Egypt: Colonialism, terror and deceit

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By Jared Israel. Research by Jared Israel and Samantha Criscione. Editing and footnotes by Samantha Criscione Part 1: Western leaders and media, together at last. Republished from The Emperor’s New Clothes.

For the past five weeks we have witnessed a media campaign, worldwide but emanating mainly from media giants in the U.S. and Europe, championing the anti-Mubarak forces, relentlessly attacking the Egyptian government and refusing to present the views of any Egyptians who opposed their government’s destruction. If you think I am being unfair, ask yourself: how many interviews have you read or seen broadcast with ordinary Egyptians who disagree with the protesters?  Does it seem reasonable that in a country whose governing party had millions of members, the Western media could not find many who would tell reporters (if asked!) that they opposed Mubarak being forced out before the end of his term?  (Perhaps Western reporters did find many such people, but their editors elected not to publish such remarks.)

Studying the media fulltime, my associate Samantha Criscione and I have found only a few instances in which Egyptians were quoted explaining why they thought the government should not be destroyed, and one Time magazine article that actually quoted both sides of an Egyptian street debate on the question. [1] Exceptions that prove the rule.

The media coverage, in which the Mubarak government was suddenly (i.e., in contradiction to past reporting) depicted as one of the worst dictatorships in the world, while the Muslim Brotherhood was suddenly discovered to be the gentlest of religious folks – in February the New York Times gave Brotherhood spokesmen not one but two opinion pieces (perhaps more are coming?), which argued that the Brotherhood was conceived as an agent of peaceful change, an argument the Times has not granted anyone space to answer, although it is easily shown to be preposterous [2] – this media coverage has created a basis in public opinion for U.S. and European leaders to intervene, as if Egypt were still a Western colony.

Western leaders and the media have spoken with one voice to an extent not seen since the destruction of Yugoslavia. For starters, none of the Western media asked any of the big questions, such as: why, when the Iranian regime attacked democracy protesters in 2009 – a crackdown that was orders of magnitude harsher than Egyptian government actions in recent weeks, and which lasted for many months (indeed is still going on) – did Obama frame his few and vague expressions of concern with the qualification, firmly stated, that the U.S. would not interfere in Iranian internal affairs, whereas in the case of Egypt he, Secretary of State Clinton and British Prime Minister Cameron publicly intervened with demands verging on ultimatums (not to mention what they were ordering Egyptian political and military officials to do in private)?

While in the case of Iran, U.S. officials paid lip service to concern over the brutal crackdown, talking generally about the right to peaceful protest but never saying the government and indeed the constitution had to be replaced, in Egypt it has been quite the opposite, with the U.S. paying lip service to Egyptian sovereignty, while making very clear that the Egyptian government had better do what it is told. We see the fruits of U.S. and European actions today, with the West having engineered the suspension of the constitution, which as I write these words is being rewritten with input from the Moslem Brotherhood!

The following exchange occurred at the State Department press briefing February 2, the day after President Mubarak made his first speech promising not to seek another term. In this exchange, “Mr. Crowley” refers to Assistant Secretary of State Philip J. Crowley, who ran the briefing. The questioners are unidentified reporters from the Washington press corps.

QUESTION: So clarify for us. Is what Mubarak said yesterday satisfactory or unsatisfactory for the United States?

MR. CROWLEY: Pardon me?

QUESTION: The content of what Mubarak said in his speech, is that satisfactory or unsatisfactory? [3]

Now here is Crowley’s response. Notice his initial nod to Egyptian sovereignty:

MR. CROWLEY: Again, that’s not for us to say.

Continuing, Crowley enters a transition section, where he equates the thousands of people in Tahrir square with “the people” (i.e., 80 million plus Egyptians!)

[MR. CROWLEY:] President Mubarak has responded to the people. Only the people will determine whether what he’s done thus far is enough.

Having accomplished this sleight of hand, Crowley continues by making it perfectly clear that although “that’s not for us to say,” U.S. officials are not only ‘saying,’ they are going all out to micromanage the Egyptian government:

[MR. CROWLEY:] We believe that more needs to be done. We believe that more needs to be done faster. And that has been our message to officials that we’ve talked to. That was the Secretary’s message to Vice President Suleiman today. So if the foreign minister is saying, in essence, mañana [Spanish for “tomorrow” – J.I.], we’re saying that’s not good enough.

Notice that in the final phase of his remarks, above, Crowley’s tone becomes increasingly intense, reaching a note of hysteria, completely abandoning any pretense of diplomatic protocol to end in the gangster-like sarcasm of his “mañana” remark.

Already on February 1, Obama declared that Mubarak had to resign “now.” The next day, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs explained the meaning of  “now.” Apparently relishing the role of bully, Mr. Gibbs – who, you may recall, was shocked when a reporter suggested that the U.S. be so tyrannical as to make demands of BP concerning its response to the catastrophic destruction it had unleashed on U.S. territory [4]) – stated that:

Now means yesterday.”
[My emphasis. – J.I.] — February 2, 2011, White House Press Briefing [5]

Reminds one of the old line, “When I say ‘Jump!’ you ask ‘How high?’ “

The Egyptian government was told that the Muslim Brotherhood had to be legalized; that the Brotherhood had to be given an immediate ‘role’ in a new government, meaning Egypt had to ignore its constitutional ban on office-holding by parties based on religion [6]; that the emergency law had to be rescinded immediately. And after Mubarak resigned and the army took over, the West declared that the army had to hand power over to some civilian government, and had to do so at once. (How high? This high!)

U.S. Vice President Biden made the demand about immediately rescinding the emergency law on February 8. Ahmed Aboul Gheit, who was still the Egyptian Foreign Minister at the time, responded that this was not “helpful,” first of all:

“Because when you speak about prompt, immediate, now – as if you are imposing on a great country like Egypt, a great friend that has always maintained the best of relationship with the United States, you are imposing your will on him.”
[My emphasis. – J.I.] — Reuters, February 9, 2011 [7]

Foreign Minister Gheit also noted that Biden was issuing this demand just a few days after so-called “protesters” attacked high security prisons, freeing thousands of criminals, some of whom were notorious terrorists extradited from other countries back to Egypt:

” ‘When I read it this morning I was really amazed because right now, as we speak, we have 17,000 prisoners loose in the streets out of jails that have been destroyed. How can you ask me to sort of disband that emergency law while I’m in difficulty?’ he said. ‘Give me time, allow me to have control to stabilize the nation, to stabilize the state and then we would look into the issue.’ ”
Reuters, February 9, 2011 (See footnote [7])

On February 21, U.K. Prime Minister Cameron went to Egypt. Explaining his visit, Cameron told the BBC:

“This is a great opportunity for us to go and talk to those currently running Egypt to make sure this really is a genuine transition from military rule to civilian rule.”
[My emphasis. – J.I.] — BBC News, February 21, 2011 [8]

Keeping in mind that Egypt instituted military rule in the first place precisely because of pressure – orders really – from Obama, Cameron and Germany’s Merkel that Mubarak resign, is Emperor’s Clothes the only public voice to point out that by saying he wants “to make sure this really is a genuine transition,” Cameron acted exactly like a corporate CEO laying down the law during a visit to a difficult company branch in the provinces?  That is, the U.K. Prime Minister’s behavior only makes sense if his relation to Egypt is colonial.  (If the relationship were not colonial, the Egyptian military would have put the always presumptuous Mr. Cameron on a plane back to London and publicly told him, “When we need your advice, we’ll be sure to call.”)

None of the media showed signs of noticing either a) the reinstatement of colonial rule in Egypt or b) the stark contrast between the institution of colonial rule in Egypt (in the olden days of indirect rule, British Prime Ministers did not strut into Cairo to deliver their ultimatums in person; but then these are modern times) and the West’s refusal to take any action regarding horrific repression in Iran in 2009, a refusal ironically justified on the grounds that the West (that would be the U.S. and the U.K.) has a history of colonial intervention in Iran.

And it is not only as regards the refusal to discuss fairly sophisticated questions (blatant colonialism justified by reference to democracy rather than, as in the old days, to civilization so-called; stark difference between attitudes towards Iran in 2009 and Egypt in 2011) that the media has acted as public relations agency for U.S., U.K. and German policy.  On a very basic level, in its day to day reporting and discussion of events, the media has functioned like the Ministry of Truth in the book 1984, skewing and even lying about the news and then ‘forgetting’ its own distorted reports if and when they have become inconvenient for Western leaders.

This is a most serious charge, so let me document it at once with an important example: the media’s handling of Secretary of State Clinton’s statement about the Egyptian crisis, issued in the form of a State Department press release on February 2, 2011:

“Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called Egyptian Vice President Omar Soliman today to convey that today’s violence was a shocking development after many days of consistently peaceful demonstrations. […] Secretary Clinton also underscored the important role that the Egyptian Armed Forces have played in exercising restraint in the face of peaceful demonstrations […]” [9]

As I shall prove later (perhaps contrary to widespread perception) Ms. Clinton’s statement included a world-changing lie and at the same time suborned treason.

To help us understand the character and far-reaching significance of Clinton’s statement and the media’s response, we must examine media coverage of Egypt during the week that preceded her statement, specifically media coverage dealing with violence.

Let’s start with a Friday, January 28 article published on the website of WFXT-TV, the Fox TV station in Boston. The article has no byline other than a note that “The Associated Press contributed to this report.” So, Fox/Associated Press. The headline reads:

“Internet, Phones Down as Egypt Braces for ‘Day of Rage’ ”
[10]

The first paragraph begins:

“The Internet and cell-phone data service appeared to be cut across Egypt on Friday as authorities braced for demonstrations […]”
ibid.

This sets the tone for the first two thirds of the article, which focuses on a supposed government buildup in preparation for a supposed crackdown on demonstrations predicted to take place Friday, January 28.  We are told that “truckloads of riot police and armored cars started moving” into Cairo Friday; of supposed preemptive arrests of Muslim Brotherhood members; of the shutting down of the Internet. Fox gives us paragraph after paragraph about this supposed escalation, including measures the government might take or is rumored to be taking, going so far as to tell us early in the article (paragraph four) that:

“Unconfirmed reports circulated early Friday on Twitter that police were splashing gas around key squares ready to set them alight when protesters approached.”
ibid.

We can be sure that these “unconfirmed reports” were in fact fabricated rumors – whether circulated by somebody’s propaganda bureau on Twitter or made up by Fox or Associated Press I don’t know – because in no subsequent news report have we been told anything about police lighting anything on fire.  Yet neither have we read any retraction of this rumor-mongering by Fox and/or Associated Press. It reminds one of that line from the Maltese Falcon: “Facts?  What facts?”

After 15 paragraphs of repetitious descriptions of government escalations, real or imagined, all taking place on Friday, those of us who have not yet stopped reading are told:

[Excerpt from WFXT-TV starts here]

Violence escalated on Thursday at protests outside the capital. In the flashpoint city of Suez, along the strategic Suez Canal, protesters torched a fire station and looted weapons that they then turned on police. The Interior Ministry said in a statement that more than 90 police officers were injured in those clashes. There were no immediate figures on the number of injured protesters.

In the northern Sinai area of Sheik Zuweid, several hundred Bedouins and police exchanged gunfire, killing a 17-year-old. About 300 protesters surrounded a police station from rooftops of nearby buildings and fired two rocket-propelled grenades at it, damaging the walls.
[My emphasis – J.I.] — See footnote [10]

[Excerpt from WFXT-TV ends here]

Calling people who burn down fire stations and steal weapons with which they attack police, or who commandeer rooftops and fire rocket-propelled grenades at police stations (and where did they get rocket-propelled grenades?  Certainly not from a fire station!) – calling such people “protesters” (a term once used for those of us who non-violently took over the Harvard administration building in 1969 to protest the Vietnam war and anti-working class university expansion) causes these paragraphs to read like parody, an effect compounded by the article’s structure.  Here we have a report whose headline and first two thirds focus on government actions (turning off cell phone and internet service, arrests, stationing of troops), and then, buried way down towards the end, Fox casually mentions that, oh yes, “protesters” are conducting anti-government attacks on a military scale. (And now the weather.)

The anti-government military attacks are described as occurring Thursday night, but in the first two thirds of the article Fox/Associated Press tells us at great length about a supposed government escalation Friday morning and afternoon.

The honest way to write this article would have been a) first to describe the violent attacks of Thursday night, which, based on other media reports (about which more later), were widespread, and which, given their character, had to involve a significant force of terrorists from the outside (e.g., Hamas), or paramilitaries or seditious military forces from within, or some combination thereof, and b) only then describe the supposed government actions on Friday, which were manifestly a response (surprisingly restrained) to what happened the night before.

By turning this obvious structure upside down, by spending 15 paragraphs on the Friday responses and only then mentioning the Thursday night provocationsFox/Associated Press emotionally conditions us against this supposedly repressive big bully of a government, so that by the time we get to paragraph 16 we are primed to greet reports of anti-government violence on Thursday as a justified if not welcome counterattack to the repressive actions on Friday!  This absurd parody of a structure has manipulated us into viewing the government’s defensive acts as aggression warranting the violence to which the government was in fact responding with surprising restraint.

To put it another way, Fox/Associated Press takes news and rumors about government actions, which actions would be strong and perhaps even excessive if the government were responding to ordinary protests, and uses that news coverage (real and imaginary) to disguise the fact that Egypt was undergoing widespread insurrection and/or terrorist attack, without actually eliminating all news of that attack. Quite a performance.

This pattern of distortion, calculated to create Western popular support for the “protesters” by a) presenting military-scale attacks as a reasonable response to government actions, even if said attacks have preceded those actions, and b) misrepresenting or avoiding discussion of the politics of said attacks – this pattern of distortion was typical of the media as a whole, so that to get even a minimal and admittedly sketchy view of the extent of the terror/insurrection and begin to grasp its real politics – and thereby to grasp the special importance of Hillary Clinton’s February 2 lie – we must critically examine many examples of Western coverage of the “protesters'” military-scale attacks from January 27 to 31.

This we shall do in an upcoming article, tentatively entitled “Lies, Damn Lies, and Pictures.”

Jared Israel
Emperor’s Clothes
March 4, 2011

===========================================

Footnotes & Further Reading

===========================================

[1] “Cairo Street Debate: When Mubarak Foes and Backers Clash,” by Rania Abouzeid / Cairo, Time, Monday, Jan. 31, 2011, at http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2045278,00.html
or http://snipurl.com/20wvng

[2] Western readers are of course at a disadvantage reading the two guest editorials (“op eds”) that the New York Times has published by leading Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood figures, because how is a non-Egyptian to know if they are telling the truth?  On the one hand, one would like to believe the Brotherhood really does want peace, tolerance and democracy.  On other hand, if they don’t, it is obviously in their interest to lie.

One way to determine if the Brotherhood’s claims can be trusted is to test one important assertion whose truth can be easily evaluated.  If that claim is true, the rest may be true. If that claim is false, how can one trust any of the rest?

I take a key claim from Muslim Brotherhood leader Essam El-Errian’s op ed and test it against the historical record in my article, “Fact-checking the Muslim Brotherhood: What the Times Didn’t Do,” at http://tenc.net/facts.htm

The Brotherhood op eds are:

“What the Muslim Brothers Want,” by Essam El-Errian, The New York Times, February 9, 2011, at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/10/opinion/10erian.html

“Whither the Muslim Brotherhood?” by Tariq Ramadan, The New York Times, February 8, 2011, at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/09…ll

[3] Philip J. Crowley, Assistant Secretary of State, Daily Press Briefing, Washington, DC, February 2, 2011
http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2011/02/155821.htm

[4] During the May 21, 2010 White House Press Briefing dealing with BP and the Gulf, the reporters asked Mr. Gibbs, ‘Why doesn’t the government remove BP from control?’ Mr. Gibbs was quite shocked at the idea:

Q If BP is not accomplishing the task, why doesn’t the federal government come in and take over and get the job done?

Q So that they can

Q Federalize it — can you just federalize it?

MR. GIBBS: No.

Q Well, why?

MR. GIBBS: Well, we’re — let me just — I also want to address Jake’s question. BP is working — and I would refer you to BP on the actual efforts that they’re undertaking and they will undertake as the course of this weekend — different ideas on how to stop the leak both out of the pipe, which they’ve done through the insertion tube, as well as what’s going on in the riser.

I would say relating to some of the earlier questioning, we’ve asked them to provide more public data on air and water quality, and we asked them 10 days ago and reiterated in a letter yesterday to provide video footage of what’s happening 5,000 feet underneath the sea —

Q Why didn’t you order them to do that rather than ask them?

MR. GIBBS: Because it’s — you can’t do that from a private company. We — the information — first of all, the —

So: one can tell the president of a country of 80 million people that he must resign yesterday because a small minority is holding demonstrations, but one cannot tell a company that has destroyed the northern Gulf of Mexico to put a video camera in the water.  See discussion of this and related revelations in “The Great White House Press Corps Semi-Rebellion,” Research and commentary by Jared Israel, Legal research and editing by Samantha Criscione, The Emperor’s New Clothes (TENC), July 24, 2010, at
http://tenc.net/briefing.htm

The above article includes proof that when the Obama administration said the Oil Pollution Act requires that BP be put in charge of the disaster recovery, they were lying, plain and simple.

[5] The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, 2/2/2011, James S Brady Press Briefing Room, 1:13 P.M. EST, at
http://whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/02/02/press-brie…

or http://snipurl.com/20ugce

[6] See Art. 5 of the Egyptian Constitution :

” […] The citizens have the right to form political parties according to the law and no political activity shall be exercised or political parties shall be formed on the basis of religion or on discrimination due to gender or race.”
http://www.cabinet.gov.eg/AboutEgypt/Egyptian_cons…

Religious political parties had been banned  in Egypt since the introduction of the Political Parties Law 40 (Art. 4) in 1977 by then President Sadat.
See English translation at
http://aceproject.org/ero-en/…EG/Law No. 40 of 1977 – eng…

Under Mubarak the ban was anchored in the constitution through the introduction of amendments approved by a referendum in 2007.
See http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5309.htm#political

[7] “Egyptian minister flatly rejects Biden’s advice,” Reuters, editing by Vicki Allen, Washington, Wednesday February 9, 2011, 2:27pm EST, at
http://reuters.com/article/2011/02/09/us-egypt-usa…
or http://snipurl.com/20uah6

[8] “David Cameron hails ‘opportunity’ on Egypt visit,” BBC News, February 21, 2011, last updated 17:35 GMT, at
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12523572

[9] “Secretary Clinton’s Call to Egyptian Vice President Omar Soliman,”
Media Note, Office of the Spokesman, Washington, DC, February 2, 2011
http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2011/02/155898.htm

[10] “Internet, Phones Down as Egypt Braces for ‘Day of Rage’,” My Fox Boston, January 28, 2011
http://myfoxboston.com…-Egypt-Braces-for-Day-of-Rage_18152948

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