When a coup is not a coup


Remember when someone in the White House derided those of us he described as stuck in a “reality-based community”, saying “That’s not the way the world really works anymore, We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality”? Democrats had a field day with that because the speaker was the much-hated Karl Rove at the height of his hubris during the Bush administration. It was taken as symbolic of the arrogance of that administration.

Well, reality denial is back, and in a big way.

We have seen before how ingenious are the lawyers who work for the White House and Justice Department where they cleverly redefined the word torture so that what was clearly torture was no longer so in order to avoid the fact that the US was comitting war crimes. Now they have again shown their value.

The White House was placed in a quandary by the events in Egypt. By any definition, what occurred was clearly a military coup but according to US law, the US cannot provide aid to any country that has had a coup. But the Obama administration clearly wants to continue so their lawyers issued a statement that said that after three weeks of careful deliberation, they had arrived at the conclusion the government does not need to decide whether it is a coup or not. So since they do not have to make a determination, everything is just fine and the aid can continue. Give those lawyers a bonus!

Over at the State Department press briefing, it’s clear from the way she speaks that spokesperson Jen Psaki knows she is talking nonsense and that no one takes what she says seriously.

You may wonder why the administration is so anxious to give away money in these times when there are calls for budget cuts at home. Why aren’t the deficit hawks in the Republican party, who cut food stamps for the poor to supposedly help balance the budget, not seizing on this chance to save even more money?

The fact is that of that $1.55 billion in ‘aid’ to Egypt, $1.3 billion is in the form of military aid that Egypt must use to buy stuff from the US. In other words, the ‘aid’ is a way to siphon taxpayer money to the US defense industry while appearing to have humanitarian motives.

The problem is that even if the U.S. wanted to cut military aid to Egypt, it would be hard to do so without incurring millions of dollars in default penalties. The structure of the aid package—involving cash flow financing, multiyear contracts with potentially steep default fines, and American manufacturing jobs guarded by powerful defense lobby interests—has backed the U.S. into a corner.

It is good to remember that when people talk of US ‘aid’ to other countries, we are almost always talking of subsidies to US companies.

But such plain language is only for those silly people like us who stubbornly continue to live in the reality-based community.

Comments

  1. slc1 says

    The fact is that of that $1.55 billion in ‘aid’ to Egypt, $1.3 billion is in the form of military aid that Egypt must use to buy stuff from the US. In other words, the ‘aid’ is a way to siphon taxpayer money to the US defense industry while appearing to have humanitarian motives.

    As usual, Prof. Singham is so immersed in conspiracy theories (he and commenter Don Williams over at Ed Brayton’s blog should get together; they could make beautiful music together) that he shows his total ignorance of why there is aid to Egypt (and Israel). It was his hero James Earl Carter who first advanced the idea of this aid as a bribe to get the two sides to agree to the 1979 “peace” treaty and promise to behave themselves thereafter. Since, after Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula, Israel and Egypt had nothing to fight about, the bribe was icing on the cake. And who is the voice whispering in Obama’s ear not to discontinue the aid to Egypt? None other then Bibi Netanyahu. Who by the way was also busy on the phones prior to the overthrow of Mubarak pleading with Obama and various European leaders not to throw him under the bus.

    Now Prof. Singham rightly castigates the administration for being disingenuous about whether a coup occurred. After all, Morsi was elected president by a plurality of the populace. Unfortunately, like Frankenberger in 1933 Germany, Morsi had no intention of having any more free elections so the coup was necessary to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood from imposing the type of phony regime such as runs Iran.

    What this incident should teach us is to grow up and stop trying to impose US approved systems elsewhere in the world, especially as it ain’t working too well here at the present time. Maybe a little dose of realism, such as recommended by Prof. Singham’s hero, Stephen Walt, is in order.

  2. intergalacticmedium says

    It is hardly a conspiracy theory that the US defense industry is absolutely vast and has powerful lobbyists.

  3. Rob Grigjanis says

    cleverly redefined the word torture so that what was clearly torture was no longer so

    They also cleverly redefined ‘combatant’ as any military-age male killed in a drone strike.

  4. sailor1031 says

    Had there really been a coup in Egypt power would have changed hands. It did not. The Military had power during Mubarak’s tenure – and threw him under the bus when he became too big a problem. The Military had power during the Morsi presidency – and threw him under the bus when he became too big a problem. Now the Military is still exercising power. A couple of figureheads getting axed does not make a coup.

  5. Jeffrey Johnson says

    I’ll agree that by the letter of the law, if “coup d’etat” means the military takes control over an elected government, the aid should be cut off. But then by the letter of the law Edward Snowden should go to jail. So the old saying of Jesus that the law was made for people, and people were not made for the law has some bearing. Laws are made for reasons, and sometimes the wording of the law does not anticipate situations that may fall outside of those reasons. So do we live as slaves to the law, or do we interpret them with intelligence based on the context? And is it really so correct and blameless to demand that the law be abstemiously adhered to in this case, yet demand that the law be bent in the cases of Bradly Manning and Edward Snowden? There is an obvious inconsistency here.

    To demand a legal consequence because a first glance analysis of what happened in Egypt seems to require it ignores the possible intent of the legislation, and whether it really applies to this case. For example, it seems a majority of Egyptians wanted Morsi to go, and a majority don’t want to call this a coup d’etat. In their view this was a popular uprising, and the military used it’s power to maintain order and assist the people in exercising their popular will. So one could call it a kind of revolution as easily as calling it a coup d’etat. The democracy was barely a year old, and was not well established, and the currently elected government was subverting the nature of democracy by using the election to establish majoritarian domination and oppression of minorities, and was busy subverting the possibility of real democratic transitions in the future. So was this action in Egypt good for the future of Egyptian democracy, or was it harmful to Egyptian democracy? I would prefer to have seen a recall election, but I don’t know that Egyptians had that recourse. In any event, it doesn’t look to me like the administration is bending the law in order to help a military tyrant who will cater to untoward US economic and military goals, as we saw during the Cold War. Instead the administration is demanding the democracy be restablished as soon as practicable.

    Further is the point that we didn’t hear this kind of argument when Mubarak was overthrown in 2011, and that certainly involved the military taking over from a leader who had been elected. By the letter of the law, the same argument applied in 2011, yet I don’t recall anyone raising it. That’s because there was broader recognition of the kind of authoritarian Mubarak was, and how unfair his elections had been. Yet a pedantic interpretation of the law probably should have cut off aid when Mubarak was ousted. In the present case, the process of drafting the constitution had deep flaws, and the arguments are strong that the birth of Egyptian democracy had been corrupted before it was even complete.

    I haven’t read the letter of the law, nor have I read the arguments made that detail the motivations for the law. But what happened in Egypt was very different than what happened in Chile in 1973, or Iran in 1953. In Egypt the purpose is to establish democracy 2.0 after a one year mistake, not to establish the extended rule of a military strong man over and above the wishes of the people.

    So there are many reasons to argue that the spirit of the law is not being violated, even if there is a pedantic way to arrive at a violation of the letter of the law.

    But all of this is moot because US aid isn’t all that important to Egypt at this time. Egypt receives at least 20 times as much aid from Qatar, Jordan, and other states in the region. It would not be a disaster for Egypt if we did cut off aid, and they could probably make it up elsewhere, so it wouldn’t bother me much if we cut it off until Egypt reestablishes democracy.

    But I’m not so upset about the administration seeing the conflict between the intention of the law and its application to Egypt, either. It does afford a great opportunity for those eager to pounce on every chance to bash the administration. They certainly appear to be leaving themselves open to such bashing, even though this isn’t the most blameworthy thing they have done. Why didn’t they try to organize a quick Congressional vote on the matter of whether to amend the law, so that real legal legitimacy for aid to Egypt could be established? Possibly because Congress would have used it as an excuse to extract concessions for pet projects, as opposed to simply doing their job by expressing whether the Republic supports or sanctions aid to Egypt. Partisan politics certainly has made our democracy non-functioning.

  6. MNb says

    Excellent job again missing MS’ main point.
    One question though – what conspiracy theory exactly is MS presenting here?

  7. says

    I’m sorry, slc1, but when you go on bizarre rants like this, it is you who sounds a lot more like Don Williams. Let’s take a look at some of your quotes:
    “It was his hero James Earl Carter” Please, tell me where you get this ability to read minds. So Mano perhaps thinks Carter did some good things. How do you get from there to hero worship? That would seem like quite the leap in logic…kind of like something a conspiracy theorist would do.
    “Who by the way was also busy on the phones prior to the overthrow of Mubarak pleading with Obama and various European leaders not to throw him under the bus.” And how do you know this? Citation needed. As of now, you seem to be pulling facts out of your a$$…kind of like a conspiracy theorist would.
    “Morsi had no intention of having any more free elections.” Similar to the last quote, though I can agree that the probability of this is likely high given some of Morsi’s other actions. But the level of certainty you express is, well, at that of a conspiracy theorist.

  8. says

    Yeah…that’s a thing about conspiracies. They tend to involve groups that don’t have a lot of power and/or influence doing something to increase their power and/or influence. The defense industry has vast amounts of power and influence. What would they need to conspire about?

  9. slc1 says

    1. Calling Carter Prof. Singham’s hero is an exercise in a little snark and exaggeration. Prof. Singham likes to cite Carter on the frequent occasions when he agrees with him.

    2. There were reports on several Israeli web sites about Bibi’s phone calls to various world leaders prior to the removal of Mubarak. In particular, there was a report at the time on the Times of Israel web site, a pretty good source of information about Middle East affairs by the way, that, as I recall, claimed that he had conversations with Cameron, Sarkozy, and Merkel on the matter; I believe that it reported that he also had several interactions with Obama. There was also a report recently on that web site about Bibi advising Obama not to cut off aid to Egypt.

    3. You didn’t mention Stephen Walt but a perusal through the archives here will show that Singham ofter cites Walt as his go to guy on a number of issues. Again, the appellation hero is a bit of snark exaggeration.

    As for ole Don Williams, as recently as last night in a comment on Ed Brayton’s blog he made a claim that indited hedge fund CEO Steven Cohen might consider putting out a contract on one of the potential witnesses against him. Talk about conspiracy theories! Read what Dingojack had to say about that.

    Just for your information, ole Don and I have a fairly lengthy history going back several years to when Matthew Yglesias, the philosophy major who now poses as an expert on economics, had a general blog. Ole Don was notorious for his conspiracy theories back then, including, for example, blaming David Lloyd George for the Holocaust. Since his discovery of Brayton’s blog, we have heard that the Civil War was fought over coal mines in West Virginia. When it comes to conspiracy theories, I can’t hold a candle to ole Don.

  10. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Funny sort of coup when the military are being cheered on by and intervening onbehalf of the majorityof the people to replace a theocratic dictator who has refused to resign or hold fresh elections depsite immense popular demands to do so ain’t it?

    What happening in Egypt certainly isn’t your average coup and nor are Morsi or the Muslim brotherhood the good guys here.

  11. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Let’s not forget that Morsi is an anti-semitic extreme Islamist who has famously said that Jews are “the descendants of apes and pigs” * – and I’ve little doubt that his other views on freedom of religion, women’s rights, non-heteronormative people and so on are equally unenlightened and backwards.

    Nor should we forget that the Muslim brotherhood is where current Al Quaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri started his Jihadist career.**

    Removing Morsi and the Muslim brotherhood from power can surely only be regarded as a good thing and we, as atheists and progressives interested in feminism, human rights and freedom and opportunity for all should support those who have done that.

    I hope Morsi is put on trial and that his supporters see sense, go home and learn to move into the 21st century. If they choose to do otherwise then they are almost inevitably the causing themselves enormous suffering and grief as well as harming their nation and hurting the majority of innocent Egyptians.

    I hope Egypt then has fresh democratic elections and a reformist secularist leader emerges who would be well advised to follow Kemal Attaturks example in radically shifting Egyptian culture and politics into the modern world to everyone’s ultimate benefit.

    * Source : http://washington.cbslocal.com/2013/01/16/morsi-called-jews-descendants-of-apes-and-pigs-in-2010-speech/

    ** source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayman_al-Zawahiri#Youth_activism

  12. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @Rob Grigjanis : Citation needed.

  13. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Jeffrey Johnson :

    To demand a legal consequence because a first glance analysis of what happened in Egypt seems to require it ignores the possible intent of the legislation, and whether it really applies to this case. For example, it seems a majority of Egyptians wanted Morsi to go, and a majority don’t want to call this a coup d’etat. In their view this was a popular uprising, and the military used it’s power to maintain order and assist the people in exercising their popular will. So one could call it a kind of revolution as easily as calling it a coup d’etat. The democracy was barely a year old, and was not well established, and the currently elected government was subverting the nature of democracy by using the election to establish majoritarian domination and oppression of minorities, and was busy subverting the possibility of real democratic transitions in the future. So was this action in Egypt good for the future of Egyptian democracy, or was it harmful to Egyptian democracy? I would prefer to have seen a recall election, but I don’t know that Egyptians had that recourse. In any event, it doesn’t look to me like the administration is bending the law in order to help a military tyrant who will cater to untoward US economic and military goals, as we saw during the Cold War. Instead the administration is demanding the democracy be restablished as soon as practicable.

    Further is the point that we didn’t hear this kind of argument when Mubarak was overthrown in 2011, and that certainly involved the military taking over from a leader who had been elected. By the letter of the law, the same argument applied in 2011, yet I don’t recall anyone raising it. That’s because there was broader recognition of the kind of authoritarian Mubarak was, and how unfair his elections had been. Yet a pedantic interpretation of the law probably should have cut off aid when Mubarak was ousted. In the present case, the process of drafting the constitution had deep flaws, and the arguments are strong that the birth of Egyptian democracy had been corrupted before it was even complete.

    Exactly. Well said. Morsi’s removal was a popular uprising by and for the Egyptian people and should really be classed as such.

    Morsi had the option of resigning voluntarily and /or holding fresh elections but chose to do neither – but refused. His failure to know when his time was up and do the right thing is responsible for the whole current mess and he and his Islamist party deserves all the blame for it.

    Hadn’t thought of it before but you’re right – Mubarack’s removal was technically a coup as well. Very good points.

  14. bmiller says

    This is a common mistake liberals make. Who is this “Egyptian people”? Is there really a unified opinion or movement? What if “the people” want theocracy? Reading opinion polls on many social and religious issues, I would venture that a majority of “the people” are closer to the Muslim Brotherhood than a liberal, western -educated upper middle class Cairo resident from an affluent, military crony capitalist connected family.

    I’m not saying that all of the anti-MB protests are such people, just that one needs to be careful making blithe assumptions about popular will. After all, a good segment of “the people” in Southern American states thrilled to “Segregation Today, Segregation Tomorrow, Segregation Forever”.

  15. bmiller says

    How do you know a “majority” is involved?

    Right now, there are crowds of people OPPOSING the military and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. With hundreds of deaths reported. The Muslim Bortherhood clearly won the elections. Wishing it were not so is not a good pattern of thought for skeptics.

    The military intervened on behalf of the military. Sure, there may be a self-righteous self image of themselves as the guardians of the Egyptian state, but more importantly there are decades of crony capitalist enterprises, along with a whole panoply of special priveleges…all of which need to be protected and preserved.

  16. bmiller says

    What if “the supporters” represent a majority of the population? Arguably, outside Cairo, they do.

    Maybe we should just invade Egypt and install a new DEMOCRACY. That worked so well in Iraq…and Kuwait..and Libya…and Afghanistan.

    Maybe “we” should stop trying to run the world? Maybe we should stop assuming that all populaitons are liberal, pro-western secularists? Heck, “we” can’t even overcome the Ted Cruz/Steven King/Appalachian Trail side of our own population.

  17. invivoMark says

    Snark can be a great tool for making your opponents look silly.

    But just last week, we went over how obsessed you are with the idea that Mano endorses everything that Carter has ever said or done. Your “snark”, such as it is, isn’t making Mano look silly. It’s making you look pathetic and simple-minded.

  18. slc1 says

    I don’t think that I said any such thing. Clearly Prof. Singham considers the former president somebody to be listened to. So far, I haven’t seen where Singham disagree with Carter, although, perhaps they don’t see eye to eye on the Zimmerman trial.

  19. slc1 says

    As the risk of bmiller calling Godwin, Frankenberger won the last free election prior to his taking power in the sense that he had the largest party in the German national legislature. Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood followers had no intention of holding any more free elections, just like Frankenberger.

    This is the same argument for those left wing Islamist apologists who point to Hamas “winning” the election for the Palestinian Parliament a few years ago. Actually, the reason they got the most seats was because their incompetent and overly optimistic opponents ran several candidates for many of the 60 constituency based seats, thus splitting the vote and allowing Hamas to win those seats with a plurality.

  20. slc1 says

    And in the latest attempt to “run the world”, we have the Israelis and Palestinians back in Washington to enter another futile set of discussions. When are we going to get it through our thick heads that Abbas and Netanyahu don’t really want peace as it is not in their interest? As Einstein put it, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

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