Statement by US-based Egyptian Academics and Professionals in Response to Attacks on Protesters Since November 19
When uprisings began in Egypt earlier this year, the Obama administration wavered in its support for the revolution. Hilary Clinton openly advocated for a transition led by former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman. Her aide Frank Wisner actually recommended that Hosni Mubarak remain in power throughout the transition process. The reasons for this are no secret to anyone familiar with US Middle East policy. Egypt has for decades received US aid packages in exchange for maintaining US interests in the region. Political stability in the Middle East is a top priority for the United States administration due to economic dependence on a steady flow of oil, primarily from Saudi Arabia.
Thus, it also comes as no great surprise that Hilary Clinton and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates have repeatedly praised the de facto rulers of Egypt, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), for their job in managing Egypt’s transition. This praise has been offered in spite of SCAF’s systematic attempts to undermine the revolution by detaining and torturing revolutionaries, subjecting women to virginity tests, and sentencing protesters in military trials. More than 12,000 Egyptians have been sentenced in speedy, unjust military trials since February, deprived of basic conditions ensuring due process of law. To secure a regular criminal trial, one must face corruption charges as a member of the former regime. SCAF has also demonstrated political opportunism in trying to secure within Egypt’s constitution the power to intervene in governmental procedure. Furthermore, the council has manipulated electoral process, continually postponing election dates and changing election rules without real participation from political forces in Egypt. To protect these actions, they have censored criticism in Egyptian media, and journalists and activists who criticize the council are called in for questioning and are subjected to intimidation. Needless to say, under such circumstances, the bulk of the revolution’s goals were never achieved.
The Obama Administration is backing this military council, and not only in the form of praise. SCAF Chairman Mohamed Tantawi has also been granted a partnership role in AFRICOM, an arm of the US military that intervenes in African conflicts. Such support for Egypt’s military dictatorship has impacted the reputation of the United States, as the US appears both complicit and complacent in the abortion of democratic process in Egypt. This image has only been exacerbated by the US supply of weapons currently being used against peaceful demonstrators in Egypt. Most injuries in Tahrir in the last few days are from CS gas, deployed almost continuously since November 18 in excessive quantities. Inhalation can cause lethal respiratory problems, and the canisters can also be used as projectile weaponry. There is also substantial evidence that CR gas has been used against protesters, which is classified as a “combat class chemical weapon” by the US military. CR gas causes permanent liver and heart damage and is a potential carcinogen. More than 40 protesters have been killed, and well over 2,000 injured.
How can the Obama Administration continue to support this? The Egyptian people have made it clear over the past several days that they are done with military rule. They demand a civilian government be implemented today. The time has come for the United States to withdraw its political support for SCAF and to halt weaponry supplies to the Egyptian military. The US must allow Egyptians to determine the shape and course of democracy in Egypt. This means abiding by the will of the people with regard to the elections scheduled to begin on November 28. Although SCAF would like to portray these elections as legitimate, the council’s monopoly and distortion of the electoral process would create a farce of democracy, ruled by bullets and not ballots.
We call upon American taxpayers to demand an end to US support for Egypt’s military council. Any statements released by the State Department that fail to relinquish this support signal US backing of a lethal assault on the basic human rights of Egyptians. Please write to and call your representatives. Ask them to pressure the Obama administration to desist in backing SCAF. This is not a request for US assistance, but the very opposite. We are asking the US government to disengage and to end its support for military dictatorship in Egypt. We are asking the US to respect the hard-earned, democratic aspirations of the Egyptian people.
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