September 30, 2010


Turning a Blind Eye to Egypt: Since President Obama’s Cairo speech, his administration has been disturbingly quiet in word and deed about the Egyptian government’s repression of democracy. (Ambassador Richard S. Williamson Thursday, September 30, 2010, The American)
For generations, America has been the world’s shining city on the hill for freedom and human rights. We have provided light, encouragement, and support for voiceless victims of human rights abuse and those seeking to join the march of freedom. Sadly, the light has dimmed, the voice has softened, and the support has shrunk under President Obama. This has not gone unnoticed.

Cyber dissident Ahed Al-Hendi has said, “Previously, in Syria, when a single dissident was arrested … at the very least the White House would condemn it. Under the Obama administration, nothing.”

Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of The Voice of Democracy in Malaysia, said, “Our concern is that the Obama administration is perceived to be softening on human rights … once you give a perception that you are softening on human rights, then you are strengthening the hands of autocrats to punish dissidents throughout the world.”

An important example of the dangerous consequences of America’s diminished support for human rights and democracy is in Egypt, an important ally in the Middle East. [...]

Due to a policy shift by the Obama administration, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will not provide assistance to Egyptian and international organizations working in Egypt unless they are registered with and approved by the government of Egypt. This shift undermines democracy and human rights organizations including the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, since neither is registered, even though both organizations applied to the Egyptian government to be registered back in 2006. NDI and IRI were established, along with the National Endowment for Democracy, by President Ronald Reagan with the bipartisan support of Congress.

In launching his vision for these democracy promotion institutions, President Reagan had given a seminal speech on freedom at Westminster Hall, London. He said:

That is precisely our mission today: to preserve freedom as well as peace … Democracy is not a fragile flower; still it needs cultivating. If the rest of this century is to witness the gradual growth of freedom and democratic ideals, we must take action to assist the campaign for democracy … The objective I propose is quite simple to state: To foster the infrastructure of democracy—the system of a free press, unions, political parties, universities—which allows a people to choose their own way, to develop their own culture, to reconcile their own differences through peaceful means.

And with minimal support the march of freedom advanced.

Under President George Bush all democracy and human rights assistance, including that given by USAID, had been exempted from Egyptian government sign-off. The 2009 Obama policy change is in conflict with the law set forth in Appropriations Act language which states the “provision of assistance for democracy, human rights and governance … shall not be subject to the prior approval by the government of any foreign country.”

While the Obama administration has said the State Department will continue to provide assistance to unregistered groups, the fiscal 2009 and fiscal 2010 funding levels are significantly lower than under President Bush. As a result, America’s support for freedom in Egypt has been severely diminished.
...that you can't buy peace and quiet by letting dictators oppress their unruly people.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at September 30, 2010 12:00 AM
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