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I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Dick Cheney stands with Muslim tyrants

Our foreign policy towards the Middle East is plagued by a glaring and fundamental contradiction. Ever since it became undeniably apparent that the weapons which we insisted justified our invasion of Iraq did not actually exist, the sole rationale we have been stuck with is that Saddam was a tyrannical ruler, and tyranny in the Middle East breeds hostility against the U.S. and is also morally wrong on its own terms. We tell the world that we are now in Iraq not in order to combat any specific danger, but to battle against the tyranny which oppresses Muslims and to bring freedom to that region.

One obvious problem with this theory is that our two closest Muslim allies in the Middle East -- by far -- continue to be two of the most repressive: Egypt and Saudi Arabia. This week, our Vice President is visiting our close allies, the tyrants who rule over each of these countries, in order to plot with them regarding what our joint approach should be to the pressing problems in that region:

Vice President Dick Cheney met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Tuesday for talks on the political process in Iraq and the West's standoffs with Syria and Iran.

After meeting with Mubarak, Cheney was expected to travel to Saudi Arabia later Tuesday for talks with King Abdullah. . . . .

Saudi Arabia and Egypt - both key U.S. allies - are the two Arab powers behind an Iraqi national reconciliation conference that is expected to convene next month in
Iraq to clear the way for a larger Sunni participation in the political process.

George Bush has entertained both tyrants at his Texas "ranch," a distinction which, as we are so often told, is reserved only for Bush’s best-est friends in the whole world. The U.S. tightly embraces these two dictatorships for all the world to see.

It is obvious that we are not taking any steps to undermine these tyrannical regimes, nor are we going to be doing that any time soon. To the contrary, we prop them up with billions of dollars and substantial military aid, without which they would likely collapse within in a matter of months, and the Bush Administration vigorously defends this aid. With these policies, we consign 100 million Muslims in those two countries alone to brutal and absolute repression. These are the same people we are supposedly trying to persuade with our invasion of Iraq to think of us as benevolent liberators and to believe that we are occupying Iraq because we want to crush tyranny.

This is not to criticize our alliances with the Egyptian and Saudi governments per se. To the contrary, it’s hard to imagine a worst disaster than imposing democratic elections on those two countries, which would be tantamount to handing them over to anti-American Muslim extremists, if not to Al Qaeda itself.

But that’s precisely what exposes the core incoherence of our occupation of Iraq. Our policy in that region is plainly not to export democracy and emancipate Muslims from tyranny. A reasonable argument can be made that our policy is exactly the opposite – to strengthen those tyrannies which work in tandem with U.S. interests. Whether that is what our policy ought to be is a separate question from the fact that this plainly is our policy, which makes our explanations about why we are in Iraq incredible on their face.

It is very difficult to understand how we think that anyone is going to be persuaded by our insistence that we invaded Iraq in order to bring democracy to Muslims when the central cog of our foreign policy in the Middle East is to preserve the authoritarian rule over two of the largest and most significant countries in that region. What is the point of pretending to have a policy that the whole world can see we don’t really have? How can that possibly do any good? Do we really think that Muslims don’t notice this fundamental inconsistency between what we say we are doing in the Middle East and what we are actually doing?

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