Part 1: How Obama--and the Media--Lost Egypt
If our government consistently gets something wrong, but then declares that everything is A-OK, how should the rest of us react? Should we ignore clearly visible warning signs, or should we simply continue to trust the Obama administration--and Obamaphilic analysts and journalists? And if we see a pattern of events that always turns out negatively for American interests, what should we do then?
The answer: Maybe we should react with some serious and active mistrust. Maybe we should also start looking deeper, probing for the source of the pattern. After all, there’s a point at which “pattern” morphs into something far more troubling.
Let’s consider the case of Egypt, where the US government has been relentlessly wrong, but has been equally relentless in saying that everything is going right. That is, the Obama administration didn’t see the Muslim Brotherhood rising, but now that the Brotherhood has risen, the Obamans are assuring us that there’s nothing to worry about.
What could explain such a poor job of anticipating events? And what could explain the happy-talking after the fact? Is it just a case of bureaucratic myopia, followed by bureaucratic papering-over?
In Part Two of this article, we will consider how in the last century the US government has dealt naively--or worse--with mortal foreign challenges.
Yet for now, let’s focus on Egypt, the second-largest recipient of our foreign aid, a country to which, since 1948, we have given $68 billion--much more than that if adjusted for inflation. So after all that “investment,” what do we have?
What we have is control of Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood. The new President, Mohamed Morsi, is not only in charge, but he is busy purging opponents and potential challengers, in contravention of earlier assurances. And the Obama administration doesn’t seem to mind; indeed, it seems rather happy.
On Tuesday, the Washington Post, usually faithful to the White House point of view, flashed a headline on its hard-copy front page declaring, “Relief in Washington: Administration officials watching Cairo are cautiously optimistic.”
Optimistic about what? What good news is there in the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood?
Founded in Egypt in 1928, the Brotherhood early on declared that it was Islam’s duty to retake all the lands of the Mediterranean that once belonged to Islam--including, of course, Jerusalem and the territory of Israel. At the same time, the Brotherhood was open in its admiration of Hitler and his methods; even after World War Two, the Brotherhood cheerfully continued to distribute copies of Mein Kampf, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and works of Holocaust denialism.
Beginning in the 1950s, one of the Brotherhood’s leading figures was Sayyid Qutb, author of the book Milestones, a major document in the revival of Islamic fundamentalism. Qutb declared that the whole of the non-Islamic world was jahiliya,that is, pagan, impure, and worthy of destruction. Indeed, he declared that Western-influenced governments in the Arab world, including his own government in Cairo--led by Gamel Nasser, a career army officer until he took power in a 1952 coup d’etat--was also jahiliya, and thus needed to replaced. As a result, Qutb was imprisoned and ultimately hanged in 1966, hardening the hostility between the Brotherhood and the Egyptian military. Indeed, that hostility only deepened during the subsequent rule of Anwar Sadat--himself assassinated by Islamic militants in 1981--and then Sadat’s successor, Hosni Mubarak.
Interestingly, one of those involved in the plot against Sadat was Ayman al-Zawahiri, a member of the Brotherhood who would go on to be Osama Bin Laden’s successor as head of Al Qaeda.
Meanwhile, in 2004, one of the Brotherhood’s leaders, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, issued a fatwa declaring that it was a religious obligation for Muslims to abduct and kill Americans in Iraq.
And while the Brotherhood has never itself been listed by the US as a terrorist organization, we might note the words of terrorism expert Evan Kohlmann in regard to the Brotherhood: For “someone who is interested in dedicating their lives to a radical Islamist cause, it can be a pathway up.”
Some will argue that the Brotherhood simply reflects--unfortunately, to be sure--the bulk of Egyptian public opinion; a Pew Center poll from June 2012 found that by a ratio of 79 to 19 percent, Egyptians hold a negative view of the US. So perhaps it was inevitable that sooner or later, the Brotherhood would take power in Egypt.
Yet it was not inevitable that the US would turn such a benign eye on the Brotherhood’s rise to power over the last two years. Even before protests erupted in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on January 25, 2011, the US had been quietly supporting supposed “liberal” elements within the protests, ignoring the plain reality that most of the protestors were hardcore Islamists, not Facebook liberals. Indeed, the Obama administration barely seemed to notice that the Islamists were not the same as the liberals.
A window into such naive administration thinking was opened on February 9--just as Mubarak was about to fall--when James Clapper, appointed by President Obama as Director of National Intelligence, told the House Intelligence Committee that the Brotherhood was “mostly secular” and sought a “betterment of the political order”; as evidence, Clapper noted that the Brotherhood operated many hospitals in Egypt. Clapper’s upbeat assessment led to an immediate rebuke from reality-based Members of Congress: Intel Committee member Sue Myrick (R-NC), for instance, pointed out the dark side of the Brotherhood: it operated according to “an extremist ideology that causes others to commit acts of terrorism.” Indeed, the reaction to Clapper on Capitol Hill was so fierce that he soon had to “clarify” his remarks.
Still, it is readily apparent that Clapper’s kindly view of the Brotherhood was part of Obama administration orthodoxy, and there’s no doubt that p.c. thinking--combined with Third World “liberation movement” romanticism--had been suffusing administration deliberations on Egypt all along. After all, this was the administration that came into power rejecting the phrase “Global War On Terror,” preferring instead the anodyne--and also truth-obscuring--“Overseas Contingency Operation.”
By contrast, one who saw the Brotherhood clearly was Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born refugee from Islamic violence, who wrote a sober warning in the Wall Street Journal just days after Mubarak’s overthrow: “Anyone who believes that a truly democratic outcome in Egypt is the real goal of the Muslim Brotherhood has failed to understand--or purposefully ignored--the group’s motto.” And that motto is: “Allah is our objective; the Prophet is our leader; the Quran is our law; Jihad is our way; dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.”
So that’s the real Brotherhood--not at all “mostly secular.” Instead, it’s a group that has steadily clung to, and nurtured, jihadist ideology from its inception.
Yet the misreading of Morsi and the Brotherhood has continued to the present day. All during 2011 and 2012, reporters were told that the Brotherhood would voluntarily hold itself back from power, being content, instead, with a role in a coalition government alongside the thin crust of Egyptian liberals and secularists. That hope was blown away in the January 2012 parliamentary elections, when Morsi’s party won nearly 38 percent of the national vote, and still another Islamist party, even further over on the Islamist scale, won another 28 percent. In other words, Islamist forces took nearly two-thirds of the seats in the new parliament.
Then, on June 24, Morsi was elected to the presidency. As Reuters put it, “In a reversal of fortunes unthinkable a year and a half ago, an Islamist jailed by Hosni Mubarak has succeeded him as president of the biggest Arab nation.” Finally, after 80 years in the wilderness, the Brotherhood could claim one of its own--as leader of Egypt. And the reaction of the Obama administration? Headline in Politico that day: “White House Congratulates Egypt’s Morsi.”
So Morsi’s victory was a big deal, right? Sure it was--but even after the Brother assumed office, we in the West were assured that it wasn’t that big a deal because, after all, the military would still retain the real clout. As NPR’s Peter Kenyon asserted the day after Morsi’s ascension, “The military, dominated by figures from the old regime, still holds all the levers of power.”
Indeed, Morsi himself was depicted as a mumbler and a bumbler--inviting the question, of course, of how he ever rose so high in the Brotherhood if he was so inept. Yet many reporters repeated the same cliche: Morsi would be nothing more than a “figurehead.”
Then on July 8, just days into his presidency, Morsi proved that he was, indeed, much more than a figurehead; he reinstated the Islamist parliament that the generals had dissolved just a month before. Even after Morsi had directly confronted his supposed puppet-masters, US reporters continued with their Panglossian take. As Time magazine wrote of Morsi’s action, “His decree reinstating parliament sounds confrontational, but it can serve the purposes of both the Muslim Brotherhood and the military.” Translated: Nothing to see here, folks; all’s well, just move along. Meanwhile, of course, Egyptian Islamists--now embraced by the government, no longer imprisoned--openly and routinely preached ferocious and murderous opposition to the US.
Finally, this past Saturday, news came from Cairo that could not be depicted as anything other than extraordinary and confrontational. The headline in the Washington Post: “Egypt’s Morsi replaces military chiefs in bid to consolidate power.” What had transpired was the dismissal of Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, the defense minister and top military chief, as well as his deputy, army chief of staff Sami Anan. As the Post’s Ernesto Londono put it, their ouster “suggested that the Brotherhood is willing to act more quickly and assertively in taking control of key institutions than analysts had predicted.”
Across the board, analysts had not predicted Morsi’s power-grab--that’s for sure. And as a result, the Brotherhood, having bared its political fangs, shouldn't have seemed so meek and mild anymore. Yet even so, Londoño continued to put his journalistic trust in the “experts,” adding in his story, “Analysts said the move could trigger a backlash and further polarize a nation in which many are wary of the intentions of the country’s first Islamist president.”
As we can see, once again, the journalists and analysts had spoken: Thing aren’t so bad. Really, there’s no problem. The pundits, having been wrong every step of the way, now repeated, yet again, that things would be all right.
As for Morsi himself, he didn’t seem worried about any “backlash”; he simply plowed ahead. Meanwhile, Americans in both political parties were transfixed by the news of VP nominee Paul Ryan, and so nobody in Washington seems to have done anything--no phone call from the Situation Room, no signal from the Israelis, no threat to cut US foreign aid--to try to thwart or undo Morsi’s precipitous action.
And so within a mere three days, the news from Cairo was no longer the possibility of a backlash against Morsi, but, rather, acquiescence to Morsi. The turnabout in Egypt was complete. As the headline in Tuesday’s Post read, “Egypt reacts with respect to president’s new power.” One must ask: Was it respect? Or was it fear? Reporter Ernesto Londoño wrote, “A month ago, as President Mohamed Morsi was sworn in, Egyptians who loved and loathed him could agree on one fact: The Islamist would be a relatively powerless leader. But just weeks into his tenure [Morsi] has cast aside his rivals and consolidated power with stunning speed and shrewdness.”
So, finally, the scales are falling from Western eyes, right? No more illusions, right? Well, not really. Even as Londono, the Post’s man in Cairo, was admitting to being stunned, the Post’s Karen DeYoung, reporting on the Obama administration’s reaction to the news from Egypt, was still sounding serene. In addition to Londoño’s front-page news story, the Post touted DeYoung’s piece, signaling a second story inside the paper, an inside-dope analysis, sourced to the Obama administration. The headline: “From alarm to relief in Washington amid Egypt’s military shakeup.” Got that? All’s well. We’re handling it. Now just go ahead and re-elect us.
DeYoung began her piece by acknowledging that the Obama administration’s first reaction to the news of the generals’ ouster was “deep alarm,” adding, “political developments in Egypt during the past year have occurred at a speed that has often overwhelmed US policy makers.” Indeed, one constant for US policymakers had been the steady presence of Field Marshall Tantawi, commissioned into the Egyptian army in 1956, and chief of the military since 1991. But now, suddenly, in defiance of all the “analysts” and their supposed wisdom, Tantawi was gone.
So should any of this news be disturbing to Americans? You know, the fact that a venerable military leader was simply flicked from power by a supposed “figurehead”? And nobody in DC had a clue? Nevertheless, DeYoung assured her readers, there was no reason to be disturbed, because the man Morsi picked to replace Tantawi, Gen. Abdel Al-Sissi, is also a friend to America. As she put it, Al-Sissi is “well-known to US officials,” and, according to an administration bigshot she quoted, Al-Sissi has “espoused cooperation with the United States and the need for peace with neighbors.”
So does that settle the matter? Is it simply a case of one pro-American general being replaced by another pro-American general? The answer, of course, is “no”--because it makes all the difference in the world as to who hired you. Tantawi, the ousted general, was a product of the Mubarak political machine; even with Mubarak now gone, it could be presumed that Tantawi shared his old boss’s worldview. And evidently, that’s how Morsi saw Tantawi--and that’s why Morsi got rid of him. Meanwhile, every other Egyptian military officer, from Al-Sissi on down, got the unmistakable message: There’s a new boss, and he’s not the same as the old boss. Thus the Brotherhood’s policy is now the military’s policy.
Proving that he is indeed a sure-footed operator, Morsi immediately awarded the ex-military chief, Tantawi, with the nation’s highest military honor, and the other ex, Anan, with the second-highest military honor In “The Godfather II,” Michael Corleone summed up the strategy: “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” And that’s what Morsi was doing. That these two suddenly retired military men would be willing to sit for a photo op and accept their medals from the new president can only be taken as a strong signal to the remaining military: don’t even think about a coup. In other words, the last possible check on Islamist power in Egypt has now been unchecked.
Yet as we have seen, the Obama administration feels “relief,” because the new military leader, reporting to the new Islamist president, espouses “cooperation with the United States.” But after so many wrong calls, what confidence can we have that the Obama administration has it right? Or that it will ever get it right? And what of the reporters who cover--or cover for, even cover-up for--the Obamans? What do any of them know? And will any of them ever be held accountable for their credulous reporting?
How could they all have missed the reality of what was happening--this Islamist takeover of Egypt? How could they all have been so stupid?
Or maybe it wasn’t stupidity.
PART 2: How Obama--and the Media--Lost Egypt, Part 2
So now Mohamed Morsi, the new Islamist president of Egypt, announces that later this month he will visit Iran. And the response is near silence from Washington officialdom, on both sides of the aisle. The Beltway-minded National Journal published no fewer than ten stories summing up this Sunday’s talk shows; it deemed that the big topics were taxes--Mitt Romney’s and ours--Medicare, and Joe Biden’s silly comments. The word “Egypt” failed to appear once in any of the ten pieces.
Hey, wait a second: Isn’t Iran supposed to be our number one enemy in the world? Isn’t the leader of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, always saying that he wants to destroy Israel--and maybe the US, too? And isn’t Egypt, meanwhile, supposed to be our ally? That country is, after all, the recipient of more than $1.5 billion a year in US foreign aid. So shouldn’t this Morsi trip to Iran be considered big-time news? Isn’t it a worth a query to the Sunday Beltway worthies?
To be sure, some reporting was done on the Morsi announcement, but it didn’t say much; it seemed mostly designed to reassure readers that nothing big was happening. The Associated Press story on the Morsi-to-Tehran news--picked up by the newspaper of record, the New York Times, on its website--was bland in the extreme, declaring, “It is too early to assess the implications of the visit or to what extent Egypt may normalize relations with Iran, but analysts believe it will bring Egypt back to the regional political stage.” Gee, is that really the news? That Egypt is once again on the “regional political stage”? Or, on the other hand, is the real news that Egypt is now warming up to our arch-enemy?
Another stay-cool story appeared in the Los Angeles Times; that paper conceded that “political tremors” were likely to result from the Morsi trip: “The U.S. would not be happy if Egypt improved relations with Iran; neither would the gulf countries.” But then reporter Jeffrey Fleishman turned to an Egyptian expert, who offered this reassurance: “Morsi does not have it in him at this point to defy these strategic allies, especially since he needs their support and aid.” And that’s how Fleishman ended his piece, giving the reassuring Egyptian the last word.
Yet as we saw in the first part of this three-part series, Morsi and his Egyptian Brotherhood have crossed virtually every “red line” that they weren’t supposed to have crossed--and nothing has happened. In other words, as they seek to transform Egypt, they are getting away with it. Not only has the Obama administration been mostly quiet, but so have Congressional Republicans. And so there is little reason to think that Morsi won’t get away with this Tehran trip, too, as Uncle Sam continues to dole out money to his government.
For their part, the Western media, those self-declared speakers-of-truth-to-power, have had little to say even when the Morsi government began cracking down on press freedom. Every day, it appears, we see another step in Egypt’s transformation from secular ally of the US to Islamist state with views closer to--or identical to--those of other Islamist states.
There’s only one thing we do know for sure about Egypt: Hosni Mubarak--loyal US ally for 30 years, whose government was deposed with the help of the US government and media--now sits in prison. He is 84, in ill-health, and will almost certainly die in jail, because nobody in the US government seems the least bit interested in making any sort of humanitarian intervention.
But meanwhile, let’s dwell on another news story that also doesn’t seem to be making much news.
In this instance, the headline in Sunday’s New York Times was, for a change, blunt: “U.S. Says Iraqis Are Helping Iran to Skirt Sanctions.” As the Times’ James Risen and Duraid Adnan reported, either the Iraqi government is helping Iran, or the Iranians have seized control of much of the Iraqi economy, gaining “control over at least four Iraqi commercial banks through Iraqi intermediaries.” If the latter is the case, the reporters continued: "That gives Iran direct access to the international financial system, supposedly denied to Tehran by the economic sanctions. Even as the United States has moved to tighten the vise against Iran this summer, the Maliki [Iraqi] government has openly sought to enhance its already deep economic and political ties with Iran."
This news seems ominous. We must wonder: what exactly did we fight for in Iraq? Did we fight to liberate Iraqis from dangerous tyranny in Baghdad? Or were we simply helping them snuggle up to an even more dangerous tyranny in Tehran?
As the Times reporters explain: “The Obama administration is not eager for a public showdown with the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki over Iran just eight months after the last American troops withdrew from Baghdad.” In other words, the Obamans don’t want to shift the focus of the news, especially during the climax of the presidential election campaign, to news from Iraq that is discouraging--or, if one prefers, terrifying.
Yet there is some good news here, according to the Times, obviously relying on an Obama source:
In one recent instance, when American officials learned that the Iraqi government was aiding the Iranians by allowing them to use Iraqi airspace to ferry supplies to Syria, Mr. Obama called Mr. Maliki to complain. The Iranian planes flew another route.
So that’s the good news: thanks to the Obama administration’s good efforts, the Iranians were not allowed to airlift supplies across Iraq to help the Assad regime massacre its own people--although, of course, the supplies still reached Syria.
But hold on here: Isn’t this another administration leak, aimed at making President Obama and his team look good? Haven’t we had enough of such self-glorification, aided and abetted by the media--especially the New York Times--over the last few months? After all, every leak raises the issue of political manipulation here at home, as well as the issue of political trust abroad. That is, can other powers trust the US to keep secrets--or will our government simply spill the secrets as it wishes to, for its own domestic political advantage?
Indeed, a look at a map of the Middle East shows that if the Iranians didn’t fly over Iraqi airspace, then it would seem that they flew over Turkey, to the north, or a combination of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan, to the south. Are there any political implications for such flights, if they in fact took place over those countries? Might such overflying suggest a more muddled picture of Syria than we have been led to believe?
Another possibility is that the Iranians flew over Kurdistan--the semi-autonomous part of northern Iraq--which, for the purposes of the Times story, might have been deemed to be “not Iraq.” In other words, the Iranians did fly over Iraq, but it suited the Obamans to engage in wordplay to help themselves look good, as opposed to actively stopping the Iranians--and our supposed ally, the Iraqis--from helping the Syrians.
Left unsaid in the Times story is the basic question of how all this happened: how did Iraq go from being “liberated” by the US in 2003 to being aligned with our greatest enemy in 2012? Would it seem, in fact, that the US has suffered an enormous defeat--not on the battlefield, but in subsequent diplomacy? And isn’t that news?
In fairness to the Times, these questions are bigger than any one story--or 1000 stories--can even begin to encompass. Still, it would have been useful if more geopolitical context had been supplied to the reader--although such context would not be useful, of course, to the Obama administration. After all, the administration wants to keep the focus on its domestic political issues--that is, pounding Romney and Ryan--rather than on national security.
Meanwhile, those not beholden to the Obama administration are struggling to find answers to the basic question: what’s gone wrong? Why are we always being blindsided by events in the Middle East? Why can’t our experts get it right? Can we trust the Obama administration? Or the US government overall?
Those mysteries are still with us, of course, but one thing is clear: anyone who challenges the status quo is going to get clobbered.
For example, back in June, five Members of Congress--Michele Bachmann, Trent Franks, Louie Gohmert, Lynn Westmoreland, and Thomas Rooney, all Republicans--tried to address just one piece of the mystery. The so-called “National Security Five” sent letters to five different national/homeland security agencies, seeking information about certain individuals, as well as about politically correct policies and practices within the government’s multi-hundred-billion dollar counter-terror establishment. One of the names mentioned in one of the letters was Huma Abedin, deputy chief of staff at the State Department, and a close personal aide to Hillary Clinton going back to the 90s. For their efforts, as we all know, the Five were pummeled when the letters came to light in July; in particular, DC was incredulous--and furious--that anyone would attack Abedin and, by extension, Secretary Clinton.
Bachmann, always a lightning rod, was especially zapped. Her letter was “McCarthy-like,” stormed CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. More on Joe McCarthy in the next section, but for now, as we all know, to label someone as a “McCarthyite” is to label them as being beyond--way beyond--acceptable discourse. And so while Bachmann & Co. did not back down, the rest of official Washington has chosen to shun them all.
Thus the Abedin case is closed, as far as the Beltway is concerned. And therefore, certain news items, which don’t fit the pro-Abedin narrative, are simply dismissed. For example, on August 13, the New York Post--owned by Rupert Murdoch, not at all part of the MSM--reported that Abedin is living with her husband, ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY), in a $3.3 million Park Avenue apartment. Not bad for Abedin on her government salary--for a job that is based out of Washington. The fair-market rent for such a Manhattan abode would be $12,000 to $14,000 a month, and the Post further reported that the unit is owned by one Jack Rosen, a longtime supporter of the Clintons.
Now is there anything interesting--which is to say, newsworthy--about this arrangement? Has it been approved by the ethics officers at the State Department? Or, for a more independent review, by the Office of Government Ethics? If so, can we see the paperwork, please?
And who is Jack Rosen, owner of the Park Avenue pad? In addition to his Hillary connection, he has long been associated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), so he’s not any sort of jihadist sympathizer. Yet a look at his bio from the Jewish Virtual Library does reveal his ongoing exercise in private Mideast diplomacy:
Rosen is undoubtedly 100 percent sincere in his efforts, but that doesn’t mean that he is reading Saudi Prince Bandar correctly--Bandar is, himself, a controversial and mysterious figure. And so could it be possible that Rosen is working with Abedin, or Weiner, on some new diplomatic effort? And if so, are such efforts in keeping with the Logan Act, as well as official US policy objectives? Is anyone in the US government curious? And how about reporters? If the answer is “no,” perhaps that’s because everyone everybody has learned that Abedin is untouchable.
It’s nice to think that interfaith/international dialogue will help Muslims and Jews “make friends and find common bonds”--but it might not be the case that it will actually happen.
Indeed, the Saudis might be trying to play some well-meaning Americans for fools. Or, perhaps, the Americans will simply fool themselves, as has happened in the case of Egypt over the last two years.
Indeed, in light of their record of misreading the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi, we are left with the feeling that our foreign-policy mandarins are the equivalent of fortune-tellers that can’t tell, card-counters who can’t count, and stock-pickers who can’t pick. So why are we relying on them?
Amidst this symphony of self-deluding silliness, one different--and defiant--voice stands out. Caroline Glick, of the Jerusalem Post, has been warning about the Islamist rise for years. And in her latest piece, she asks bluntly, “Who Lost Egypt?” Ignoring all the hopeful thoughts of others, she writes in dire terms:
Yikes. That is scary. Unfortunately, Glick is a journalistic outrider; most other journalists, as we have seen, are happy to stick with upbeat, albeit wrong, assessments.
Meanwhile, Glick’s “Who Lost...” formulation is important, because we have heard it before in US history.
PART 3: How Obama--and the Media--Lost Egypt, and Israel, Too
In the first and second parts of this series on the Muslim Brotherhood’s takeover of Egypt--and what it means for the US and its allies--we noted that both the Obama administration and the mainstream media have consistently misjudged the political ambitions of the Brotherhood during and after the Tahrir Square eruption in January 2011.
And then, we further noted, every time their misjudgments were demonstrated, every time the Brotherhood scored a gain, the Obamans and the MSM responded by insisting that nothing bad was happening. In other words, the message was: yes, we always get it wrong--but trust us anyway.
So now let’s take a closer look at the most recent events in the Middle East as a whole, and how they might affect Israel. And let’s begin to consider whether or not this consistency of misjudgment is just relentless stupidity--or, in fact, part of a sinister pattern that could undermine the Jewish State’s ability to defend itself.
Today in Egypt, as radicals storm the U.S. embassy in Cairo, President Mohamed Morsi and his Brotherhood government are cementing their Islamist takeover of the nation. They are not only suppressing freedom of the press, but also installing their people in the commanding heights of the media, including the first-ever Egyptian female television news presenter to wear a hijab.
Some protestors rail against this “Brotherhoodization” of Egypt; one brave critic in Egypt accused the government of spreading “the members and supporters like a cancer in all the state's main institutions.” But turnout at these protests is low, perhaps because a top Muslim cleric has declared that it’s okay for the Islamic faithful to kill opponents of the new regime.
At the same time, the remnants of the old Hosni Mubarak government are being discredited and vilified--and will possibly suffer an even harsher fate than scorn. The former defense chief could be charged with murder--that is, for deaths that occurred during the Tahrir uprising. And his former deputy, meanwhile, is being charged with corruption.
All of these events are adding up to a 21st century Gleichschaltung; that is, a ruthless new regime is bringing society into conformity with the new order. A few Western reporters are starting to notice what this reordering means, for example, for Egyptian women, and yet they are also noticing that most Egyptian women seem comfortable with new order. In other words, it’s seems likely that Morsi enjoys the support, at least for now, of the vast bulk of the Egyptian population.
Yet we must remember that majority rule is not the only measure of a government’s virtues; other virtues include tolerance for minority rights and the willingness to live peacefully with neighbors.
It’s that last measure, peacefulness, that is of most interest to Americans--or at least it should be. After all, the US has given tens of billions of dollars in foreign aid to Egypt in an attempt to build peace in the Middle East, and yet now it seems that the political and intellectual foundations of the Egypt-Israel peace are being eroded.
Morsi notably refuses to say the name “Israel.” In other words, Morsi plays the same semantic game as any of Israel’s most determined enemies. And speaking of determined enemies, we might take note of how Hamas assesses Morsi. In an August 31 piece headlined, “Hamas hopeful about future with Morsy,” the Egypt Independent quoted a “Gaza-based policy researcher with ties to the Hamas government” as denouncing the former Mubarak government, and cheering on Morsi:
While it is true that the Egyptian government recently coordinated some security sweeps in the Sinai peninsula with the Israeli government--Egypt is, after all, still receiving billions in US aid--the plain fact is that the Egypt-Israeli relationship is cold, at best.
The headline atop an opinion piece in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz this month read: “The Egypt-Israel peace treaty is dead.” Noted the author, an Egyptian:
Those anti-Israel provisions were all in place, the author added, under the previous Mubarak regime; the change is that, unlike Mubarak, neither Morsi nor the Brotherhood has ever so much as pretended to be a friend to Israel.
Still, unless there’s a huge demonstration or riot, there’s little worldwide press attention to domestic issues within Egypt.
Foreign policy issues, however, are a far different matter. The world media are, in fact, paying close attention to Morsi’s foreign policy, which is changing profoundly.
And yet that same media--including the American media--seem to be viewing Morsi’s changes through the prism of mid-20th-century Third World anti-colonialism, as opposed to considering the security of the US, Israel, or the world. That is, many in the MSM are actually cheerleading for Morsi, while others simply remain quiet, choosing to overlook the ominous implications of Morsi’s new tack.
In late August, Morsi visited Tehran, initiating the first contact between top leaders of Egypt and Iran since the Shah was in power back in the 1970s; we might note, indeed, that previously Mubarak had been notably hostile to Iran. But now, with Morsi, things are different, and the new Egyptian leader traveled to Tehran to enjoy the embrace the ayatollahs.
The occasion was a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which counts 120 countries as members, including such major powers as India, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia--and, of course, Egypt and Iran. During that Tehran meeting, NAM unanimously endorsed Iran’s “peaceful” nuclear program; the resolution, as the New York Times put it, “amounted to the strongest expression of support for Iran’s nuclear energy rights in its showdown with the West.” In other words, the NAM vote--with Egypt’s leader now concurring--was big deal.
Of course, a few other voices saw the NAM vote not only as a big deal, but also as a cause for alarm. In Israel, for example, Isi Leibler, writing in the Jerusalem Post, declared:
Yet the Obama administration chose to keep notably cool. Before Morsi’s trip, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland mentioned blandly that the gathering of dignitaries in Tehran “does not send a good signal”--not exactly the most forceful declaration of opposition.
Meanwhile, amidst reports of increasing Israeli agitation over Iran, the Obama administration shared its newest diplomatic strategy with the New York Times, resulting in a story on the front page of its September 2 edition, headlined, “To Calm Israel, U.S. Offers Ways to Restrain Iran.” In other words, keeping Israel “calm” seems to be the Obama goal--a goal that is not necessarily the same as stopping the Iranian nuclear juggernaut.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration can count on the MSM to support such a passive and permissive policy toward Egypt, because the MSM are choosing to see Morsi as an exciting, iconoclastic figure, bravely shaking off the pro-US policies of his predecessor. In the minds of the MSM, that’s either a good thing--or a very good thing.
For example, in first reporting the news of Morsi’s trip to Tehran back on August 18, the Associated Press’ Maggie Michael described the trip as a “thaw” between Egypt and Iran. “Thaw,” of course, is the short headline-friendly word used to describe a rapprochement, usually considered to be long overdue, viz. the US-China “thaw” of the early 70s. The AP’s Michael quoted one Egyptian political expert as saying of the trip, “This really signals the first response to a popular demand and a way to increase the margin of maneuver for Egyptian foreign policy in the region.” The quote continued, “Morsi's visits . . . show that Egypt’s foreign policy is active again in the region.” We might note that this Egyptian expert, obviously admiring of Morsi and his trip to Tehran, was the only expert the AP relied upon to analyze the foreign policy impact of the trip.
Time magazine’s Tony Karon added this even punchier analysis of Morsi’s trip: “It was always expected that a more democratic Egypt would break the Mubarak habit of carrying water for U.S. regional agendas and instead pursue an independent foreign policy more reflective of the popular will.” Translation: Mubarak was servile to the US, while Morsi is independent--so good riddance to Mubarak, and hurrah for Morsi!
Even more biased in favor of Morsi was the Washington Post’s Ernesto Londono. In an August 27 story, Londono’s report started out evenly: “A decision by Egypt’s new president to travel to Tehran for a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement this week reflects a major foreign policy shift for the Arab world’s most populous nation.” But then Londono finished his sentence with these revealing words:“after decades of subservience to Washington.” [Emphasis added.] Once again, the message is clear--opposition to the US means true independence for Egypt.
And lest anybody miss the ideological point, Londono added, “Analysts described Morsi’s trip to Iran as a clear sign that Egypt will no longer act as a U.S. lackey in the foreign policy realm.” Note: “lackey.”
Even more direct was a Post columnist, Walter Pincus, who has held down the left end of the newspaper for most of the last half-century. In the 60s and 70s, Pincus served two stints for the Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; that is, during the era dominated by Committee Chairman William Fulbright, a fierce critic of the “arrogance of power” that he espied in US policies, including America’s close relationship with Israel. Curiously, Pincus’ two stints of public service to liberal Democrats on Capitol Hill are omitted from his official Post biography. In a September 3 piece that echoed Fulbright’s oppositional style, Pincus ripped the idea that Uncle Sam had any business trying to influence either Morsi or NAM:
For the Beltway cognoscenti, of course, Pincus’ mention of Bush 43 shuts down the argument. If Bush was for it, then any civilized Georgetowner or Dupont Circler must be against it.
In fact, while the Post boasts a conservative or two on its roster, the deep structure of the paper is still, of course, decidedly liberal and liberationist in its view of the Third World. For example, there’s Karen DeYoung, who has been at the Post since 1975 and now holds the title of associate editor, as well as senior national security correspondent. So it’s no wonder that DeYoung writes for the paper whenever she wants to, and as cited in Part One of this series, her August 13 story on Morsi’s strike against the old military leadership left over from Mubarak, headlined “From alarm to relief in Washington amid Egypt’s military shakeup,” served as a prime example of a story that was seemingly aimed at reassuring readers that a) everything is fine in Egypt, and b) the Obama administration is handling things in an equally fine manner.
So what else should we know about DeYoung? We might be interested to learn that she seems never to have met a met a Third World liberation movement that she didn’t like. Back in 1980, she commented on the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, and others of that stripe, while speaking to the far-left Institute for Policy Studies: “Most journalists now, most Western journalists at least, are very eager to seek out guerrilla groups, leftist groups, because [reporters] assume they must be the good guys.” It was during that same year, 1980, we might recall, that conservative journalists Arnaud de Borchgrave and Robert Moss published The Spike, a best-selling novel about the willingness--and eagerness--of Western journalists to spike the ominous truth about communist subversion around the world.
Twenty years later, in 2000, DeYoung reported that Colombia’s FARC, listed by the US government as a terrorist group, was actually something much different. FARC’s real interests, she wrote, were “land distribution, social benefits and political access for the rural poor.” Yes, it’s true, she admitted, that FARC had an “early alliance” with the Colombian Communist Party, but nonetheless, she maintained, it “has always been an essentially rural movement.” We might note, of course, that plenty of communists have flourished in rural areas; back in the 30s, Mao Zedong’s Chinese communists billed themselves to friendly Western journalists as “agrarian reformers,” and so too, in the 60s, did the Vietnamese communists.
We might note, as well, that this sort of leftist worldview is almost always hostile to Israel. In the reckoning of those who romanticized the Sandinistas, the FARC, and various Asian communists--back when they were still real communists--the state of Israel is just another colonialist power, a last vestige of European imperialism and American hegemonism in the Middle East. And so, as we have seen, someone such as Morsi of Egypt is regarded sympathetically--not because Western reporters love Islamic domestic policy, but because Western reporters loathe the West’s foreign policy.
Returning to the present, for its part, the Obama administration was obviously not too displeased by Morsi’s visit to Tehran; the Egyptian president has been invited to visit Washington DC on September 23, even as the Obama administration plans to relieve $1 billion in Egyptian debt and help Morsi’s government secure more than $5 billion in new loans. And now come reports that the Obama administration is trying to help the Egyptians buy next-gen submarines from Germany. So while it would be wrong to say that the Brotherhood man has reaped a $6 billion reward for visiting Tehran, it would certainly not be wrong to say that the Obama administration has not held the Tehran trip against him.
And always, always, always, we hear the official reassurance, from the Obamans, that Morsi is a good guy, all faithfully recorded by friendly journalists. As the New York Times’ Steven Lee Myers reported on September 3:
Yet even as the Obamans were seeking to further normalize Morsi to an American audience, the view from Israel was far different: On the previous day, September 2, a headline above Barry Rubin’s op-ed in the Jerusalem Post declared, “Egypt kicks sand in Obama’s face.” As Rubin, an Israeli defense analyst, explained:
In other words, all those billions in foreign aid have given the US precious little leverage on Egypt. Yet, as we have seen, Morsi is coming to Obama’s Washington DC to collect billions--that we know of--in aid, loans, and debt relief.
Moreover, even as the Obama administration is helping Egypt, the Obamans are actively hindering Israel. Time magazine’s Aaron J. Klein and Karl Vick scored a scoop when they detailed US efforts to thwart an Israeli strike on Iran, throttling back on a joint military exercise scheduled for October:
And so, for example, the Israelis will not be allowed access to certain kinds of highly sensitive radar that might allow the Israelis more anticipation. As Time puts it, the embargo “serves to inhibit any Israeli decision to ‘go it alone’ against Iran.” As the reporters conclude:
In other words, the US is denying Israel data that might be vital for its safety. As one senior Israeli military official told Time, “Basically what the Americans are saying is, ‘We don’t trust you.’”
So let’s step back for a second: How does it happen that the US government trusts Morsi, even when he is untrustworthy, and yet puts so little trust in Israel--regarded by the vast majority of Americans as trusted ally? How did we end up in a situation where the MSM seem more interested in cheering for anti-American policies and less interested--less than uninterested is more like it--in seeing US interests advanced?
PART 4: Obama, Egypt, and Israel: None Dare Call It Treason, Fifty Years Later
Barely more than three years ago, President Obama traveled to Cairo, speaking to students and offering a “new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world.” Now, in the wake of the storming of the US Embassy in Cairo on Tuesday, Obama’s outreach policy is in ruins; the death of the US ambassador in Libya further underscores the reality that the “Arab Spring” is really an Arab winter.
Hell, as Thomas Hobbes said, is reality seen too late. And the hellishness of today’s Egypt seems manifest to anyone paying attention to Egypt today; after the embassy violence, Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi seems focused only on prosecuting the makers of the movie, even as Morsi’s own Muslim Brotherhood continues protests in front of the US embassy on Friday.
Confronted with all this bad news, the mainstream media seems to have made a key decision on its coverage--attack Mitt Romney. They will continue to defend their anointed champion, Obama, against attacks on his foreign policy record. A headline from The Business Insider sums up the state of play: “Mitt Romney Is Getting Completely Shredded For His Response To The US Embassy Attacks.”
Romney’s basic point was that Islamists are attacking us because we are weak; as a campaign document puts it, “We have seen a foreign policy of weakness and decline in American influence and respect. Yesterday, we saw the consequences of this perceived weakness.” And that’s what has sent the MSM into overdrive in defense of Obama. Romney is now being picked apart on minor timeline issues (issues on which he was correct), while the major thrust of what he said--his critique of Obama policy weakness--is ignored.
As Breitbart News’s Joel Pollak pointed out, it would have been just as easy, were the MSM so inclined, to take apart the contradictions of various Obama administration statements. Or, as Breitbart’s Tony Lee observed, the MSM could have made the Obama administration’s lack of preparation against possible attacks--it was, after all, the anniversary of 9-11--into an issue. But the MSM wasn’t interested in any of that. And of course, there’s the larger question hanging over all US Mideast policymaking: are we seeing, as Samuel Huntington suggested almost 20 years ago, a “clash of civilizations” that might be beyond the power of even the 44th President to solve? But none of those arguments fit the needs of the pro-Obama MSM narrative. So they are ignored.
Thus Obama was able to look stern and solemn, denouncing the latest violence on Wednesday’s nightly news broadcasts--and none of those shows noted that the President was jetting off, that same night, to a political campaign rally in Las Vegas.
No wonder Romney’s having a hard time; the media really are out to get him. As Brent Bozell, president of the watchdogging Media Research Center, put it earlier this year:
And that’s the bottom line: if it helps Obama, cover the story. And if it doesn’t help Obama, don’t cover it--or better yet, blast Romney. And as we have seen, the media’s endless efforts to hurt Romney also entail hurting the US national interest and also the interests of our allies, most notably Israel.
In the third part of this series, we observed that the Obama administration seems to be putting more trust in Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood than in Bibi Netanyahu and the Israeli government. The Obamans were looking the other way as Morsi warmed up to the government of Iran, but at the same time, the Obamans were doing everything they could to interfere with possible Israeli plans to strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities.
In fact, the tilt toward the Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood--and away from American and Israeli interests--is part of a remarkable pattern of US foreign policy over the last six decades. It’s a pattern so distinct, in fact, that it requires historical explication.
A half-century ago, President John F. Kennedy quipped, “The only thing worse than being an enemy of the United States was being an ally.” Kennedy was thinking about countries in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, all associated with the United States, all opposed to communism--and yet under fire in the US for alleged corruption and autocracy. Indeed, over the previous 15 years--in the '40s and '50s--the US had lost allies in Eastern Europe, gallant anti-Nazi countries such as Poland and Czechoslovakia that were traded away at Yalta, and then, in turn, China, North Korea, and Cuba. Meanwhile, in JFK’s time, communist subversions threatened other US allies around the world.
In 1964, a year after Kennedy’s assassination, an American named John Stormer tried to make sense of what was happening in the US. Stormer published a book, None Dare Call It Treason, taking the title from a couplet from a 16th century English courtier, John Harington: “Treason doth never prosper: what’s the reason? Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason.” In other words, by the time you know it, it’s too late.
Stormer’s first chapter asked bluntly, “Have we gone crazy?” That is, have we failed to see what’s going on? Have we obtusely sat by as countries fall to communism? Thus, Stormer wondered, could there be a larger pattern of defeat and retreat that Americans were not seeing?
As Stormer put it, “The Cold War is a real war. It has already claimed more lives, enslaved more people, and cost more money than any ‘hot’ war in history. Yet, most Americans refuse to admit that we are at war.” He continued, “That is why we are rapidly losing.”
Stormer quoted Sen. Thomas Dodd, an FBI agent who became a Democratic senator from Connecticut: “At the close of World War II, our forces stood triumphant… The last 16 years have witnessed a calamitous retreat from victory. During all these years we have suffered defeat after defeat at the hands of international communism.”
The alarmist tone of 'None Dare Call It Treason' struck a chord with Americans, at least on the right. The book was embraced by Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign, selling more than two million copies in its first year of publication. And yet long after the Goldwater era, the book continued to sell--some seven million copies over the next quarter-century.
The analysis in Treason fades out, of course, after 1964, so the Vietnam War, for example, is not a significant part of Stormer’s narrative. However, Stormer popularized one important phrase, “anti-anti-communism,” that would continue to affect our politics for the next quarter-century. “Anti-anti-communism” can be defined as the fear felt by many Americans--especially among the elite--that if they were vocally anti-communist, they then would be lumped in with such demonized figures as Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, and J. Edgar Hoover. Thus the spirit of anti-anti-communism mitigated the effectiveness of anti-communism.
So as we think about the Vietnam War, for example, it’s hard to say that the US went easy on the Vietnamese communists; yet on the other hand, we clearly didn’t try to win. Our efforts were anti-communist, but they were not that anti-communist; the US was infected with the anti-anti-communist bug.
Thus in 1968, after just three years of large-scale fighting, the US was already looking to negotiate--over the heads of the South Vietnamese--a face-saving deal with the North Vietnamese. By that year, it was obvious to all that the US would eventually leave South Vietnam to its fate. Indeed, as we look back at Vietnam, it’s hard to think of a war that turned out worse for US interests. We fought and bled in a war that was unlikely ever to succeed. And meanwhile, the cause of anti-communism was discredited in the US and around the world.
No wonder, then, that our mission to help defend South Vietnam against takeover by North Vietnam ultimately ended in complete debacle. In the spring of 1975, the Democratic-controlled Congress pulled the plug on the Saigon regime, leaving Hanoi--still aided by the Soviet Union and China--to take over the entire country. So in the end, JFK’s point was vindicated: the only thing worse than being an enemy of the US is being an ally.
Around the world in the mid-'70s, the pattern seemed the same. Communists took over in Angola, Ethiopia, and Mozambique; in each case, Western elites, including the MSM, regarded these red victories as much-deserved defeats for colonialism and toadyism.
Later in that decade, President Jimmy Carter--having filled up his administration with committed anti-anti-communists--declared that “human rights” were more important than anti-communism.
Thus the Carter administration went searching around the world for pro-American regimes that needed to be reformed by Washington--regardless of the threat they faced. One such was Nicaragua: the anti-communist regime of leader Anastasio Somoza was deemed corrupt and oppressive, so he was soon gone, replaced by Karen DeYoung’s friends, the Sandinistas. Carter similarly attempted to pull the US out of its peaceful military alliance with South Korea--only to be thwarted by an uproar from Ronald Reagan and the right.
Yet Republican opposition to Carter policies could not save an even more important US ally, the Shah of Iran--toppled in 1979. In the minds of many in the MSM and in the elite culture, the Shah’s rule had always been illegitimate; after all, he had been installed into power, back in 1953, by an Anglo-American coup, pushing out the previous leader, Mohammad Mossadegh--who has, as a result, been sainted by leftist historians.
Carter himself did not cheer for the fall of the Shah’s government, but plenty in his administration and in the Democratic Party did cheer, because they saw the Shah as not only illegitimate but also corrupt and dictatorial; he was, after all, an American ally. Meanwhile, the Ayatollah Khomeini was seen as an honest, albeit rigorous, reformer, sure to enact land redistribution. Therefore, by the time of the US embassy takeover in November 1979, when it became obvious that Khomeini was a genuine enemy of the US, it was too late. And we all know what’s happened since: we lost an imperfect friend in Tehran and gained an implacable enemy.
But wait: Not everyone saw Iran as an implacable enemy. On July 23, 2007, Barack Obama was asked in a Democratic presidential debate if he would be willing to negotiate with the Iranians without any preconditions. Would Obama come to talks with the Iranians without demanding that Iran first forswear, for example, terrorist violence and the destruction of Israel? Obama’s direct answer: “I would.” Thus the future president undercut years of American diplomatic efforts to isolate Iran, or at least to make that rogue regime make some sort of concessions to common civilization. Indeed, as late as May 2008, the Obamans were sticking with that no-preconditions line; only the challenge of defeating John McCain caused Obama to hawk up a bit.
For their part, the Iranians noticed. In October 2008, analyst Amir Taheri described how the Iranian government was rooting for Obama to win that November. As Taheri put it:
And all that has mostly happened. The hard-won US victory in Iraq, tenuous as it might have been, has been tossed away by the Obamans.
Just as strikingly, the Obama administration conspicuously failed to support Iranian protesters during the abortive “green revolution” of 2009. And yet just two years later, of course, the Obamans supported the Egyptian uprising against Mubarak. As JFK might have said, we failed to help a revolt against an enemy, and then we helped a revolt against a friend. And now, of course, the US spends its time rewarding Morsi and restraining Israel.
The headline in The Financial Times--not exactly a pro-Zionist publication--was blunt in describing the argument between Obama and Netanyahu over Iran policy: “US and Israel in open feud over Iran.”
So if John Stormer, author of None Dare Call it Treason, were describing these events, what might he say? How might he describe what’s happening in the Middle East?
He might begin by noting the obvious: the dominoes are all falling one way--against the US. And meanwhile, of course, the experts and the MSM are busy assuring us that everything is fine. We must then ask: So what should that tell us about our experts and reporters?
Stormer might indeed revive his phrase, “anti-anti-communism,” and speak today of “anti-anti-Islamism.” That is, just as it was gauche to be too anti-communist in decades past, so today it is poor form to be too anti-Islamist.
In other words, the real threat is not Islamism, but rather, anti-anti-Islamism. And yet a truth remains: we cannot win a war against Islamic radicalism and violence if we can’t see it and name it.
Stormer might note, moreover that this baleful phenomenon preceded the Obama administration. It was, after all, George W. Bush, who, after the 9/11 attacks, traveled to an Islamic center in DC and declared--bizarrely but politically correctly--that “Islam is peace.” Stormer might also critique the faddish academic/journalistic romanticization of “The Other,” which puts law enforcement on the defensive here at home. Stormer might even make mention of the propaganda campaign detailed by Mitchell Bard detailed in his name-naming 2010 book, The Arab Lobby: The Invisible Alliance That Undermines America’s Interests in the Middle East.
As proof that anti-anti-Islamism is on the rise, Stormer might further take note of the furious reaction against Rep. Michele Bachmann and the rest of the “National Security Five” when they raised questions about the Muslim connections of Obama State Department aide Huma Abedin. As I wrote on July 23, the anti-anti-Islamist DC Establishment seems to have decided that the real enemy in the fight against jihad is Bachmann and her colleagues.
So yes, anti-anti-Islamism has been a powerful force in American society, and a prime beneficiary has been one Barack Hussein Obama. After all, Obama soared from the Illinois State Senate to the White House in just four years, lofted upward on a magic carpet of elite/MSM adulation.
How could someone such as this man rise so far, so fast, with so little scrutiny? Some, such as Dinesh D’Souza, have tried to scrutinize the 44th President, but D’Souza’s documentary, “2016,” which attempts to connect all the dots of Obama’s life, is, of course, beyond the pale of polite dialogue in DC--even if it is attracting audiences across the country.
And then there’s top White House aide Valerie Jarrett, who seems to run the White House. She is a leftist, descended from leftists, long associated with leftists--and as we have seen, the left veers toward the multicultural and towards a Fanon-esque romanticism of anti-Western violence. And, for what it’s worth, she was born in Iran. As with Obama, how could someone with such a background rise so high, with so few questions?
Indeed, none of these questions are being asked, or even talked about, by the MSM. In the meantime, the dolorous dominoes of American defeat continue to fall in the Middle East.
Perhaps they will keep falling until there are no more questions to be asked--because, for the reasons that Stormer outlined, none will dare ask them.