As things fall apart By William Bowles

4 February, 2011 — Strategic Culture Foundation

If it wasn’t such a tragedy the headlines in the corporate media would be truly laughable! Led of course, by the Washington Post and the New York Times, the duel cheerleaders for US corporate capital, where we read the following titled ‘Egypt has Obama cautiously shifting world view on democracy’:

“Shortly after taking office, President Obama traveled to Cairo to declare a new day in U.S. relations with the Muslim world – saying there was “no straight line” to building democratic societies in the Middle East.

“The June 2009 address was in part intended to show a clean break from a George W. Bush-era “freedom agenda” of promoting electoral democracies across the region. Yet Obama now finds himself forced to move much closer to that world view as he escalates pressure on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to make immediate changes.” — Washington Post, 4 February, 2011

Is this WP-speak for yet another invasion? Well why not? It’s the only thing the US is any good at, invading that is and it’s certainly well-stocked for it. But for the moment it’s ‘regime change’ rebranded as a ‘soft’, ‘orderly’ or “meaningful transition” just in case the ‘radicals’ take over. But what else can an empire do when things start falling apart?

When Egypt exploded on January 28 it’s worth remembering that the USG was loathe to say anything at all beyond hypocritical calls to avoid violence. Loathe to commit itself because it wanted to wait and see if the insurrection would blow over or exhaust itself but also wary that following events in Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen et al, a violent crackdown by the state might not be the best approach to the crisis.

Thus the USG needed time to gird its loins so-to-speak and talk turkey to the military-state apparatus that runs Egypt, essentially telling them to hold off, let the security apparatus take care of it for now (even equipping military intelligence with security police ids).

It’s a fragile situation. The Egyptian Army is largely conscript. Can it be relied on? On the surface at least, the grunts on the ground seem favourably disposed to the insurrection but who knows and note that the troops garrisoned in Tahrir Square have been replaced by professional soldiers (Channel 4 News, 4 February). (One also notes how ‘handily’ ElBaradei was inserted into the crisis as the alternative right at the beginning, having been a loyal servant of the US as head of the IAEA even as not a single person in Egypt has ever heard of the guy. Are we really to believe that ElBaradei saw what was going on and thought, ‘Damn, this is serious, I better jump on a plane and head for home and take charge’?)

“The Associated Press reports that roughly 40 percent of Egyptians struggle along at the World Bank-set poverty level of under $2 per day. Analysts estimate that food price inflation in Egypt is currently at an unsustainable 17 percent yearly. In poorer countries, as much as 60 to 80 percent of people’s incomes go for food, compared to just 10 to 20 percent in industrial countries. An increase of a dollar or so in the cost of a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread for Americans can mean starvation for people in Egypt and other poor countries.” — ‘Rising Food Prices and the Egyptian Tinderbox‘ By Ellen Brown

But as it became clear that Western policies were starving 80 million Egyptians as well as financing the police state they all lived in to the tune of $1.5 billion a year, had really pissed the Egyptian people right off:

“[US] spokesman Robert Gibbs…reiterated Obama’s public call Tuesday evening, communicated directly to Mubarak in a telephone call, that “the time for a transition has come, and that time is now.” — Washington Post, 2 February, 2011

Are you not amazed by the total synchronicity that exists between the media and the political class? The idea that the US has absolutely no business sticking its nose into other country’s affairs has been airbrushed out of the situation completely. Elsewhere of course the real reason will be articulated, namely ‘US strategic interests’ but the two will never be conjoined in what passes for public discourse on that ever-changing concept called ‘democracy’.

It’s this that makes the corporate media so lethal as it slithers along massaging facts to fit the objectives, but let the security state ‘think-tank’ Stratfor spell it out for us:

“As Egypt, a U.S. ally and the Middle East’s largest Arab state, experienced its most extensive protest demonstrations in 34 years, the United States called on the Mubarak government to engage in democratic reforms. But reforms may bring political forces to power that are not in line with U.S. strategic interests. — ‘The Strategic Implications of Instability in Egypt‘ January 27, 2011 (subscription needed but this single para says it all really)

All the talk of ‘spreading democracy’ was a crock of shit to begin with in the BushWackWashObama world of lies but at least the totally unexpected shift in fortunes that has seen the reemergence of the ‘domino’ theory of global politics as one country after another rises up out sheer desperation, exposes the lie about ‘spreading democracy’. It’s a real dilemma for the US. Who would have expected the ‘rag-heads’ to rise up? Why, it’s outlandish! How ungrateful after thirty years of US largesse.

And herein lies the sleight-of-hand played out by the media mavens in the Post’s editorial department in the way it handles the desperate state of US foreign policy based as it is on a cluster of interlocking client states each with its compradore class paid to do its bidding now tumbling down around its ears. And how neatly the WP slides from Bush to Obama without breaking its stride:

“The June 2009 address was in part intended to show a clean break from a George W. Bush-era “freedom agenda” of promoting electoral democracies across the region. Yet Obama now finds himself forced to move much closer to that world view as he escalates pressure on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to make immediate changes.”

It’s an admission that there is no difference at all between Bush and Obama’s policies, merely how it’s articulated to the public.

And now on to the NYT’s (identical) take on the problem of selling a ‘soft transition’ to a public totally fed up with never-ending war titled, ‘Europeans Struggle for Consistency on Egypt’:

“Comments emerging from a summit meeting of European Union leaders reflected the dilemma confronted by nations, hesitating between a desire to promote democracy in the Middle East and a fear that Mr. Mubarak’s government could be replaced by a leadership more hostile to Western interests.


“On Thursday, Mr. Cameron and Mr. Berlusconi had agreed to a declaration that echoed calls from President Obama for an immediate transition to start in Egypt. That statement was also signed by President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero of Spain.

“Only a quick and orderly transition to a broad-based government will make it possible to overcome the challenges Egypt is now facing,” the declaration said, adding that the “transition process must start now.” — New York Times, 4 February, 2011

I’ll say it’s a dilemma! How do you promote ‘democracy’ when protecting ‘strategic interests’ comes first? Clearly, the rush to promote an ‘orderly’, ‘soft’, ‘meaningful’ and ‘broad-based’ transition to ‘democracy’ reflects the desperate nature of the Empire. ‘Do it now Mubarak, make that ‘transition’ before it’s too late and we have come and do it for you!’

The ‘dilemma’ of course has been created by their own propaganda and the global media network used to distribute it (and explains why no US viewer can see Al Jazeera’s round-the-clock coverage of the insurrection).

Even il piccolo duci Berlusconi had to sign the declaration though he stated at the meeting:

“He said he hoped there could be “in Egypt a transition towards a more democratic system, without a rupture, with a president like Mubarak who, for all the West starting with the United States, has always been considered a wise man and a point of reference.”” (ibid)

It’s as I read somewhere an ‘1848 moment’ but don’t forget that ‘1848, Year of Revolutions‘ failed. The thing about ‘1848 moments’ is that they cannot be predicted but as Lenin wisely observed, it’s knowing when the right time has arrived as you only get one chance.

In Egypt as elsewhere, the insurrection was triggered by a confluence of events whose timing could not be predicted, with the initial spark the murder by the security police of an anti-government demonstrator. A working class ‘Sarejevo moment’ no doubt for those of you familiar with the excuse used to launch WWI.

“Stephanie O’Sullivan, the C.I.A. official, responded that the agency had been tracking instability in Egypt for some time and had concluded that the government in Cairo was in an “untenable” situation. But, Ms. O’Sullivan said, “we didn’t know what the triggering mechanism would be.”” — ‘White House and Egypt Discuss Plan for Mubarak’s Exit’, The New York Times, 4 February, 2011

The US knew something was brewing as earlier in January:

“Connecticut National Guard Detachment 2, Company I, 185th Aviation Regiment of Groton has mobilized and will deploy to the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt, to support the Multinational Force and Observers.

“The unit left Connecticut Jan. 15 for Fort Benning, Ga., for further training and validation. The unit operates C-23C Sherpa aircraft and has deployed three times in the last seven years in support of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The unit will provide an on-demand aviation asset to the Multinational Force and Observers commander to support its mission of supervising the security provisions of the Egypt/ Israel Peace Treaty. — ‘Groton Guard detachment is heading to Egypt’, The Day, 24 January, 2011

It’s a really difficult situation for the Empire. If it appears that any alleged change in Egypt is engineered by the US, it will be rejected by the Egyptian masses. Thus any ‘orderly transition’ has to have all the outward appearance of an indigenous solution. This is how the NYT put it:

“The Obama administration is discussing with Egyptian officials a proposal for President Hosni Mubarak to resign immediately and turn over power to a transitional government headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman with the support of the Egyptian military, administration officials and Arab diplomats said Thursday.


“They cautioned that the outcome depended on several factors, not least Egypt’s own constitutional protocols and the mood of the protesters on the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities.” (my emph. ibid)

Clearly, the US choice is Sulieman who has been a loyal servant of US capital for decades, enthusiastically doing its dirty work for them:

“Each rendition was authorized at the very top levels of both governments….The long-serving chief of the Egyptian central intelligence agency, Omar Suleiman, negotiated directly with top Agency officials. [Former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt] Walker described the Egyptian counterpart, Suleiman, as “very bright, very realistic,” adding that he was cognizant that there was a downside to “some of the negative things that the Egyptians engaged in, of torture and so on. But he was not squeamish, by the way”. (Jane Mayer, The Dark Side pp. 113).


“Habib was interrogated by the country’s Intelligence Director, General Omar Suleiman…. Suleiman took a personal interest in anyone suspected of links with Al Qaeda. As Habib had visited Afghanistan shortly before 9/11, he was under suspicion. Habib was repeatedly zapped with high-voltage electricity, immersed in water up to his nostrils, beaten, his fingers were broken and he was hung from metal hooks.” — ‘The Torture Career of Mu-Barak New Soon-to-be-Ex Vice President’ by Stephen Soldarz, Counterpunch

But you will look in vain in the corporate media for any references to Sulieman’s dirty past. Channel 4 News on 4 February mentioned in passing, that for some Sulieman “might be tainted” but neglected to mention that tainted was newsspeak for torture.

And not surprisingly, a search of the BBC News Website revealed what the BBC misleadingly calls a “Profile” of Sulieman with not a mention of his propensity for torturing people. Far from it, it’s a glowing tribute to the man! Here’s just a sample:

“While few Egyptians know many personal details about the former intelligence chief, he has gained an international reputation as a mediator between Israel and the Palestinians and between rival Palestinian factions.


“General Suleiman has been a frequent visitor to the United States.


“His brilliant military career, taking part in the 1962 Yemen War and the Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1972, means that he is widely supported in the armed services, the most powerful institution in Egypt.

Blah, blah… In all there five stories on the BBC website in which his name appears and not a single one refers to this monster’s torturing past. The BBC does its best to present him as a professional and honourable man who just trying to do the ‘right thing’. It’s outrageous!

There are two agendas here: on the one hand real actions have to be taken in order to maintain control and on the other, the domestic audience has to be placated. Juggling these two competing agendas takes a lot of doing and doing it over and over again is the proven method.

4 thoughts on “As things fall apart By William Bowles

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