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Don't shoot, he's our SOB!

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FDR remarked of Nicaragua's dictator, "Somoza may be a son of a b*tch, but he's our son of a b*tch." It may have won few friends and influenced fewer people, but at least American foreign policy is consistent -" to this day it protects vicious dictators and barbaric regimes, as is evident by its cavalier treatment of pro-democracy supporters battling Egypt's Hosni Mubarak.

HOSNI MUBARAK: Staring into an abyss
HOSNI MUBARAK: Staring into an abyss
(Image by Al Jazeera)
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European democrats are fine as long as they are anti-Russia. Middle Eastern democrats can go to hell. American-sponsored autocrats will be given a free pass. That is essentially Washington's message to the middle class masses battling Mubarak's hired goons. Even the short-term gains of such an approach have been paltry. Iran was irretrievably lost two generations ago when the CIA and the British engineered the downfall of a democratically elected popular government. In Iraq, it's unlikely the pro-Iranian Shi'ite majority will dance to US tunes. And in the long term, disaster awaits America as the wave of anger at its doublespeak ricochets across the region.

The Western world competes with itself to feel sorry for people in countries lacking democracy. Now democracy's Praetorian Guards are calling for restraint in Egypt: "Don't shoot, he's our son of a b*tch."

Washington's ostensible concern is that many sections of Egyptian society would be left out if Mubarak and his cohorts are kicked out in a hurry. What a load of crap. No such moral posturing was on show 20 years ago when the Soviet Union was crumbling.

Back in 1989-1991, when the counter revolutions were sweeping Eastern Europe, all that the United States wanted was to get those countries out of Russia's ambit. In its haste to jettison communism as quickly as possible, Washington sent planeloads of advisers who forced the East Europeans to shut down thriving factories, banks and other key institutions that were being run on the socialist model. There was scant concern for the security of nuclear weapons scattered across seven time zones. There were no contingency plans to cushion the impact of the so-called reforms on the life of pensioners, invalids, and the jobless. The hasty transition resulted in chaos in which an entire generation lost its lifetime savings and social security. Nearly 300 million middle class citizens lost their dignity.

No such urgency is evident today when for the first time in history democracy is dawning across the Middle East. It is painful to watch American correspondents trying to explain to their audiences back home that the Egyptians are not ready for democracy. The revolutions dominoing across the region are being described as destabilizing forces. The Tunisian uprising was largely missed but that could be explained by the suddenness of the whole uprising. Citizens are also calling for governmental change in Yemen, Algeria and Albania, but the mainstream Western media has turned its lenses away because the tone of these rebels is unmistakably anti-West.

As the death toll climbs in Cairo, the Egyptians will certainly not forget US vice president Joe Biden's statement that "I would not describe Mubarak as a dictator." Egyptians may be poor but they do watch TV and read newspapers, and contrary to what the Western media believes, they do have a mind.

It can be safely assumed that without Mubarak's slavish devotion to his Washington handlers, all bets are off American diplomacy in the region. But if the dictator and his cronies remain in power, Arab anger could boil over and we could see a reprise of Iran 1979, where a fanatically anti-American and rabidly Islamic regime gained power.

The American preference for dealing with dictators rather than democrats has once again made it take another suicidal step. Its preferred replacement for Mubarak is the brutal spy Omar Suleiman, whose most important qualification in their eyes is his ability to excel at torture.

Author and analyst William Engdahl believes American involvement in Egypt has parallels in the East European color revolutions. "No question about it," he says. "What happened in Georgia with the Rose Revolution and Ukraine with the Orange Revolution in 2003-2004 was part of a long-term strategy orchestrated by the Pentagon, the State Department and various US-financed NGOs like Freedom House and National Endowment for Democracy."

With friends like these, democracy doesn't need enemies.

The Egyptian Myths.

The western media and think tanks have indulged in some elaborate myth making in which Egypt is indispensable to peace and international trade. The myths barely stand up to scrutiny.

Lynch pin of peace: The Camp David pact of 1978 brought Egypt and Israel together to one table; since then they have been friends. Not even a six-year-old Arab schoolchild will believe that. Yes, the two major Middle Eastern giants haven't been at each other's throat since Camp David, but what the Americans achieved was keep a lid on Egyptian anger over the Palestinian question.

Islamic takeover: The fear of a takeover by the Islamic Brotherhood has been bandied about for far too long. But the religious party has the support of only 20 percent--mainly poor--Egyptians. Also, they renounced their terror agenda long back and are now willing to play by democratic rules. It is the progressive sections that are leading the revolt and they will have a veto over any decision in a future cabinet.

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Rakesh Krishnan Simha is a New Zealand-based writer.
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