A funny thing happened this week in the midst of America’s 10 Year War to Bring Democracy to the Middle East. Inhabitants of an actual Middle Eastern dictatorship took to the streets, yearning to breathe free and all that stuff.
In Egypt, which has been ruled under “Emergency Law” since 1967, no one runs against President Hosni Mubarak, the rule of law is what Mubarak says it is, the Egyptian “parliament” exists to do Mubarak’s bidding, all media is state controlled, and the government has the right to arrest anyone it wishes to, for any period of time, for virtually no reason.
The response to the uprising in the US was swift, coherent, and proactive. President Obama announced that the US was in total solidarity with the protesters, who merely desired basic human rights and a truly representative government. Former President George W. Bush and former VP Dick Cheney descended on the network news shows, declaring a new Egyptian front in the War on Terrorism and characterizing the Egyptian uprisings as vindication of their efforts to gain freedom for all citizens of the Middle East. War hawks in the US Congress—patriots like Joe Leiberman who have been calling for all-out first-strike war against Iran for a decade—immediately called for sanctions against Egypt’s totalitarian rulers and demanded that the US military be put on full alert to intervene on behalf of the besieged protesters.
Ha, ha! No, wait. Just kidding.
In fact, the response of the US government—a pained silence, followed by a limp plea for order to be restored on all sides—tells you all you need to know about America’s real intentions in the region. On Thursday, laughable Vice President Joe Biden insisted on PBS’s NewsHour that Mubarak should not be forced to step down, that the protestors were “middle class folks” looking for “a little more access and a little more opportunity,” and that Mubarak was a US ally and “very responsible.” “I would not refer to him as a dictator,” Biden concluded.
Tell that to the estimated 17,000 to 30,000 Egyptians currently imprisoned for speaking their minds about Mubarak’s rule. See, Hosni Mubarak, ruler of Egypt for over 30 years, is our iron-fisted totalitarian friend. He’s not like those bad dictators in Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. Mubarak—like Saddam Hussein, back when he was our hugging buddy—has always known how to play by the rules. Make nice with the oil companies. Look the other way when Israel bulldozes villages and pens up 1.5 million people like human cattle. Buy lots and lots of US-manufactured weaponry on a yearly basis. Pay your bills on time. Retain and entertain a lot of US lobbyists in Washington to make sure your friendly intentions are well known to the likes of Senator Leiberman.
The business of America is business, and war is business, and business is good. “Democracy” is the gaily colored Christmas paper wrapping the hammer that the US uses on dictatorships that step out of line. Membership in the Axis of Evil usually means you’ve done something to piss off the American Chamber of Commerce. Thus, no one in Congress ever champions democracy for Saudi Arabia (an absolutist monarchy) despite the fact that virtually all the 9-11 hijackers were Saudis, many of whom were radicalized at Saudi-financed madrasahs. In the hours after 9-11, the US government swiftly rounded up all the members of the highly influential Bin Laden family then vacationing in the US, put them on planes, and gave them a military escort out of the US and back to Saudi Arabia. At the time, the Bin Ladens had US airspace virtually to themselves, as every US airport was still in security lockdown. The Economist’s 2010 Democracy Index lists Saudi Arabia as the 7th most repressive and authoritarian regime in the world.
Back in the USA, curmudgeonly old lefties with those anti-war “It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the air force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber” bumper stickers on their Volvos have been waiting decades for their Democratic representatives to hobble the war machine. But it never happens. The defense budget grows unabated no matter who’s in the White House, no matter who controls either branch of Congress. President Obama loves the Afghan war even more than his predecessor, despite having much less “success” of any kind to point to. As for Iraq, well, we’re never leaving Iraq. Not until we do so at gunpoint, fleeing to the last departing helicopters hovering over the roofs of Baghdad as the oil begins to run out in 2025.
Meanwhile, opposition to the military industrial complex is being heard from a strange new quarter. Incoming Tea Party House members on the far fringe right hate all kinds of government spending, and they don’t distinguish between “good” spending ($250 million F-22 fighter planes that even the Pentagon insists it doesn’t need or want) and “bad” spending (decent affordable healthcare for all Americans). They’re big on George Washington’s warning to “avoid foreign entanglements” and John Quincy Adams’s utopian notion that the US “goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” This philosophy, unfortunately, puts establishment Republicans (and Democrats, too) in a bit of a bind. They’re looking to cut some stuff, and the budget for endless war, for them, is on the table. Our new freshman legislators on the right apparently haven’t heard the news about war and business.
To correct this situation, Howard P. McKeon, Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has been meeting, one-on-one, with his new Tea Party colleagues, to explain the realities of the defense budget to them.
One suspects that these “discussions” can be roughly summed up as follows: “Hi! Welcome to Congress! Love your three-cornered hat! If you’d like to keep your seat here for any length of time, we suggest that you sit down, shut up, keep your hands to yourself, eat your slice of the pie, and grin while you’re doing it.”