Stop U.S. military aid to Egypt!

The military is the infrastructure for the regime that has ruled Egypt for decades now. It represents the most dangerous threat to the fulfillment of the aspirations of the millions who demonstrated peacefully throughout Egypt calling for liberty, freedom and a decent way of life.

The popular demand for democracy that is spreading throughout the Arab world is unprecedented and exhilarating, for it represents a radical break with the old narrow-minded, corrupt, divisive, sectarian and egotistical policies and mindsets that have been the norm of the entire region for the last six decades. The previous regimes not only suppressed and exploited their respective countries, but also stifled all aspirations for innovation, intellectual maturity and desire for a healthier future.

The revolutionary wave that started in Tunisia and spread quickly to Egypt, Libya and other Arab countries represents a rebirth and rekindling of a spirit that was slowly dying a painful death. The movements are peaceful, anti-sectarian and youthful in outlook. Although the movements are peaceful, the responses of the regimes have been deadly and brutal, often to varying degrees.

Let us not paint too rosy a picture. Hundreds died in both Tunisia and Egypt, and thousands are still being killed in Libya. We need to understand that the entrenched powers have much to lose. In Egypt, specifically, the military-industrial complex is central. Military-run firms hold strong positions in a wide range of key industries, including food (olive oil, milk, bread and water), cement and gasoline, vehicle production (joint ventures with Jeep to produce Cherokees and Wranglers) and construction. This is in addition to untold wealth in public land, which is increasingly being converted into gated communities and resorts for the military.

The U.S. provides $1.3 billion in military assistance annually to Egypt. This funding must be spent on U.S. goods and services and is therefore effectively a subsidy for U.S. defense contractors. The U.S. has been subsidizing the Egyptian military for over 30 years, i.e. since the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. Think for one moment: Why is the U.S. providing all this military aid, other than to subsidize U.S. defense contactors? Obviously not to arm Egypt for external warfare against Israel (or Libya or Sudan, Egypt’s other two neighbors who witness Egypt’s complete apathy and inaction as they descend into untold misery and conflict). Hence, it would seem that this arming is mainly to suppress the local populations should they aspire to liberty and democracy, as we all saw when U.S.-designed Abrams tanks rolled into the cities of Egypt, or when “Made in USA” tear gas canisters were fired at Egyptian demonstrators.

U.S. military aid to Egypt is a bribe to the military to ensure that they remain powerful — as well dependent on — the U.S. for the sake of “maintaining regional stability.” But if we have learned anything from the last couple months of this volcano of anger sweeping through the Arab world, it is that stability and alliances must be with nations and not individual tyrants. For the future of Egypt, the Arab region and yes, for the well being of the entire world, the U.S. should stop the military aid to Egypt and allow free and democratic civil society to prosper there.