Feb. 9, 2011
“The Great Tragedy is Obama Chose Not to Hold Out His Hand”: Robert Fisk on the Gap Between U.S. Rhetoric and Action in the Egyptian Uprising
The longtime Middle East correspondent of The Independent newspaper in London joins us from Cairo to talk about the popular uprising ongoing across Egypt, its regional implications, and how Obama should respond. “[The protesters] are asking for nothing less than Americans accept in their own lives,” Fisk says. [includes rush transcript]
ROBERT FISK: What they’re calling out for are everything which ordinary Americans would agree with: multi-party democracy; a new constitution which gives equal rights to everyone; an end to fraudulent elections, which have allowed, of course, Mubarak to carry on year after year for three decades until the age of 83, based on elections that gave 97.8, 97.9 percent of the victory; and an end, in fact, to long presidential periods of six years in office, bringing it down to four years; and they want a maximum two terms for a president, rather than indefinite presidency or presidency for life, which is effectively what Mubarak got. These people are therefore asking for nothing less than Americans accept in their own lives.
And the great tragedy is that at this critical moment, Obama chose not to hold out his hand to the democrats and to say, “We support you, and Mubarak must go.” He chose to support, effectively, Mubarak by saying orderly transition. You know, he wants another general—he’s already got one, Omar Suleiman, the Vice President—to take over. The army, which receives $1.3 billions of American taxpayers’ money every year, is going to be called upon to try and make this transition, even though Mubarak himself, of course, was the head of the air force. He was a general, too. Omar Suleiman, the Vice President, is a general, head of intelligence, a very ruthless man. His people carried out a lot of tortures in the past against Islamist uprisings in Egypt. And for many of the people on the street, there was deep disappointment that at this critical moment the President of the United States, who came here to Cairo just under 18 months ago to tell the Muslim world—he held up their hand, and he said, “Do not clench your fists in response.” When the democrats came onto the streets of Cairo and wanted what Obama had advertised to them, it was Obama who clenched his fist and Hillary Clinton who said that it’s a stable regime.