Obama pays lip service to Tunisians —betrays Egyptians, Algerians, Yemenis

In his State of the Union address Jan. 25, Barack Obama said the US will support those struggling for freedom around the world, and made special note of the recent revolutionary upsurge in Tunisia:

We saw that same desire to be free in Tunisia, where the will of the people proved more powerful than the writ of a dictator. And tonight, let us be clear: the United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia and supports the democratic aspirations of all people.

But it is pretty easy to say nice things about the Tunisian protesters—after the dictator has fled! In fact, these comments seemed to be aimed at mollifying the Tunisians, who continue to take to the streets to demand that the ousted Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s henchmen and collaborators step down.

Even as Obama spoke, unprecedentedly huge and angry protests were underway in Egypt—a key regional US ally and top aid recipient—demanding that Hosni Mubarak step down. (He’s ruled since 1981.) Obama had nothing to say about that—surprise, surprise.

Recent days have also seen dramatic anti-government protests in Yemen—another strategic US-supported dictatorship—and in Jordan, a strategic US-supported monarchy. Neither of these merited a mention in Obama’s speech. But the most telling omission was Algeria, where a wave of protest has paralleled that in neighboring Tunisia over the past weeks. Not only did Obama not have a word of encouragement to the Algerian protesters, but just days ago he dispatched his counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan to meet with dictator Abdelaziz Bouteflika (in power since 1999) and his top security people to talk about coordinating “counter-terrorism” policy.

Obama’s true stance on the Tunisians is no less hypocritical. Middle East Bulletin reported on April 23, 2009 on a tour of the region by Obama’s envoy George Mitchell:

Meeting with Tunisian Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, Mitchell praised the “strong ties” between both nations and added that he was in Tunis to express greeting and high consideration to Ben Ali on President Obama’s behalf.

BBC News informs us that Mohamed Ghannouchi is the key figure whose resignation is currently demanded by the Tunisian protesters.

Hillary Clinton has been wavering between assurances that Egypt and the rest remain stable despite the protests and statements that the US supports the right to protest and calls for democratic freedom. It smells like they are quite panicked at the White House and State Department over the wave of change sweeping North Africa and the Arab world.

See our last posts on the Maghreb and the Tunisian virus.

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