The violence is escalating in Tahrir Square with the military and security forces cracking down on protesters, with upwards of 35 killed. As usual when dealing with an intransigent, human rights-abusing ally, the administration has just called for “restraint on all sides” which is code for “we don’t want to denounce the disproportionate force used by our friends in the military junta.” To call for restraint on all sides creates a false equivalency between the unarmed protesters and the heavily armed, powerful military forces. Yes, at this point some protesters are fighting back, which we don’t seem to mind so long as we don’t like who they are protesting against (protesters at Occupy Wall Street certainly cannot fight back against police brutality, nor can Palestinians defend themselves against rubber or live bullets or tear gas). Does the US call for restraint when addressing violence in Syria? No. Iran? No. Libya? No- in fact we were willing to arm those protesters. So I guess there are special rules for when nonviolent protesters can defend themselves against state-sponsored brutality.
From a commentary over at HuffPo:
The latest Egyptian protests were sparked by growing anger over signs that the military leadership plans to hold on to power indefinitely. The military rulers say they will relinquish power once presidential elections are held, but have refused to commit to a plan and a timetable for handing over power to a democratically elected government.
Now that the façade of a democratic transition has been ripped away and Egyptians are once again battling the military government in Tahrir Square for the future of their country, with at least 35 civilians killed since Saturday. The Obama administration remains as quiet as it was in the early days of the revolution. Such silence is both morally indefensible and politically and strategically disastrous for the United States.
The United States, with $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt every year, supplies a large part of the Egyptian military budget. But it refuses to use its considerable leverage. During Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s visit to Egypt in October, he actually praised the Egyptian military . “I really do have full confidence in the process that the Egyptian military is overseeing,” he said, “I think they’re making good progress.”
On Monday, November 21, White House spokesman Jay Carney only mustered up the courage to call for restraint from “all sides” — as if the pro-democracy activists were somehow equally responsible for the violence. When asked if the generals should specify the date for a presidential election, Carney replied, “I don’t want to dictate specifics to Egypt.”
As during the Mubarak era, the administration appears to believe that U.S. interests, including Egypt’s peace accord with Israel, are more important than the lives of the Egyptian people.