JFP 2/10: Mubarak Defiant; Obama Advisers Split; False Equivalence on Haiti
Just Foreign Policy News
February 10, 2011
Egypt Protests: Watch Four Demands
Four key demands have been constantly lifted up by protesters and opposition parties, which are essential for a credible transition to democracy: ending the arbitrary detention and harassment of journalists, human rights activists and peaceful demonstrators and freeing those who have been detained; ending the state of emergency; allowing free electoral competition in elections; and restoring full judicial supervision of elections.... Without these reforms, any 'orderly transition' in Egypt is likely to be a transition not to democracy, but a transition to dictatorship under a different face.
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1) President Mubarak said he would delegate authority to his vice president, Omar Suleiman, but would not resign, enraging hundreds of thousands gathered to hail his departure and setting the stage for what protesters promised would be the largest demonstrations since the uprising began, the New York Times reports. Several government officials had said during the day Mubarak was expected to announce his resignation.
2) Some media accounts are pushing a false equivalence between former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier and popularly elected former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting says. A New York Times report by Damien Cave warned that "experts inside and outside Haiti fear that the presence of the two former leaders could further destabilize the country." One would hope reporters could find a way to make a meaningful distinction between a ruthless, bloody dictator and a popular elected president, FAIR says. FAIR points out that while the Times noted that Aristide is "beloved by the poor but criticized by many," 80 percent of Haitians live under the poverty line.
3) The Obama administration's shifting response to the crisis in Egypt reflects a split over how and when Egyptian President Mubarak should leave office, the Los Angeles Times reports. Current US strategy, which remains the subject of vigorous debate inside the administration, calls for a Mubarak crony, Vice President Suleiman, to lead the reform process. The tactic is favored by Secretary of State Clinton, national security advisor Donilon, Defense Secretary Gates, and Dennis Ross, who has strong ties to Israel. National Security Council members Ben Rhodes, lead author of the Cairo speech, and Samantha Power, a human rights scholar, contend that if President Obama appears to side with the remnants of Mubarak's discredited regime, he risks being seen as complicit in stifling a pro-democracy movement.
4) The Muslim Brotherhood has consistently promoted an agenda of gradual reform and affirms an unequivocal position against violence, writes Brotherhood leader Essam el-Errian in the New York Times. The Brotherhood does not intend to take a dominant role in the forthcoming political transition, and is not putting forward a candidate for the presidential elections scheduled for September, he writes.
5) The Egyptian military has detained hundreds and possibly thousands of suspected government opponents since mass protests against Mubarak began, and some of these detainees say they have been tortured, the Guardian reports. The Guardian has spoken to detainees who say they have suffered extensive beatings. Human rights groups have documented the use of electric shocks on some of those held by the army. Egyptian human rights groups say families are desperately searching for missing relatives who have disappeared into army custody.
6) Military veterans are much more likely to be homeless than other Americans, according to the government's first in-depth study of homelessness among former servicemembers, USA Today reports. About 16% of homeless adults in a one-night survey in January 2009 were veterans, though vets make up only 10% of the adult population. The study found 11,300 younger veterans, 18 to 30, were in shelters at some point during 2009. Virtually all served in Iraq or Afghanistan.
7) Leaked diplomatic cables reveal that the US provided officers from the Egyptian secret police with training at the FBI, despite persistent allegations that the secret police routinely tortured detainees, the Telegraph reports.
8) India and Pakistan announced they would resume peace talks stalled since 2008, the New York Times reports. The discussions will include meetings focused on defusing tensions over the disputed border region of Kashmir. Secret talks in 2007 came close to resolving some of the most difficult issues, including the status of Kashmir, the Times notes.
1) Mubarak Refuses to Step Down
Anthony Shadid and David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, February 10, 2011
Cairo - President Hosni Mubarak told the Egyptian people Thursday that he would delegate authority to his vice president, Omar Suleiman, but that he would not resign, enraging hundreds of thousands gathered to hail his departure and setting the stage for what protesters promised would be the largest demonstrations since the uprising began last month.
The declaration by Mr. Mubarak that he would remain president marked another pivotal turn in the largest popular revolt in Egypt's history, and some protesters warned that weeks of peaceful protests might give way to violence as early as Friday's demonstrations. The 17-minute speech itself underlined the yawning gap between ruler and ruled in Egypt: Mr. Mubarak, in paternalistic tones, talked specifics of constitutional reform, while sprawling crowds in Tahrir Square, in a mix of bewilderment and anger, demanded he step down.
After the speech, the mood in Tahrir Square, celebratory throughout the day, suddenly turned grim, as angry protesters waved their shoes in defiance - considered a deeply insulting gesture in the Arab world - and began chanting "Leave! Leave!"
Mohamed ElBaradei, the opposition leader and Nobel laureate, called for the military to intervene to avoid an outbreak of violence. "Egypt will explode," he wrote on his Twitter account. "Army must save the country now."
Mr. Mubarak spoke after a tumultuous day in which the newly appointed head of his ruling party said the president had agreed to step down, and the military issued a communiqué in which it said it was intervening to safeguard the country, language some protesters and opposition leaders read as word of a possible coup d'état.
Instead, Mr. Mubarak, an 82-year-old former general, struck a defiant, even provocative note. While he acknowledged that his government had made some mistakes, he made clear he was still president and that reforms in Egypt would proceed under his government's supervision and according to a timetable leading to elections in September.
Earlier in the day, the Egyptian military appeared poised to assert itself as the leading force in the country's politics, declaring on state television that it would take measures "to maintain the homeland and the achievements and the aspirations of the great people of Egypt" and meet the demands of the protesters who have insisted on ending Mr. Mubarak's 30-year rule.
Several government officials said during the day that Mr. Mubarak was expected to announce his own resignation and pass authority to Mr. Suleiman. Even President Obama seemed to believe Mr. Mubarak would go further than he did. In a speech in Michigan before Mr. Mubarak's address, he said Egypt was "witnessing history unfold."
The new leader of the ruling National Democratic Party, Hossam Badrawy, said he was sure the president would step down.
Gen. Hassan al-Roueini, military commander for the Cairo area, also appeared in Tahrir Square and told the demonstrators, "All your demands will be met today."
2) Duvalier = Aristide?
Equation of dictator with popular ex-president distorts Haitian history, reality
Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, 2/10/11
[links at original - JFP.]
It was certainly surprising to see former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier return to the country on January 16. To say he has blood on his hands is an understatement: The Duvalier regimes were responsible for tens of thousands of deaths and widespread torture (Human Rights Watch, 1/17/11), and stole half a billion dollars from the country (Miami Herald, 1/17/11).
Soon thereafter, former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide announced his intention to return to his country from exile. Aristide, twice elected and twice overthrown by coups, remains a popular figure in Haitian politics. His first stint in office was remarkably peaceful (Extra!, 11-12/94); his second, during which he faced armed attacks that eventually succeeded in overthrowing his government, was scarcely more violent (Extra!, 7-8/06). But some media accounts are expressing concern about Aristide's return, in effect equating him with the bloody Duvalier.
USA Today columnist DeWayne Wickham wrote a piece on February 8 headlined "U.S. Meekly Allows Despots to Return to Haiti." Wickham recounted some of the horrors of Duvalier's reign of terror, but for some unfathomable reason decided that Aristide poses a comparable menace to Haiti: His return might "push Haiti closer to turmoil," and the two of them are "old troublemakers...returning at a time when Haiti's democracy is most vulnerable to the havoc they almost certainly will produce."
The Duvalier = Aristide equation could be seen elsewhere. A New York Times report (2/9/11) by Damien Cave warned that "experts inside and outside Haiti fear that the presence of the two former leaders could further destabilize the country." The Times went on to note that "members of the international community expressed concern that Mr. Aristide...could create widespread instability at a precarious moment." The story does note that Aristide was "beloved by the poor but criticized by many." Given that 80 percent of Haitians live under the poverty line (CIA World Factbook, 1/12/11), it's hard to know what to make of that.
A short L.A. Times piece (2/8/11) conveyed a similar message: Aristide "has broad popular support but remains a polarizing figure in Haiti." That article also equated Duvalier and Aristide, reporting that "the return of the two former leaders comes at an unsteady moment for the country."
One would hope reporters could find a way to make a meaningful distinction between a ruthless, bloody dictator and a popular elected president. It's absurd to lump them together as "two former leaders" or, as the USA Today headline put it, "despots."
3) Obama's advisors split on when and how Mubarak should go
White House aides acknowledge that the differing views among Obama's team of advisors has resulted in a mixed message on Egypt.
Peter Nicholas and Christi Parsons, Los Angeles Times, February 10, 2011
Washington - The Obama administration's shifting response to the crisis in Egypt reflects a sharp debate over how and when Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak should leave office, a policy decision that could have long-term implications for America's image in the Middle East.
After sending mixed signals, the administration has appeared to settle on supporting a measured transition for easing Mubarak out of power. That strategy, which remains the subject of vigorous debate inside the administration, calls for a Mubarak crony, Vice President Omar Suleiman, to lead the reform process.
According to experts who have interacted with the White House, the tactic is favored by a group of foreign policy advisors including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, national security advisor Thomas Donilon and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who worry about regional stability and want to reassure other Middle East governments that the U.S. will not abandon an important and longtime ally.
But that position has been harder to defend as Suleiman and other Mubarak allies appeared to dig in, refusing the administration's entreaties to undertake swift reforms such as scrapping the country's longstanding state of emergency. On Wednesday, Suleiman warned ominously of a coup unless the unrest ended. That prompted White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs to fire back that the Egyptians should "expand the size and scope of the discussions and the negotiations and to take many of the steps that we outlined yesterday - one of which is lifting the emergency law."
Suleiman's behavior reinforced the arguments of another camp inside the Obama administration, including National Security Council members Ben Rhodes and Samantha Power, which contends that if President Obama appears to side with the remnants of Mubarak's discredited regime, he risks being seen as complicit in stifling a pro-democracy movement.
Obama's own statements have evolved as the situation has changed, but they illustrate a gradual pulling away from Mubarak's regime and a call to begin the transition immediately. On Jan. 28, after Mubarak said he would not run for reelection in September, Obama said the Egyptian president "has a responsibility to give meaning to those words, to take concrete steps and actions that deliver on that promise."
But over the last several days, his administration has expressed increasing frustration with the slow progress, and Wednesday the National Security Council made its strongest call yet to speed up the transition.
Aides acknowledge privately that the differing views among Obama's advisors have produced a mixed message. Even Wednesday, as they continued to call for an orderly transition to democracy led by Suleiman, White House officials said the process wasn't moving fast enough.
"There is a realist camp who above all would like to see order," said Thomas Carothers, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who has been in contact with the administration. "They acknowledge there has to be some kind of transition, but their emphasis is on an orderly transition, and they feel Suleiman can deliver order and is shrewd enough not to stonewall. On the other side, the idealists feel the time has come - that the old regime is finished … and that this is a true democratic outbreak."
Early on, the administration stressed its alliance with Mubarak and his stabilizing force in the region, but as the protests in Egypt grew, the White House began seeking change.
In a weekend interview, Clinton said that countries evolve "at different paces" - a remark seen as an endorsement of methodical transition - and said her priority was to "protect the security and interests of the United States."
But on Tuesday, Biden spoke to Suleiman and told him that a state of emergency giving the regime broader powers must be repealed "immediately." The same day, Gibbs refuted Suleiman's contention that the street protests are not genuine, but rather driven by outside forces.
In a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, security council member Rhodes, who was the lead writer of Obama's 2009 speech to the Muslim world from Cairo, said the Mubarak government wasn't moving quickly enough. "This has to be a period of political change in Egypt," Rhodes said, adding that the "transition must begin without delay and produce immediate, irreversible progress that the people of Egypt can see and are demanding. "Thus far it's clear that while the government has entered into a period of negotiation with the opposition and dialogue, what they put forward is not yet meeting that threshold of change in the eyes of the Egyptian people," Rhodes said.
Inside the White House, there is no disagreement over whether Mubarak must leave. Instead, the debate focuses on four questions: the speed at which the regime repeals its longstanding emergency law; the pace of the transition; the extent to which opposition groups such as the banned Muslim Brotherhood should be included in the negotiations; and whether Mubarak must step aside now or can take on a temporary role while Suleiman runs the reform process.
The differing priorities reflect the background and interests of the various players, many of whom hold deep convictions rooted in their lives' work.
Rhodes was one of the writers of the 9/11 Commission report as well as the Cairo speech, meant to broadcast a new day in relations between the U.S. and the Muslim world. Charged with helping craft Obama's message on foreign policy since the 2008 election campaign, his job is partly keeping the president's message consistent.
Power, a noted human rights scholar, first met Obama when he reached out to her after reading her Pulitzer Prize-winning book on genocide. During the presidential campaign, she resigned from Obama's team after being quoted as calling Clinton "a monster." She later apologized.
The other camp includes Dennis Ross, a former Middle East peace negotiator for Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Ross, who has strong ties to Israel, is the author of a 2007 book that advised against treating the Muslim Brotherhood as a potential partner in Egypt's political future, noting the group's refusal to renounce violence "as a tool of other Islamists."
National Security Council member Daniel Shapiro has sought to reassure pro-Israel groups that the inclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt's political negotiations would not undermine the country's peace treaty with Israel, according to people who have talked with him. Shapiro, who led outreach to Jewish voters in Obama's presidential campaign, has tended to the president's relations with Israel and other regional partners, as well as with Jewish leaders in the U.S.
4) What The Muslim Brothers Want
Essam el-Errian, New York Times, February 9, 2011
[El-Errian is a member of the guidance council of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.]
Cairo - The Egyptian people have spoken, and we have spoken emphatically. In two weeks of peaceful demonstrations we have persistently demanded liberation and democracy. It was groups of brave, sincere Egyptians who initiated this moment of historical opportunity on Jan. 25, and the Muslim Brotherhood is committed to joining the national effort toward reform and progress.
In more than eight decades of activism, the Muslim Brotherhood has consistently promoted an agenda of gradual reform. Our principles, clearly stated since the inception of the movement in 1928, affirm an unequivocal position against violence. For the past 30 years we have posed, peacefully, the greatest challenge to the ruling National Democratic Party of Hosni Mubarak, while advocating for the disenfranchised classes in resistance to an oppressive regime.
We have repeatedly tried to engage with the political system, yet these efforts have been largely rejected based on the assertion that the Muslim Brotherhood is a banned organization, and has been since 1954. It is seldom mentioned, however, that the Egyptian Administrative Court in June 1992 stated that there was no legal basis for the group's dissolution.
In the wake of the people's revolt, we have accepted invitations to participate in talks on a peaceful transition. Along with other representatives of the opposition, we recently took part in exploratory meetings with Vice President Omar Suleiman. In these talks, we made clear that we will not compromise or co-opt the public's agenda. We come with no special agenda of our own - our agenda is that of the Egyptian people, which has been asserted since the beginning of this uprising.
We aim to achieve reform and rights for all: not just for the Muslim Brotherhood, not just for Muslims, but for all Egyptians. We do not intend to take a dominant role in the forthcoming political transition. We are not putting forward a candidate for the presidential elections scheduled for September.
While we express our openness to dialogue, we also re-assert the public's demands, which must be met before any serious negotiations leading to a new government. The Mubarak regime has yet to show serious commitment to meeting these demands or to moving toward substantive, guaranteed change.
As our nation heads toward liberty, however, we disagree with the claims that the only options in Egypt are a purely secular, liberal democracy or an authoritarian theocracy. Secular liberal democracy of the American and European variety, with its firm rejection of religion in public life, is not the exclusive model for a legitimate democracy.
In Egypt, religion continues to be an important part of our culture and heritage. Moving forward, we envision the establishment of a democratic, civil state that draws on universal measures of freedom and justice, which are central Islamic values. We embrace democracy not as a foreign concept that must be reconciled with tradition, but as a set of principles and objectives that are inherently compatible with and reinforce Islamic tenets.
The tyranny of autocratic rule must give way to immediate reform: the demonstration of a serious commitment to change, the granting of freedoms to all and the transition toward democracy. The Muslim Brotherhood stands firmly behind the demands of the Egyptian people as a whole.
Steady, gradual reform must begin now, and it must begin on the terms that have been called for by millions of Egyptians over the past weeks. Change does not happen overnight, but the call for change did - and it will lead us to a new beginning rooted in justice and progress.
5) Egypt's army 'involved in detentions and torture'
Military accused by human rights campaigners of targeting hundreds of anti-government protesters
Chris McGreal, Guardian, Wednesday 9 February 2011 23.46 GMT http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/feb/09/egypt-army-detentions-torture-accused
Cairo - The Egyptian military has secretly detained hundreds and possibly thousands of suspected government opponents since mass protests against President Hosni Mubarak began, and at least some of these detainees have been tortured, according to testimony gathered by the Guardian.
The military has claimed to be neutral, merely keeping anti-Mubarak protesters and loyalists apart. But human rights campaigners say this is clearly no longer the case, accusing the army of involvement in both disappearances and torture - abuses Egyptians have for years associated with the notorious state security intelligence (SSI) but not the army.
The Guardian has spoken to detainees who say they have suffered extensive beatings and other abuses at the hands of the military in what appears to be an organised campaign of intimidation. Human rights groups have documented the use of electric shocks on some of those held by the army.
Egyptian human rights groups say families are desperately searching for missing relatives who have disappeared into army custody. Some of the detainees have been held inside the renowned Museum of Egyptian Antiquities on the edge of Tahrir Square. Those released have given graphic accounts of physical abuse by soldiers who accused them of acting for foreign powers, including Hamas and Israel.
Among those detained have been human rights activists, lawyers and journalists, but most have been released. However, Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights in Cairo, said hundreds, and possibly thousands, of ordinary people had "disappeared" into military custody across the country for no more than carrying a political flyer, attending the demonstrations or even the way they look. Many were still missing.
6) Veterans more likely to be homeless, study says
William M. Welch, USA Today, February 10, 2011
Military veterans are much more likely to be homeless than other Americans, according to the government's first in-depth study of homelessness among former servicemembers.
About 16% of homeless adults in a one-night survey in January 2009 were veterans, though vets make up only 10% of the adult population.
More than 75,000 veterans were living on the streets or in a temporary shelter that night. In that year, 136,334 veterans spent at least one night in a homeless shelter - a count that did not include homeless veterans living on the streets.
The urgency of the problem is growing as more people return from service in Iraq and Afghanistan. The study found 11,300 younger veterans, 18 to 30, were in shelters at some point during 2009. Virtually all served in Iraq or Afghanistan, said Mark Johnston, deputy assistant secretary for special needs at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The findings about homeless veterans are in a joint analysis by HUD and the VA. The report, a copy of which was obtained by USA TODAY, is a follow-up to HUD's report on homelessness last year.
The report analyzed data from a nationwide homeless survey conducted around the country on one night in January 2009 and a second study looking at who falls into and out of homelessness over the course of a year.
Of the 75,609 homeless veterans found on a single night in January 2009, 43% were living on the streets without shelter, and 57% were staying in an emergency shelter or transitional housing.
The 136,334 veterans who spent at least one night in a shelter during the year studied amount to one of every 168 veterans in the USA and one of every 10 veterans living in poverty.
7) WikiLeaks: Egyptian 'torturers' trained by FBI
The US provided officers from the Egyptian secret police with training at the FBI, despite allegations that they routinely tortured detainees and suppressed political opposition.
Steven Swinford, Telegraph (UK), 9:00PM GMT 09 Feb 2011
According to leaked diplomatic cables, the head of the Egyptian state security and investigative service (SSIS) thanked the US for "training opportunities" at the FBI academy in Quantico, Virginia. The SSIS has been repeatedly accused of using violence and brutality to help prop up the regime of President Hosni Mubarak.
In April, 2009, the US ambassador in Cairo stated that "Egypt's police and domestic security services continue to be dogged by persistent, credible allegations of abuse of detainees. "The Interior Ministry uses SSIS to monitor and sometimes infiltrate the political opposition and civil society. SSIS suppresses political opposition through arrests, harassment and intimidation."
In October, 2009, "credible" human rights lawyers representing alleged Hizbollah detainees provided details of the techniques employed by the SSIS. The cable states: "The lawyers told us in mid-October that they have compiled accounts from several defendants of GOE [Government of Egypt] torture by electric shocks, sleep deprivation, and stripping them naked for extended periods.
"The lawyers believe the accounts to be credible."
A dispatch in January, 2010, states: "While the GOE and its supporters claim that police brutality is unusual, human rights lawyers believe it continues to be a pervasive, daily occurrence in prisons, police station and interior ministry state security headquarters."
8) India and Pakistan Agree to Renew Peace Talks
Lydia Polgreen, New York Times, February 10, 2011
New Delhi - India and Pakistan announced Thursday that they would resume peace talks that had been stalled since 2008, when Pakistani militants staged coordinated terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
The renewal of talks is likely to be welcomed by the United States, which has been eager to ease tensions between the two countries so that Pakistan can divert troops from its border with India to its frontier with Afghanistan and aid the American fight against Taliban insurgents.
India had previously balked at restarting talks unless Pakistan demonstrated that it was cracking down on terrorist groups within its borders and aggressively prosecuting the planners of the Mumbai attacks, which left at least 163 people dead. But Thursday's announcement made no mention of those issues, leading analysts here to conclude that India decided it was better to engage Pakistan without preconditions.
Indian hard-liners have argued that India must not begin talks with Pakistan unless the Pakistanis take visible steps against terrorist groups that threaten India.
But others, including India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, who was born before the partition of India in a part of Punjab that is now in Pakistan, have argued that avoiding dialogue is folly. "I think the prime minister genuinely wants to give it a last shot," said Amitabh Mattoo, a professor of strategic affairs at Jawarharlal Nehru University. "He has been able to convince the establishment that a policy of nonengagement has not delivered."
As part of the agreement, Pakistan's foreign minister, Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, will visit India in July to review the progress of the discussions, which will include meetings focused on defusing tensions over the disputed border region of Kashmir.
Secret talks in 2007 came close to resolving some of the most difficult issues, including the status of Kashmir. But they lapsed as the president of Pakistan at the time, Pervez Musharraf, lost his grip on power, and the attacks the following year plunged relations into their worst freeze since 2001.
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