Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Political incest between U.S. and Egypt

From NPR Website, February 7, 2011
A trio of Washington's best-connected lobbyists makes more than $1 million a year helping the Mubarak government buy armaments and ward off criticism in Washington.

Last summer, Sens. John McCain and Russ Feingold introduced a bipartisan resolution criticizing the Egyptian government. It called on Cairo to stop arbitrary detention and torture, and ensure free elections.
Advocates on both sides started contacting senators. Mississippi Republican Roger Wicker says he spoke with the Egyptian ambassador, a human-rights group and former GOP Rep. Bob Livingston.
Livingston called because the Egyptian government is one of his clients. Since 2007, the Mubarak government has employed Livingston and two other top lobbyists: former Democratic Rep. Toby Moffett and Tony Podesta, one of the most influential Democratic lobbyists in town these days.
They all either declined or didn't respond to interview requests.
The human-rights resolution they opposed never got voted on. Wicker says he "expressed concerns" that slowed it down, as did other senators.
"I didn't do anything from a parliamentary standpoint," Wicker says. "I didn't object. I didn't place a hold on the resolution."
And, the senator says, his stand was not related to an $800 million shipbuilding contract in his home state. A shipyard there is building four missile ships for the Egyptian navy.
Last spring, the keel was laid for the first ship. Livingston flew down for the ceremony.
"It's a photo op," says Bill Allison, editorial director of the Sunlight Foundation, which has been analyzing the disclosure records from lobbyists for foreign governments. "It's very similar to when members of Congress have the earmarks and pose with the giant checks."
The flow of members of Congress into Lobbying for various interests has rendered those individuals quite wealthy and their clients well served. What is not included as successful in the equation are the long-term interests of the American public, the country, and certainly not the foreign policy.
High sounding words, ideals and sound rational arguments seem to have a way of falling to the rigour of large spending projects in one's constituency, especially when they are in conflict.
One of the ironies of the U.S. is that for all of its high-cerebral rhetoric, it is still a country and certainly a goverment of "cronies" whose primary interests include their pockets and their constitutencies and their re-election. (Well over 95% of all incumbents in the U.S. Congress are re-elected.)
And then, especially as we all watch the erection of "tent city" in Tahrir Square in Cairo, there is the matter of the backroom relationship between the government of Hosni Mubarak and the U.S. Congress, including the access to military material, and the access to the votes of the U.S. members of Congress...especially when those votes might not be "acceptable" to the Egyptian government.
Next time you watch a scenario from Egypt, in the current crisis, remember that America's hands are not clean; in fact, they are covered with complicity with the Mubarak government...and the world is the lesser for it.

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