Aljazeera’s Conspiracy Theory about Obama and Egypt is Brainless Mush

Aljazeera Arabic has long since lost a lot of its previous journalisic standards, once its head, Waddah Khanfar, was fired in favor a member of the royal family. Some 22 Egyptian journalists just resigned from Aljazeera in Cairo in protest against its Fox-News-like biases in reporting on recent events.

Aljazeera English usually still does a good job, having a different editorial line and generally good reporters, often former BBC or ABC reporters.

But their publication of a frankly brain dead op-ed feature article purporting to show US support for anti-Morsi political forces is sheer conspiracy theory and very bad, unbalanced journalism.

All the piece shows is that the US State Department program in ‘democracy assistance’ granted small amounts of funding to … Suprise! democracy activists in Egypt. Many of the instances of such grants that the article mentioned actually occurred in the Hosni Mubarak period, and Mubarak often punished the pro-democracy groups that received such funding.

The article isn’t pro-Morsi, it is pro-Mubarak.

We’ve known about this funding for years – it is all over wikileaks, and there are indications sometimes Brotherhood- linked groups were considered for it.

And if it weren’t for US mutual relations with youth groups like April 6, the 2011 revolution might have been opposed by Washington and Morsi would never have escaped Mubarak’s prison at Wadi Natroun in the first place.

The author commits the logical fallacy of suggesting that since the US assisted some of the groups that later called for Morsi’s overthrow, Washington funded Morsi’s overthrow.

The logical fallacy involved is post hoc ergo propter hoc. What comes after something isn’t necessary caused by that something. That the US gave a little money to these groups is not proved to be connected in any way to their favorable view of Morsi’s overthrow, where they have one.

Europe also gave some funding for democracy promotion.

Egypt’s elite, including both the army and the Muslim Brotherhood, is so xenophobic (i.e. hates foreigners) and so conspiracy-minded that they even passed a law against perfectly innocent foreign funding of non-governmental organizations and jailed people about it. Saad Eddin Ibrahim of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Human Rights got this treatment from Mubarak and went to jail on similar pretexts.

The author admits he doesn’t know about NED funding for 2011 to present, i.e. has no proof of anti-Morsi funding from that quarter at all.

Morsi was overthrown by the Rebellion or Tamarrud Movement, which was founded in late April by networked youth who had nothing to do with the United States.

US Ambassador Anne Patterson called on Rebellion to cancel their planned June 30 demonstration, and was denounced by the youth activists as pro-Muslim Brotherhood. The Obama administration lobbied Gen. al-Sisi not to make a coup, and argued for Morsi’s democratic legitimacy.

This article is muddled mush, and will be cited by the equally brainless as proof of something. It isn’t.

41 Responses

  1. Hasn’t Foreign Military Financing from the US to the Egyption military been running at about $1.3 billion annually since 1987?

    The military,from the Mubarek era through to their latest coup are supplied and paid for be the US. Even their overthrough of a democratically elected government won’t stop the flow. A few million funnelled to ‘democracy activists’ is chickenfeed when you are bankrolling the corrupt Egyptian armed forces

  2. Your comment that Egypt’s elite is xenophobic and conspiracy-minded is the first time I have seen anything of this nature. In all analyses of the chronic problems Egypt has this is never mentioned, but it would seem to me that it is crucial in understanding the country’s situation. If this is indeed the case, it would mean that the country’s rulers are incapable of objectively looking at the situation around them and this could have a devastating effect on setting national policy. For instance, the US is a major player on the world stage, and if it is truly believed that the US is only interested in destroying Egypt, how can normal relations ever be established between the countries, and how can there ever be mutual cooperation established? All the more so with the peace agreement with Israel, which is no doubt feared and loathed even more, yet Egypt has an important border with that country.

  3. This “brain-dead” Op Ed, like most brain-dead Op Eds, attempts to mask its shallow nonsense with a screaming headline: “EXCLUSIVE: US BANKROLLED ANTI-MORSI ACTIVISTS.” The supermarket tabloid format and amateurish attempt to establish a tenuous correlation between the small amounts previously granted by the State Department to democracy activists and the overthrow of Morsi is pathetic.

    Your formulation of the logical fallacy “post hoc ergo propter hoc” as the Op-Ed writer’s lodestar is spot-on, professor. The problem is, in his obvious ignorance he will fail to understand the logical fallacy inherent in the phrase (whether or not he understands Latin). The ignorant fail to make a distinction between correlation and causation. The writer no doubt is firm in his belief that because the cock crows every day before the sun rises, the cock’s crowing causes the sun to rise.

  4. While there is no doubt that al-Jazeera English is an entirely different animal from its Arabic sister, nevertheless, I find their correspondent’s “reporting” from the Rab’aa pro-Morsi camp coming increasingly short of the level of journalistic standards one would have hoped to see from the station. He seems to be limiting himself to broadcasting and amplifying on Muslim Brotherhood “talking points” and little else. He keeps telling us with mind-numbing regularity that the demonstrators now call themselves the “Pro-Democracy Camp”, but will not explore what their understanding of this “democracy” is in light of the the opposite camp’s dissatisfaction with Morsi performance in office. He keeps telling us that this demonstration is more than just the Muslim Brothers, but will not tell us who its other constituent members are. Are we talking about a broad spectrum of all strands of Egyptian society, distraught at the demise of electoral democracy? Or are we talking about all kinds of proponents of an Islamist State? I have my suspicions, but he will not enlighten me. He is there 24/7 but does not report in any detail at all about the tenor, content and flavour of the crowd, of the speeches and political messages from the podium, and who is giving them. The only political leader I have seen him give air time to is Mr. Beltagi from the MB. One could go on, but probably enough said. It is a great pity……..

  5. Thanks Juan! That is a good response to the Al Jazeera article. Maybe the Snowden revelations have ‘muddled my mush’… I know I always find myself searching the foreign papers for ANY idea about what is going on because it is fun and interesting. This is always my first stop of the day.

  6. When you say the Egyptian elite’s hostility to these groups is “xenophobic” it seems that you lose sight of the fact, as an authoritarian elite seeking to preserve their power, they would have good reason to be threatened by groups seeking to promote democratic politics and, inevitably, democratic institutions. That’s not phobic, irrational, behavior. I can see why you’re supportive of pro-democracy groups, but I can see why both Mubarak and Morsi supporters might distrust them, even without considering the possibility of a pro US tilt in their efforts.

  7. I think your anger at the author and Aljazeera is misplaced. This op-ed piece (one of dozens published each day, and this one by a person at a US university) is another good argument, in a long line of good arguments, why the NED program should be shut down, that its purpose everywhere is gaining influence with opposition figures and movements, not promoting democracy. While scholars and close followers of political news may be well aware of the nefarious NED and the related Democrat and Republican programs for “democracy,” most people are not, and the more light shed on these issues, the better.

    • its purpose everywhere is gaining influence with opposition figures and movements, not promoting democracy.

      Why would the United States be interested in gaining influence with the Mubarak-era democratic opposition, if it didn’t want to see them come to power?

      • Actually, that would be a wise move if the US wanted to cover all its bases – rather like a big corporation giving money to BOTH candidates in an important election. But I doubt the people running our foreign policy are that clever. We usually pick a side based on our Manichean belief in absolute good and evil and then get disappointed.

      • “K” Street lobbyists advise their clients to put a little money into both “sides” of the political frame here, to cover all bets and add to the apparent reality, and even to inflame the contentiousness, of the “debate.”

        Is the contention that via “democracy grants,” the part of “the US” that plays that part of the Game proves some disinterested interest in spreading the kind of “democracy” that is the misty, water-colored, teary-eyed, lump-in-the-throat imago that we “voters” and Boy Scouts and servicemen and -women are encouraged to dream upon when thinking about the “virtues” of our system?

        Some see what we all live in here as, rather, an ‘inverted totalitarianism,’ with a highly managed “voting” as the only bit of pro forma democracy in the substance of it:

        …Inverted totalitarianism and managed democracy

        Wolin believes that the United States (which he refers to using the proper noun “Superpower”, to emphasize the current position of the United States as the only superpower) has been increasingly taking on totalitarian tendencies, as a result of the transformations that it has undergone during the military mobilization required to fight the Axis powers, and during the subsequent campaign of containing the Soviet Union during the Cold War:[2]

        ‘While the versions of totalitarianism represented by Nazism and Fascism consolidated power by suppressing liberal political practices that had sunk only shallow cultural roots, Superpower represents a drive towards totality that draws from the setting where liberalism and democracy have been established for more than two centuries. It is Nazism turned upside-down, “inverted totalitarianism.” While it is a system that aspires to totality, it is driven by an ideology of the cost-effective rather than of a “master race” (Herrenvolk), by the material rather than the “ideal”….’

        There’s more to the insight, of course, link to en.wikipedia.org, and if you read the details and do a little further study of the concept, it sure seems apposite, and to be closer to the real substance of what “we” are working to spread, like the nostalgic migrating opportunistic Scots spread gorse, link to en.wikipedia.org, across the planet…

  8. I agree, it is pure garbage and bad journalism. Nevertheless, that does not excuse how Al-Jazeera journalists have been threated by their Egyptian colleagues and by this military junta. Journalists booing journalists and kicking them out of a press conference, that’s the first time i saw this in my entire life.

    You said the other day that Morsi was a poor steward of the economy, and i said that it was impossible to turn around the economy in one year. Well, the NYT today has a very interesting piece about the shortages of fuel and lack of police in the streets of Cairo under Morsi. It seems that all those shortages were purposefully created and have miraculously disappeared.

    Here is the link: link to nytimes.com

    • That was really interesting news Tahar. Before reading that I was convinced there was a real fuel crisis in Egypt. It seems that Egyptian ‘business’ is run by a very small circle of monopolists who prefer having the military in charge. The big chunk of $$$ just given by Qatar ($12 billion) will probably disappear pretty fast into corrupt hands. I see a big civil war looming. Too many young, illiterate men with no jobs and no food.

  9. I think it’s over the top to call Al-Jazeera’s piece a “conspiracy theory.” It would be fair to call it “one-sided” or “distorted.”

    But there’s an important principle here. The US is refusing to call the removal of Morsi by the Egyptian army a “coup.” This is bizarre, but it has equally bizarre precedent, namely in Honduras, where machine gunning the presidential palace and flying the legally-elected government to Costa Rica was deemed not to be a coup so that the US could supply finding to the dictatorship it had (probably) helped to install.

    It’s difficult to believe that the Army acted without Washington’s approval. That means that the US, to one degree or another, sponsored the coup. And that means we should be asking questions about exactly how the popular revolt was manipulated by the US. This is not to question the legitimacy of the popular movement or to say that Morsi should have stayed on. But when we start to approve of coups, we shouldn’t be surprised when there are some that aren’t benign.

    It’s legitimate to question whether US funding helped to shape popular unrest… and important to question whether the US engineered the coup.

    • “It’s legitimate to question whether US funding helped to shape popular unrest… and important to question whether the US engineered the coup.”

      You do understand, don’t you, that the State Department funding for democracy activists occurred during the Mubarak era? How, then, did it shape popular unrest against Morsi?

      As for the US engineering the coup against Morsi, It is always amusing how gullible some people are who believe the US is behind every change-of-government, coup, or uprising anywhere in the world. Such thinking tracks with Al-jazeera’s breathless, supermarket tabloid conspiracy theory that the State Department’s Mubarak era funding to the democratic opposition led to Morsi’s removal.

      To paraphrase Professor Cole’s logical fallacy once again: To the true conspiratorial believers, the fact that the cock crows every morning before the sun rises, followed by the sun’s rise, is proof positive that the cock’s crowing causes the sun to rise. How could it be otherwise, whether explaining the sun’s rise each morning or coups anywhere in the world?

      • Bill, if you actually read my post, I think you’ll find your question is answered.

        As for “the US engineering the coup against Morsi.” that’s a bizarre and inexcusable distortion of what I said, making any reply to whatever point you were trying to make completely superfluous.

        • “Bill, if you actually read my post, I think you’ll find your question is answered. As for “the US engineering the coup against Morsi.” that’s a bizarre and inexcusable distortion of what I said, making any reply to whatever point you were trying to make completely superfluous.”

          I actually read your post, Charles II, and here, once again, are pertinent quotes from your comment, which you derived and extrapolated from the conspiratorially manipulated Op-Ed piece by Al-Jazeera:

          “It’s legitimate to question whether US funding helped to shape popular unrest…and important to question whether the US engineered the coup.”

          That is your takeaway from the Al-Jazeera Op-Ed that clearly and deliberately tried to conflate State Department funding for democracy activists during the Mubarak era with the coup against Morsi. The Op-Ed was a deliberate and inexcusable attempt to suggest a US conspiracy to remove Morsi by conflating two separate and discrete events.

          Regarding your observation that it is “important to question whether the US engineered the coup,” why? Because Al-Jazeera says the US was behind it? I stand by my comment: “It is always amusing how gullible some people are who believe the US is behind every change-of-government, coup, or uprising anywhere in the world.” When the first reaction is that it is “important to question whether the US engineered the coup,” that reveals the very mentality to which I am referring in my statement.

          Perhaps Professor Cole said it best when he wrote: “This article is muddled mush, and will be cited by the equally brainless as proof of something. It isn’t.”

        • “As for “the US engineering the coup against Morsi.” that’s a bizarre and inexcusable distortion of what I said, making any reply to whatever point you were trying to make completely superfluous.”

          In addition to my previous response, Charles II, I would like to reply specifically to your above-cited quote, in which you state that the phrase about “the US engineering the coup against morsi” is a distortion of what you said. Let me offer a direct quote from your comment: “It’s difficult to believe that the Army acted without Washington’s approval. That means that the US, to one degree or another, sponsored the coup.”

          Your words, And I would suggest that your categorical statement that “the US, to one degree or another, sponsored the coup,” and the suggestion that the US “engineered” the coup is a distinction (choose your verb) without a difference.

        • Since there is no Reply button on Bill’s posts below, here is a response just for the record.

          A statement that we should question an action of the US government is just that. It is not being “gullible” or even accepting the statement of Al Jazeera. Indeed, nothing in my post is based on the Al Jazeera article, which I called distorted and one-sided. Anyone who remembers how the Shah was installed in Iran knows that it is possible for street demonstrations and coups to be engineered by the US government.

          It is demagoguery and should be unacceptable on these boards to imply that a person is “gullible” or a “conspiratorial believer” for being skeptical about the motives of the US government. If there is any gullibility at all, it is from those who do not know their history and yet persist in the kind of arrogant know-nothingism that answers questioning with accusations of being a dupe or worse.

    • The United States denounced the coup in Honduras as an illegal coup the day after it occurred.

      link to reuters.com

      U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday the coup that ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was illegal and would set a “terrible precedent” of transition by military force unless it was reversed.

      “We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the president of Honduras, the democratically elected president there,” Obama told reporters after an Oval Office meeting with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

      A couple days later, the US cut off aid to the regime, and didn’t restore it until the coup regime was replaced in the regularly-scheduled democratic elections.

      A truly bizarre, fact-averse mythology has developed on the internet around the US response to that coup. It’s as if people couldn’t believe what they were seeing, so they made up a narrative more in keeping with their preconceptions.

      It’s difficult to believe that the Army acted without Washington’s approval.

      More or less difficult to believe than the American denunciation of the Honduran coup as an illegal coup?

      • In the article you link to, it says, “Clinton said the administration was not formally designating the ouster as a military coup for now, a step that would force a cut-off of most US aid to Honduras.”
        Two months later, she announced the cut-off of 30 million, which was a small fraction of the US aid being sent

        • RJLynn,

          And now we see the goal posts move – from “didn’t call it a coup” to “didn’t call it a military coup.”

          Perhaps the reason they didn’t call the illegal coup a military coup was that it was ordered by the Supreme Court, and wasn’t a military coup, but a political coup.

          Yes, the US cut off non-humanitarian aid but let humanitarian aid – anti-hunger efforts, an AIDS program, rural road-building projects – continue. Reasonable people can disagree about whether it would have been a good idea to punish Honduras’ rural poor for the coup. I recall that such a strategy when implemented towards Iraq didn’t go over very well. How, exactly, the US should react to a situation like this requires some nuanced thinking, and a legitimate case can be made that the actions the US took in opposition to the coup should have been different.

          What cannot be reasonably argued is the claim that the US backed the coup, supported it, or failed to denounce it or take action to oppose it. Despite what one reads on the internet.

    • I hate to disagree with you, but the US had no active involvement in the events that have been taking place in Egypt. More importantly, the US has no interest whatsoever in seeing Egypt drifts into a long protracted civil strife. It’s the last thing the US needs/wants really.

      I called what happened on July 3 a coup from the get go (even before the 48 hour ultimatum), although my friend Cole here hesitated and we had our differences over this these last few days.

      Moreover, CNN, MSNBC, the NYT, and Wapost (most major news outlets) called it a coup from the start. And it was silly to pretend otherwise. As Justice Potter said it, “I know it, when i see it,” and it walked like a coup, talked like a coup, therefore it was a coup.

      Granted some politicians (especially in the senate) have been dancing around and have hesitated calling it a coup for obvious reasons, but they are all coming around. The massacre outside the Republican Guard (check the Amnesty International Report of the massacre, it’s pretty damning and accuses the Egyptian military of deliberate murder basically: link to amnesty.org) has definitely, in my opinion, hurt the military junta and is slowly changing public opinion in Egypt and internationally.

      Tomorrow will be another big day of protests–the MB is labeling it “The Day of Anger” or “Al-Zahf a’ala Al-Cahira” which can be translated as “The Exodus to Cairo”–and if the military makes another mistake and pro-Morsi supporters are shot and/or killed, it will pretty much be over for this military Junta. Already, the new power grad by Adly Monsour has already been labeled as tyrannical by the opposition, and it’s obvious that the military is backed into a pretty tight corner.

      The more we look into the events, the months and weeks preceding the coup, the more we see the hands of the pro-Mubarak clan involved in it. They created fuel shortages (check the NYT piece on that) and created a climate of insecurity for all Egyptians for one purpose: to make Morsi as unpopular as possible.

      As i said it before, only negotiations can solve this crisis and those negotiations cannot exclude the MB as a major and active partner. And for the MB to join the negotiation table, rock solid guarantees have to be extended and backed by the US and the international community. Other than that, we will be looking at a long civil strife.

  10. consider:

    NYT: Sudden Improvements in Egypt Suggest a Campaign to Undermine Morsi

    link: link to nytimes.com

    quote:

    Mr. Sawiris, one of Egypt’s richest men and a titan of the old establishment, said Wednesday that he had supported an upstart group called “tamarrod,” Arabic for “rebellion,” that led a petition drive seeking Mr. Morsi’s ouster. He donated use of the nationwide offices and infrastructure of the political party he built, the Free Egyptians. He provided publicity through his popular television network and his major interest in Egypt’s largest private newspaper. He even commissioned the production of a popular music video that played heavily on his network.

    “Tamarrod did not even know it was me!” he said. “I am not ashamed of it.”

    yes, there’s more ….

  11. What makes me start to think a civil war will actually happen is Egyptians aren’t merely indulging conspiracy theories, but in a symptom that a conspiracy theorist is going off the deep is when they believe contradictory theories. Obama ran a conspiracy to overthrow the Morsi government, and Obama installed and propped up the Morsi government. At the same time. Even the people who believe just one of those seem unaware their opponents have their own theory.

    And this idea that the Obama administration has so much control over everything that no matter what happened, that’s what Obama must have wanted, how can anyone even respond to that because asking if the tin foil hat is too tight today?

  12. Gee, Juan, it sounds to me like the Turkish model at work! Same sort of brain dead it’s the Americans/the Jews paranoia. How many generations does it take for the mind to decolonize?

    It puts me in mind of this from the Turkish commentator Burak Bekdil:

    “’Luckily, the first 18 tumultuous months of the Arab Spring have passed. Once we deal with the next 180 tumultuous months, then the final 1,800 tumultuous months will be very easy to tackle,’ (‘Enjoy your Arab Spring,’ this column, June 20, 2012).”

  13. Interesting point of view. I think Al Jazeera has always been biased since its inception.

  14. Have stealth-and-dagger operations disguised as foreign-funded N.G.O.s acted as covert arms of U.S. intervention countries across the world, including as arms of the American intelligence services?

    Yes, they have – it’s famously how we caught bin Laden, by giving out only the first round of a polio vaccine to gather human intelligence and leaving parents in Pakistan to falsely believe their children had been inoculated against a debilitating and fatal disease.

    Do there exist dueling N.G.O.s all over the world that act as arms of the Democratic and Republican parties respectively, fighting with each other to influence other countries’ policies?

    Yes, they exist, which you well know. They are famous for their interference in Haitian politics, and the first foreign-funded N.G.O.s shut down in Egypt were just such foreign arms of our domestic parties.

    Is the Egyptian ban on foreign-funded N.G.O.s overkill? Maybe. Is it an effective way to shut down one proven, well-known avenue for covert American intelligence operations and covert use of American money to influence Egyptian national politics? Certainly.

  15. In simple terms, both Obama admin and Qatar play double game in Egypt. Both have strong links both with MB and the military. Apparently, Qatar has stronger links with MB, but they need a smokescreen for their financial aid for the anti-Mursists. This explains why Aljazeera produced this article.

  16. The U.S. in the past has used its CIA connections with military leaders and others to foment demonstrations and coups d’état to subvert leaders it deems inimical to American interests.

    Remember the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973, Dr. Mossadegh in Iran in 1953.

    Does the U.S. have intelligence assets within the organizers of the demonstrations? Probably.

    But try gauging the extent of CIA involvement and it will be next to impossible without the Agency admitting such.

    • “Remember the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973, Dr. Mossadegh in Iran in 1953.”

      Yes, so let’s plant the seeds of conspiracy by suggesting that because the US has been involved in past coups (although in Chile the US was not directly involved), it was very likely involved in Morsi’s ouster.

      This is one more example of Professor Cole’s logical fallacy, “post hoc ergo propter hoc.” The US has been involved in some past coups, ergo it follows that it was likely involved in Egypt’s coup. Once again, the failure to distinguish between correlation and causation. the cock crows and the sun rises day after day; ergo the cock’s crow causes the sun to rise. The US has been involved in coups, ergo the US was likely involved in Egypt’s coup, and will likely be involved in coups wherever they occur in the future.

      This mode of thinking makes analysis of international events easy, because it essentially renders analysis irrelevant.

      • On the other hand, “the presumption of continuity is one of the strongest in the law,” and that’s why, with certain limitations, past bad acts are admissible to prove or at least bolster the presumptions of current bad conduct. And it’s not like there’s no pretty good proof, even you acknowledge that, grudgingly, that US AlphaBENT agencies have been bad actors in the past. Actually, it’s kind of foolish to even try to minimize or deny or obscure the way “we” play the Great Game. Given, as pointed out above, that the evidence of those bad acts tends not to appear until long after the events, if ever depending on how well it’s covered up, it’s pretty weak tea that you’re pouring, leaning on impeachment by repeating references to supposed logical fallacies, and insisting that a “small degree” of involvement, which many sets of data suggest was a lot bigger than you allow, by “the US” in, e.g., the overthrow and murder of Salvador Allende, is equal to “no responsibility.”

        Barks like a dog, quacks like a duck, pees like a horse…

      • Uh Bill, if you lived next door to a man who you know murdered his last neighbor and got away with it, wouldn’t you tend to be a little paranoid? You act as if being involved in a “few” overthrows of sovereign, even elected governments is a trivial matter that has no bearing on future behavior.

        What, exactly, has changed such that we shouldn’t be suspects in the future – given how unjustified, cruel, stupid and ultimately unpunished our past coups were? That pretty much eliminates all the rational criteria that one might use to rule out US involvement in the next coup, doesn’t it?

  17. It’s not an op-Ed. This sits in their in-depth section and is in the features subsection. Juan may be just calling it an op-ed out of contempt for the quality of reporting…

  18. Having overseen US Government grants to Egyptian democracy organizations during the Mubarak regime, I have heard the language used by Al Jazeera many times before. My conclusion was that it came from the Egyptian military and security services and that others were just the mouthpieces for these thoughts. Whether the purported leadership was Mubarak, military-selected leaders, or Morsi, they all manipulated xenophobia to secure their power and limit domestic pressure on the military. It is too bad that Al Jazeera has thrown away its credibility and damaged its independence by passing on this message from what some are calling Egypt’s “deep government.”

  19. Off topic, but I found it interesting that you saw fit to define xenophobic but not supereregatory (in a previous post), which did drive me to the dictionary.

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