an Egyptian American, I welcome the Egyptian people's call
for President Mubarak to
go. So should all of us, for democracy will be good for
Egyptians and Americans
For thirty years Mubarak's authoritarian
government has held down the Egyptian
people with an iron fist. Under emergency laws imposed in
1981, Egypt's hated security
police routinely violate basic civil liberties guaranteed
in our own Bill of Rights. Freedom of assembly, freedom
expression, freedom from cruel
and unusual punishment, the right to a speedy and fair trial
- none are protected in Egypt. Dissent is rewarded with
indefinite detention without charge,
beatings, and torture.
For decades Mubarak's party, the
NDP, has rigged elections. In last fall's elections,
the NDP used restrictions on public campaigning, arbitrary
arrests, violence, and ballot
stuffing to push the opposition out of parliament.
The result: The opposition's share of seats in parliament
dropped from 25% to 3%.
Until recently, President Mubarak
had planned to hand over the reins of the government
to his son Gamal, as if he were the head of a Pharaonic
dynasty rather than an
Under Mubarak, connections and
bribery decide who gets jobs, permits, contracts,
and favorable treatment by government officials.
From the Cold War through 9/11
and since, the U.S. has supported Mubarak and other authoritarian
regimes throughout the Middle East in exchange for going
along with its agenda on oil, Israel, the war on terror,
and market economics. The
U.S. sends Egypt $1.5 billion a year, nearly all of it
military assistance, making Egypt
the second largest recipient of U.S. aid.
This attempt to purchase allies
at the expense of human rights and democracy has run its
To break the pro-democracy uprising,
the regime has had hired thugs arrest and
violently attack demonstrators and journalists, stoked fears
of foreigners and an Islamist
takeover, portrayed itself as the sole protector of the
people from chaos, and offered
After initially hesitating to
distance his administration from Mubarak, reports
indicate that Obama is now negotiating behind the scenes
In the meantime, Mubarak may have
enough time to crush the democratic movement.
Much depends on what stance Egypt's powerful military takes.
It is urgent that the U.S. take
stronger steps now to withdraw support for Egypt's
dictatorship. We should utilize our main source of leverage
in the situation - the
military aid we provide Egypt's military.
Obama should immediately announce
plans to suspend all military aid to Egypt until Mubarak
leaves, a process for free and fair presidential and
parliamentary elections negotiated
and established, and the emergency laws lifted.
Were Obama to do so, Egypt's military
would likely conclude that the cost of backing
Mubarak's dictatorship has become too high and that it will
benefit more from Mubarak's
quick departure and a transition to democracy.
Some argue that Obama should continue
to back the "devil we know" rather than
gamble on a more representative government whose direction
what do we think will happen if the U.S. continues to back
a dictatorship against
the will of 80 million Egyptians? Should we not worry
that many will blame the U.S.
for propping up their oppressor?
Others worry that if democracy
comes to Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood will establish
a theocratic regime similar to Iran's. The chances of this
are slim, however. The
youth-led pro-democracy movement is overwhelmingly
secular, with the Muslim Brotherhood
only one player among many. Were Egyptians
to win basic civil liberties and a multi-party democracy,
they would have less reason
to turn to the mosque as the only safe place to express
opposition to Mubarak's regime.
It's time to tell Mubarak that
his time is up. The people of the U.S. and Egypt
both stand to gain from democracy in Egypt. Let's begin
to heal ourrelationship with the Arab and Muslim worlds
by suspending military aid to Egypt's
dictatorship and supporting democracy in Egypt.
BlackCommentator.com Guest Commentator
Hany Khalil is an Egyptian American who teaches courses in
U.S. government and Macroeconomics in Houston, TX. Click
to contact Mr. Khalil.