To the victors go the history books, but not at The Nation. Instead, they are covering for Obama, who was decidedly the loser in recent events in Egypt as he backed Mubarak right up to the end. For weeks the Administration sent clear messages that Mubarak could stay if some of his power was handed off to Suleiman.
Obama’s hand picked envoy Frank Wisner let the cat out of the bag at the Munich Conference after his personal visit with Mubarak: Mubarak had to stay to make sure the transition was orderly, in other words to make sure the US kept its hand in Egyptian affairs.
Then Secretary of State Hilary Clinton piped in, too, endorsing the Wisner approach and raising the bogey man of Arab “radicalism” in a manner not much different than the line coming from the far right.
Not once did Obama state any difference from these views and not once did he call for the resignation of Mubarak either in public, or if off the record reporting is to be believed, in private.
Yet that has not stopped the liberal left from the New York Times to The Nation now reinterpreting everything Obama said as actually being a secret signal to the protesters in Egypt that he was on their side. It’s as if they really think that Obama advisor Samantha Power not Bob Gates and Joe Biden was calling the shots on Egypt.
But where was Obama (and Samantha Power for that matter) when Egyptian workers were on strike, arrested, tortured and harassed over the last two years he has been in office? This revolution did not begin 18 days ago, it has been years in the making.
Does the Nation and the Times know why the youth movement is called the April 6 Youth Movement? Because it was on April 6 that Egyptian workers faced off against the regime.
As Stanford historian Joel Beinin has explained:
“There’s a lot of confusion about that event. I was actually there on the spot. The strike didn’t happen. What happened was the textile workers of Mahalla al-Kubra—there are about 22,000 of them, it’s the largest single enterprise in Egypt—were running a campaign to raise the national monthly minimum wage to 1,200 Egyptian pounds a month. That campaign is still in place. And they called for a general strike of workers on April 6, 2008, to support that demand. The security forces occupied their factory for three days before April 6th. Using a combination of coercion and cooptation, they made sure that the strike didn’t happen. Instead, what happened was a more or less spontaneous demonstration of mainly women and children protesting in the main square of Mahalla al-Kubra about the high price of food and especially subsidized bread, which is the key consumption item for a great majority of Egyptians. The protest was greeted with a hail of rocks by uniformed security people, just as we have seen in the days after January 25th in Tahrir Square. But there was no actual strike in Mahalla al-Kubra.”
Did we ever hear anything from Barack Obama about those events and similar ones that followed when he assumed office in 2009? No. In fact, the deadly silence on Egypt from Obama – well not exactly silence if you count the personal meeting in the Oval Office with Mubarak (more than the Dalai Lama got) – led to an odd coalition of neo-cons like Robert Kagan and human rights activists like Tom Malinowski appealing to the Administration in two open letters.
No, the Obama strategy all along has been to run from what they saw as the neo-con agenda of imposing democracy so Obama fell into the arms of a renewed realism that led to him to callously ignore human rights issues from Burma to Tibet to Tunisia.
But of course the liberal left is desperate and they have no world view apart from that provided by the Democratic party elite so they cling to the hem of power even in the face of the brutal truth. The truth is the Egyptian people, largely poor and working class started this revolution and are still its core source of support even with the emergence of allies from the middle class and professional class. As the movement enters the post-Mubarak phase they will no more be able to count on Obama for real support than they could over the last two years. The “Obama Doctrine” is cold and calculating and it is time for American liberals to wake up.