From Suharto to Mubarak: History Repeats Itself?

Dictators are “Disposable”: The Rise and Fall of America’s Military Henchmen
History Repeats Itself? From the “King of Java” to the Pharaoh of Egypt
by Michel Chossudovsky

President Suharto of Indonesia was deposed following mass protests in May 1998.

The Western media in chorus pointed to “democratization”: the “King of Java” had been deposed by mass protests, much in the same way as Hosni Mubarak, described by today’s media as “The Pharaoh of Egypt”.

Student protest movement in May 1998 in Jakarta

The 1997 Asian Crisis

The 1997 Asia financial crisis which served to impoverish millions of people was instigated by institutional speculators. It was a process of deliberate market manipulation. It consisted in destabilizing national currencies, through “short selling”.

The Indonesian rupiah was destabilized, food prices skyrocketed, real wages collapsed by more than fifty percent. Nike workers in export manufacturing were receiving $45 a month before the crisis. In the wake of the devaluation of the rupiah, their wages plummeted to less than $20 a month.

The May 1998 protest movement against president Suharto was triggered by widespread poverty and social inequality resulting from the IMF’s  deadly “economic medicine” imposed both prior and in the wake of the Asian crisis.

On May 13, 1998,  the shooting of six students at Trisakti University in Jakarta led to demands for the resignation of president Suharto, who had occupied the presidency for 31 years.

In a commentary published in the Irish Times in May 1998, Global Research author Finian Cunningham addressed the euphoria of the Western media, which portrayed Suharto as the “The King of Java deposed by his people” (See Irish Times, May 22nd 1998)

[This assessment] seriously misjudges the balance of power not only in Indonesia but in many other parts of the world. The main lesson from Indonesia’s turmoil should be the decisive role played by the United States and the International Monetary Fund. If any party should take credit for decisively bringing down Suharto it is these enforcers of the global capitalist order – not people power … After 30-odd years of milking the rich resources of Indonesia, it became clear last autumn when Indonesia caught the Asian financial flu, that Suharto was no longer expedient for Western powers. Unlike the other lame Asian Tigers, Suharto proved to be insufficiently nimble in administering the usual IMF neoliberal shock treatment for so-called recovery. … The upshot of this neo-colonialism allows for greater control of a country’s resources by foreign capital and it invariably leaves the mass of people even more destitute, as wealth is siphoned off at ever greater speed to stock exchanges in New York and London.

Already the signs in Indonesia are ominous. Suharto’s successor is no more committed to democracy and social justice, the country’s military machine continues to operate with brutal efficiency, and, note this, the IMF is redoubling its calls for “market reforms” and cuts in public spending.

Unfortunately, this is not a case of  “King deposed by the people”. It is more a case of “Henchman called off by the Mob” – the Mob being the Western financial elite – who can get on with beating up the Indonesian people with another instrument. (Finian Cunningham, Irish Times, 25 May 1998) [1]

The top brass of both the Indonesian and Egyptian military and intelligence apparatus were trained and groomed in America, at the same military academies. Both Mubarak and Suharto were installed by Washington.

Both regimes and their military committed atrocities against their people. Both leaders served to undermine post-colonial nationalism.

The 1965 CIA sponsored Massacre

In 1965, Major General Suharto instrumented  a CIA sponsored massacre of more than half a million members and supporters (including family members) of the Communist Party of Indonesia. The massacre was  implemented in coordination with the US embassy: the ultimate objective was to weaken and unseat the nationalist Sukarno government which had the backing of the Communist Party.

Air Force Marshall Hosni Mubarak, in a different context, served a similar role in the transition from the nationalist Nasser-Sadat period. He became Vice-President in 1975 and was installed as president in the wake of the assassination of Anwar  Sadat in 1981.

Declassified documents confirm the extent of the US sponsored massacre in Indonesia:.

For example, U.S. Embassy reporting on November 13, 1965 passed on information from the police that “from 50 to 100 PKI members were being killed every night in East and Central Java….”; and the Embassy admitted in an April 15, 1966 airgram to Washington that “We frankly do not know whether the real figure [of PKI killed] is closer to 100,000 or 1,000,000 but believe it wiser to err on the side of the lower estimates, especially when questioned by the press.” On page 339, the volume seems to endorse the figure of 105,000 killed that was proposed in 1970 by foreign service officer Richard Cabot Howland in a classified CIA publication.

On another highly controversial issue – that of U.S. involvement in the killings – the volume includes an “Editorial Note” on page 387describing Ambassador Marshall Green’s August 10, 1966 airgram to Washington reporting that an Embassy-prepared list of top Communist leaders with Embassy attribution removed “is apparently being used by Indonesian security authorities who seem to lack even the simplest overt information on PKI leadership at the time….” On December 2, 1965, Green endorsed a 50 million rupiah covert payment to the Kap-Gestapu movement leading the repression; but the December 3 CIA response to State is withheld in full (pp. 379-380).

The CIA’s intervention in the State Department publication is only the latest in a series of such controversies, dating back to 1990 when the CIA censored a State volume on Iran in the early 1950s to leave out any reference to the CIA-backed coup that overthrew Mossadegh in 1953.

(see National Security Archive, ,

Regime Change in Indonesia

The atmosphere in Jakarta in May 1998 was one of jubilation, very similar to what is now occurring in Egypt. Suharto was replaced on the orders of Washington by his Vice President B. J. Habibie.

” For the students it was a case of “The king is dead, down with the king!”… The mood had begun to change in the early hours when rumours ran wild that President Suharto was going to address the nation at 9a.m. Hundreds gathered round a large television monitor in the filthy, dimly-lit foyer as a tired looking Gen Suharto appeared.

They listened silently until the only Indonesian president they have ever known told them: “I have decided to step down from office as the president of Indonesia, effective today, Thursday, May 21st, 1998, from the time I finish reading this statement.”

At that they emitted a collective yell of jubilation which continued for several minutes. No one heard Gen Suharto go on to announce that under the constitution his deputy, Mr B.J. Habibie, would become president for the remainder of his term which ends in 2003. Nor did they hear Gen Suharto conclude by saying: “I beg forgiveness for any mistakes and shortcomings.” [massacre of 500,000 people, M.C.]

The students were dancing on the roof, leaping into the long ornamental fountain outside, jumping in the air and even rolling among the debris of three days of occupation.

Some wept, others prayed, couples hugged each other, incredulous that just nine days after troops killed four of their number at Trisakti campus in Jakarta, they had managed to bring down the leader they held accountable.

…. The night before, Gen Wiranto had assessed the security situation with the three service chiefs and the head of the national police. The outlook was bleak. Students representing 50 universities were planning to stay in parliament until Suharto resigned. They had widespread support, even from the military. [This support was part of the process of regime change compare with Egypt, M. C.Emphasis added]

“The building belongs to the people, all of us,” said the Jakarta military command spokesman, Lieut-Col Nachrowi, explaining he had no orders to break up the demonstration. [compare to Egypt, February 2011, MC]

The students had co-operated with the soldiers, calling in Jakarta’s military commander, BrigGen Silalahi, when key documents went missing after two intruders infiltrated the student body. [compare with Egypt]

Meanwhile, events elsewhere were moving fast. The US Secretary of State, Mrs Madeleine Albright, suggested publicly that Gen Suharto quit, signalling the end of international support. President Suharto had found it impossible to put together a reform committee he had promised on Tuesday, as academics had shunned it. [History repeats itself. Compare Madeleine Albright’s statements to those of to Hillary Clinton, M. C.] …. Gen Suharto had no alternative but to hand over power to his long-time crony, Mr Habibie, and seek an assurance from General Wiranto, another protege whom he put in place in January, that the family would retain its status and wealth.

The decision was taken at one o’clock in the morning in the Suharto home. Its full implications did not dawn on the students until they listened to recordings of Gen Suharto’s resignation statement.

The euphoria quickly wore off. They had got rid of “the old thief” as an economics student put it, but Habibie “is just the same, another criminal”. A middle-aged woman, who said she worked on the president’s staff, remarked in disgust, “He was always bowing and kissing Suharto.”

The students had tasted a heady victory; they did not want to be deceived by a compromise which left Mr Suharto’s allies in place. They had opened up the political landscape for genuine democratic reform, but they felt they must be active and vigilant and not let their gains slip away.

Dr Amien Rais – an old friend of Mr Habibie – said yesterday he would wait to see the composition of the new cabinet, to be announced this morning, before deciding whether to endorse it; his advice will carry great weight with the students. But as of now they are staying put in the parliament.

Throughout the day yesterday, more and more students arrived to share in the celebrations of an astonishing victory, the toppling of the longest-serving Asian leader. Small trucks cruised around with volunteers throwing out drinks and bags of rice donated by a wealthy sympathiser. Students danced and sang and took pictures of each other.

In days to come they will all want to say they were there in the parliament, when the Javanese king, as Gen Suharto was known, was toppled.” ( Conor O’Clery, The day the ‘king of Java’ was deposed by his own people, Irish Times, May 22, 2011).

The outcome of Suharto’s demise was continuity. To this date, the military machine combined with a ruthless form of capitalist development prevails in Indonesia. The country is rich in natural resources. It is an oil producing economy. Yet poverty and unemployment are rampant. The country’s wealth is appropriated by foreign conglomerates with the support of the military machine and police apparatus.

Both Suharto and Mubarak were America’s henchmen recruited from the ranks of the military. They are disposable leaders. When they are no longer needed, they are replaced. In the words of Finian Cunningham in relation to Indonesia (1998), “the country’s military machine continues to operate with brutal efficiency…”

Democratic elections took place in 1999,  Abdurrahman Wahid was appointed president by the Parliament with Sukarno’s daughter Megawati as Vice President. Wahid was later impeached. The illusion of a populist government prevailed with Megawati as a figurehead president (2001-2004).

Meanwhile, the role of the military and its links to the US have remained unscathed. In 2004, a (former) career military commander with close ties to the Pentagon, trained at Fort Benning  and the US Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono became president. He was reelected in 2009.

Egypt: US Sponsored Coup d’Etat?

In Egypt, following Mubarak’s demise, the military machine prevails. Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Egypt’s defense minister, commander in chief of the Armed Forces and since February 11, 2011 head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, is the de facto Head of State, the Vice presidency is held by Omar Suleiman. Both men are US appointees.

Field Marshall Tantawi and US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

Tantawi has developed a longstanding relationship to the US military, at the highest levels, from the time when he was in command of allied forces during the Gulf war in 1991. Ahmed Shafik, a former commander in Chief of the Air Force occupies the position of Prime Minister.

The military not only has the mandate to implement democracy,  several opposition leaders including Mohammed Al Baradei have called upon the Egyptian population to support the military.

The US supported civil society opposition (which includes Kefaya, the April 6 Movement) is in liaison with both the military and the US embassy. They are reported to have “met with senior members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces”. “The protesters said the generals voiced their “sincere intention to preserve the gains of the revolution.”” ( Egypt’s opposition fights itself as army tightens control – World Wires –, February 14, 2011)

Sincere intention? Both Suleiman and Tantawi, now in charge of  “the transition to democracy” on behalf of the protest movement,  are Washington’s new military henchmen. So much for democracy. Both men are responsible for carrying out torture on behalf of the CIA under the agency’s “extraordinary rendition” program.

Egypt as being the most common destination for suspects that are sent by the U.S. for interrogation and ultimately torture.Extraordinary rendition is … torture by proxy, sometimes, or outsourcing torture. Now, sometimes CIA agents actually come with them, and they’re in the interrogation room. Most of the time, they’re outside the interrogation room so that after the detainee is tortured, the CIA can come in and ask them questions.

….The United States sends Egypt $1.5 billion per year, most of which goes to the military. And yet all along the United States has known about these egregious human rights violations by the Egyptian government. We funded the whole government and the police who were committing the acts. Omar Suleiman, the vice president, was the linchpin for Egyptian torture when the CIA sent prisoners to Egypt in its extraordinary rendition program. And he actually committed some of the worst torture himself. He oversaw the torture by the secret police, and yet he’s a very close friend of the U.S. government, including the Obama administration. (Marjorie Cohn,  Egypt was a common destination for torture of detainees sent by U.S, Global Research, February 16, 2010).

Washington is the puppetmaster, which controls both the military machine as well as Egypt’s civil society opposition. The terms of “negotiation” between the representatives of the protest movement and the military have already been determined in Washington DC.

The US funded civil society and youth organizations have betrayed the grassroots movement.


1.On a personal note. It is through this 1998 article in the Irish Times on Indonesia that I first established contact with Finian Cunningham, who is now a regular contributor to Global Research. ]

Michel Chossudovsky

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Join the Global Resistance

Independent media is battling against disinformation

Global Research, February 10, 2011

There can be no denying it: these are exciting times and changes are unfolding at unprecedented rates. Few can claim not to have some knowledge of the widespread protests that have been rocking Tunisia and Egypt this past month, and indeed the word “revolution” is on many people’s lips.

We are witnessing large-scale unrest, entire populations who refuse to be exploited and continue living in poverty at the hands of a small ruling elite, manipulated by foreign interests, who prosper while their nations flounder.

Does this pattern sound familiar? This, in fact, describes the undercurrents of populations not just in faraway countries; the spirit of resistance is bubbling up in our own backyards and across neighbouring borders.

Here at Global Research, our correspondents and volunteers are devoting a great deal of time and energy into covering and analyzing the news as it happens. We are exceedingly grateful for their efforts and excited to convey their research through our websites, to ensure it reaches as many readers as possible.

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For immediate distribution

Date: 7 February 2010

[Spanish] – [Arabic] – [Français] – [Deutsch]

MADRID/CAIRO: Public inquiries on the decision to wage war on Iraq that are silent about the crimes committed, the victims involved, and provide for no sanction, whatever their outcome, are not enough. Illegal acts should entail consequences: the dead and the harmed deserve justice.

On 6 October 2009, working with and on behalf of Iraqi plaintiffs, we filed a case before Spanish law against four US presidents and four UK prime ministers for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Iraq. The case presented spanned 19 years, including not only the wholesale destruction of Iraq witnessed from 2003, but also the sanctions period during which 1.5 million excess Iraqi deaths were recorded.

We brought the case to Spain because its laws of universal jurisdiction are based on principles enshrined in its constitution. All humanity knows the crimes committed in Iraq by those we accused, but no jurisdiction is bringing them to justice. We presented with Iraqi victims a solid case drawing on evidence contained in over 900 documents and that refer to thousands of individual incidents from which a pattern of accumulated harm and intent can be discerned.

When we brought our case, we knew that the Spanish Senate would soon vote on an amendment earlier passed by the lower house of parliament to curtail the application of universal jurisdiction in Spain. We were conscious that this restriction could be retroactive, and we took account of the content of the proposed amendment in our case filing. As we imagined, 2009 turned out to be a sad year for upholding universal human rights and international law in Spain. One day after we filed, the law was curtailed, and soon thereafter our case closed. Serious cases of the kind universal jurisdiction exists to address became more difficult to investigate.

One more jurisdiction to fall

Despite submitting a 110-page long referenced accusation (the Introduction of which is appended to this statement), the Spanish public prosecutor and the judge assigned to our case determined there was no reason to investigate. Their arguments were erroneous and could easily have been refuted if we could have appealed. To do so we needed a professional Spanish lawyer — either in a paid capacity or as a volunteer who wished to help the Iraqi people in its struggle for justice. As we had limited means, and for other reasons mostly concerning internal Spanish affairs, which were not our concern, we could not secure a lawyer in either capacity to appeal. Our motion for more time to find a lawyer was rejected.

We continue to believe that the violent killing of over one million people in Iraq since 2003 alone, the ongoing US occupation — that carries direct legal responsibility — and the displacement of up to a fifth of the Iraqi population from the terror that occupation has entailed and incited suggests strongly that the claims we put forward ought to be further investigated.

In reality, our case is a paramount example of those that authorities in the West — Spain included — fear. To them, such cases represent the double edge of sustaining the principle of universal jurisdiction. Western states used universal jurisdiction in the past to judge Third World countries. When victims in the global South began using it to judge Israel and US aggression, Western countries rushed to restrict it. Abandoning universal jurisdiction by diluting it is now the general tendency.

Call for wider collective effort to prosecute

We regret that the Spanish courts refused to investigate our case, but this will not discourage us. We have a just cause. The crimes are evident. The responsible are well known, even if the international juridical system continues to ignore Iraqi victims. Justice for victims and the wish of all humanity that war criminals should be punished oblige us to search for alternative legal possibilities, so that the crimes committed in Iraq can be investigated and accountability established.

At present, failed international justice allows US and UK war criminals to stand above international law. Understanding that this constitutes an attack — or makes possible future attacks — on the human rights of everyone, everywhere, we will continue to advocate the use of all possible avenues, including UN institutions, the International Criminal Court, and popular tribunals, to highlight and bring before law and moral and public opinion US and UK crimes in Iraq.

We are ready to make our experience and expertise available to those who struggle in the same direction. We look forward to a time when the countries of the global South, which are generally victims of aggression, reinforce their juridical systems by implementing the principle of universal jurisdiction. This will be a great service to humanity and international law.

Millions of people in Iraq have been killed, displaced, terrorised, detained, tortured or impoverished under the hammer of US and UK military, economic, political, ideological and cultural attacks. The very fabric and being of the country has been subject to intentional destruction. This destruction constitutes one of the gravest international crimes ever committed. All humanity should unite in refusing that law — by failing to assure justice for Iraqi victims — enables this destruction to be the opening precedent of the 21st century.


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Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood: An Islamist group in flux (Feature)

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood: An Islamist group in flux (Feature)

By Shabtai Gold Feb 3, 2011, 14:30 GMT


Cairo – Prior to the unrest, Egypt’s largest organised opposition group was the Muslim Brotherhood, a party with deep roots in the country, stretching back to its founding in 1929.

Some people in the West – and more than a few Egyptian liberals – fear the current political turmoil could see the Islamist party gain in power and impose religious doctrine.

But the group is also in the process of a metamorphoses, and its rhetoric often fails to match its actions. Moreover, indications are there is internal debate over its political positions, and the final direction it will take is unclear.

It has a strong contingent of followers, in part because it runs conservative religious and social programmes across the country. But the group has also thrown its weight behind the liberal Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei, backing him as the opposition’s lead negotiator in efforts to force President Hosny Mubarak to step down.

And ElBaradei, by no means a backer of religious law, has indicated he is not overly concerned by the Brotherhood’s involvement in politics.

Though officially banned in Egypt, the group ran independents for the 2005 parliamentary elections and garnered 20 per cent of the vote.

But it failed to win a single seat in elections held in November 2010, which were widely seen as rigged in favour of the ruling National Democratic Party.

Despite having expressed vehement opposition to ‘any agreement with this rapacious entity Israel,’ once in a position of influence in parliament the group said it would not touch the issue.

‘We do not recognize Israel, but we will not fight it. We will respect all the treaties (which Egypt signed with Israel),’ said Mohamed Mahdi Akef in 2005, at the time the leader of the Brotherhood.

Egypt was the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979.

Israel officials are quick to point out that their relationship with Egypt is a ‘cold peace,’ but most appreciate having a deal with the most populous Arab state.

The Brotherhood has branched out from being just an Egyptian group, and sister wings have sprouted up throughout the Arab world. In the Palestinian territories, the group most closely affiliated with it is Hamas, the militant Islamist faction.

A key distinction, however, is that the Brotherhood is not on Washington’s list of terrorist groups and it renounced violence in the 1970s.

Israel, nevertheless, is watching developments in Egypt with concern given the ties between the two groups.

While Akef refrained from making Israel the centre of his attention, focusing instead on core domestic issues, some Brotherhood members have regularly attacked Cairo’s economic relations with the Jewish State, especially the flow of natural gas from Egypt to Israel.

And when tensions flare up in the Gaza Strip, Brotherhood officials slam Israel, and often refer to the war of 2008-2009 as a ‘slaughter’ or ‘massacre.’

Many in Egypt believe that if the group was engaged politically, it would not seek to impose an authoritarian regime on Egypt.

Perhaps more significant, if Egypt’s political structure was opened up to a multi-party system, the Brotherhood is expected to lose influence, as many people now are seen to back the group solely as a way of protesting against President Mubarak.

When Mubarak clamped down on political activity, and Arab nationalism failed to bring the desired rewards, many turned to religion. If the political atmosphere was freer, it is hard to say how Egyptians would respond.

And in any case, the group is a far cry from any Taliban style organisation, though still a very conservative Muslim group with a strong following – and that is what worries liberals within Egypt.

Officials in the movement once said they would never accept a woman or Christian as president of Egypt. But when he appeared on al- Arabiya recently, Akef said many of his remarks were made a long time ago, and the political context has changed.

Mohamed Badie took over as leader from Akef last year, but has not yet articulated his political doctrine.

The Brotherhood, over 80 years old, seems to still be deciding exactly what it wants to be.


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The War With Cambodia

February 7, 2011:  Fighting on the Cambodian border continued over the weekend, being renewed today. The action has not been intense, mostly assault rifles. But local villagers have heard machine-guns and artillery or mortars. There have been twenty or so casualties. All this was a sharp break from recent peace efforts. Three months ago, after two years of armed stalemate, Thailand and Cambodia agreed to reopen border crossings at the site of the ancient (1300 year old) Preah Vihear Hindu temple on the border. The two countries have long argued over who owns how much of the ancient site. In 1962, an international court declared the temple Cambodian, but Thailand continued to claim adjacent areas that the Cambodians insist are part of the temple complex. Each side has about 3,000 troops near the temple site, and there have been a few shooting incidents since 2008, but nothing serious. The two countries have beenl negotiating the withdrawal of troops. The most recent fighting has damaged portions of the temple (which Cambodians occupy) and caused over 20,000 local civilians to flee.  This dispute is but one of many similar ones. The basic problem is that the current 730 kilometers long border was defined in 1907 by the placement of only 73 border markers. This has left the exact location of the border open to interpretation. Occasionally these interpretations clash, as is happening now. Neither side wants a full scale war, even though Thailand has a larger and better equipped military. In the last few years, Cambodia doubled its annual military budget to $500 million. Thailand spends more than six times that, and has done so for decades. Thailand has 300,000 troops, Cambodia only 100,000. But Thailand has distractions, as in Moslem terrorists in the south, rebellious populists in the north, and unrest across the northwest border with Burma. The Preah Vihear temple is 340 kilometers east of the capital. The government believes that a major war with Cambodia would soon become unpopular, and make the red shirts more powerful and likely to take over.

Red shirts (populists) say they have proof that the army planned, for years, the violent crackdown in 2010. This elicited surprise among military and police planners, who take for granted that plans would be drawn up for all contingencies you can imagine. The attack on the red shirts last year was similar to the 1989 Chinese response to the massive demonstrations in Tiananmen Square.

The government asked the army to be more flexible, and effective, in the south. Senior officials believe that the Islamic radicals and Moslem gangsters are being more innovative in changing their tactics. So the generals are being urged to be more innovative and quicker to adapt. The military is asked, not ordered, because in Thailand, the generals are very much a political power, and not to be pushed around. The army believes its tactics are working, and that the Islamic terror groups are being slowly crushed.

Royalist yellow shirts continue (since January 25) to occupy Ratchadamneng Road (a historic district in the capital) to pressure the government to be more aggressive against Cambodia. Yellow shirts are also threatening to occupy key locations in the capital as well.

February 6, 2011: Thai and Cambodian troops agreed to a ceasefire at the Preah Vihear temple. It lasted less than 24 hours.

February 4, 2011:  In the south, three policemen were killed in two attacks.

February 3, 2011: In the south, five Buddhists were shot dead, apparently by Islamic terrorists seeking to drive all infidels (non-Moslems) out of the area.

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The Protest Movement in Egypt: “Dictators” do not Dictate, They Obey Orders

by Michel Chossudovsky
Global Research, January 29, 2011

The Mubarak regime could collapse in the a face of a nationwide protest movement… What prospects for Egypt and the Arab World?

 “Dictators” do not dictate, they obey orders. This is true in Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria.   

Dictators are invariably political puppets. Dictators do not decide.

President Hosni Mubarak was a faithful servant of Western economic interests and so was Ben Ali.

The national government is the object of the protest movement.

The objective is to unseat the puppet rather than the puppet-master.

The slogans in Egypt are “Down with Mubarak, Down with the Regime”. No anti-American posters have been reported… The overriding and destructive influence of the USA in Egypt and throughout the Middle East remains unheralded. 

The foreign powers which operate behind the scenes are shielded from the protest movement.

No significant political change will occur unless the issue of foreign interference is meaningfully addressed by the protest movement.

The US embassy in Cairo is an important political entity, invariably overshadowing the national government. The Embassy is not a target of the protest movement.

In Egypt, a devastating IMF program was imposed in 1991 at the height of the Gulf War. It was negotiated in exchange for the annulment of Egypt’s multibillion dollar military debt to the US as well as its participation in the war. The resulting deregulation of food prices, sweeping privatisation and massive austerity measures led to the impoverishment of the Egyptian population and the destabilization of its economy. The Mubarak government was praised as a model “IMF pupil”.

The role of Ben Ali’s government in Tunisia was to enforce the IMF’s deadly economic medicine, which over a period of more than twenty years served to destabilize the national economy and impoverish the Tunisian population. Over the last 23 years, economic and social policy in Tunisia has been dictated by the Washington Consensus.

Both Hosni Mubarak and Ben Ali stayed in power because their governments obeyed and effectively enforced the diktats of the IMF. 

From Pinochet and Videla to Baby Doc, Ben Ali and Mubarak, dictators have been installed by Washington. Historically in Latin America, dictators were instated through a series of US sponsored military coups. In todays World, they are installed through “free and fair elections” under the surveillance of the “international community”.

Our message to the protest movement:

Actual decisions are taken in Washington DC,  at the US State Department, at the Pentagon,  at Langley, headquarters of the CIA. at H Street NW, the headquarters of the World Bank and the IMF.

The relationship of “the dictator” to foreign interests must be addressed. Unseat the political puppets but do not forget to target the “real dictators”. 

The protest movement should focus on the real seat of political authority; it should target (in a peaceful, orderly and nonviolent fashion) the US embassy, the delegation of the European Union, the national missions of the IMF and the World Bank.

Meaningful political change can only be ensured if the neoliberal economic policy agenda is thrown out.

Regime Replacement 

If the protest movement fails to address the role of foreign powers including pressures exerted by “investors”, external creditors and international financial institutions, the objective of national sovereignty will not be achieved. In which case, what will occur is a narrow process of “regime replacement”, which ensures political continuity. 

“Dictators” are seated and unseated. When they are politically discredited and no longer serve the interests of their US sponsors, they are replaced by a new leader, often recruited from within the ranks of the political opposition.

In Tunisia, the Obama administration has already positioned itself. It intends to play a key role in the “democratization program” (i.e. the holding of so-called fair elections). It also intends to use the political crisis as a means to weaken the role of France and consolidate its position in North Africa:

“The United States, which was quick to size up the groundswell of protest on the streets of Tunisia, is trying to press its advantage to push for democratic reforms in the country and further afield.

The top-ranking US envoy for the Middle East, Jeffrey Feltman, was the first foreign official to arrive in the country after president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted on January 14 and swiftly called for reforms. He said on Tuesday only free and fair elections would strengthen and give credibility to the north African state’s embattled leadership.

“I certainly expect that we’ll be using the Tunisian example” in talks with other Arab governments, Assistant Secretary of State Feltman added.

He was dispatched to the north African country to offer US help in the turbulent transition of power, and met with Tunisian ministers and civil society figures.

Feltman travels to Paris on Wednesday to discuss the crisis with French leaders, boosting the impression that the US is leading international support for a new Tunisia, to the detriment of its former colonial power, France. …

Western nations had long supported Tunisia’s ousted leadership, seeing it as a bulwark against Islamic militants in the north Africa region.

In 2006, the then US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, speaking in Tunis, praised the country’s evolution.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton nimbly stepped in with a speech in Doha on January 13 warning Arab leaders to allow their citizens greater freedoms or risk extremists exploiting the situation.

There is no doubt that the United States is trying to position itself very quickly on the good side,…” ” AFP: US helping shape outcome of Tunisian uprising emphasis added

Will Washington be successful in instating a new puppet regime?

This very much depends on the ability of the protest movement to address the insidious role of the US in the country’s internal affairs.

The overriding powers of empire are not mentioned. In a bitter irony, president Obama has expressed his support for the protest movement.

Many people within the protest movement are led to believe that president Obama is committed to democracy and human rights, and is supportive of the opposition’s resolve to unseat a dictator, which was installed by the US in the first place.

Cooptation of Opposition Leaders

The cooptation of the leaders of major opposition parties and civil society organizations in anticipation of the collapse of an authoritarian puppet government is part of Washington’s design, applied in different regions of the World.

The process of cooptation is implemented and financed by US based foundations including the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and  Freedom House (FH). Both FH and the NED have links to the US Congress. the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), and the US business establishment. Both the NED and FH are known to have ties to the CIA.

The NED is actively involved in Tunisia, Egypt and Algeria. Freedom House supports several civil society organizations in Egypt.

“The NED was established by the Reagan administration after the CIA’s role in covertly funding efforts to overthrow foreign governments was brought to light, leading to the discrediting of the parties, movements, journals, books, newspapers and individuals that received CIA funding. … As a bipartisan endowment, with participation from the two major parties, as well as the AFL-CIO and US Chamber of Commerce, the NED took over the financing of foreign overthrow movements, but overtly and under the rubric of “democracy promotion.” (Stephen Gowans, January « 2011 “What’s left

While the US has supported the Mubarak government for the last thirty years, US foundations with ties to the US State department and the Pentagon have actively supported the political opposition including the civil society movement.  According to Freedom House: “Egyptian civil society is both vibrant and constrained. There are hundreds of non-governmental organizations devoted to expanding civil and political rights in the country, operating in a highly regulated environment.” (Freedom House Press Releases).

In a bitter irony, Washington supports the Mubarak dictatorship, including its atrocities, while also backing and financing its detractors, through the activities of FH, the NED, among others.  

Under the auspices of Freedom House, Egyptian dissidents and opponents of Hosni Mubarak were received in May 2008 by Condoleezza Rice at the State Department and the US Congress. They also met White House National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, who was “the principal White House foreign policy adviser” during George W. Bush’s second term. 

Freedom House’s effort to empower a new generation of advocates has yielded tangible results and the New Generation program in Egypt has gained prominence both locally and internationally. Egyptian visiting fellows from all civil society groups received [May 2008] unprecedented attention and recognition, including meetings in Washington with US Secretary of State, the National Security Advisor, and prominent members of Congress. In the words of Condoleezza Rice, the fellows represent the “hope for the future of Egypt.”

Freedom House, (emphasis added).

Political Double Talk: Chatting with “Dictators”, Mingling with “Dissidents”

The Egyptian pro-democracy delegation to the State Department was described by Condoleezza Rice as “The Hope for the Future of Egypt”.

In May 2009, Hillary Clinton met a delegation of Egyptian dissidents, several of which had met Condoleezza Rice a year earlier. These high level meetings were held a week prior to Obama’s visit to Egypt:


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised the work of a group of Egyptian civil society activists she met with today and said it was in Egypt’s interest to move toward democracy and to exhibit more respect for human rights.

The 16 activists met with Clinton and Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman in Washington at the end of a two-month fellowship organized by Freedom House’s New Generation program.

The fellows raised concern about what they perceived as the United States government distancing itself from Egyptian civil society and called on President Obama to meet with young independent civil society activists when he visits Cairo next week. They also urged the Obama administration to continue to provide political and financial support to Egyptian civil society and to help open the space for nongovernmental organizations which is tightly restricted under Egypt’s longstanding emergency law.

The fellows told Clinton that momentum was already building in Egypt for increased civil and human rights and that U.S. support at this time was urgently needed. They stressed that civil society represents a moderate and peaceful “third way” in Egypt, an alternative to authoritarian elements in the government and those that espouse theocratic rule. (Freedom House, May 2009)

During their fellowship, the activists spent a week in Washington receiving training in advocacy and getting an inside look at the way U.S. democracy works. After their training, the fellows were matched with civil society organizations throughout the country where they shared experiences with U.S. counterparts. The activists will wrap up their program … by visiting U.S. government officials, members of Congress, media outlets and think tanks.” (Freedom House, May 2009, emphasis added)

These opposition civil society groups –which are currently playing an important role in the protest movement– are supported and funded by the US. They indelibly serve US interests. 

The invitation of Egyptian dissidents to the State Department and the US Congress also purports to instil a feeling of commitment and allegiance to American democratic values. America is presented as a model of Freedom and Justice. Obama is upheld as a “Role Model”.


Egyptian dissidents, Fellows of Freedom House in Washington DC (2008)

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks with Egyptian activists promoting freedom and democracy, visiting through the Freedom House organization, prior to meetings at the State Department in Washington, DC, May 28, 2009.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks with “Egyptian activists promoting freedom and
democracy”, prior to meetings at the State Department in Washington, DC, May 28, 2009.

Compare the two pictures 2008 delegation received by Condoleezza Rice versus 2009 delegation 
meeting  Hillary Clinton in May 2009.


Hillary Clinton and Hosni Mubarak in Sharm El Sheik, September 2010

Condoleezza Rice chats with Hosni Mubarak?  ” Hope for the Future of Egypt”.

Condoleezza Rice addresses  Freedom House. 4th from left

The Puppet Masters Support the Protest Movement against their own Puppets
The puppet masters support dissent against their own puppets? 


 Its called “political leveraging”, “manufacturing dissent”.  Support the dictator as well as the opponents of the dictator as a means of controlling the political opposition.

These actions on the part of Freedom House and the National Endowment for Democracy, on behalf of the Bush and Obama administrations, ensure that the US funded civil society opposition will not direct their energies against the puppet masters behind the Mubarak regime, namely the US government.

These US funded civil society organizations act as a “Trojan Horse” which becomes embedded within the protest movement. They protect the interests of the puppet masters. They ensure that the grassroots protest movement will not address the broader issue of foreign interference in the affairs of sovereign states.

The Facebook Twitter Bloggers Supported and Financed by Washington

In relation to the protest movement in Egypt, several civil society groups funded by US based foundations have led the protest on Twitter and Facebook:

“Activists from Egypt’s Kifaya (Enough) movement – a coalition of government opponents – and the 6th of April Youth Movement organized the protests on the Facebook and Twitter social networking websites. Western news reports said Twitter appeared to be blocked in Egypt later Tuesday.” (See Voice of America, ,Egypt Rocked by Deadly Anti-Government Protests

Reads; Kifaya (Enough)

The Kifaya movement, which organized one of the first protests directed against the Mubarak regime in late 2004, is supported by the US based International Center for Non-Violent Conflict. Kifaya is a broad-based movement which has also taken a stance on Palestine and US interventionism in the region.  

In turn, Freedom House has been involved in promoting and training the Middle East North Africa Facebook and Twitter blogs:

Freedom House fellows acquired skills in civic mobilization, leadership, and strategic planning, and benefit from networking opportunities through interaction with Washington-based donors, international organizations and the media. After returning to Egypt, the fellows received small grants to implement innovative initiatives such as advocating for political reform through Facebook and SMS messaging. (emphasis added)

From February 27 to March 13 [2010], Freedom House hosted 11 bloggers from the Middle East and North Africa [from different civil society organizations] for a two-week Advanced New Media Study Tour in Washington, D.C. The Study Tour provided the bloggers with training in digital security, digital video making, message development and digital mapping. While in D.C., the Fellows also participated in a Senate briefing, and met with high-level officials at USAID, State [Department] and Congress as well as international media including Al-Jazeera and the Washington Post. emphasis added

One can easily apprehend the importance attached by the US administration to this bloggers’ “training program”, which is coupled with high level meetings at the US Senate,  the  Congress, the  State Department, etc. 

The role of the Facebook Twitter social media as an expression of dissent, must be carefully evaluated: the civil society bloggers are supported by Freedom House (FH), the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the US State Department. 

BBC News World (broadcast in the Middle East) quoting Egyptian internet messages has reported that “the US has been sending money to pro-democracy groups.” (BBC News World, January 29, 2010). The April 6 Youth Movement is supported covertly by Washington. According to a report in The Daily Telegraph, quoting a secret US embassy document (Jan 29, 2011):

“The protests in Egypt are being driven by the April 6 youth movement, a group on Facebook that has attracted mainly young and educated members opposed to Mr Mubarak. The group has about 70,000 members and uses social networking sites to orchestrate protests and report on their activities.

The documents released by WikiLeaks reveal US Embassy officials [in Cairo] were in regular contact with the activist throughout 2008 and 2009, considering him one of their most reliable sources for information about human rights abuses.” (emphasis added)

The Muslim BrotherhoodThe Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt constitutes the largest segment of the opposition to president Mubarak. According to reports, The Muslim Brotherhood dominates the protest movement.

While there is a constitutional ban against religious political parties Brotherhood members elected to Egypt’s parliament as “independents” constitute the largest parliamentary block.

The Brotherhood, however, does not constitute a direct threat to Washington’s economic and strategic interests in the region. Western intelligence agencies have a longstanding history of collaboration with the Brotherhood. Britain’s support of the Brotherhood instrumented  through the British Secret Service dates back to the 1940s. Starting in the 1950s, according to former intelligence official William Baer, “The CIA [funnelled] support to the Muslim Brotherhood because of “the Brotherhood’s commendable capability to overthrow Nasser.”1954-1970: CIA and the Muslim Brotherhood Ally to Oppose Egyptian President Nasser, These covert  links to the CIA were maintained in the post-Nasser era.

Concluding Remarks

The removal of Hosni Mubarak has, for several years, been on the drawing board of US foreign policy.

Regime replacement serves to ensure continuity, while providing the illusion that meaningful political change has occurred.

Washington’s agenda for Egypt has been to “hijack the protest movement” and replace president Hosni Mubarak with a new compliant puppet head of state. Washington’s objective is to sustain the interests of foreign powers, to uphold the neoliberal economic agenda which has served to impoverish the Egyptian population. 

From Washington’s standpoint, regime replacement no longer requires the installation of an authoritarian  military regime as in the heyday of US imperialism, It can be implemented by co-opting political parties, including the Left, financing civil society groups, infiltrating the protest movement and manipulating national elections.

With reference to the protest movement in Egypt, President Obama stated in a January 28 video broadcast on Youtube: “The Government Should Not Resort to Violence”. The more fundamental question is what is the source of that violence? Egypt is the largest recipient of US military aid after Israel. The Egyptian military is considered to be the power base of the Mubarak regime: 

“The country’s army and police forces are geared to the teeth thanks to more than $1 billion in military aid a year from Washington. … When the US officially describes Egypt as “an important ally” it is inadvertently referring to Mubarak’s role as a garrison outpost for US military operations and dirty war tactics in the Middle East and beyond. There is clear evidence from international human rights groups that countless “suspects” rendered by US forces in their various territories of (criminal) operations are secretly dumped in Egypt for “deep interrogation”. The country serves as a giant “Guantanamo” of the Middle East, conveniently obscured from US public interest and relieved of legal niceties over human rights.” (Finian Cunningham, Egypt: US-Backed Repression is Insight for American Public, Global Research, January 28, 2010).

America is no “Role Model” of Democratization for the Middle East. US military presence imposed on Egypt and the Arab World for more than 20 years, coupled with “free market” reforms are the root cause of State violence.

America’s intent is to use the protest movement to install a new regime. 

The People’s Movement should redirect its energies: Identify the relationship between America and “the dictator”. Unseat America’s political puppet but do not forget to target the “real dictators”. 

Shunt the process of regime change.

Dismantle the neoliberal reforms.

Close down US military bases in the Arab World.

Establish a truly sovereign government.  

Global Research Articles by Michel Chossudovsky

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Freedom in the World 2011: The Authoritarian Challenge to Democracy

Washington, D.C
January 13, 2011


Global freedom suffered its fifth consecutive year of decline in 2010, according to Freedom in the World 2011, Freedom House’s annual assessment of political rights and civil liberties around the world. This represents the longest continuous period of decline in the nearly 40-year history of the survey. The year featured drops in the number of Free countries and the number of electoral democracies, as well as an overall deterioration for freedom in the Middle East and North Africa region.

A total of 25 countries showed significant declines in 2010, more than double the 11 countries exhibiting noteworthy gains. The number of countries designated as Free fell from 89 to 87, and the number of electoral democracies dropped to 115, far below the 2005 figure of 123. In addition, authoritarian regimes like those in China, Egypt, Iran, Russia, and Venezuela continued to step up repressive measures with little significant resistance from the democratic world.

“This should be a wake-up call for all of the world’s democracies,” said David J. Kramer, executive director of Freedom House. “Our adversaries are not just engaging in widespread repression, they are doing so with unprecedented aggressiveness and self-confidence, and the democratic community is not rising to the challenge.”

Published annually since 1972, Freedom in the World examines the ability of individuals to exercise their political and civil rights in 194 countries and 14 territories around the world. The latest edition analyzes developments that occurred in 2010 and assigns each country a freedom status—Free, Partly Free, or Not Free—based on a scoring of performance on key democracy indicators.

Four countries received status declines, including Ukraine and Mexico, which both fell from Free to Partly Free. Mexico’s downgrade was a result of the government’s inability to stem the tide of violence by drug-trafficking groups, while Ukraine suffered from deteriorating levels of press freedom, instances of election fraud, and growing politicization of the judiciary. Djibouti and Ethiopia were downgraded from Partly Free to Not Free. Other countries showing declines included Bahrain, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, France, Sri Lanka, and Venezuela.

The Middle East and North Africa remained the region with the lowest level of freedom in 2010, continuing its multiyear decline from an already-low democratic baseline.

The world’s most powerful authoritarian regimes acted with increased brazenness in 2010. China pressured foreign governments to boycott the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony honoring jailed democracy advocate Liu Xiaobo, and Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez pushed through legislation that allowed him to rule by decree and further restricted nongovernmental organizations and the media. Russia’s leadership showed blatant disregard for judicial independence in its handling of, among other cases, the sentencing of regime critic and former oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky after a trial that was widely considered fraudulent. And both Egypt and Belarus conducted sham elections with little hint of transparency. In the case of Belarus, the election was followed by massive violence by security forces against peaceful demonstrators.

“It is often observed that a government that mistreats its people also fears its people,” said Arch Puddington, director of research at Freedom House. “But authoritarian regimes will have a much freer hand to silence their domestic critics if there is no resistance from the outside world. Indeed, if the world’s democracies fail to unite and speak out in defense of their own values, despots will continue to gain momentum.”

Immigration policies were a topic of concern this year in many countries, including those in Western Europe and the United States. France saw a decline in its civil liberties score due to its treatment of Roma from Eastern Europe as well as its problems in coping with immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa.

There were a few bright spots in the survey, including status improvements from Not Free to Partly Free for Kyrgyzstan and Guinea after both countries held comparatively free and fair elections, and ratings improvements for Kenya, Moldova, Nigeria, the Philippines, and Tanzania.

Key global findings:

Free:The number of countries designated by Freedom in the World as Free in 2010 stands at 87, two fewer than the previous year, and representing 45 percent of the world’s 194 countries and 43 percent of the world’s population.

Partly Free:The number of Partly Free countries increased to 60, or 31 percent of all countries assessed by the survey, comprising 22 percent of the world’s total population.

Not Free:The number of countries deemed to be Not Free remained at 47, or 24 percent of the total number of countries. Nearly 2.5 billion people live in societies where fundamental political rights and civil liberties are not respected. China accounts for more than half of this number.

Electoral Democracies:The number of electoral democracies dropped from 116 to 115, the lowest number since 1995. Three countries—the Philippines, Tanzania, and Tonga—achieved electoral democracy status after conducting elections that were regarded as improvements over earlier polls. Declines in Burundi, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, and Sri Lanka triggered their removal from the list of electoral democracies.

Worst of the Worst:Of the 47 countries ranked Not Free, nine countries and one territory received the survey’s lowest possible rating for both political rights and civil liberties: Burma, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Tibet, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Key regional findings:

Sub-Saharan Africa: Major declines were recorded in Ethiopia and Djibouti, both of which dropped from Partly Free to Not Free. In addition, declines were noted in Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Rwanda, Swaziland, and Zambia. Improvements were noted in Kenya, Nigeria, Somaliland, and Tanzania, as well as in Guinea, which received an improvement in status from Not Free to Partly Free.

Asia-Pacific:Successful elections resulted in improvements for the Philippines and Tonga. Declines were documented in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Fiji, Indian Kashmir, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.

Central and Eastern Europe/Former Soviet Union: The 2010 election in Kyrgyzstan, which followed the collapse of the government earlier in the year, was considered relatively free and fair and resulted in a status improvement from Not Free to Partly Free.Gainswere also noted in Georgia and Moldova. Ukraine dropped from Free to Partly Free, and Nagorno-Karabakh fell from Partly Free to Not Free. Other declines were seen in Hungary and Latvia.

Middle East and North Africa: The Middle East and North Africa, which has long been the region with the lowest levels of democracy in the world, continued its steady decline in 2010. In addition to a reduction in Egypt resulting from the country’s sham elections, declines were seen in Bahrain, Kuwait, and Iran. There were no status or ratings improvements in the region.

Americas:The inability of the Mexican government to protect ordinary citizens, elected officials, or journalists from organized crime caused Mexico’s status to fall from Free to Partly Free. Other countries that saw declines included Venezuela, where President Chávez pushed through damaging legislation just before the formation of a new parliament with significantly more opposition seats. Improvements were noted in Colombia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Western Europe and North America:Western Europe and the United States continued to struggle with a rise in anti-immigrant sentiment. France received a score reduction for its treatment of ethnic minorities, including the mass deportation of Roma.

To view data from the report, click here.

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.  

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