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I’ve been beating up on State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley lately, first over his disingenuous support for freedom of the press as the U.S. cracked down on WikiLeaks and more recently over his amazing ability to say nothing while being asked direct questions about the illegality of Israeli colonization of the Palestinian land.
So why stop now?
Speaking on Al Jazeera English today, Crowley addressed the massive protests seen in Egypt over the past few days. Crowley urged “restraint on both sides,” which has been a boilerplate refrain for State Department spokesmen and their boss, Hillary Clinton, when addressing turmoil all over the world, from China to Israel and Palestine. Recently, during a January 7, 2011 press briefing, Crowley stated that the United States wanted “to see restraint on all sides” in Tunisia. A week later, Clinton released a statement concerning the “several weeks of demonstrations and popular unrest” in Tunisia which “condemn[ed] the violence and urge[d] restraint on all sides.”
Unsurprisingly, however, the State Department did not urge protesters and rioters in Iran to show restraint in the wake of President Ahmadinejad’s re-election.
In his televised interview today, Crowley also repeatedly referred to the Egyptian government as “an ally and friend of the United States,” as well as a “partner” and “stabilizing force in the region.”
Yet, one thing Crowley said stuck out among the repetitions. At one point, he called the Mubarak government “an anchor of stability in the Middle East.” This phrase is strikingly reminiscent of what President Jimmy Carter said thirty-three years earlier in regard to the unflinching U.S. support, both vocal and material, of the Shah of Iran’s brutal dictatorship.
Carter, speaking at a New Year’s Eve state dinner in 1977, called the Shah’s Iran “an island of stability” in an otherwise turbulent Middle East. Carter said this at a time when in Iran, under the Shah’s tyrannical rule, “dissent was ruthlessly suppressed, in part by the use of torture in the dungeons of SAVAK, the [US and Israeli-trained] secret police,” as reported by Time magazine article from January 7, 1980.
The article continued,
“The depth of its commitment to the Shah apparently blinded Washington to the growing discontent. U.S. policymakers wanted to believe that their investment was buying stability and friendship; they trusted what they heard from the monarch, who dismissed all opposition as ‘the blah-blahs of armchair critics.’ Even after the revolution began, U.S. officials were convinced that ‘there is no alternative to the Shah.’ Carter took time out from the Camp David summit in September 1978 to phone the Iranian monarch and assure him of Washington’s continued support.”
Popular street demonstrations against the Shah’s rule became frequent throughout Iran in 1978 and, eventually, many cities were placed under martial law. During a peaceful demonstration in Tehran on September 8, 1978, government security forces opened fire on unarmed protesters, killing and wounding hundreds. The Shah and his wife Farah fled Iran in early 1979, never to return. They flew to Egypt, of all places, where they received a warm welcome by Anwar Sadat. A year and a half later, the Shah died in Egypt, was given a state funeral, and was buried in Cairo at the prestigious Al-Rifa’i Mosque.
Later in the Al Jazeera interview, Crowley let the cat out of the bag by revealing the real importance of Egypt to the United States. Egypt, Crowley said, had “made its own peace with Israel and is pursuing normal relations with Israel. We think that’s important. We think that’s a model that the region should adopt broadly speaking.” This “peace,” of course, signed at Camp David between Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, was famously brokered by Jimmy Carter in March 1979.
As part of the peace deal, the United States has since given upwards of $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt each year. When asked about this massive amount of financial assistance, which funds the Egyptian security forces currently unleashed against protesters, Crowley answered:
“Egypt is an ally and we rely on Egypt as an ally to be a stabilizing force in the region and that’s exactly what they are. And we contribute in terms of military and security assistance to help Egypt because that has benefits across the region as a whole.”
Clearly, these “benefits” include the violent suppression of Egyptian self-determination and democracy, as well as the buying of the Egyptian government’s cooperation and acquiescence in imprisoning and assaulting 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza.
So, considering the United States’ official assessment of Egypt’s “stability” during this time of unrest, how much time does the Mubarak regime really have left?