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 both.
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 of
from cruel and unusual punishment, the right to a speedy and fair trial
- none are protected in Egypt. Dissent is rewarded with
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
and ballot stuffing to push the opposition out of parliament.
The result: The opposition's share of seats in parliament
dropped from 25%
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
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
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 partial concessions.
hesitating to distance his administration from Mubarak,
that Obama is now negotiating behind the scenes to speed
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
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
negotiated and established, and the emergency laws lifted.
Were Obama to do
so, Egypt's military would likely conclude that the cost of
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 is unclear.
what do we think will happen if the U.S. continues to back a
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
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 here
to contact Mr. Khalil.