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"Egypt the Prize"

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The American campaign to hijack the Arab Spring backfires

Imagine the following scenario: a wealthy foreign country decides that the United States is insufficiently democratic. They launch a program to "teach" us the ABCs of "democracy" via a plethora of organizations devoted to "human rights" and "election monitoring," directly funded by themselves, shipping millions of taxpayer dollars to thousands of well-compensated "activists." As election time draws near, this foreign money is poured into the coffers of "activist" groups whose main purpose is to instigate street protests that often end in violence, as well as finance political parties whose platforms are conducive to the foreign policy objectives of their generous patron.

How long would such an operation be allowed to exist? The answer is: not long.

The US has laws against foreign funding of political parties and other groups: such an operation would be shut down before it even had a chance to get off the ground.

Egypt -- and virtually every other country on earth -- has similar laws on the books. Which is why the manufactured "outrage" over the Egyptian government's recent crackdown on foreign-funded "human rights" groups is so baffling. In a coordinated series of raids, Egyptian police accompanied by investigative judges entered the headquarters of several such groups throughout the country, seizing computers, sealing offices, and confiscating bundles of cash. According to the Associated Press, an Egyptian Interior Ministry official "said the military on Thursday found 70,000 Egyptian pounds ($11,600) in the office of one unidentified group, and seized half a million Egyptian pounds ($83,000) from the National Democratic Institute."

The National Democratic Institute is the international arm of the US Democratic party: it receives its funding directly from Uncle Sam and a number of "private" contributors whose identities are kept under wraps. NDI chief honcho Kenneth Wollack is a former legislative director of the America-Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the powerful pro-Israel lobby in the US.

Given the historical enmity between Egypt and Israel, do you think the Egyptians might be justifiably wary of such a group spreading cash around? Yet Wollack pretends there is something highly unusual about the Egyptian government's actions: "Cracking down on organizations whose sole purpose is to support the democratic process during Egypt's historic transition sends a disturbing signal," he said in a statement."

Make no mistake about the "sole purpose" of US-funded groups: it is about serving the interests of those who pay their bills and their salaries.

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Also raided: the International Republican Institute -- the foreign arm of the GOP -- Freedom House -- the historic home of right-wing Social Democrats and international busybodies -- as well as the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (funded by the German government) and fourteen other foreign-funded groups.

Washington's reaction to the raid was immediate and virulent: while an official US State Department spokeswoman gave out the usual we're-"deeply-concerned" boilerplate, the New York Times reported:

"Another senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that in private channels, the United States had sent an even stronger message: 'This crosses a line.'"

The nature of that line was laid out in more detail by Charles Dunne, director of Middle East and North Africa Programs at Freedom House, who said:

"It is a major escalation in the Egyptian government's crackdown on civil society organizations, and it is unprecedented in its attack on international organizations like Freedom House, which is funded in large part by the United States government. The military council is saying we are happy to take your $1.3 billion a year, but we are not happy when you do things like defending human rights and supporting democracy."

None of these "civil society" groups denies getting their funding from foreign sources -- sources which are actively promoting their own interests in post-Mubarak Egypt. Indeed, they openly proclaim it. Pursue this crackdown, they say, and Uncle Sam will stop the foreign aid gravy train.

Here is a particularly vivid example of what "foreign aid" is really all about. As Ron Paul points out, our foreign aid program takes money from poor people in the US and ladles it out to rich people overseas -- all in the interests of directing the internal political life of foreign nations from behind the scenes.

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Is it really so impossible to understand why Egyptians -- or any foreign people -- might resent this kind of open meddling? As the condescending saviors of US-funded "human rights" groups move in to dictate the terms of the "transition to democracy" in Egypt, is there a chance of a backlash -- "blowback," in CIA parlance? The question answers itself.

Just as the US government's ability to pick economic winners on the home front -- GM, Solyndra, etc. -- is highly problematic, so their record is even worse when it comes to picking political winners in countries about which they know little and understand even less. This is a connection that American conservatives, who continue to support such meddling, have so far failed to make: and as for the liberals, "soft power" is their preferred approach to interventionism, and the weapon of choice of Hillary Clinton's State Department. Rather than being a substitute for neocon-style military intervention, however, it is instead merely a prelude to it, as in Libya.

The Egyptians have long warned their American patrons they were investigating the foreign funding sources of Egyptian NGOs, so these professions of shock and surprise sound just a little bit hollow. In any event, no government anywhere allows such open interference in its internal politics by foreigners, and it is disingenuous, to say the least, to claim the crackdown was unexpected. As the Times reports:

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (ISI, 2008), (more...)

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