The Bush administration has called for the respect of human rights in Burma, a pretty safe piece of posturing, but it remains silent as Egypt’s dictator, Gen. Hosni Mubarak, unleashes the largest crackdown on public opposition in over a decade. Our moral indignation over the shooting of monks masks the incestuous and growing alliance we have built in the so-called war on terror with some of the world’s most venal dictatorships.
Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt for 26 years and is grooming his son, Gamal, to succeed him, can torture and “disappear” dissidents—such as the Egyptian journalist Reda Hilal, who vanished four years ago—without American censure because he does the dirty work for us on those we “disappear.” The extraordinary-rendition program, which sees the United States kidnap and detain terrorist suspects in secret prisons around the world, fits neatly with the Egyptian regime’s contempt for due process. Those rounded up by American or Egyptian security agents are never granted legal rights. The abductors are often hooded or masked. If the captors are American the suspects are spirited onto a Gulfstream V jet registered to a series of dummy American corporations, such as Bayard Foreign Marketing of Portland, Ore., and whisked to Egypt or perhaps Morocco or Jordan. When these suspects arrive in Cairo they vanish into black holes as swiftly as dissident Egyptians. It is the same dirty and seamless process.
We have nothing to say to Mubarak. He is us. The general intelligence directorate in Lazoughli and in Mulhaq al-Mazra prison in Cairo allegedly holds many of our own detained and “disappeared.” The more savage the torture techniques of the Mubarak regime the faster the prisoners we smuggle into Egypt from Afghanistan and Iraq are broken down. The screams of Egyptians, Iraqis, Pakistanis and Afghans mingle in these prison cells to condemn us all.