Back when the Egyptian revolution was at its beginning and before longtime ally Hosni Mubarak had yet been ousted, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) was vocal about stopping U.S. economic and military aid to Egypt if Mubarak did not step down. He said “if [Mubarak] doesn’t leave, there will not be foreign aid; I mean, it’s as simple as that.” He recognized back then that U.S. aid unnecessarily and savagely promotes dictatorship and repression and had for decades.
Ever since Mubarak’s fall, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, who took over interim responsibilities until elections could take place (which did finally occur this week) have been steadfastly supported by the United States. They have failed to live up to almost every promise and reform explicit and implicit in the Egyptian revolution. They’ve drastically increased detentions of peaceful protesters who then are subjected to military trials, they’ve continued harsh crackdowns, and have upheld the repressive Mubarak-era emergency law. All while U.S. money, weapons, and military-to-military cooperation remained unwavering.
Today Leahy wrote a piece in Politico singing the same tune:
As Congress is completing work on the annual foreign assistance funding bill, a key issue now is how to recalibrate the terms of U.S. military aid to Egypt. The answer is clear: We should support the goals advanced by the Egyptian people and accepted by their military leaders.
U.S. military aid to Egypt should be conditioned on the holding of free and fair elections; an end of the abuse of emergency rule; and respect for due process and fundamental freedoms.
…Because Egypt is viewed as a stabilizing force in its region — and one that shared key interests with the U.S. — our aid for decades has supported a government that used repression and corruption to seal its grip on power. Moderate voices were routinely and repeatedly jailed. Political parties were denied the ability to meaningfully organize or participate.
Now the once-revered Egyptian military itself is showing signs of unwillingness to respond to public frustration with what people expected would be a steady path to civilian government and the rule of law.
…It should particularly concern the American people and U.S. policymakers that during the most recent demonstrations in Tahrir Square, tear gas canisters labeled “Made in USA” are becoming an iconic symbol of outrage about America’s role in this sensitive post-Mubarak era. Many are asking: Whose side is Washington on?
Actually, he’s been singing this tune for some time. He is the primary author of what’s called the Leahy Law, enacted in 1997, which prohibits U.S. assistance to foreign military or security forces credibly accused of human rights violations. Problem is, it is utterly ignored by the criminals in Washington who systematically disregard their own laws. Also, the legislation technically applies only to programs funded under the Foreign Operations Act and the Defense Department Appropriations Act and does not apply to drug enforcement and non-Defense Department counterterrorism assistance. These technicalities and along with blatant outlawry on the Hill, have allowed the government to consistently circumvent the law’s injunctions.
But with regards to Leahy’s opening line, that “we should support the goals advanced by the Egyptian people.” Well, I think the answer there is clear. Whenever they’ve been given the chance, Egyptians have decried U.S. assistance and interference in their affairs, not only rejecting aid but articulating how the past four decades of interference has robbed them of peace and individual rights. So…guess that’s settled, eh?
Not exactly. Leahy writes in that piece about how a Senate and a House version of an appropriations bill for aid to Egypt – both instinctively allocating $1.3 billion of Americans’ tax dollars without any question – are different. The House version he says, is the same old supporting dictatorship kind of appropriations bill. The Senate version has conditions. Yeah, sure. Conditions that will receive about as much regard as the Leahy Law has.