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The US: Error after Error – On the election of Muhammad Mursi to the Presidency of Egypt

Election regulators named Muhammad Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood the winner of Egypt’s first competitive presidential elections, handing the Islamist group a symbolic triumph and a new weapon in its struggle for power with the ruling military council.

In 1979, in the name of the lofty ideals of human rights and with a rare talent for shortsightedness in seeing the future, Jimmy Carter abandoned the Shah of Iran to his fate and paved the road for Khomeini all the way to Teheran, thereby transforming Iran from the most important ally of the US in the Persian Gulf into an Islamic republic of Ayatollahs. Thus, the very blindness of the president who was a fervent believer in human rights brought about the execution of tens of thousands and the exile of hundreds of thousands.

In 1991, in the name of the same sublime democratic values and with the encouragement of the West, Algeria, too, decided to play at democracy. The Algerian government declared elections; but when the Front for Islamic Salvation (FIS) won them, the election results were tossed in the garbage, hurling the government into a ten-year bloodbath that claimed some 100,000 victims. Even the “Democratic experiment” led by the US in Afghanistan and Iraq can be seen summarized at this point as a scorching failure.

And it goes on, when in 2006, in the service of those same wondrous democratic values and ideas, the Bush government forced democratic elections on Ariel Sharon and the Palestinian Authority. The elections were indeed held, and resulted in Hamas as winner takes all. Since then, the reality in the Gaza Strip is, well – history.

In 2011, armed with that same divine ideal of spreading democracy to all, including to the Levant, Obama had his turn – in the name of ironclad rules and lofty principles that are foreign to the Levant, its inhabitants, and its political-cultural-religious tradition. If human rights and democracy for all are the current government’s guiding light, in the name of what ideal did Obama prostrate himself before the Saudi king, heaping praises upon him and his kingdom? For in that very same kingdom limbs are lopped off in the name of justice; women are oppressed; homosexuals are flogged; and men and women cannot mingle in public. That very same kingdom exports its extremist ideology to the world, and funds and fosters processes of radicalization, and recruits people to the ideology of terrorism, and hosts a fearsome, , and powerfully corrupt regime that makes Mubarak’s pale in comparison.

How ironic that the Saudi regime, which has damaged and continues to directly damage the West – damage ten times greater than any caused by Mubarak’s regime – has the benefit of American support and blind hypocrisy, because of its oil wells. The supply of Saudi oil to the US is a key but cynical component in the relationship between the two countries. To date, the US government has concealed information from the families of those killed on 9/11 regarding Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the development of Al-Qaeda. It has failed to tell them that Al-Qaeda’s infrastructure is being established throughout the world under Saudi auspices, and with funding from Saudi charitable organizations – for purely cynical motives. The US has concealed information it has had for years with intent, refusing to disseminate it for fear of “compromising national security”.

Intelligence experts’ analyses and assessments are coarsely fashioned, if tailor-made to the wishes of those who appointed them, and with no regard for honesty or intellectual and professional integrity. Hence, in a lecture delivered less than a year ago, Obama’s advisor on counter-terrorism, John Brennan (who spent more than a few years in the CIA), stated that “jihad is purification”; “jihad is a sacred struggle, in which the individual purifies himself and his community”; and “Islam has nothing to do with the murder of innocents”. By so stating, Brennan was doing no more than toeing the line drawn some two months earlier by the White House excising the term “militant and extremist Islam”. Similarly, James Clapper, the US Director of National Intelligence (subsuming 16 intelligence organizations), called Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood “an organization that is largely secular, avoids violence, and aspires to social goals and improving the political agenda in Egypt”.

When conservative and fundamentalist powers in the Arab world are alive and kicking; when the slavish devotion in the Arab world to power and violence cuts across all camps and classes; when Arab regimes refuse to relinquish strong-arm tactics and brutality; when the subjugation of women is a daily affair; when religion plays a key role in repressing reform and stifling tolerance; when widespread ignorance makes it difficult to spread liberal and democratic messages; when democracy is perceived to be a desirable goal only by the few; and when hatred of Western culture, which is identified primarily with democracy, is rampant, including among the intelligentsia and leaders of the Arab world – then the chances of a democratic “springtide” for its people, speedily and in our day, is no more than a pipe dream.

At present, it is difficult to say whether the citizens of Egypt elected Muhammad Mursi because of his personality and stunning charisma, or whether because the Muslim Brotherhood was the last organized party left standing in post-revolution Egypt, the only one that could really recruit voters. One way or the other, and no matter how things evolve, democracy will not go forth out of Egypt. The best that Obama can hope for, given the election of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Muhammad Mursi as President of Egypt, is a Middle East less beholden to the US; a regional vacuum that will suck fundamentalism into it; and local regimes that will repeat by rote, day after day, to themselves and to anyone who can hear, what a weak and paltry support is the White House, that pretends to lead the free world.