For any American tempted to support the violent uprising against the Egyptian military coup, you might want to think twice because if you exhort Egyptians to violently overthrow the military tyranny under which they are suffering, you will be arrested, prosecuted, and incarcerated at the hands of the U.S. government.
That’s what happened to a New York lawyer named Lynne Stewart. She read a note to the press that was construed as exhorting Egyptian radicals to rise up and violently overthrow the Egyptian military dictatorship under Hosni Mubarak. She is now living the rest of her life in a federal penitentiary.
Thus, the state of U.S. law is this: In principle, it’s okay to support the right of people to use force to resist tyranny. After all, that’s what the Declaration of Independence says, a document that Americans just celebrated on the Fourth of July.
But Stewart crossed the line. Rather than simply telling Egyptians that they had the right to overthrow the U.S.-supported military tyranny under which they had suffered for some 30 years, she actually exhorted them to exercise that right — or at least that’s how Justice Department prosecutors and the federal judiciary construed the message she read to the press.
That crossing of the line made U.S. officials hopping mad, so mad in fact that the federal judges who heard the appeal of Stewart’s case actually ordered that the jail sentence she had received in the District Court be significantly increased. In the minds of U.S. officials, by exhorting Egyptians to violently overthrow their tyrannical, U.S.-supported regime, Stewart was guilty of being a supporter of terrorism.
That’s why Americans today would be wise to exercise caution with respect to what is happening in Egypt. It’s okay to recite the Declaration of Independence. It’s not okay to exhort foreigners to exercise the rights enunciated in the Declaration, at least with respect to foreign dictatorships that are loyal members of the U.S. Empire.
And that’s the crucial factor here. It’s presumably okay for Americans to exhort, say, the people of North Korea to violently overthrow their tyrannical government. The same goes for, say, Venezuela or Nicaragua or any other regime that falls outside the ambit of the U.S. Empire.
But heaven help any American who exhorts people to violently overthrow a pro-U.S., U.S.-supported tyrannical regime.
And make no mistake about two things here:
(1) The U.S. government continues to sympathize and side with Egypt’s military dictatorship. That shouldn’t surprise anyone given the fact that the U.S. government has funded, partnered with, trained, and worked with the dictatorship for decades. They’re not about to abandon it now.
(2) While U.S. officials might dither over whether the Egyptian coup is really a coup or not, one thing is for certain: The military regime that the U.S. government has funded, partnered with, trained, and worked with for decades continues to be a brutal, tyrannical regime, one that would not hesitate to arrest, incarcerate, torture, and kill anyone that dissents against its tyranny.
The Egyptian military-intelligence goons view people who initiate violence against their military dictatorship to be terrorists, just as the U.S. government does. That’s why U.S. officials jailed Stewart for being a supporter of terrorism. They condemned her as a supporter of terrorism for (supposedly) exhorting Egyptians to use force to overthrow the U.S.-funded military tyranny under which they have suffered for decades.
What if the military regime in Egypt appoints civilians to public office and even schedules new elections?
It won’t matter one iota. The military tyranny will continue to remain in place. The ultimate foundation of Egypt’s governmental system will continue to be the military-intelligence establishment. All public officials, civilian or not, will continue to have to answer to the military. It will continue to be the ultimate repository of power in society. Civilians will be permitted to operate the levers of government but only with the consent of the military and within the parameters set forth by the military. The governmental system will continue to be similar to that, say, in Iran, where there are democratic elections but where the ultimate source of power is with the ayatollahs.
The only chance of achieving a free (and prosperous) society in Egypt is to dismantle the military-intelligence complex, thereby eliminating it as the foundation of Egypt’s governmental system. Leaving it in place as the foundation of the Egyptian government will produce nothing but a sham democracy. Leaving it in place leaves the Egyptian people not only suffering under tyranny but also from an impoverished economy that a large military establishment causes.
What are the chances that the Egyptian military will voluntarily relinquish its omnipotent and privileged hold over Egyptian society? Two chances: slim and none. The military has consistently made it clear that it’s not going anywhere and that it will never relinquish its omnipotent and privileged hold over Egyptian society.
Needless to say, the military’s intransigence is aggravated by the fact that it continues to receive its annual foreign-aid subsidy from the U.S. government to the tune of $1.3 billion in U.S. weaponry, which obviously has helped it to maintain the its iron hold over society and will continue to do so in the future.
That, of course, leaves another alternative, the one enunciated by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence — the forcible overthrow of Egypt’s tyrannical military regime.
But remember: While you’re still free as an American to recite the Declaration of Independence, exhorting the Egyptian people to exercise the rights enunciated in the Declaration by violently overthrowing their U.S.-supported military dictatorship might well land you in a U.S. federal penitentiary for much of the rest of your life. Just ask Lynne Stewart. (See my articles “The Fascinating Case of Lynne Stewart” and “The Persecution of Lynne Stewart.”)
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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