Sunday, August 21, 2011

With friends like us...

Another must-read from Glenn Greenwald: A couple of teasers:

An illustrative example of this process has emerged this week in Egypt, where authorities have bitterly denounced Israel for killing three of its police officers in a cross-border air attack on suspected Gaza-based militants, and to make matters worse, thereafter blaming Egypt for failing to control "terrorists" in the area. Massive, angry protests outside the Israeli Embassy in Cairo led to Egypt's recalling of its Ambassador to Israel and the Israeli Ambassador's being forced to flee Cairo. That, in turn, led to what The New York Times called a "rare statement of regret" from Israel in order to placate growing Egyptian anger: "rare" because, under the U.S.-backed Mubarak, Egyptian public opinion was rendered inconsequential and the Egyptian regime's allegiance was to Israel, meaning Israel never had to account for such acts, let alone apologize for them. In that regard, consider this superbly (if unintentionally) revealing phrase from the NYT about this incident:

By removing Mr. Mubarak's authoritarian but dependably loyal government, the revolution has stripped away a bulwark of Israel’s position in the region, unleashing the Egyptian public's pent-up anger at Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians at a time when a transitional government is scrambling to maintain its own legitimacy in the streets.

This is why American media coverage of the Arab Spring produced one of the most severe cases of cognitive dissonance one can recall. The packaged morality narrative was that despots like Mubarak -- and those in Tunisia, Bahrain and elsewhere -- are unambiguous, cruel villains whom we're all supposed to hate, while the democracy protesters are noble and to be cheered. But whitewashed from that storyline was that it was the Freedom-loving United States that played such a vital role in empowering those despots and crushing the very democracy we are now supposed to cheer. Throughout all the media hate sessions spewed toward the former Egyptian dictator -- including as he's tried for crimes against his own people -- how often was it mentioned that Hillary Clinton, as recently as two years ago, was saying things such as: "I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family" (or that John McCain, around the same time, was tweeting: "Late evening with Col. Qadhafi at his 'ranch' in Libya - interesting meeting with an interesting man.")? Almost never: because the central U.S. role played in that mass oppression was simply ignored once the oppression could no longer be sustained.
For Americans in such consensus to celebrate the fall of evil Arab tyrants without accounting for the role the U.S. played in their decades-long rule was bizarre (though typical) indeed. That "senior intelligence officials" are regarding these fledgling, potential democracies with such suspicion and longing for the days of the "dependably loyal" dictatorial regimes tells one all there is to know about what we have actually been doing in that part of the world, and have been doing for as long as that part of the world was a concern to American officials.

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