Since the uprising against Mubarak began there have been regular solidarity protests, forums and other activities in the U.S. In New York, this support coalesced in the formation of the Coalition to Defend the Egyptian Revolution. In April, leading members of that Coalition were among the lawyers, activists, and scholars who organized and participated in a National Lawyers Guild Delegation to Egypt. Their primary mission was to investigate the role and responsibility of the U.S. government and corporations in human rights abuses, and to document how decades of U.S. military and economic intervention has violated Egypt‘s popular sovereignty and locked the country in a web of debt.
The delegation met with a broad range of activists, including human rights advocates, youth leaders, Islamists, leftist intellectuals, and trade unionists, as well as with civil society organizations that provide vital legal and social services to poor and working-class Egyptians who have been targeted by the state for their activism.
The delegation’s press statement upon release of its initial findings noted that “the U.S. government has been complicit in these gross violations by providing direct military and financial aid to the current Egyptian regime, by maneuvering politically to help the regime cling to power in the days after Jan. 25, 2011, and by delaying for almost 15 years the passage of the Small Arms Trade Treaty, which could prevent the regime from using American weapons against the Egyptian people.
“During the people’s uprising, U.S. corporations continued to ship tear gas and other weaponry to the very government that was shooting at unarmed men, women, and children in the streets of Egypt. … Furthermore, the U.S. government and private corporations have supported the economic policies of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, which have resulted in long-term job insecurity, increased poverty, and drastic concentration of wealth.”
In a media briefing conference call to release the statement, Delegation member Corinna Mullin reminded listeners that the main demands of the revolution have been “Bread, Freedom and Social Justice,” and that U.S. and IMF/World Bank economic intervention stand in the way of realizing those demands.
She described the web of aid and loans in which Egypt is enmeshed, a web drawing tighter all the time. What’s more, the $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid each year subsidizes both the U.S. and Egyptian military-industrial complexes (in the latter case that means subsidizing businesses owned directly by the military representing about 40% of the economy).
The U.S. Agency for International Development also sends $815 million a year to promote “market freedom,” which reinforces the neoliberal policies encouraged by imperialist governments, banks, and agencies, and which are enforced through austerity-imposing Structural Adjustment Programs, as well as by mandating opening markets and ownership to foreign firms, ending food and other subsidies, and privatization. These policies, said Mullin, are responsible for the conditions that gave rise to the revolution’s core grievances. What’s more, under USAID’s “Food for Peace” program, Egypt has gone from being an exporter to an importer of grain.
The most recent proof of what Mullin said is contained in a July 2 Reuters report quoting Morsi’s top economics adviser as saying that Egypt will soon approach the IMF and other financial institutions for loans. Since Mubarak’s departure last February, says Reuters, SCAF has swelled the country’s budget deficit by borrowing short-term from local banks at high interest rates and by draining the country’s foreign reserves.
Mullin’s conclusion was that these policies taken together are a form of neo-imperialism, and are intended to restrict the ability of any post-revolution government to be able to address the demands of revolutionaries. As a result, the Delegation demands an end to US economic intervention through the provision of economic aid with neoliberal conditions and other forms of coercion.”
Delegation member Lamis Deek—who is also the founder of the NLG’s Muslim Defense Project—then detailed the varied forms of repression that allow such policies to continue. She emphasized strongly that such U.S.-financed repression, and the secrecy with which it is planned, funded, and carried out, is “a violation of the democratic rights of American people too: how can we decide freely when we’re denied the basic facts by our government?” Deek announced the Delegation’s call for transparency regarding all actions of the U.S. government and corporations, calling for disclosure of all information regarding aid, training, cooperation, etc. between US and Egypt.
On this point the Delegation’s briefing noted, “To date, the people of Egypt have had no access to information about the extent of military-private ownership of their country’s industry and resources. That is because the military, with the support of the U.S., has made it illegal to access that information.
“Egyptian people must be protected in their efforts to take back their country. However, any efforts to deconstruct the economic and state structures built by and for the benefit of a small elite will fail unless the current government allows full transparency into its domestic operations.”
Therefore, the delegation said it supports the call of Egyptian activists “for transparency and freedom to access information relating to the complicity of the U.S. government and corporations in the activities of the repressive military regime. This should include disclosure of all information relating to the provision of U.S. economic and military aid, to military and intelligence training and cooperation, and to the sale of military equipment.”
Emphasizing once again the link between the revolution and the liberation of Palestine, Deek also noted that among the top demands of the Egyptian people is the opening of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza.
Other Delegation demands include the immediate and unequivocal end to arbitrary detention, torture, disappearances and the general criminalization of dissent; an end to military trials, and prosecution of old regime figures; an immediate end to U.S. military aid and provision of weapons; the full disclosure of all aid and arms sales, and the prohibition of all arms sales and financing, including tear gas and small arms; amnesty for all political prisoners; an end to all military tribunals and for the prosecution of all members of the former regime, army, and police who orchestrated and/or engaged in any acts of violence against civilians; the upholding of domestic and international human rights law; full disclosure and accounting of all financial and military aid given to the Egyptian government since the 1979 Camp David Accords; full disclosure of all arms sales agreements between U.S. corporations and the Egyptian military; and passage of the Arms Responsibility Act (HR 5749) which would prohibit the “transfer of defense articles and defense services to the governments of foreign countries that are engaging in gross violations of internationally-recognized human rights.”
The Delegation insisted “that the U.S. government refrain from any action that compromises the right of the Egyptian people to self-determination, and that it refrain from obstructing the immediate transition to civilian government.
They concluded: “We stand in solidarity with all Egyptians who continue to confront the forces of state repression and work for the establishment of a legal system that will protect dignity, freedom, and basic human rights. These demands are embodied and expressed in the broadly unified revolutionary chant for “bread, freedom, and social justice.”
The delegation is working on a full report of its findings due out later this summer. In the meantime, delegation members are working with organizations and activists to organize around its demands. The first event in this campaign is a public report-back by Delegation members in New York City on July 10. Delegation members are also seeking speaking engagements in other cities, as part of building a nationwide, indeed global, movement in solidarity with the Egyptian Revolution. For more information on these activities, see defendegyptianrevolution.org.
> The article above was written by Andrew Pollack, and is reprinted from the July 2012 print edition of Socialist Action newspaper.