Watching the White House squirm over the on-going massacres in Egypt one doesn’t know whether to laugh, cry or resort to the vaudevillian method and throw rotten vegetables at them.
President Obama’s “condemnation” of the Egyptian military’s massacre of civilians sounded like obligatory ass-covering. Then there was the slippery boiler-plate verbiage spouted by the White House’s new spokesman with the wonderfully apropos name of Josh Earnest. I wouldn’t josh you, that’s his name. And trust me, he’s the personification of earnestness.
The sense of absurdity in the air takes one back to the halcyon days of Richard Nixon and his “credibility gap,” which now seems like child’s play. Incredibly, even John McCain has a more critical analysis of the Egyptian coup.
It’s a real low point in the Obama presidency. They no doubt have the capacity to go lower, but the President golfing and cocktail partying with rich corporate donors on Martha’s Vineyard while the Egyptian military shoots over 1000 citizens to death in the street is pretty bad.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry has been shuttling around the world trying to make everyone believe night is day and, somehow, a deal between a settlement-focused Israel and a sovereign Palestine is possible. These days Kerry sounds like the man who ate the canary spouting optimistic sound bites as he spits out little yellow pin feathers.
Here’s Earnest Josh on the Cairo problem:
“We have repeatedly called on the Egyptian military and security forces to show restraint.” It was like the US was saying to General Sisi, “We wish you could be nicer. C’mon, show a little restraint. Please!” If a satiric novelist like Christopher Buckley had come up with a name like Josh Earnest for a guy delivering flak to cover up a massacre readers would balk. It makes you wonder if there is a God and maybe he has a sense of humor.
As he squirmed for the press, Earnest Josh didn’t parse the facts and declare whether the Egyptian military was blowing off the US government as an impotent paper tiger or whether it was the usual wink-and-nod operation in which Egypt’s imperial patron was dishing out the usual line of crap about human rights with one side of its face while the real policy of establishing facts-on-the-ground in support of the US choice for stability in the Middle East was going down on the streets of Cairo.
Having watched two-faced US operations for decades now, I tend to lean toward the latter. That is, policy formulators in Washington and Tel Aviv concluded that an Egypt cleansed of Islamic influence is in their interests. To counter such cold-blooded calculations, it’s necessary to crank up instruments of public relations like Earnest Josh to run interference with reality.
A spinelessly anonymous Obama official was quoted in The New York Times this way:
“The violence is intolerable, but clearly they [the Egyptian military] feel the nation of Egypt is facing a sovereign, existential crisis. So while the violence is intolerable, we may be able to eventually accept these decisions if the violence ends, and quickly.”
When you break down this anonymous official’s gobble-de-gook he or she is essentially saying the following:
1) All the killing, the shooting of kids and such in the head and heart, is very distasteful — a true bummer not to be tolerated. It’s really depressing.
2) But there’s a “sovereign, existential problem” facing the Egyptian military, which we all know is notorious for being a sophisticated kleptocratic institution that employs torture and killing to perpetuate itself. And, of course, this military institution is largely a creation of the United States thanks to generous annual gifts of cash ever since the Camp David deal with Israel in 1979.
3) So, accordingly, the US has no choice but to tolerate the intolerable until the Egyptian military has killed enough people to effectively shove the Muslim Brotherhood back underground. At that point, the US will be able to “accept” the original decision to massacre Egyptian citizens — because the massacres will be over and new facts-on-the-ground will have been established. Then the White House can crank up Earnest Josh to advocate for peace.
With a few differences, this, of course, is the policy/strategy employed by Israel and the United States vis-à-vis the Palestinian people and their demand for sovereignty. Relentlessly shove them around with superior military violence until you have them where you want them; then welcome negotiations with the PR centered on your glorious magnanimity toward the people you just crushed. The only problem is, right now in Egypt the citizens in question are very pissed off and seem willing to provide more martyrs for killing before they’ll be ready to accept the new facts-on-the-ground. This really must bum them out in the White House.
Unfortunately, this is not a new policy for the United States of America. In fact, it goes back to the genocide of Native Americans and the nice reservations they were given once they were duly crushed.
Whether ordinary Americans or the most remote leaders in Washington choose to see it this way or not, it’s nevertheless a key part of the legacy of empire all Americans are living through in 2013. Too many Americans passively believe all the PR propaganda about American Exceptionalism and a devotion to Human Rights and how Americans are so good we naturally find human slaughter distasteful. Sadly, that’s all smoke and mirrors and self-delusion. In the current case of Egypt, US imperial influence in the Middle East is intricately linked with Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Arab Emirates. US hegemony, Israel and oil. The cynical realities of violent facts-on-the-ground strategic thinking is the cornerstone of this disastrous imperial triangle.
The fact is the highly militarized, post-9/11 government of the United States of America has moved beyond a belief in meaningful democracy. And nothing makes this clearer than the White House hand wringing in face of the post-coup slaughter going on in the streets of Cairo. Finally, it’s a moral no-brainer the US should cut off the annual $1.5 billion it sends to the corrupt Egyptian military.