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Live Chat: Robert Scheer on Egypt

Posted on Feb 11, 2011

(Page 3)

Anderson: Well, that leads me to ask you a question that just came in on the Web from one TDoff, who—I think perhaps in a slightly tongue-in-cheek manner, but [that’s] not definite—says: “Who do you think Leon Panetta will appoint to replace Hosni Mubarak?”

Scheer: Well, that is the danger. I mean, again, [paraphrasing] Ron Paul to Wolf Blitzer, you know, he says I suspect these people in our government and the State Department and everything are running around now trying to find a new guy to back. That is not, as Ron Paul said, our business. How would we feel if a bunch of Egyptians were running around our country, saying, “I’m worried about your next election, let’s reorganize it, we know who the best people are; after all, you know, we’ve studied your culture, we’ve studied your society. We have our intelligence agency.” I think it’s an absurd … I’m sure … first of all, Panetta is actually one of the better people we’ve had, so he’s probably got some sense about it.

But I do think these people tend to be very cynical. If you read the WikiLeaks cables, for instance, there’s very specific language in there of contempt for the very military people, and the others, that we were backing. Our government has known all along how bad Mubarak was, but they also … in fact the general who’s now the key guy, the defense minister, is described as Mubarak’s “poodle” in the WikiLeaks cable. Poodle! OK? So, now, that’s a concern. Because, after all, the military has power. And if that poodle becomes the poodle of another dictator, or a dictator himself, that will be very bad.

And I think our cynics, our experts, whatever you want to call them, who have been having dinner with these people for 30 years and have been underwriting them and advising them and everything else, need to get the word out—“No. We’re talking about real democracy here. We’re talking about the ordinary Egyptians being able to make their history. Now, you know, if you’re on the wrong side of that, we don’t want to give you aid. We don’t want to cooperate; we won’t give you all the war toys. If you’re on the right side of that, and you behave in a decent fashion towards your own people, yes, we’ll continue cooperating.”  That’s the leverage the U.S. has right now. And I think if Barack Obama is consistent with his speech, when he quoted Martin Luther King, and our soul, we seek freedom and this is a universal yearning of people. We’ve seen an incredible outpouring of decency in Egypt. Decency. People willing to risk their lives for the freedom of other human beings, for a decent society, and doing it in a nonviolent … this is one of the great victories of nonviolence. This is, you know, Gandhi exponential; this is Mandela at the end; this is Martin Luther King; this is resistance of a really noble order.


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Anderson: Well, let me ask this question that might—actually, you might have just answered that, but maybe to get a little more specific—do you think funding to Egypt from the U.S. will increase or decrease in the years to come? What do you think it should be, and what’s your opinion about it?

Scheer: Well, I think there’s the basic problem now—assuming that the military doesn’t install another dictatorship, and I think they’d be … I don’t think they’re going to do that; I hope they don’t. I think economic development, economic justice—that was very clear here. You had a significant number of people in the elite in Egypt; you know, the one and a half million people who worked for the government, and certainly the ones on the higher level, the capitalists, the big investor class. They were doing just fine during this period, but the average Egyptian is living a very poor life … quality of material life. And you have a lot of people who’ve got an education but they can’t find decent jobs, and so forth. And it’s not just in Egypt; it’s true throughout much of the developing world. But in Egypt it’s really stark, and they’re living in a neighborhood where other people are oil-rich and can have a lot of luxuries, and so forth.

I think the real pressure now on whatever government comes in in Egypt is going to be to deliver some progress. Because people want it, they want economic progress to be married with political progress. They want to see some results. And Egypt has a well-educated work force, and what they need is investment. And to the degree that we do foreign aid, it should be to support economic development, not just support the military. And what we’ve done is primarily support a bloated military; I don’t know what they need this big military for. Who are they going to go to war with, or what are they going to fight … you don’t need a big military to fight terrorists, if that’s what your real goal is. They need a big military to suppress—and a big police force to suppress—their own population. Well, hopefully they’re not going to be in the suppression business now.

And so, yes, I’m for transferring much of that military aid to economic aid. And here I differ with Ron Paul; I believe in substantial economic aid. But I also believe—and here I agree with Ron Paul—I believe in a lot of trade and investment. That’s what our founders had in mind, as he pointed out: diplomacy and trade. And yes, we should embrace an expanded economic connection with Egypt, not because they have oil to exploit, which they don’t, but because they have a lot of people that deserve a shot at a good life, and they’re hardworking and they’re decent people, and we should become their economic partners.

Anderson: I think [that] next to your next column we should have a graphic that has “agrees with Ron Paul on these points” and “disagrees on these,” so readers can keep up. …[Laughter]

Scheer: Well, let me defend … Kasia, I think that I get your drift there, but let me just say, I … after all, the Republicans control the House. And the conscience of the Republican Party now, for better or worse, [is] really the libertarians, because at least they’re consistent. At least they say, “No, I don’t want big government on the social side and I don’t want big government on the military side.” And I think it’ll be a breath of fresh air if we can have that debate and that discussion.

And we claim that our military people always were so concerned about Egypt—as long as they were buying a lot of weapons, and as long as they had a big army, and so forth—will they be concerned about Egypt as far as feeding the hungry, as far as education? And if that assistance and that support comes from investment and business activity, and we treat Egypt as a potential—you know, like Brazil, potentially a very big economy, a very forceful, energetic economy—that’s a good thing. But if we treat it as a pawn in some kind of Mideast war and politics, then it’ll be a very bad thing. And so, yeah, I like the fact that there are principled people on the Republican side, and so Ron Paul is an example of that.

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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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