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Live Chat: Robert Scheer on Egypt

Posted on Feb 11, 2011

(Page 2)

Scheer: Well, democracy always has risks. We see it in our own society to now. We have forces in America that want to appeal to the worst instincts that are xenophobic, racist … you know, and so forth. That’s what democracy is all about—challenging those ideas, hoping the truth will win. But there’s an assumption to that questioning of the ability of other people to make a freer society, to have democracy. And I just don’t … I don’t know why that always comes up. First of all, it’s not our business. They’re the ones that had the right and the responsibility to make a decent society.

Now, you know, assumed in that question somehow there’s a threat to our security or well-being. I don’t buy that. I think the threat to our well-being comes from our meddling in their interests. After all, we built up this Egyptian army. We propped up this dictator. We’ve propped up the oil monarchs—you know, where did the [Sept. 11] hijackers come from? One came from Egypt; 15 of the 19 came from Saudi Arabia, a country that we’ve been doing business [with] and supporting their military, supporting their monarchy, forever. So supporting a monarchy certainly carried a lot of risks, in terms of the hijacking, and now here we are at a moment when the Egyptian people have so clearly spoken out for freedom—nonviolent! They’ve been nonviolent. They risked their lives, and they’re out in their streets … if this thing had gone the other way, they’d all be in jail and tortured and everything. And then we sit around on these news shows and everything and wonder whether they can be trusted with their freedom?

They have demonstrated that they have the right to make their own history. They took the risks, they were out there, these primarily young people in Egypt, and I find it kind of insulting that these pundits sit around and say “Are they ready for democracy?” I’ll raise the question: Are we ready for democracy? You know? And why wasn’t that raised during our history? We had slavery; we had segregation; we didn’t allow women the right to vote; we threw a lot of innocent people in jail during our history. We fought wars that were based on lies. Why don’t people around the world say hey, are you Americans ready for democracy? And yet anytime people around the world move to make their own history, we wonder, oh, are they ready for this? Who are we to be making these points? Where are our hands so clean? We’ve propped up many evil forces in this world, many evil dictatorships, and not the least among them in the Mideast. And we’ve been on the wrong side of a lot of this stuff.

I would point out, by the way, we even propped up Saddam Hussein. We propped up the Shah of Iran when it was convenient to us. And then we turn around and say, hey, you people can’t be trusted to make your own history because you might back the … yes, that’s the risk of democracy. They might back somebody we don’t like; they might back somebody we wouldn’t vote for. But, you know, it’s their country, and as long as it doesn’t represent a threat to our freedom, you know, I think we have to … I watched Ron Paul, who’s increasingly becoming somebody I like, and Ron Paul was on CNN with Wolf Blitzer, and Wolf Blitzer said can’t we just … don’t we have to decide, and don’t we have to move … and Ron Paul said [paraphrasing Rep. Paul] “Wait a minute. What are you talking about? We built the Egyptian military, we supported this monarchy; we did it because of the military-industrial complex. And now you’re saying if we don’t meddle in there, they’re not going to be able to figure it out?” I think it’s very insulting to other people, particularly people of such a rich, long history as the Egyptians.


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Anderson: Well, I certainly didn’t intend any insult in the framing of my question, but you can take it however you like, Bob, as you will. …

Scheer: Well, you’re not insulting me, and I didn’t think the question came from you. But I’m not trying to put down anyone who … people can raise any question they want. It’s just the way these questions always come up. And I do … I think it’s not insulting to me, it’s insulting to these other people. That somehow … look what happened in Egypt, for God’s sake. Here was a Google executive who had it made in the shade. He was making a lot of money; his career was launched. And instead of saying, “Hey, I’m just going to get fat and rich like the people on Wall Street,” he said, “You know what?” he said, “I’m going to worry about my country. I’m going to worry about the people that I went to school with. I’m going to worry about what happens.” And he risked his life! And he went to jail. And now we’re going to turn around and say he can’t be trusted to figure out what should happen in his own country?

Anderson: Certainly not me. I’m not going to say that. [Laughter]

Scheer: Well, all right. Just wanted to straighten that out there, Ms. Anderson. [Laughter]

Anderson: Yes. OK, well, we’d better pay some attention to our Truthdig members, who are asking you questions about your column this week. So here’s a good one from Truthdig member gerard. She said: “I’d like to ask Mr. Scheer to please explain what he means by this phrase”—and she quotes you—“ ‘... the deep cynics who run our foreign policy.’ Most of us are trying to figure out a reasonable explanation for the behavior of our State Department and our foreign relations people. Or we’re dissolving in self-hatred and fear. Have we all given over to cynicism, too? Is there any cure?”

Scheer: Well, I think that the people in the foreign policy establishment have been deeply cynical over the decades. I think they were prepared to make a deal with the vice president [of Egypt], and keep Mubarak until September, and so forth. And I think, had it been up to our advisers and our people there, things would have gone very badly. And that’s what concerned me; I said there was “an odor of betrayal” to what we were starting to hear, after a good start by Obama.

However, I think the instincts of the American people are great. I think our history has prepared us to support people who struggle, who fight for freedom; after all, we were a revolutionary society. And I think Barack Obama, in his statement on Friday, was brilliant. He was poetic; he was incredible. I’ve criticized the man on many occasions, but he rose to the occasion. He seized the moment, and he’s absolutely right. He celebrated the ability of the Egyptian people to make their own history; he celebrated this change.

And now, by the way, the test is going to be whether the morning after, Barack Obama leans on our own Pentagon and says [paraphrasing the president], “Look, we’re not cooperating with the Egyptian military unless they cooperate with their own people. We’re not going to give them [the military] a blank check.” We’ve been giving them an enormous amount of money over the years in military aid, aid of other kinds; we’ve been underwriting a lot of their activities; we’ve done it because they have contracts with our own defense industry. And I think it’s really time now for our president to tell the Pentagon, tell the State Department: “Don’t play your games. What we want from the Egyptian military is to provide safety and security to the people of Egypt, so they don’t get beaten up by thugs, and there’s some order. But we don’t want them installing a new dictator or a new oligarchy, as has happened before. If they do that, they will not have our cooperation; we will not underwrite their activities; we will not be their ally in this respect.”

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RayLan's avatar

By RayLan, February 14, 2011 at 9:49 am Link to this comment

The article is a necessary and powerful antidote to the US anti-democratic exploitation of Islamaphobia to perpetuate empire.
These protestors are technically Muslim but politically secular and the polar opposite of terrorists - an inconoclastic precedent - the danger is in how the US will influence the events to further its anti-terrorist (terrorist) agenda by manipulating the military.

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Peter Knopfler's avatar

By Peter Knopfler, February 13, 2011 at 6:08 pm Link to this comment

Very good conversation with Bob Scheer, we must be
around the same age, I find on all subjects brain
development, before and after TELEVISION. People who
developed their brains from 3 to 18 years old most of
us grew up reading not T.V.  Bob is right the youth
techno-political movement is a JOY to behold,
although we need to hear more from Women of the West
supporting Egyptian women. Wiki Leaks for
transparency is a blessing, dirty laundry everywhere,
the public not pubic, who pay the bills, HAS a right
to know, EVERYTHING, then together we decide, which
way to go. If my mind and body belongs to the
corporate communist dictators, and my soul belongs to
GOD, what is left for me, yes to be or not to be!
Unfortunately suicide is on the rise all over this
HUMAN Community! My question no so much OBAMITO, but
Communist China, silent but effective. What does RON
PAUL say about Communist China!

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By Tim Perceval, February 13, 2011 at 5:18 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Great words from Scheer, especially “are WE ready for democracy!”

However praising “Obama rose to the occasion” ... you might say he also cashed
in on Primetime TV, any politician’s dream.

He contributed nothing to the ouster of Mubarak.

He doesn’t have the guts to change the Pentagon’s unscrupulous billion dollar
donations to the Egyptian military.

A formidable speaker who rarely acts on his words. Expect nothing from this
man, and you’ll be mildly surprised.

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By rend, February 13, 2011 at 3:18 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Bob is so brilliant, i think making the site a more multi media experience is a fantastic idea.
However, is there a way you can get the aspect ratio and color correct on the video so he
doesn’t look like he is 4 ft 8 inches and 200 plus pounds. This video look like is was shot by
kidnappers. A mic on his abductor might not be a bad idea either.

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By tony_opmoc, February 13, 2011 at 2:05 pm Link to this comment

I was in Egypt 4 years ago and the hatred of the Mubarak dictatorship was open and obvious - as the bus and the taxi in different trips was halted and delayed for over an hour by ridiculous road blocks and security checks.

So I am delighted that this dictatorship is gone because it is a wonderful signal to the entire world. The Egyptians have achieved what most of the rest of the World can only dream about.

But there is now a vacuum, and there is no guarantee that this vacuum will be filled with honest people of integrity.

In fact the situation is such that a 5 year old has disarmed and tied up a tyrant and is awaiting the police to turn up and arrest him.

I hope that it all works out well for the Egyptian people. One of the most wonderful things about this revolution is that it has been almost completely non political and non religious in nature. Just ordinary people demanding and getting the freedom to decide their own future.

Maybe Egypt will again become an example to the entire World of how to do “Civilisation”

I want to go back already.


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By Barry Dalton (aka LRC Straight Shooter), February 13, 2011 at 10:46 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Substance wise great.

But it looks like an al qaeda hostage video

hard to watch, easy to listen to

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By white dove, February 13, 2011 at 6:51 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

to all nations! and people! this is the way to fight this thing!  CAPITAL LETTERS FIRST: LIGHT AND LAW; then LINE UP UNDERNEATH OF IT:      NATION OF JOY

SEE? Can be CITY OF JOY and your city name! COUNTY OF JOY and then small letters always underneath: STATE OF JOY then beneath small letters oregon SEE? as many people’s as you can have do this the faster it will be solved! Province OF JOY; whatever but ALWAYS and ever FIRST: LIGHT AND LAW; see? then 2nd in CAPITAL LETTERS then last centered and small!
  oh boy people! we will be knowing JOY!

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By gerard, February 12, 2011 at 2:11 pm Link to this comment

Tsunami in Egypt

“How could one not admire them? They were non-violent, their demands were reasonable, their actions were spontaneous, they obviously expressed the feelings of the vast majority of the people. Without any organization to speak of, without leadership, they said and did all the right things. Such a sight is rare in history.”—Uri Avnery, The Other Israel

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By FiftyGigs, February 12, 2011 at 11:37 am Link to this comment

I wonder which story will win:

a) Obama is the Puppet Master, who manipulates world events for the benefit of his autocratic buds, or;

b) Obama is inept and way behind the curve, coldly ineffective in the nuance of popular revolt.

Doubtless, the story this site will not acknowledge is that the President contributed an unbelievably brilliant, engaged, enlightened role—to the extend he or any President could—of fostering profound change while helping to keep it peaceful on all sides.

The Egyptian people decided their fate, but they didn’t do it alone. For once, TruthDig, consider national pride. You’re allowed to.

Just like Egyptians.

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By gerard, February 11, 2011 at 11:14 pm Link to this comment

A word to the wise:  People need to write and phone Senator Feinsten in defense of Assange, Manning and Wikileaks..  She’s way overboard against the leaks and answers people with a long harangue that shows how she simply doesn’t “get” it so far as secrecy and accountability goes.  Real old school, cloak and dagger stuff.  She’ll hang in there as long as there’s a breath of a chance of rendition etc.

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By hcferris, February 11, 2011 at 8:30 pm Link to this comment

lighting. lighting. lighting. very important. Truthdig must have good lighting. : )

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By gerard, February 11, 2011 at 7:45 pm Link to this comment

Robert Scheer:  Thank you so much for a great interview on Egypt, and on the significance of Wikileaks and the Internet for their relationship to this victory, and for the future of massive nonviolent social action. I’ve been trying to say similar things in comments on TD for months.  You did it so much more eloquently   Bravo!

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By gerard, February 11, 2011 at 7:45 pm Link to this comment

Robert Scheer:  Thank you so much for a great interview on Egypt, and on the significance of Wikileaks and the Internet for their relationship to this victory, and for the future of massive nonviolent social action. I’ve been trying to say similar things in comments on TD for months.  You did it so much more eloquently   Bravo!

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By Reverend Unruh, February 11, 2011 at 7:33 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I propose we call today, “World Freedom Day” or something like that.

The date, 2/11/11, is just too good to forget. I think we should name it and
celebrate it annually.

If anyone wants to design a patch, I suggest it have a pyramid or prison on it,
maybe breaking like the Berlin wall or something. I don’t know. The symbology of
this event is overwhelming, it should be commemorated.

I was just thinking how being the cradle of world peace would make it an even
more exciting place to visit. I never wanted to go there before, but now I’d
consider it.

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