In a Washington Post editorial “Egypt’s Wrong Road,” the Post calls on the U.S. government to suspend U.S. aid and cooperation with Egypt until the Egyptian regime “frees political prisoners and adopts a genuine democratic path.”
The Post just doesn’t get it. The Egyptian military dictatorship is precisely what the U.S. government loves, respects, and admires.
Let’s keep in mind that the most powerful and influential part of the U.S. government is the national-security state part, which consists of the vast U.S. military-industrial complex, the CIA, and the NSA. For all practical purposes, this part has grown into the fourth branch of the federal government, one that the legislative, executive, and judicial branches oftentimes defer to.
From its inception in 1947 through today, the officials running the national-security apparatus, not surprisingly, have been convinced that their part of the government is absolutely essential to the preservation of America’s freedom and prosperity. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that it takes the same position with respect to pro-U.S. foreign regimes.
It has been the power and influence of the U.S. national-security state that has, over the decades, moved America in the direction of favoring, installing, and supporting foreign regimes that are also founded on a powerful military-intelligence establishment and that are pro-U.S.
What is the first thing that the U.S. military and the CIA do after invading a country and ousting an independent or recalcitrant regime? In their quest to “rebuild” the nation, the first thing they do is establish a new government that is founded on an all-powerful military-intelligence complex, just like here in the United States. The first order of business is always to train the military, especially to how suppress people who would try to violently overthrow the new regime.
Never is there any thought of installing a system on which America was originally founded—one in which there is no giant standing army, no CIA, and no NSA. Newly installed regimes are never taught the principles in the Bill of Rights, including due process of law and principles of search and seizure, or the virtues of a government with limited powers. Instead, what is inculcated in the new regime is the critical importance of having an all-powerful military-intelligence force, one whose soldiers wield the power to bash down people’s doors in the dead of night looking for terrorists and insurgents and that keeps close surveillance on the citizenry.
Look at the history of U.S. regime-change operations. In 1954, the U.S. national-security state ousted the democratically elected president in Guatemala from power. Who did they install in his place? A military general! That’s not a coincidence. The U.S. military and the CIA honestly believe that this is the ideal form of government. Military rule brings order and stability. Democracy brings socialists and communists to power or rulers that are not subservient to the Empire. So, they trained and supported the forces of that Guatemalan military dictator on how to suppress resistance to the dictatorship, including through torture.
One year before that, the U.S. national-security state had done the same thing in Iran. They ousted the democratically elected prime minister of the country because he wasn’t subservient to the U.S. national-security state. They replaced him with the Shah and then proceeded to train the Shah’s domestic police-intelligence force in the arts of repression, including torture and indefinite detention.
Keep in mind that throughout these episodes, U.S. national-security state officials genuinely believed that what they were doing constituted “freedom.” In their minds, these countries were now “free” precisely because they were now headed by rulers who were friends and allies of the United States. And they took the same position that their foreign regimes took—that people who resisted the foreign regimes were terrorists — i.e., people who could be killed, tortured, and incarcerated indefinitely without trial.
Consider the Pinochet regime in Chile. U.S. national-security state officials loved it. They helped install it. They helped foment the chaos that led up to the coup, with the precise aim of helping to bring on the coup. They participated in the ambush that killed a Chilean general who was opposing the coup. And when the coup leaders began grabbing socialists and communists, incarcerating them, torturing and raping them, and executing them, U.S. officials loved it. (Many U.S. conservatives still do.) They thought what Pinochet was doing was awesome. This is way to deal with communists, they said. Never mind that the people they were grabbing, torturing, raping, and executing weren’t engaged in violence. The fact that they believed in communism and socialism was all that mattered.
It was that way throughout Latin America from the start of the U.S. national-security state. U.S. national-security state officials have always loved military dictatorships. In country after country, they helped install them, either through invasion or coups. Once they installed them, the U.S. military would train the foreign regime’s military forces at the School of the Americas, especially in the art of torture. And it was all done in the name of “freedom.”
Even to this day, the PR people at the School of the Americas will tell you that their school was training the troops of pro-U.S. Latin American military regimes in order to keep the Western hemisphere “free.” What’s fascinating is that they really seem to believe it.
It’s not a coincidence that the U.S. national-security state has embraced its national-security state counterpart in Egypt for decades, including vast amounts of U.S. aid for the military, aid that came—and continues to come—in the form of cash and weaponry that has long been used to maintain “order and stability” in Egypt by suppressing dissent against the dictatorship. U.S. officials have loved the Egyptian military regime ever since its inception. As in Latin America, they love the order and stability that a military regime brings.
Even in places like Iraq, where U.S. officials ostensibly set up democratic elections, the result was, at best, nothing more than a democratically elected dictatorship, one whose ruler wields omnipotent powers, enforced by an all-powerful military-intelligence force established by U.S. officials as part of their rebuilding efforts, all of which has produced a hell-hole of a country.
In fact, at the risk of belaboring the obvious, there are marked similarities between the Egyptian and American systems, in that both countries are based on a vast military-intelligence complex that plays a dominant role in the economy. Moreover, both regimes wield similar powers over their respective citizenries—e.g., the power of the military to take suspected terrorists into custody, torture them, incarcerate them indefinitely without jury trial or due process of law.
In fact, U.S. officials have long taken the same position that Egyptian officials do with respect to people who violently resist the Egyptian military dictatorship. Such people are considered terrorists not only by Egyptian officials but also by U.S. officials. One of the best examples here was the case of famed New York lawyer Lynne Stewart, who was convicted in U.S. District Court and given a long jail sentence for purportedly exhorting the Egyptian people to take up arms against Egypt’s military dictatorship.
You see, neither Egyptian officials nor U.S. officials consider the Egyptian system to be a dictatorship much less a tyrannical regime. Since Egypt and the U.S. are allies, the Egyptian military regime is viewed an American ally that is transitioning to democracy, even if it has to oust a democratically elected president as part of that transition. Moreover, anyone who tries to violently overthrow the Egyptian regime is considered, by both Egyptian and U.S. officials, to be a no-good rotten terrorist or communist.
It was the same in Pakistan, when U.S. officials embraced the military dictatorship of Pervez Musharraf. And Saudi Arabia. And Jordan. And Yemen. And Bahrain. And so many others.
The fact is that when the U.S. national-security state apparatus was grafted onto our constitutional order in 1947, America changed and so did America’s principles and values. In the name of “freedom” and “order and stability” and “anti-communism” and “the war on terrorism,” the U.S. national-security state has taken our nation down the road of embracing and supporting tyranny. As long as Americans keep the national-security state in existence, the perversion of values will continue, as we see with Egypt.