Morsi’s coup in Egypt: Obama’s silence, America’s shame

See David Ignatius, “Our man in Cairo,” Washington Post, December 7, 2012 (5:01 p.m.)

Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood have executed a coup d’etat in Egypt, abrogating the rule of law and seeking to impose an Islamist constitution drafted in illegitimacy. The draft’s constitutionality is highly suspect in view of Morsi’s November 22 “constitutional decree” assuming dictatorial powers, and the Nazi “brown shirt” tactics used by Muslim Brotherhood thugs last Sunday to intimidate and threaten the judges of the Constitutional Court, thereby preventing them from meeting to reach a decision on the constitutionality of the constituent assembly and the drafting process for the draft constitution.

Morsi has been utterly unyielding. Instead of olive branches, he has offered only twigs to mollify the opposition, twigs which do not in any sense put the consolidation of the Islamist dictatorship of the Brotherhood and its religious allies into doubt.

Morsi was known as “the enforcer” of internal discipline within the Brotherhood before running for president. Now he seeks to play the role of “the enforcer” for all of Egypt.

Against this background, the White House and the State Department have issued the most cautious of statements, never mentioning human rights or the rule of law.

David Ignatius notes that, “Through this upheaval, the Obama administration has been oddly restrained. After the power grab, State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said: ‘We call for calm and encourage all parties to work together and call for all Egyptians to resolve their differences over these important issues peacefully and through democratic dialogue.’ Not exactly a thundering denunciation.” (“Our Man in Cairo,” above.)

Yesterday Obama called Morsi, not to insist on a return to the rule of law or full guarantees in the constitution for internationally protected human rights, but to state to the Egyptian president that the violence of Thursday night which claimed at least seven lives was “unacceptable”. This was good as far as it went, since much of the violence appears to have been initiated by Brotherhood demonstrators. But it did not speak to the underlying issues.

At once Obama speaks like the king of the world in declaring street violence “unacceptable” to him, while at the same time failing to mention that the United States stands for the rule of law and wishes to see it restored in Egypt.

Obama’s silence on the issue that is tearing Egypt apart–whether the country will be governed by the rule of law and a constitution that provides safeguards for human rights, the separation of powers, and the principle of judicial review–is inexcusable.

If Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist allies succeed in establishing an Islamic dictatorship in Egypt–which the last two weeks have clearly revealed to be their goal, the responsibility of Obama and the leaders of other democratic countries throughout the world will be overwhelming.

The president could threaten to withhold military aid of $1.5 billion per year.  He could threaten to block a $4.8 billion standby loan agreement between Egypt and the IMF.

Instead, in defense of the principles of democracy and the protection of human rights for which the United States has stood throughout its history, Obama has said nothing. Absolutely nothing. Radio silence. His silence shatters the eardrums, throughout the world.

Today, on December 7, 2012,  71 years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Obama by his silence shames America and its devotion to democracy, and dishonors the memory of those who fought and died to defeat fascism in World War II (1941-1945).  America is a country which should never pull its punches in standing up for its deepest values, democracy and human rights.

It is a day of shame for the United States, as brave men and women in Egypt fight to defend their revolution and establish the democracy which it promised, while Obama, setting an example for the world, looks on passively, in deafening silence.

Somewhere, somehow, there must be leaders and nations who are willing to speak up to support the defenders of democracy in Egypt. In the United States, Congressmen and Senators should speak out loudly so that the Egyptian armed forces can hear the message that the $1.5 billion of military assistance the U.S. gives to Egypt each year, will not be given to the military of an Islamist dictatorship. Hearings on this aid should be immediately scheduled and held. If this military aid and their relationship with the United States is important to the Egyptian military, they must act to defend democracy and the rule of law. Otherwise they will lose their aid and their support from the United States. That should be the message.

In Europe, leaders of the European Union and its member states should similarly speak out for democracy and international human rights, and let it be known that they will not provide economic assistance to a dictatorship which has abrogated the rule of law.

If President Obama does not want to go down in history as the Democratic president who lost Egypt, who stood by silently when his leadership might have made a difference, he needs to speak out now, loudly and clearly, in defense of human rights and the rule of law in Egypt. Further, his words must have consequences if they are ignored.

Otherwise, he will be known in history as the President who lost Egypt to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic dictatorship they and their Salafist allies seek to consolidate. He will be remembered as the President who did nothing when history swayed in the balance, for betraying those fighting for democracy and the rule of law in Egypt, and for losing the most decisive battle in the Middle East for at least the next generation.

Obama is losing Egypt.

Will he speak out and take forceful action? His past suggests the likelihood of continued passivity in the face of looming disaster.

But we would always like to be surprised, and to see him for once not “driving from behind”, from the back seat, but acting like the leader of the free world.

The Trenchant Observer

See also the following articles by The Trenchant Observer:

Is Obama losing Egypt?
December 6, 2012

Morsi’s Putsch: Battle lines are drawn—Details in draft constitution reveal Muslim Brotherhood’s strategy to seize all power in Egypt, as democrats defend the rule of law December 2, 2012

Morsi’s Coup d’Etat and Rushed Draft Constiution for Egypt (with latest English translation)
December 1, 2012

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Coup d’Etat in Egypt; William Butler Yeats and “The Second Coming”
November 28, 2012

“L’État, c’est moi”—Mohamed Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood launch coup d’état in Egypt
November 27, 2012