It’s not about Democracy: Top Ten Reasons Washington is Reluctant to cut off Egypt Aid

another 80 people died in violence in Egypt on Friday, as Muslim Brotherhood crowds protested the military crackdown on their sit-ins that cost hundreds of lives this week. Some of the violence resulted fro police heavy-handedness, some from an armed Brotherhood attack on a police station. The continued unrest upped the pressure on the Obama administration to cut off military aid to Egypt. It is the only legal and ethical thing to do, but here are some reasons it has been difficult for Washington to take that step.

1. The US doesn’t give much aid to the Egyptian people per se. Only $250 mn a year out of $1.55 bn is civilian. The aid is to cement a relationship between the Egyptian officer corps and the Pentagon.

2. The military aid, $1.3 billion a year, is mostly in-kind, a grant of weaponry . It must be spent on US weapons manufacturers. It is US arms manufacturers like Lockheed-Martin and General Dynamics (and their employees) who would suffer if it were cut off.

3. The Congress gave the Egyptian Generals a credit card to buy weapons, and they’ve run up $3 billion on it for F-16s and M1A1 tanks. If the US cancelled aid, the US government would still have to pick up that bill.

4. Even most of the civilian aid is required to be spent on US goods and materiel. It is corporate welfare for the US

5. The aid was given as a bribe to the Egyptian elite to make nice with Israel. Given the chaos in Sinai, and Egypt’s instability, Congress is more worried about that issue than at any time in 40 years.

6. The Israelis asked the US not to suspend the aid.

7. Congress even structured the economic aid to require some of it help joint Israeli-Egyptian enterprises in Egypt, so some of the aid to Egypt actually goes to . . . Israel.

8. It is not generally recognized, but the Egyptian military provides a security umbrella to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE against Iran (and sometimes Iraq). The Gulf oil states also have powerful Washington lobbies and want Egypt to continue as a Gurkha force. Children, can you say oil?

9. Many in Congress don’t actually disagree with the generals’ actions in overthrowing the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Freedom and Justice Party and driving it underground, since they agree it is a terrorist organization

10. Behind the scenes Egyptian military intelligence has helped the US track down Muslim extremists and in the Mubarak era ran black sites where they tortured suspected al-Qaeda for Washington. The US deep state would like to ramp that relationship back up.

45 Responses

  1. Reason #6 is the only one necessary. The rest are redundant.

    • Yes, preservation of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty is sufficient to explain the Lesser Evil’s paralysis.

    • Um, sure. Bill, did you bother to read Juan’s post in full or are you so steeped in conspiracy theory that other facts are irrelevant? Yeah, thought so.

      • He exaggerated a little perhaps by saying it was the “only” reason that matters, but not much. AIPAC is a real Thing and “what Israel wants” is a hugely oversized influence — not a “conspiracy theory” — in U.S. policy.

        • I can give you 10 reasons why we should cut aid but
          seems to me everyone here already understands.,..

  2. Great list. Did not realize the finer corporate details in points 2,3,4 and 7. Wow.

    Pakistan’s army maybe a little upset on point 8 on not being the Gulf Arab states’ primary, if not sole, mercenary thugs for hire…at least there’s employment from Bahrain.

    • Minus one thing. Egyptian army ,thuggish and brutal as it is, has not yet abducted and sold its citizens to CIA and USA for money. Many of them were innocent and yet ended up in Gitmo Bay for years. Some of them were released and sent back to Pakistan. There was not even a single word of apology or monetary compensation. Compare with this the story of Maher Arrar of Canada. Also remember the fate of Mulla Zaeef, Afghan ambassador to Pakistan. He was rounded up, beaten, stripped nude by our military officers and later handed over to CIA. He also spent several years in Gitmo Bay. He was released recently and wrote a book, which is worth reading.

      Just like our and Egypt’s armies, our people’s attitudes are same too. In spite of his crimes Musharraf remained popular and military still enjoys preponderant public support. And As is noted, 57% of Egyptian public are with their army on their brutal massacre of their own civilians.

      We and Egyptians have nothing in common other than our religion, and We are tainted by the same failings. So what ails us? A point to ponder. Is it our religion? Maybe we need to address our approach to the religion.

      • If 57% of Egyptians are with their army brutalizing the other 43% then how the Muslim Brotherhood won the election more than a year ago?

        • Essam, the MB’s popularity has suffered since more than a year ago when they organized themselves well enough to win but not well enough to govern. They ended up even marginalizing their own supporters and some of the public who optimistically voted for them, besides the opposition party.

          Regardless if it is 10% or 90% support for the army, it doesn’t justify such brutality, and Faheem is lamenting such public masses, whether in Egypt or Pak, who tend to do so when things go sour.

      • But Egypt was one of the nations whose security and intelligence agencies partnered with the foreign CIA Rendition program, which included abducting, transporting and torturing suspected anti-state/extremist/terrorist Egyptian (or dual) citizens, to or within Egypt, for info for themselves and for the US (whether there was extra financial rewards or incumbent on US aid, and non-Egyptian citizens tortured in part of the program, I don’t know).

        So in that regards they’re not different from Pak’s army either. I won’t pin the blame of state torture to just religion, particularly when those govts were never outright religious (Mubarak, Musharraf), and torture’s global history (Kudos to South America not being partner to such programs) to today where even the US, that does not share the same religion, employs it. But yes, the East lags in addressing, if at all acknowledging, this culture of cruelty.

  3. Reason eleven:
    If Egypt becomes democratic, its people will force a hard line against Israel, the medieval Saudí, U.A.E. and Bahréin regimes will fall and the U.S. dollar will collapse because oil will be priced in other currencies or gold. Bottom line: Egypt cannot be allowed to become like Turkey, come hell or a bloodbath.

  4. Dear Professor Cole

    I am reminded of Amritsar and The Year 1905 as I read of the events in Cairo.

    Considering the poverty of the social indicators in Egypt after fifty years of the Army’s oligarchy, I wonder if Americans still ask “Why do they Hate Us?”

    “Sow the Wind, reap the Whirlwind”

  5. Thanks for the list. You are too kind to the lazy people to whom this is news.
    But then it also points to the big picture, in which most just can’t quite connect all of the dots.
    Which is of course exactly why all of this theater is allowed to continue.
    May the Gods help us if we ever, collectively, all wake up at the same moment…

  6. Also, as the NYT reports this morning, Egypt offers quick approval for US military overflights and quick passage of US warships through the Suez canal: link to nytimes.com

  7. > the medieval Saudí, U.A.E. and Bahréin regimes will fall

    Jumping the gun a bit here arent we.

  8. I would add that with Obama’s comments today; is he still in control?
    It would appear not; more a harlequin for the masses…

  9. …the U.S. dollar will collapse because oil will be priced in other currencies or gold

    Nail on head! THIS is what all the American adventures in the Middle East have been about, and the “oil” and the “Israeli” interests are side line matters. When–and it is inevitable–the American dollar becomes no longer the “reserve currency” for the purchase of energy resources in the world, the American economy goes into free-fall and the good ‘ole U.S.A. becomes the “banana republic” that her neo-fascist geo-politics dictate that she should have become long ago. However, I predict that the American military-industrial complex will take that country into war on all fronts, on the eve of that happening.

    Just check out how Saddam Hussein wanted to sell HIS country’s oil a few months before American “liberated” Iraq.

  10. The ‘food aid’ is even more dubious. The U.S. ships the Egyptians, get this, WonderBread. The Egyptians, who produce tasty baladi, feed the WonderBread to chickens!

  11. “5. The aid was given as a bribe to the Egyptian elite to make nice with Israel. Given the chaos in Sinai, and Egypt’s instability, Congress is more worried about that issue than at any time in 40 years.

    “6. The Israelis asked the US not to suspend the aid.”

    No surprise there.

    • You need to do more serious reading and consideration of the region’s history and politics. Cheap cynicism isn’t worth much. As another poster here noted, read today’s NYT piece (link is here: link to nytimes.com )

      The fact is that Israel and Egypt have not gone to war in four decades. Whatever your political bias, even you must admit that has been a huge benefit for everyone in the region. Or are you one of those armchair strategists who believe a return to violence and bloodshed without stop is preferable?

      • The NYT has such a bias for Israel’s right wing it has been discredited for many years on the topic of Israel and Palestine.

        “Whatever your political bias, even you must admit that has been a huge benefit for everyone in the region.”

        Tell that to the Palestinians who have been evicted from their land that is now occupied by settlers. Tell that to the Palestinians who have had their olive trees and other properties destroyed. Tell that to the Palestinians whose water is being cut off. Tell that to the people who were assaulted on the Gaza flotillas.

        Consider this: “Being honest about the dominant Zionist narrative: Mayor of Upper Nazareth espouses the logic of exclusion that defines the current Israeli political and social landscape.” By Neve Gordon – link to aljazeera.com

      • John: Let me pile on to your nonsense:

        Re the NYT: In addition to its long-time pro-right-wing Israel position, the NYT was part of the propaganda network serving the Bush/Cheney administration to spread their lies to get the United States to engage in an illegal and immoral war against Iraq.

        Re the Palestinians: Consider this article about Richard Falk, who served as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on “the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967″ and who has spoken strongly against the abusive treatment of Palestinians by Israel’s right wing: “Over the past three decades, Israel has veered away from its founding commitments to justice and built an apartheid-like state that abuses the indigenous Palestinians. That troubling course has been shielded by personal attacks on anyone, like UN official Richard Falk, who notes the facts, says Lawrence Davidson.” – link to consortiumnews.com

  12. “6. The Israelis asked the US not to suspend the aid.

    Should that perhaps be “6. AIPAC told the US not to suspend the aid”?

  13. Excellent points Professor Cole, well-informed and well-put as always. That last sentence, about “the U.S. deep state” — what a creepy, but sadly apt, phrase. As frustrated as I have been at President Obama, I have really started to feel that maybe he is really not even in charge. Perhaps no President would really be in charge. The U.S. “security” complex is so huge, it is like an autonomous, headless beast of some kine.

    • The CIA-National Security Council took charge on Nov.22, 1963. The Secret Service which guards the president is employed and selected by the CIA. Elections are purely for display/traditional purposes.

      • “The CIA-National Security Council took charge on Nov.22, 1963. The Secret Service which guards the president is employed and selected by the CIA. Elections are purely for display/traditional purposes.”

        The Oliver Stone conspiratorial take on history and current events. I suppose we are supposed to tremble with fear when reading the above-cited quote.

        • And how are “we” supposed to respond, Bill, to your serial blandishments or crushing didacticisms about how it’s all CT, and really it’s all just good and wonderful…, or at least the kind of people who think as you do are “in charge?”

          Not tremble with fear, but maybe be a little anxious, and be looking around for ways to cooperate to change the direction and rate of flow of wealth and power, from some better informed awareness of ACTUAL “serious history” and the nature of current events? Not your narrow, constrained, partisan version?

      • The U.S. Secret Service is a division of the Treasury Department.

        In 1963 it was led by James Rowley, who headed it from 1961 to 1973.

        The Warren Commission rebuked the Secret Service for its deficiencies in protecting the President, but there has been no seriously-accepted theory implicating the Secret Service as a conspirator in the JFK assassination.

  14. The Egyptian state’s crimes have already outstripped the initial crimes that NATO cited as a pretext to help overthrown Qaddafi. In addition, unlike Qaddafi, the Egyptian military overthrew a democracy. So, it is doubly illegitimate.

    Is NATO about to overthrow the military dictatorship in Egypt?

    Fat chance! Never underestimate American and European hypocrisy.

    Jamie

  15. You forgot to mention that the ‘aid’ paid to Egypt is American taxpayer’s money. So American taxpayers are essentially paying Lockheed-Martin and General Dynamics to supply the country with F-16s and M1A1 tanks, etc. That is money that could have been spent on US schools, medicare, food…

  16. But we in the US live in a democratic country. Can we organize against having our tax dollars subsidize the Generals and our arms manufactures?

  17. “2. The military aid, $1.3 billion a year, is mostly in-kind, a grant of weaponry . It must be spent on US weapons manufacturers. It is US arms manufacturers like Lockheed-Martin and General Dynamics (and their employees) who would suffer if it were cut off.”

    While your point No. 2, cited above, has merit, There is another, more strategic, reason that the military aid must be spent on US weaponry. When a country’s military weaponry and hardware is of US manufacture, the long-term relationship is much more assured, as the military will have to continue buying US upgrades and replacement parts to assure compatibility and interoperability of weapons systems.

    Were the US to cut off military aid, the Egyptians might turn to the Russians, for example, and once they get into the Russian weapons pipeline, it would be very difficult for the US to resume the previous relationship. This would have grave implications for US-Egyptian relations in both the political and military spheres.

    • …and does anyone wonder at all that Bill would think this bit of Realpolitik, as he so blithely describes it, is, well, A-OK? Such a wonderful, ingenue’s expression of idiot faith in a corrupt and corrupting system…

  18. The “Deep State” is best explained by the book “The Secret Team” authored by former Air Force colonel L. Fletcher Prouty and published in 1973.

    Interviews of Col. Prouty, available on YouTube, have explained how bureaucratic control mechanisms implemented within the National Security Council in the supervision of the operation of the Central Intelligence Agency failed and made the CIA essentially a primary director of covert operations, along with its intelligence-gathering apparatus, instead of a central repository of intelligence data gathered from other federal agencies, as it had intended to be following the passage of the National Security Act of 1947.

    The National Security Agency has no charter by the U.S. Constitution nor any Act of Congress, but was created by an obscure executive order of the President. The Church Committee recognized this.

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