'Enough' in Egypt
January 18, 2005; Page A16
JUST TWO DAYS after the
Palestinian presidential election, in which multiple candidates freely competed
for votes, an Egyptian official delivered a contrasting piece of news: The
ruling party, he said, intended to nominate President Hosni
Mubarak to run unopposed this fall for a sixth
consecutive term. If confirmed, that would mean the perpetuation of the
dictatorship that has ruled Egypt
for more than 50 years, nearly half of them under Mr. Mubarak,
who is now 76. Though they can hardly be surprised, Egyptians can only be
frustrated by Mr. Mubarak's refusal to liberalize a
political system that has brought them decades of
economic stagnation and rampant corruption while nourishing Islamic extremists,
including many of the leaders of al Qaeda.
renomination would be a serious blow to the Bush
administration's project for promoting democratic change in the Middle East --
and would again raise the question of whether President Bush intends to connect
policy with his rhetoric. It has been more than a year since Mr. Bush, in his
speech to the National Endowment for Democracy, acknowledged that the United States
had been wrong for "excusing and accommodating" Arab dictators in
exchange for their cooperation with American foreign policy. Mr. Mubarak has been foremost among those rulers, receiving
more than $50 billion in U.S.
aid over the years even as he ruthlessly suppressed Egyptian civil society and
democratic movements and encouraged anti-Israeli and anti-American incitement
in his state-controlled media. "Egypt,"
Mr. Bush said in that speech, "now should show the way toward democracy in
the Middle East."
has done the opposite: He has emerged as the most outspoken and uncompromising
opponent of Mr. Bush's call for Arab liberalization. But he has also shrewdly
offered Mr. Bush an extension of the old bargain. In recent weeks, Mr. Mubarak has warmed his relations with Israel's Ariel Sharon, encouraged Palestinian
militants to declare a cease-fire and supported Sunni participation in Iraq's upcoming
elections. Egypt also
apparently continues its clandestine cooperation on terrorism with the Central
Intelligence Agency -- cooperation that reportedly involves the
"rendition" of CIA detainees to Egypt so as to circumvent U.S. anti-torture laws.
dictator's gambit appears to be working. For all his rhetoric, Mr. Bush shows
no sign of ending U.S.
excuses and accommodations for Egypt.
While insisting that Palestinians establish a democracy before any peace
settlement with Israel
-- a stance that happens to advance Mr. Sharon's aim of indefinitely postponing
Palestinian statehood -- Mr. Bush has given no indication that he objects to
another of the fraudulent referendums with which Mr. Mubarak
has ratified his rule. Hoping that Mr. Bush is serious, Egyptian opposition
movements have formed a coalition to call for fundamental reforms: the lifting
of emergency laws that restrict political activity, a multi-candidate election
for president and constitutional changes to limit the next president's power.
Three brave dissidents have announced their own candidacies for president. Last
month an unprecedented anti-Mubarak demonstration
took place in Cairo.
Protesters silently held up signs saying "Enough." Does Mr. Bush not