SUNDAY, AUG 21, 2011 07:22 ET
GLENN GREENWALD salon.com
U.S. Mideast policy in a single phrase
AP Egyptians chant hold Egyptian and Palestinian flags to protest the death of Egyptian security forces killed in a shootout between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants on Thursday.
The CIA’s spokesman at The Washington Post, columnist David Ignatius, recently announced that the glorifying term “Arab Spring” is no longer being used by senior intelligence officials to describe democratic revolutions in the Middle East. It has been replaced by the more “neutral” term “Arab transition,” which, as Ignatius put it, “conveys the essential truth that nobody can predict just where this upheaval is heading.” Note that what was until very recently celebrated in American media circles as a joyous, inspirational awakening of “democratic birth and freedom” has now been downgraded to an “upheaval” whose outcome may be odious and threatening.
That’s not surprising. As I’ve written about several times, public opinion in those nations is so strongly opposed to the policies the U.S. has long demanded — and is quite hostile (more so than ever) to the U.S. itself and especially Israel — that allowing any form of democracy would necessarily be adverse to American and Israeli interests in that region (at least as those two nations have long perceived of their “interests”). That’s precisely why the U.S. worked so hard and expended so many resources for decades to ensure that brutal dictators ruled those nations and suppressed public opinion to the point of complete irrelevance (behavior which, predictably and understandably, exacerbated anti-American sentiments among the populace).
An illustrative example of this process has emerged this week in Egypt, where authorities have bitterly denounced Israel for killing three of its police officers in a cross-border air attack on suspected Gaza-based militants, and to make matters worse, thereafter blaming Egypt for failing to control “terrorists” in the area. Massive, angry protests outside the Israeli Embassy in Cairo led to Egypt’s recalling of its Ambassador to Israel and the Israeli Ambassador’s being forced to flee Cairo.
That, in turn, led to what The New York Times called a “rare statement of regret” from Israel in order to placate growing Egyptian anger: “rare” because, under the U.S.-backed Mubarak, Egyptian public opinion was rendered inconsequential and the Egyptian regime’s allegiance was to Israel, meaning Israel never had to account for such acts, let alone apologize for them. In that regard, consider this superbly (if unintentionally) revealing phrase from the NYT about this incident:
By removing Mr. Mubarak’s authoritarian but dependably loyal government, the revolution has stripped away a bulwark of Israel’s position in the region, unleashing the Egyptian public’s pent-up anger at Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians at a time when a transitional government is scrambling to maintain its own legitimacy in the streets.