The Spine

“For The First Time I’ve Not Been Asked About Human Rights:” Auguries From Obama’s Egypt.

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A vivid report by Ashraf Khalil in Friday’s Wall Street Journal and an AP dispatch on the same day evoke a moribund Egyptian politics coming to life because of the death of a 28-year old in Alexandria. The murderand it was a murder!was committed by the police. Out in the open or, to be precise, down the alley from an internet cafe out of which Khaled Saieed was dragged. Saieed’s face was shown on web sites, and the image was not pretty: a battered face and broken teeth. The police attributed his death to resisting arrest. Of course.

 

Not surprisingly:

‘We are all afraid for our children. And we should be afraid because they are in danger,’ shouted Maha Ibrahim, a young Alexandria mother who wears the full face veil known as the niqab. ‘We are afraid of own government.’

Indeed, they are afraid. Everybody knows it. Moreover, it is not only the Muslim Brothers who are fearful, although they would set up their own clerical dictatorship if they were to come to power. There is a civil Egypt and, many decades ago, there was even a liberally inclined Egypt. But it has long-since been smothered.

The Egyptian circumstance is so degraded that one is forced to look upon Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, as a savior for the body-politic which aspires to lead. Alas, he is one of those in the Cairo elite who cannot quite embrace what Anwar Sadat embraced, which is a quotidian peace with Israel. And before you get to think that ElBaradei is a savior for the Middle East you should know that he played monkey business with the Iranians over their nuclear ambitions, just another expression of Arab cynicism about the Iranians.

I’ve gone back to read President Obama’s address last June at Cairo University. (And, yes, I may be obsessed with this speech: historically dishonest, morally skewed, personally indulgent.) Curiously, there was not a word of solidarity for even the most civilized dissidents. Not a hint of criticism of Hosni Mubarak, who’s been the president of Egypt for just as shade under 30 years. It was as if not Obama but Brent Scowcroft was doing the speaking, the Scowcroft who has been on so many blue-ribbon national commissions that one is almost obliged to distrust him.

Who will be the successor? ElBaradei is not a candidate, at least not yet.

But Gamal Mubarak, the current president’s 46-year-old son, is being groomed for the succession. That is, the country is being groomed for his succession. I think the last time Gamal visited the U.S. was just a bit more than a year ago. He spent a decent amount of time in Washington seeing just the appropriate personages the next president of Egypt should see. And, then, he came to New York. Where he confided to a small group of foreign policy experts that he had never before been to Washington “when I wasn’t deluged with questions about the human rights situation in Egypt.” Even he, the heir to the secular thronean arrangement similar to those in Syria and Libya, two other more than a bit nutsy Arab revolutionary republicswas stunned.

It is we Americans who should be stunned by the arrogant complacency of our president to the indifference to human rights of one of our closest allies.

P.S.: Please look back to Obama’s Cairo speech. There is a curious paragraph in which the president again finds fault with America, and finds fault on a pathetically trivial issue, if it actually is a an issue at all.

In the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That’s why I am committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.

What in God’s name was the president talking about?

Indeed, it was his administration that appealed a 9th Circuit Court judgment putting down a Patriot Act provision criminalizing “material support”meaning especially financial support for foreign terrorist organizations. Ruling 6-3, the Supreme Court overruled the appellate bench, As Juan Zarate, my friend and former student who was President Bush’s deputy national security adviser, explained, the court

has conceded that the Congress and the executive have the ability to, in essence, wall off those terrorist organizations so designated, and have the ability to restrict the providing of support of any sort to those groups.

Maybe someone in the president’s wide (but ever narrowing) circle can tell us how genuine Muslim charitable giving was ever impeded by the Internal Revenue Service. Or is this another instance of Islamic paranoia?

My only qualm about the correctness of the opinion written by the Chief Justice is that Stephen Breyer, the member of the Supreme Court I admire the most, wrote the dissent.  

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