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Friday, February 4, 2011

Is Egypt Really On The Brink?

"Again, there is no liberty, if the judiciary power be not separated from the legislative and executive. Were it joined with the legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control, for the judge would then be the legislator. Were it joined to the executive power, the judge might behave with violence and oppression." — Baron Charles de Montesquieu,The Spirit of Laws

Today it was reported that a failed assassination attempt on Egypt's vice president in recent days left two of his bodyguards dead. Such an attempt on the life of Omar Suleiman would mark an alarming turn in the uprising against the government of President Hosni Mubarak, who only recently named Suleiman as vice president in an effort to quell the unrest and possibly line up a successor. A senior Obama administration official confirmed that the attack happened soon after Suleiman was appointed, on Jan. 29. The official described it as an organized attack on Suleiman's motorcade. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs declined to address the assassination reports when asked earlier by Fox News. This event marks another turn in the already twisted course of the civil unrest taking place in Egypt and has the talking heads scrambling for ways to alter their spins on events.

There have also been reports of journalists and news reporters being attacked with one Egyptian journalist dying from a severe beating by the protestors. Katie Curic, of CBS News, made her way to Cairo do do a stand-up in front of the crowd and was harassed by the rioters. She became “very uncomfortable” and was force to leave. So much for her brilliant journalism endeavors. Anderson Cooper or CNN and Greg Palkot of Fox News were also attacked. Even the snooty Christiane Amanpour, of ABC News was attacked causing her to retreat to safer grounds, probably the nearby Cairo Sheraton where I stayed while in Cairo.

This means that the journalists and news crews are covering one small part of Egypt, Tahrir Square. What we are not seeing is what is happening in Alexandria, Suez, Luxor and Port Said. There are 80 million people living in Egypt and Cairo has population of 6.8 million spread over 175 square miles. Cairo is by far the largest city in Egypt. There is an additional ten million inhabitants just outside the city. Cairo is also a city of business and shopkeepers selling everything from faux ancient papyrus paintings to little statues of the Sphinx and rolls of cotton.

There are estimates ranging from 100,000 to 1 million for the crowds in Tahrir Square. Even using the high end number of 1 million the crowd represents 1/80th of the Egyptian population or 1.25% comprised of men only — no women can be seen in the crowds. All I can see are young hoodlums throwing a lot of rocks in the air. How can the taking heads make intelligent analysis of this?

The media has done it again. As usual, they’ve presented the wrong message to the American people about the Egyptian crisis, and it’s not just because of the liberal bias of the U.S. media. It’s also because both the left and right have only one agenda: Sensationalizing the story to raise ratings. Their interest is creating the story that sells best, facts come second. The media has chosen to sell the storyline told by the rioters and anarchists in the streets. But is there another side to the story? Of course there is.

The question is do the several hundred thousand people in the streets represent the 80 million citizens of Egypt or do they represent anarchists, communists, and Islamic extremists — all with an agenda and ax to grind.

According the Wayne Allyn Root (1) of Newsmax Magazine one Cairo businessman when interviewed said; “if you polled the people of Egypt today, the majority would support Mubarak. He says that the backbone of Egypt — the business owners, small business community, and middle class — still support Mubarak and the military. They are horrified by the mobs in the street and are shocked at Obama’s tepid response to the riots and the one-sided portrayal of the situation by the U.S. media.

He went on to say; “If several hundred thousand people rioted on the streets of New York and demanded Obama be removed, would that represent all of America’s three hundred million citizens? Would the media report this meant the end of the Obama regime?”

If the Million Man march or Glenn Beck’s Restore Honor gathering rather than being peaceful had decided to riot and firebomb the U.S. capital, would the media paint a sympathetic portrait? Would we cave to the demands of a relatively small number of rioters versus 300 million citizens? I think not.

Has anyone gone out of their way to interview the shop owners or homeowners not rioting in the streets and ask them if they would rather be represented by Mubarak and the military or allow anarchy and mob rule to determine their leaders? If they have I have not seen or read about it. All I see is the rock throwers in Tahrir Square. It’s analogous to taking a photo. You point the camera at a certain place and the viewfinder frames the photo to your liking. The viewer of the photo does not see what is not included in the frame. It’s a very subjective way to portray events.

The businessman went on to say; “if the Muslim Brotherhood takes over, he, his family, and virtually the entire business community will be forced to leave the country they love. If Egypt becomes a Muslim extremist country, tourism, the No. 1 business of Egypt, will be extinguished. Egypt’s economy will be destroyed and those who think they are bad off now will experience true poverty and starvation.

I believe that in the end the military will end mob rule and remain in control, choosing to protect tourism and the business community. If Mubarak actually leaves he will hand-pick his successor from the ranks of the Egyptian military and institute some moderate reforms.

The lessons we can all learn from this crisis:
  1. The media coverage is often based on sensationalism, not facts. Are you certain who the good guys are here? I know I’m not.
  2. It is not the U.S. government’s duty or right to determine other nation’s leaders. Besides, we have an awful track record — see Vietnam, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. At most we should have influence behind the scenes and always in the direction of moderation, reform and democracy.
  3. We should dramatically cut or end foreign aid. The $2 billion per year we borrow from China to give to Egypt is a terrible waste of taxpayer money. And if we bet wrong on Mubarak, and our sophisticated military equipment falls in the hands of Muslim extremists, we have made a tragic error.
  4. Obama’s bans on offshore oil drilling are a disaster and a true threat to our national security. We must drill to capitalize on our own rich natural resources so we are not dependent on our potential enemies for the oil that fuels our economy.
  5. Finally, perhaps we should appreciate our friends in Israel. Perhaps we should point out loudly and strongly that in Israel women and gays have equal rights. Perhaps we should point out that Israeli Arabs have a better life, more religious freedom, more free speech, more economic freedom, more rights than the citizens of any Arab country in the Middle East. Perhaps we should point out that the average per capita income in Israel is $26,600 versus $5,500 in Egypt.

(1) Wayne Allyn Root is a former libertarian vice presidential nominee. He now serves as chairman of the Libertarian National Congressional Committee. He is the best-selling author of "The Conscience of a Libertarian: Empowering the Citizen Revolution with God, Guns, Gold & Tax Cuts

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