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No Democracy For You!
Condoleezza Rice’s visit to Egypt this week was notable for what she said and who she met, but more notable for what she didn’t say and whom she didn’t meet. While it was remarkable to hear an American Secretary of State essentially
Wednesday, October 4,2006 00:00
by Hooman Majd, HuffingtonPost

Condoleezza Rice’s visit to Egypt this week was notable for what she said and who she met, but more notable for what she didn’t say and whom she didn’t meet. While it was remarkable to hear an American Secretary of State essentially apologize for years of American indifference to democracy in the region, her statements at once rang hollow because she neglected to meet with the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest political opposition group, and Kifaya, Egypt’s second largest political group refused to meet with her.

Ms. Rice’s explanation of why she won’t talk to the Brotherhood? "Egypt has its laws, it has its rule of law, and I’ll respect that", she said. Right, like laws banning political parties. The Muslim Brotherhood is banned in Egypt, and its members face jail, torture and death. Although what they envision, an Islamic republic in Egypt under Sharia law, may be unappetizing to us, ignoring them or proclaiming them a terrorist-friendly party wins us no friends amongst the very people we are trying to engage in the region. The Muslim Brotherhood has renounced violence and hasn’t committed a terrorist act since the 1950s (although they do support Palestinian resistance and sympathize with the Iraqi insurgency), and Kifaya, a secular group, objects to foreign interference in general and American support for President Hosni Mubarak in particular. Kifaya’s boycott of a meeting Ms. Rice held in Cairo with Egyptian opposition leaders is a bigger slap in the face than our government (or our media) would like to admit. And what did Ms. Rice neglect to say? She didn’t say to President Mubarak that unless he allows free, truly free elections, America can’t possibly maintain the level of U.S. aid to Egypt (second-largest recipient of U.S. cash, after Israel).

It’s nice to hear the Bush administration taking a cue from Jimmy Carter’s presidency. Carter, who rightly thought the U.S. could win no friends by supporting repressive regimes and whose call for democracy throughout the world pre-dated George Bush’s by almost thirty years, watched while the people of two nations, Nicaragua and Iran, took his words to heart and threw out two of the world’s most corrupt and dictatorial regimes. Neither result was happy for the U.S. and President Carter may have paid for his idealism at the ballot box, but his administration initially accepted the will of the people in both countries. Carter’s foreign policy proved that we can’t be picky if we call for democratic change: as much as we deplored the turn of events in Iran in 1979, particularly after U.S. hostages were taken, it’s good to remember that over ninety percent of Iranians voted for the Islamic Republic and Ayatollah Khomeini’s vision of a theocracy in a referendum that no one accused of being rigged. (Granted, it was a yes/no referendum that didn’t offer an alternative.) Condoleezza Rice, in her recent visit to Egypt, showed that the Bush administration, not unlike the Soup Nazi of Seinfeld fame, means to be picky. If you’re the Muslim Brotherhood you can be immensely popular and you can be big, but when you come to place your order, “No democracy for you!”

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