.Lets hope that the people of Israel will take note. I’am sure their
government has. The use of arms in pursuit of any kind viable future for the
people of the middle east is hopeless. Power to the people.

Report this

By zagostino, February 2, 2011 at 9:15 pm Link to this comment

The contrast between the NPR coverage I listened to
on my drive to work and the coverage by Democracy
Now (DN) that I streamed while at work was stark
and emblematic of a wider deterioration in the
quality of our news media.NPR said there were
hundreds of thousands on the street, DN reported 2
million people gathering in Tahrir Square. NPR, in
typical fashion devoted 3-5 minutes per story and
promptly moved to different topics, DN had Noam
Chomsky on to give a broader historical context.

NPR seems to have concluded that their audience
does not have the capacity for sustained attention,
an attention span that is long enough to receive a
detailed analysis of an issue. Instead they must
feel it is necessary to pepper the news with
diversions and gimmick; gimmicks like having a
female and male broadcaster alternate readings of
the news, modulated voice and tone almost as if
“acting” the news, that they need to keep me
entertained.

Moving form the coverage of the news, to our
President’s reaction to the events in Egypt,
one can become very discouraged at Obama’s cautious
and tepid response. With the Iranian uprising he
was also tepid, but at least it was understandable
given the lack of leverage and U.S. history in
supporting the brutal regime of the Shah. With
Egypt one would have hoped that his response would
have been at least partly informed by his being a
member of a class of people who where only
permitted to vote within the span of one
generation. One would have hoped that he would have
made some more convincing proclamation of support
for the people in the street’s insistence that
Mubarak step down, now.

Of course we can not tell what is happening behind
the scenes. But with today’s development of brutal
pro-Mubarak thugs taking to the street with weapons
and fomenting violence you would hoped to hear a
more supportive statement coming from the W.H.

Here we have freedom of speech, but most people
have nothing to say, we have freedom of assembly
but only a handful of people show up to protest a
ten year long war killing innocent people and
draining our treasury, we have unfettered access to
media and watch mind numbing television programs or
play video games.

I am glad that Truthdig is out on the street
looking for the Left. I hope they find it before
it’s too late for us.

Report this

By chelseagirl, February 2, 2011 at 5:41 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What Goodman has pointed out in this article about the Military Industrial Complex, is reason enough to NEVER vote Democrat and/or Republican.
Both of these greedy corporate parties support and feed the MIC monster.
Until the monster is cut off and left to starve,it will continue to grow resulting in more death, more destruction to humanity and the economy too.

Imagine what we could do to better the US instead of spending monies on killing/occupying people in the ME for their natural resources?
Green energy
A new and improved Medicare for ALL
Improved public schools and Open University for state schools.
No, the elites are in charge—they won’t allow this to happen. Wall St. the MIC, Big Pharma, the health insurance cartel, Big Oil, gas and “clean” coal are in the driver’s seat—instead of We The People.

Report this

By john from ojai, February 2, 2011 at 3:54 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Bless Amy Goodman and the team at Democracy Now for providing the most illuminating coverage of the Egyptians uprising. Most people would not know the truth behind the stories without Democracy Now.

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prisnersdilema's avatar

By prisnersdilema, February 2, 2011 at 1:49 pm Link to this comment

Not a surprise, the corporations don’t believe in freedom. Here at home they practice
debt slavery. It’s just a short put from there to despotism.

Report this

By madisolation, February 2, 2011 at 8:32 am Link to this comment

We’d be better off if we just gave the MIC the money (a la TARP). The CEO’s of Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics, etc. could just sit on their flabby asses, and there’d be no more cruel and senseless killing.

Report this

By watchingfrogsboil, February 2, 2011 at 7:53 am Link to this comment

DoD Daily Doles to Lockheed Martin: First in Funding, First in Fraud

U.S. total debt $55.6 trillion and rising ... U.S. federal debt $14.1 trillion and rising ... U.S. federal deficit $1.5 trillion and rising ... U.S. dollar rapidly losing world reserve currency status ... as U.S. politicians bought and paid for by multinational corporations (legalized by Citizens United vs. FEC) cut education, close schools, convert asphalt roads to gravel and accelerate America’s descent into oblivion just so they can dole out millions daily to Lockheed Martin and other repeat-offender federal contractors for Rube Goldberg weapons systems and myriad military and non-defense boondoggles as unnecessary, unaffordable and unjustifiable as our unending wars for oil and profit:

http://watchingfrogsboil.com/dod-daily-doles-to-lockheed-martin-first-in-f

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drbhelthi's avatar

By drbhelthi, February 2, 2011 at 4:43 am Link to this comment

Neat summary, Amy. Especially the inclusion by the
wise, old owl, Dwight D.

I find it interesting that USGov agents can upset a
puppet while fronting quasi-support for him.  Must be
a combined effort of CIA+MOSSAD+a few million $$
bribe-monies.  How israeli Zionists will insert the
next dictator will be interesting to watch. However,
sparking a war with Iran, which will extend the
holocaust currently in Iraq, Afghanistan,
Pakistan around the world, is not very wise. 

It will be a very short while til U.S. tanks will not
be the only type digging up the streets of the world. 
What´s left of it, anyway.

Report this
drbhelthi's avatar

By drbhelthi, February 2, 2011 at 4:33 am Link to this comment

Neat summary, Amy. Especially the inclusion by the
wise, old owl, Dwight D.

I find it interesting that USGov agents can upset a
puppet while fronting quasi-support for him.  Must be
a combined effort of CIA+MOSSAD+a few million $$
bribe-monies.  How israeli Zionists will insert the
next dictator will be interesting to watch. However,
sparking a war with Iran, which will extend the
holocaust currently in Iraq, Afghanistan,
Pakistan
all around the entire earth, is not very wise. 

It will be a very short while til U.S. tanks will not
be the only type digging up the streets of the world. 
What´s left of it, anyway.

All to appease the WWII NAZI-types
and their buddies, israeli Zionists?

Report this
 
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