Tuesday, April 4, 2017

President El-Sisi Comes to Washington

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi visited the White House yesterday. After visits from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi prince and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman the el-Sisi meeting signals a shift in American policy.

Middle Eastern leaders alienated by President Obama are now happy to have a friend in the White House. They are also happy to have an American president who will join them in the fight against the Muslim Brotherhood and against Iran.

Being as the Muslim Brotherhood has been designated a terrorist organization by Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and given that it is the godfather of Hamas, it found favor with the Obama administration. It favors Shariah Law and all of the horrors that accompany it. When Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi was running for president of Egypt, his voter outreach consisted in sending mobile infirmary vans into the poor neighborhoods of Cairo, the better to allow families to have their daughters genitally mutilated without having to suffer the indignity of taking them to a clinic or a hospital.

When Morsi was elected president the first world leader to visit with him was U. S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Since Hillary’s top personal advisor and close friend Huma Abedin’s family members belong to the Brotherhood or its Sisterhood branch, it made sense. That a stalwart champion of women’s rights could condone and legitimate an organization that practiced systematic misogyny might have surprised some people. It might even have sent a few hypocrisy meters into the danger area. But no one said anything. After all, the election was democratic. And besides, serious people are falling over themselves to see who can appease Islamic terrorism the most.

When President el-Sisi took over Egypt in a military coup and declared war on the Muslim Brotherhood the Obama administration was seriously distressed. It cut off aid to the country for a time and refused to meet with the new president. It refused to take sides against someone who was trying, not only to destroy Islamist terrorism but who also called for a radical reformation of Islam.

The press stood by silently while all this was happening. It did not want to discredit Hillary Clinton and would never cast any doubt on Obama administration policies. The Messiah could not be wrong.

So, now when President el-Sisi comes to the Trump White House, the New York Times has run a story comparing the Egyptian president and the American president… as autocrats and tyrants. Peter Baker and Declan Walsh have written a long and detailed article, filled with specious analogies, making the point that the two leaders, like Trump and Putin are cut from the same cloth. Keep in mind the Times is at war against fascism and Nazism. These come to us from the right. Thus it must align itself with the enemies of these right wing forces, and must do the bidding of revolutionary movements like the Muslim Brotherhood.

Baker and Walsh write:

While his predecessors considered authoritarians like Mr. Sisi to be distasteful and at times shied away from them, Mr. Trump signaled that he sees international relations through a transactional lens. If Egypt can be a partner in the battle against international terrorism, then in Mr. Trump’s calculation, that is more important to the United States than concerns over its brutal suppression of domestic dissent.

Aren’t they really talking about one “predecessor?” Why the mealy mouthed phrase? And note the way they end the paragraph: “brutal suppression of domestic dissent.” We are talking about a terrorist organization that has ordered and carried out murders in Egypt. For the Times, cracking down on them is like cracking down on “dissent.”

No one at the Times much cared that Hillary Clinton provided the imprimatur of the United States to Mohamed Morsi. The Times seems to believe that there is something wrong with Trump’s offering it to el-Sisi:

The picture of the general-turned-president in the White House, hosted by an American leader lavishing praise on him, was the seal of approval he had long craved, the validation of a strongman on the world’s most prominent stage.

Note again the phrasing: “the validation of a strongman.” We are being induced to believe that el-Sisi is some kind of fascist, who must be resisted. Just like Trump himself.

The Times elaborates the point:

The scene provided a powerful counterpoint to Mr. Sisi’s many critics, in Egypt and abroad, who know him as the leader of the military takeover that removed an elected president, oversaw a vicious security operation in which hundreds of protesters were gunned down in the streets of Cairo and has cemented his authority by filling prisons with his opponents while strangling the free press.

Again, the Times talks about a “vicious” security operation, about gunning down protesters in Cairo, about “strangling the free press.” You would think that Egypt is a democratic country that has had a free press and that allows free speech. You would have thought that the Muslim Brotherhood is just another bunch of protesters who want nothing more than to have their opinions heard.

This whitewash of the Brotherhood is worthy of the Obama administration. It is unworthy of the newspaper of record.

And of course, the defenders of the Brotherhood are most worried about whether or not Trump discussed human rights issues with el-Sisi:

Little of that seems to matter to Mr. Trump, though, who has showcased his determination to reshape America’s relationship with a number of Middle Eastern countries, regardless of human rights concerns. In his public remarks on Monday, Mr. Trump made no mention of such issues; aides said he believed discussing them in private might be more effective.

Which other Middle East countries would that be? Is Israel on the list?

The Times could not resist pointing out that el-Sisi is just like Valdimir Putin. And every Times reader knows that Trump is really Putin’s puppet, or is it, role model:

While Egypt has long been a crucial American ally in the Middle East, Mr. Trump’s admiration for Mr. Sisi seems to mirror in some ways his appreciation for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia as a fellow tough figure. 

In case you missed the analogy between el-Sisi and Trump, the Times lays it out, putting it in the words of experts:

Beyond a shared love for harsh rhetoric warning against the dangers of jihadist Islam, Mr. Trump has striking similarities with Mr. Sisi’s brand of authoritarianism in Egypt, according to Middle East analysts. Both leaders came to power promising splashy projects derided by experts — an expensive extension of the Suez Canal for Mr. Sisi, and a giant wall along the Mexico border for Mr. Trump. In speeches, both leaders have been ridiculed for making exaggerated claims, embracing conspiracy theories and speaking in a limited rhetorical style….

Both leaders are notoriously thin-skinned and project a sense of unfiltered self-regard.

Pretending to be fair and balanced the Times adds some points on which the leaders differ:

Yet in many other ways there are vast differences between their styles. While Mr. Trump wrestles with a hostile media and recalcitrant factions in his Republican party, Mr. Sisi’s government has imprisoned dozens of journalists — fewer only than China and Turkey, according to press freedom groups — while the national Parliament is stuffed with his supporters.

Apparently, the Times gives Trump some credit because he has not imprisoned dozens of journalists.

What does el-Sisi want from Washington? It wants credits that will allow it to buy tanks and warplanes. The Times quotes one Amy Hawthorne, a think tank scholar who opposes the deal because she believes that el-Sisi does not need tanks and warplanes to fight Islamist terrorism. Apparently Hawthorne understands military tactics and strategy better than the generals do.

The Times continues:

Some experts worry that Mr. Sisi’s hard-knuckled approach to Islamism — banning all forms of political Islam, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as fighting jihadist violence — could ultimately feed a new wellspring of radicalism that could blow back on the United States.

“The authoritarian bargain the U.S. has struck with Egypt might seem to be the right thing, but it never pays off in the long run,” Ms. Hawthorne said. “It’s not just about being on the wrong side of history, but about over-investing in a regime that is fueling radicalization that will ultimately harm U.S. interests.”

Of course, Hawthorne is anything but objective. This does not prevent the Times from using her to traffic the biggest canard about radical Islam. Namely, that if you stand up to it, if you fight it, if you try to destroy it you are only making it stronger. The appeasement brigade is not only on the wrong side of history. It does not understand history. It sees reality through the blinders of its own cowardice. And it believes that suppressing radical Islam by authoritarian means will ultimately be a bad thing. One is tempted to ask: for whom will it be a bad thing?

Would Hawthorne and the Times journalists be happier if Egypt was currently ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood and that the murderous organization had set about persecuting and murdering women, gays and Jews?

Just don't say that the New York Times is not good at running propaganda that masquerades as news reporting.


Sam L. said...

I trust nothing in the NYT. Maybe if it says how much it costs to buy one, I'd consider it truthy.

Ares Olympus said...

Vox is also against President El-Sisi, worried apparently that a military takeover is merely proof that violence works, if you're strong enough.
For decades, jihadists have argued that violence was the only way to topple the entrenched dictators of the Middle East. So when Sisi launched his military takeover of the country, ousted Morsi, and proceeded to crack down hard on dissent of all kind — Islamist or otherwise — it was a bitter “we told you so” moment for jihadists. You thought you could bring down the government with just a few protests and a ballot box? Now look where that got you. You should’ve listened to us. We’ve been saying all along that all these people understand is violence.

By doubling down on US support for Sisi, Trump is not fighting the ideology of radical Islamic terrorism. If anything, he’s making the ideology even more powerful.

But of course if a leader rises through violence, you know he's willing to use it, and any "unsanctioned violence" by dissidents will just strengthen Sisi's brutality as a necessity.

Perhaps Sisi will survive just like Saddam survived, and Trump is right to befriend Sisi just like Reagan befriended Saddam. Except unlike Iraq, Egypt doesn't really have any resources we want, so all that's left is to make money selling arms to a dictator and letting him do as he will, as long as he stays in his own borders.

And Egypt has been in trouble for a while economically. And with a large trade deficit, I see its inflation rate has increased from 15 to 30% since October.

Having a dictator in charge may be good in times of economic instability, and if everyone is scared enough, they won't complain, as long as there is some hope that things will get better eventually.