Understanding Egypt

I can’t say I quite understand everything going on in Egypt, but here are some articles I found helpful, in no particular order —

Juan Cole, Egypt’s Waco; It’s not about Democracy: Top Ten Reasons Washington is Reluctant to cut off Egypt Aid; and Has Military Suppression of Political Islam ever Worked?

Andrew O’Hehir, Is Egypt’s blood on America’s hands?

AP, Congress split on Egypt aid

Obama Derangement Syndrome on Steroids

Remarkably, nearly overnight our President has gone from being a vacillating wuss to being a self-glorifying narcissistic exploiting the pirate crisis for his own ends. I suppose that’s progress.

However, Steve M documents that the wingnuts still consider President Obama to be a wuss in spite of the successful rescue of Captain Phillips. One would think the results of the earlier French commando raid — one hostage was killed — might have taught them that sometimes there’s a place for caution.

Another take on the successful mission is that President Obama had nothing to do with it, even though he had given two orders authorizing the use of force. That’s because the rescue did not come about because of a daring commando raid planned and orchestrated in the White House but because the officer in charge at the scene ordered snipers to fire and kill three pirates (as the White House had authorized him to do).

So a President is supposed to defer to the wisdom of “commanders on the ground” in Iraq. However, authorizing commanders on the sea off the Somali coast to use their own judgment based on unfolding events and standing military procedure is just wrong. The POTUS is supposed to put on tights and a cape, fly to the scene, and rescue the hostage personally. Or he’s a wuss.

Y’know, there’s point at which people stop being alarming and are just pathetic. See also John Cole.

Update: See also “The Great Right-Wing Freak-out” by Juan Cole.

Radio personality Rush Limbaugh challenged the president, saying that if we are not at war with Islam then the Somali pirates must not be Muslims. Perhaps, the rotund one suggested with his world-famed gift for subtle wit, the Somalis are actually Orthodox Jews. But Obama had explicitly said that the U.S. is at war with some Muslims, to wit, al-Qaida, and had merely exempted the broad religion of Islam as an object of enmity. When the U.S. went to war against the Serbians over Kosovo, it was presumably not involved in a war on Christianity, even though the Serbs are Eastern Orthodox Christians. Moreover, Islamic law forbids piracy, so the Somalis are not acting out of religious motives. The fevered irrationality of such diatribes, on the part of someone recognized as the leading voice of the contemporary Republican Party, points to the party’s dire intellectual straits.

Ya think?

Update: Paul Krugman makes the point that wingnuts really are no crazier now than they’ve ever been (Vince Foster, anyone?). He adds,

Last but not least: it turns out that the tea parties don’t represent a spontaneous outpouring of public sentiment. They’re AstroTurf (fake grass roots) events, manufactured by the usual suspects. In particular, a key role is being played by FreedomWorks, an organization run by Richard Armey, the former House majority leader, and supported by the usual group of right-wing billionaires. And the parties are, of course, being promoted heavily by Fox News.

Righties are having a fit about this, because they desperately want to believe that the “tea parties” are a grassroot phenomenon that sprang spontaneously from the soil of the Heartland. Most “tea parties” probably are being organized and funded locally, but only because the Powers That Be in the GOP People’s Central Planning Political Grassroots Organizing Committee put out the word to organize them.

One rightie says,

What Freedomworks and various other organizations are doing is not “astroturf” any more than the anti-war protests of some years back were astroturf because ANSWER and Moveon.org helped organize people around those events. Astroturfing is paid activism by an organization; it is not genuine grassroots activism that funded groups are simply helping to organize.

But the rightie is not defining “astroturfing” properly. As Matt Yglesias says, “An astroturf operation is a fake grassroots operation.” Real grassroots organizing begins at a local and regional level and often has to fight for recognition by the national establishment. The “tea parties” clearly were the idea of a few people in the Washington political/media world, who used national right-wing media infrastructure to promote them.

Update: One more thing — I agree with John Cole that the pirate episode really didn’t rise to being much of a test of President Obama as Commander in Chief. No doubt military advisers told him what the options were, and he signed off on one or more of those options, and after that it was all in the hands of the people at the scene. That would be true of any President. George Washington himself could have done no more.

The only really stupid thing Obama could have done is countermand the experts, and order them to either do nothing at all or do something they thought unwise, but apparently he didn’t do that.

However, the Right chose to blow up the pirate incident into a “test” of Obama on the order of the Tehran Hostage Crisis, which it never was. But once he “passed” their “test,” they had to trip all over themselves changing the test rules so that they could still give him an F. A hoot.

Navy 1, Pirates 0


An American ship captain was freed unharmed Sunday in a U.S. Navy operation that killed three of the four Somali pirates who had been holding him for days in a lifeboat off the coast of Africa, a senior U.S. intelligence official said.

Thankfully, Capt. Richard Phillips is fine. This is a wonderful Easter gift for his family.

Forget Mia Farrow

I’m a tad baffled as to why The Moderate Voice chose to feature this apology for the government of China, except that it disses Hollywood icons Mia Farrow and Steven Spielberg.

Apparently Farrow has been critical of China, and Spielberg withdrew as an artistic adviser to the Beijing Olympics because China was not doing enough to pressure Sudan to end the ongoing atrocities in Darfur.

Here’s a 2004 Washington Post article explaining the China-Sudan-Darfur connection. Very simply, China is investing heavily in Sudan’s oil industry. Because they need Sudan’s oil, China is helping to prop up a rogue regime in Sudan. As part of their deal, China set up weapons factories in Sudan. The weapons plus revenue from the oil are finding their way into the hands of militia who have been carrying out mass slaughter in Sudan’s western region, Darfur.

This has been going on for five years, so one might have assumed Spielberg ought to have figured things out sooner, but never mind. This is not about Spielberg. It’s about China.

Poor, misunderstood China is also helping to prop up the military junta in Burma (a.k.a. Myanmar). China is not alone; the junta also benefits from association with the U.S. multinational oil giant Chevron, the French oil company Total and a Thai oil firm. Unfortunately for the monks and laypeople of Burma, their country is a rich source of natural gas, much of which is being piped into China. And if you want to know what life is like in Burma today, please read this heartbreaking story in the National Catholic Reporter.

Barbed wire surrounds pagodas, and large numbers of Burma’s monks are either exiled, imprisoned, or “disappeared.” There are rumors of mass slaughter of monks. And then there’s this:

An economic symptom that Peters has seen develop over the past 10 years are “pint-sized monks and nuns” — children not older than 6 or 7 years who are left at Buddhist monasteries by parents unable to care for them. At the monasteries, the children will be educated and “they’ll go on the alms rounds and the public will feed them,” Peters said.

In Myitkyina, a priest who runs an orphanage told Peters that parents will come to Mass and leave a child behind. “Parents have to decide: Which of the seven kids are we leaving in the pew on Sunday?” Peters said. “It’s the mother’s job to pull the kid aside and say, ‘After Mass, when we leave, you stay. Stay in the pew, don’t leave.’ What does that do to a child’s mind, for the rest of his or her life saying, ‘What did I do that you chose me?’ What does that do the woman who made that choice?”

During last year’s “Saffron Revolution,” many nations called on China to apply pressure on the Burmese junta. China was silent.

Basically, China is willing to supply arms to and support any dictatorship, no matter how vile, as long as they’re getting oil and gas in the deal. And why is this sounding familiar?

I’ve been blogging all week at the other blog about the atrocities in Tibet. I’m not sure most westerners really appreciate the situation in Tibet. I have a background article here. I argue here why the government of China, not His Holiness the Dalai Lama, is entirely at fault for the unrest in Tibet.

I don’t know what Mia Farrow said about the government of China, but if anything I bet it wasn’t harsh enough.

Update: See also The Peking Duck.