Arab public opinion has held to a large extent the Arab League politically and morally responsible for the disastrous fate that befell Libya in 2011. The League in a hurried way adopted a decision in March 2011 concerning the popular uprising against late Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. The UN Security Council, at the request of France, followed suit and passed a resolution that was used as a pretext by NATO to intervene. The pretext was that the Libyan army was advancing towards Benghazi to annihilate the popular uprising. An unrelentless and senseless bombing campaign followed that decimated the Libyan army. After the mission was accomplished, NATO left the country in complete disarray, without recognised state institutions to manage the situation, and the political transition towards a modern and a democratic state. On the contrary, Libya descended into insecurity and almost near anarchy with unattended stocks of arms that were taken by renegade and armed groups. In the last nine years, neither the international community nor Arab nor African countries have succeeded in restoring political normalcy in Libya, despite several Security Council resolutions from March 2011 till February 2020. The former imposed an arms embargo on Libya that has never been seriously enforced, and the latter, recalling the said resolutions, gave an international and official seal of approval to the Berlin Declaration of 19 January 2020. At the end of 2015, the Security Council had passed a resolution in support of what is known as the Skhirat Accord that established a “Government of National Accord” in Libya, bypassing — strangely enough — the only elected legislative body in Libya, the House of Representatives, that had been elected in fair and free elections the year before. The Libyan Muslim Brotherhood, through their control over the Supreme Court, invalidated the elections. The reason is that they lost the 2014 elections after their failed attempt at governance from the end of 2011 till the legislative elections of 2014. This background explains why Libya has two governments and two legislatures, and two warring military forces. A government in Tripoli, called the “internationally-recognised government”, and another temporary government in Benghazi that few countries have recognised and dealt with. The United Nations, through various envoys, tried to mediate and negotiate a political framework that could, hopefully, put the country on the road of reconciliation and reconstruction. However, these attempts and plans always failed because the international community and the Arab world had other strategic priorities, till the Turkish wolf entered the arena and turned a local military conflict into a regional one, and almost an international one. The Syrian example was about to replicate itself in Libya. Turkey and Russia, supporting opposing sides in the Libyan conflict, in the meantime are trying to share the pie without getting involved in a direct conflict. All the while, the Arab League was paying lip service to UN efforts as well as to the Berlin Declaration. Its secretary general participated in its sessions. Turkish intervention in the conflict was a strategic surprise for the region and the world. It allowed the Tripoli forces to push back the forces of the government in the East, led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. The retreat of his forces led to an escalation on the ground that could torpedo any chances for the resumption of political talks between the two Libyan governments. The pro-Tripoli forces want to regain control of all of Libya; that is, to advance eastward, getting closer to the Egyptian borders. On 23 June, visiting a military base not far away from these borders, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that the Egyptian army would intervene directly in the Libyan conflict in the case that pro-Tripoli forces, backed by the Turks, advance towards Sirte and Al-Jafra. The two are almost 1,000 kilometres from the Libyan borders with Egypt. Of course, the Egyptian president talked about such an intervention in the context of a blueprint for the restoration of security and stability in Libya, in accordance with Security Council resolutions, on the one hand, and the Berlin Declaration, on the other hand. He enumerated the objectives of such an intervention, and most of the elements he mentioned do conform with UN resolutions. He stressed the importance of unifying state institutions, in addition to bringing all economic agencies and the oil industry under one command. The Egyptian position was seconded by a resolution adopted 23 June through an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers, via video conference, that Egypt requested after the announcement of the Cairo Declaration on Libya on 6 June. The resolution reflected an Arab consensus — save a few reservations on certain paragraphs by Qatar, Tunisia, Somalia and the Libyan delegation to the Arab League. Most of the clauses are in conformity with the Berlin Declaration and resolutions adopted by the United Nations related to Libya. So far, these developments led to a pause in military preparations by forces loyal to the Tripoli government. In the meantime, the Turkish government is still sending reinforcements as well as Syrian mercenaries. The spectre of a major military confrontation between Egypt and Turkey has raised alarm bells in Europe and the United States, pushing them to reiterate their demands for an immediate and total ceasefire, and the resumption of political talks in Libya. The US State Department called — on 26 June — on the warring parties in Libya to cease fire forthwith and resume talks, while condemning foreign intervention, without singling out any country in particular. Moreover, the US administration warned the Tripoli government that the United States is against launching an attack on Sirte and Al-Jafra. This statement came two days after the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accused Washington of lacking decisiveness in dealing with the situation in Libya. It remains to be seen if the US administration will push hard for an immediate ceasefire on the part of the Tripoli government and its Turkish backers. If both the US and the European Union act in concert in this respect, that could be a turning point in Libya that opens the way for launching a diplomatic and political process that would save Libya from disintegration and avoid a repeat of the Syrian scenario in Libya. Egypt and most Arab countries have learned the lessons of the fateful years of the “Arab Spring”. Consequently, they have decided to confront Turkey in Libya. They should not back down, whatever the cost.
This title has been published thousands of times on social media, as an expression of gratitude towards the efforts of doctors during the coronavirus pandemic, and in protest of a statement made by the Prime Minister that has angered Egyptians everywhere. The medical profession is one of the oldest professions in our dear country, with its history beginning with the ancient Egyptians and onward to the Alexandria school, where ancient Egyptian and Greek medicine mixed. In the modern era, Mohamed Ali asked Clot Bey to establish a medical school which moved from Abu Zaabal to Qasr al-Aini on the Nile bank. The first mission dispatched to study medicine to France after graduation, after which they came back to teach in the medical school, thus making Egypt the first country in the region to practice modern medicine through diagnosis and treatment of all kinds. When modern devices, microscopic surgeries and sophisticated drugs entered the world of modern medicine, Egypt s doctors were at the forefront of the world in receiving these tools and training with them. Because of the difficult economic conditions Egypt has faced following a critical period in its history, no modern hospitals had been built to keep up with the times, though the government and the private sector have remedied the matter and built modern teaching and private hospitals on international standards. Egyptian doctors have spread across the world, achieving great success in Europe and America, and for many years they have efficiently led the health system in Arab countries, particularly in the Gulf region. Some people may think that these doctors are all very wealthy, but this is not true, because the vast majority of doctors and all young doctors suffer greatly in life due to poor salaries and incentives, so most of them try to travel abroad, which has already happened, and is why half of Egypt s doctors now work outside. As we all know, studying medicine in addition to the residency period lasts seven years, followed by three to seven years of training to start practicing the profession, and if a doctor wishes to train and obtain a certificate in a specific field then they ll need to study for another five years. Doctors all over the world receive distinguished treatment and get paid well. The Medical Syndicate is a long-established and distinguished union that provides distinguished union services for its members. This was the first union in Egypt that rose up at the beginning of the Muslim Brotherhood era and brought them down from its council. I recount here the great day when the voting queue in the committee for over 60-year-olds during the union s elections reached nearly one a kilometer, even when it was a rainy day. Before 1952, doctors participated in the 1946 uprising against the dictatorship, and against the British occupation, and participated with the guerrillas in the Canal Zone against the British aggression. Many of them died during the October war. And this year, doctors performed admirably when the world was invaded by the coronavirus pandemic, which so far has killed nearly half a million people. In third world countries, including Egypt, it is difficult to know the numbers of those killed by the virus, because an unknown amount died in their homes, villages and hospitals without undertaking an analysis. We also have, as is well known, a very weak health budget and the efficiency of the Ministry of Health is limited. Doctors, nursing stuff and medical workers struggled under difficult conditions, as their protective equipment was insufficient, and therefore the death rate among physicians was very high. Around 100 doctors died, and more than 2,000 were infected with the coronavirus, and many of the ones who died were young doctors from difficult financial conditions. In light of the coronavirus and the possibility of its continuation or the emergence of a second wave globally, which is expected until a vaccine is prepared, we need everyone in the medical staff, and we should encourage them, raise their spirits and compensate the families of those who fell to the virus. On the ground, it has become natural for the families of patients to attack doctors, break hospital equipment, and the government does nothing to defend them. There is no law issued or firm stance to stop this chaos, which has become a routine thing happening every day. The relationship between the Health Ministry and the Medical Syndicate must be one of of cooperation and understanding, and relations between the minister and doctors should be good, with the minister making the utmost effort to cooperate and make decisions after consulting with doctors and the medical syndicate in the interest of patients, the profession and the ministry as well. In a major crisis such as the coronavirus, we must all stand together to fight the pandemic. A while ago, the Prime Minister attempted to defuse the crisis. He received the head of the Medical Syndicate and issued reassuring statements. However everyone was shocked when the Prime Minister issued a controversial statement, angering physicians and citizens alike, when he announced that the Health Minister had said that the cause of the coronavirus pandemic was a lack of commitment by some doctors to their duty. The Prime Minister has forgotten the martyred doctors and the thousands of medical workers keeping watch every night on the sick across all of Egypt, and he knows very well how weak the health system is and how weak the Health Ministry s plan is in confronting this disease. The minister should avoid upsetting doctors, instead encouraging their work and cooperating with them, because relations between the ministry and the people during a pandemic must be good. I think that this statement has severely shaken public opinion of the Prime Minister throughout social media, which is used by about 50 million citizens. I was waiting for an apology from him to resolve this issue, as this is a normal practice in first world countries, but in the third world things are different. The government is always right and the people are wrong. Rise, Egyptians! Egypt is always calling you.
Shortly after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Ghadeer, a woman from Homs, Syria, told humanitarian actors of the violence she witnessed against the backdrop of the lockdowns that came in response to the pandemic. “I met many women who also face violence at the hands of their husbands, violence has clearly increased. A friend told me that she is constantly suffering from domestic abuse since her husband lost his job." Ghadeer once witnessed a wife being beaten in front of her children. These stories paint a painful picture of the stark reality that women and girls continue to face in Syria. In March, the crisis in the country officially entered its 10th year, effectively marking one of the most protracted and complex crises our world is facing today. A decade later, Syria continues to experience an array of instabilities and challenges that continue to put the lives of innocent people at risk. With COVID-19 creating a crisis within a crisis, the consequences of insufficient action can be dire. Today, of the estimated 11.7 million people in need inside Syria, 5.9 million are women and girls, exposed to an array of increased risks that include greater restrictions on movement for women and girls, family violence, forced and early marriage, and sexual and domestic violence. Meanwhile, an additional 5.7 million Syrians are refugees throughout the region and beyond. And even as parts of Syria appear to be stabilising, the situation is far from stable, particularly given the ongoing conflicts and mass displacements in the country s northern region as well as increasing instability in parts of the south. Meanwhile, the socioeconomic ramifications of COVID-19 will inevitably produce further protection concerns and other challenges, including socio-economic, for a significant portion of the Syrian population. This month, the international community convenes during the Brussels IV Conference on supporting the future of Syria and the region. In the run-up to this dialogue taking place, it is critical to understand the various dimensions of vulnerability from a needs perspective. The situation in Syria not only remains critical but has arguably become even more volatile due to the advent of COVID-19, which presents a myriad of health and socioeconomic challenges for the country and its people, both inside Syria and in host communities region-wide. Moreover, the cumulative effects of 10 years of instability have created a number of far-reaching structural challenges, including disruptions in community networks and safety nets that complicate the delivery of life-saving services. This situation is further compounded by a rapidly deteriorating socio-economic situation, increasing food insecurity and poverty across the country. The risks or deprioritisation of women s health and protection in the given context is very real and needs to be addressed hands-on. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) -- the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency -- firmly believes in a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe, and every young person s potential is fulfilled. This is precisely why UNFPA has continuously advocated for the fundamental right of every woman and girl to access quality sexual and reproductive health services and to be protected from gender-based violence (GBV). Today, it is estimated that more than half a million women inside Syria and female refugees throughout the region are pregnant. Providing them with medicines, equipment, midwives and doctors support, and working collectively to support basic rehabilitation of healthcare facilities in devastated communities, should remain a key priority for the global response to this crisis. Failing to do so will mean that more mothers and their infants will die, particularly in the time of COVID-19. In 2019, UNFPA provided life-saving sexual and reproductive health services to nearly 2.4 million individuals in Syria crisis countries throughout the region. Maintaining and even expanding this life-saving work will require the continued collaboration of the international community, including through the maintenance and increase of flexible, multi-year funding to allow actors to respond effectively to the multifaceted challenges on the ground. Meanwhile, responding to GBV in 2020 will require taking the challenges presented by COVID-19 in perspective, and ensuring that any response takes gender, gender inequality, and the restrictions of movement that have accompanied this pandemic into consideration. These programmes must be made even more accessible to adolescent girls, who continue to be the most at-risk segment to GBV and life-threatening early pregnancies. UNFPA has updated its 2020 regional Syria response to include funds required to respond to COVID-19, with an estimated total appeal of $137 million. This includes $6.5 million geared towards responding to the pandemic and its ramifications for women, girls and young people throughout the region. Ensuring that gender issues, gender equality, and women s rights are consistently considered when tailoring resilience programmes is of paramount importance, particularly those that attempt to stave off the worst impacts of both the crisis itself and the COVID-19 pandemic. Such programmes are not only effective at delivering short-term support to people in need, but also stand to address many of the long-term structural challenges and socioeconomic ramifications of this crisis.
The #NeverTrump movement -- made up of a small cohort of Republicans who refuse to support President Donald Trump -- is a revealing phenomenon in American politics. During Trump s presidential bid in 2016, Mitt Romney made a huge splash by delivering a blistering speech condemning Trump s candidacy. "He s playing members of the American public for suckers: he gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat," Romney said, describing his party s standard bearer as a "fraud." But once Trump was elected, Romney kissed the ring in hopes of becoming the next secretary of state and the Republican Party coalesced around the new President. Now a Utah senator, Romney saw the light in February 2020 and voted to convict the impeached President for abuse of power. This election cycle he has announced once again that he won t support Trump s reelection bid. And now more prominent Republicans, including former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, are joining him. But the question remains: can this movement make a difference beyond publicly disavowing Trump? After all, most Republicans rallied around Trump in 2016 and voted for him. More importantly, they stood by him in the years that followed. Even Sens. Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz, once prominent detractors, turned into his most important foot soldiers on Capitol Hill. While some conservative pundits such as David Frum and William Kristol have continued to fight against Trump with both their words and actions, many #NeverTrumpers have simply shared their disapproval of the President. This allows some #NeverTrumpers to distance themselves from the President when it s convenient, while still benefiting from being part of the GOP. Sen. Susan Collins, who has repeatedly spoken out against the President, has in many instances voted in favor of Trump and his agenda after much hemming and hawing. Is it possible for this faction to become more substantive in 2020 and actually take steps to help Joe Biden win the election? Of all the figures who are defining the new wave of #NeverTrumpism, George Conway, a conservative attorney who is married to Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, leads the pack. Conway knows Trump better than most, and he has made it clear that this commander-in-chief poses a threat to our democracy. Conway and his allies at the political action committee Lincoln Project are producing hard-hitting ads against Trump, while releasing pro-Biden ads in swing states. "Joe Biden is a strong, caring leader who can guide us out of the hell Americans find ourselves in. It s imperative Joe Biden wins this November," said John Weaver, a co-founder of the group. Besides producing ad campaigns, there is another way the #NeverTrump movement can take action. The Lincoln Project has shown the way by directly supporting Biden s candidacy. Elected officials in the GOP need to announce, in public and on the record, that they will vote for Biden. This is the only real measure of where one stands on the current presidency. Choosing to abstain from voting for Trump (Romney said he wrote in his wife s name in 2016) is simply not enough. Biden will need every possible vote to achieve victory, especially if the pandemic threatens turnout. Reporters should also pressure these politicians and ask who they will vote for in 2020. The #NeverTrump movement can make a difference -- and prove the GOP can change course — by producing a long list of powerful Republicans who will vote for Biden. Given the recent New York Times and Siena College poll that shows Trump s support among white voters is waning, a number of prominent Republicans who will publicly throw their support behind Biden could help turn the tide. Most politicians are unlikely to take a public stand out of fear they might anger Republican voters who by and large still support the administration. They understand, more than they are willing to admit, that Trump is a reflection of the modern Republican Party rather than someone who has distorted it. As Republican political operative Stuart Stevens, a member of the Lincoln Project and the author of a forthcoming book, "It Was All A Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump," writes: "The reality is that President Trump is a symptom, not the source, of the disease that is ravaging the Republican Party." It remains to be seen whether the serious dysfunction and failed leadership that we see every day might prompt more Republicans to admit that something has gone profoundly wrong with their party and that the only way to start a new era is by making sure Biden defeats Trump.
Dams are important to conserve water for sustainable development, prevent flood damage, and store water in seasons of plenty to use in seasons of drought. Today, over 900,000 dams are estimated to exist worldwide, 40,000 of which are on a scale large enough to be considered as mega-dams. Although there is no universal definition of what qualifies as a mega-dam, as a general rule they are large structures over 15 metres in height and generating on average over 400 Megawatts of power. Mega-dams in upstream river countries are not recommended under the 1997 UN Convention on the Law of Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses because they infringe on the right to water and the accepted rights of downstream countries. They cause extreme impacts on the downstream environment and biodiversity, in addition to on the river course itself.
The great fathers founded the United States of America on sublime values, and great men like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson swore an oath on the sacred right to life, safeguarding freedom, dignity and equality for all human beings, and freedom of religious belief and all constitutional rights, spearheaded by the right to peaceful protest.
The seven years in the life of the 30 June Revolution make up the most critical period in contemporary Egyptian history. In fact, we might dub the numerous and diverse battles Egypt has fought on different fronts during this period “the new crossing”. In 1973, the Egyptian army s crossing of the Suez Canal culminated in the liberation of Sinai. The current period we might dub the “inward crossing”; another liberation process that addresses crucial challenges on the home front starting from the need to rebuild a state that had been severely shaken by the political turmoil that erupted in 2011. The institutional reconstruction of the state and reinstitution of its civil character evolved into a comprehensive nation construction process involving national infrastructural development mega-projects hand-in-hand with an ambitious economic reform programme to revitalise the Egyptian economy and set it on the path to increased productivity and greater competitiveness. At the same time, it was essential to counter threats to the home front. The most serious was the terrorism that had begun to proliferate in Sinai and elsewhere. Our heroic army and police fought at the forefront of this battle, which Egypt has fought on behalf of the world. Egypt, since its June 2013 Revolution, has also fought to rebuild its status and influence in foreign affairs. In the process, Cairo struck a finely calibrated balance in its relations with the two superpowers, Russia and the US, based on the principles of mutual respect and appreciation, friendship and mutual support. A similar spirit prevails in its long-established relationship with the EU, Egypt s most important trading partner which is bound to Egypt and the Arab region as a whole by long historic bonds. At the regional level, Egypt has taken a lead, again, in turning Arab relations into a force that safeguards Egyptian/Arab national security and that fends off the ill-intentioned designs of non-Arab regional powers from Turkey and Iran to Ethiopia and Israel. As always, Egypt is keen to help its fellow Arab nations reach solutions to crises in order to protect the security and territorial integrity of Arab countries. The Cairo Declaration, an Egyptian initiative to revive the political process in Libya, was the most recent example of Egyptian efforts in this regard. We continue to hope that Egyptian diplomacy will lead to firmer international resolve to bring peace to Libya and to stand up to the warmongers bent on exploiting the turmoil of the Libyan crisis and perpetuating the conflict to achieve their own ends. Egypt continues its long drive to develop its important and historic relations with China, India, Japan, South Korea and other Asian countries, and it is forever open to new relations with potential foreign partners on the basis of mutual respect and benefit. Egypt also continues to earn international respect and admiration as a model for the preservation of region security and stability. It stands firm in the face of destabilising designs, as is currently the case in its negotiations over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project, in which Egypt seeks to avert conflict with a fellow African nation, apply the principles of international law and ensure the fulfillment of the rights of all parties in a fair and equitable manner. A similar spirit applies to Egypt s handling of the Palestinian cause, the central Arab cause in the defence of which Egypt has made enormous sacrifices. Currently Cairo is working with other Arab governments to prevent the Israeli annexation of more occupied Palestinian territory. Since President Al-Sisi took the helm six years ago, Egyptian diplomacy has been particularly active on the African front. In 2017, Egyptian-African relations entered an unprecedented period of blossoming as Cairo worked together with other African capitals to further inter-African cooperation and integration and African security and stability, as epitomised by Egyptian contributions to the “Silencing of the Guns” initiative and the establishment of the Aswan Forum as a regional platform for the exchange of ideas on security and strategy related issues. Egypt has defended African rights in numerous international forums from the Paris Climate Conference to major economic summits in which it urged for debt relief, investment drives and other urgent measures to support African economies and to alleviate economic hardship and unemployment in Africa, the chief causes of illegal migration. In July last year, when Egypt chaired the African Union, Egypt worked together with its fellow African nations to establish the African Free Trade Zone, a major landmark towards the realisation of African economic integration. Egypt has striven not just to fight threats to global and regional peace and security, it has also worked to build a nation with the power to protect the resources and capacities of the people, to protect national and Arab security, to support African countries and to forge solid partnerships with all countries of the world without discrimination and to work together with them individually and collectively to counter the threats posed by the meddling of certain regional powers in Arab domestic affairs. Egypt prays that its efforts in collaboration with brotherly Arab nations will reenergise the Arab position and bolster Arab national security strengths in the face of outside threats, and above all Iranian meddling in the Gulf and Turkish interventions in Libya, Syria and Iraq. The June Revolution made it possible to rebuild and revive the national economy. Not only did it become possible to launch the difficult but successful economic reform programme, it also generated conditions for nationwide infrastructural projects that included 7,000 kilometres of roads, a new administrative capital and a second Suez Canal; for the development of the oil and energy infrastructure and a modernised banking infrastructure; and for the establishment of new universities, the modernisation of the educational system and a crucial digitalisation drive in banking and other sectors. Thanks to all these advances, the Egyptian economy has been able to recover its robustness and dynamism, earning the appreciation and esteem of international financial institutions. However, the inspiration for all this progress and, indeed, the very heart of the 30 June Revolution is the Egyptian people. The national spirit expresses itself most explicitly in healthcare projects such as the “100 Million Healthy Lives” initiative to eliminate the hepatitis C virus, the educational reform and modernisation drive, and renewed attention to culture and the arts. After all, health, education and culture and the arts are quintessential components of human development. As we celebrate this anniversary of the 30 June Revolution, we mark another year in the Egyptian people s march to the future. We are working quickly to make up for years lost. But we are on course in our development as a nation capable of safeguarding its interests, protecting its region and advancing the cause of peace and security in this region and in the world.
"Treason." That s what President Donald Trump accused Barack Obama of committing in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network Monday night. With Trump s daily diatribes it s easy to shrug this off as just the latest insult. But no American president has ever publicly accused a predecessor of treason. It is a serious specific charge that often carries with it the penalty of death. And while Trump and his team use the word promiscuously, they also seem to fundamentally misunderstand its meaning. Team Trump seems to think "treason" is about personal disloyalty. That s fitting for a president who sees everything through the lens of self-interest. But the charge of treason is actually about betrayal of the national interest in pursuit of self-interest. And that s a definition that may hit closer to home in the Trump administration. The dictionary definition of "treason" is "the offense of acting to overthrow one s government or to harm or kill its sovereign." The US Constitution defines it even more narrowly: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort." Beyond unhinged partisan attacks, the target of the Trump team s cries of treason are members of their own administration who have run afoul of the President s wishes or -- even worse -- decided to tell the truth about what they saw in the room where it happened. So Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slammed former National Security Advisor John Bolton as a "traitor" for the massively unflattering revelations in his book, backed up by contemporaneous notes, perhaps trying to distract from the account that Pompeo passed a note to Bolton describing the President as "so full of shit." Trump called former Attorney General Jeff Sessions a "traitor" after he appropriately recused himself from the Russia investigation and Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel. While ignorance is often used as a defense for President Trump, he s shown a clear understanding of the traditional punishment for traitors, getting caught railing against the whistleblower whose complaint unleashed his impeachment, saying "I want to know who s the person who gave the whistle-blower the information because that s close to a spy ... You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart with spies and treason, right? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now." That s a clear reference to execution. If that sounds like an overstatement listen to what the former chief speechwriter for Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Guy Snodgrass, told Brian Stelter on Reliable Sources. He heard Trump go on a 10 minute tirade against a Washington Post reporter that Trump said "should be thrown in jail" and ultimately said You know, in the good old days, if you had a traitor, you know what you would do? You would just line them up in the street and have them shot. " "That kind of language," Snodgrass concluded with severe understatement, "is not something you want to hear your commander in chief saying about freedom of the press, about members of the press who are seeking to inform the American public." Defending Trump in light of this persistent pattern of calling his opponents traitors is complicity. Only in a cult of personality does someone ignore the obvious to defend the indefensible. Of course, for people in this administration, proving their unquestioning loyalty is the best and only job protection barring being a member of the Trump family itself. But there s an obvious irony in Trump s attempts to label critics traitors. His core political playbook is to deny, deflect, project and divide. And so when he reflexively reaches for an attack on others it reveals his own anxieties. Because President Trump can be credibly accused of giving our enemies "aid and comfort." Trump strenuously avoids criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin, despite his long list of insults to American democracy and attempts to undercut the international system America helped build. Trump of course expected to benefit from Russian interference in our elections on his behalf. He subsequently invited foreign interference in the 2020 election by withholding military aid for Ukraine until they announced an investigation into Joe Biden s family. And according to Bolton s book, Trump begged Chinese President Xi to help him win re-election while personally approving of the construction of concentration camps. (Trump has denied Bolton s account and called him a liar -- though this response should be viewed with skepticism because of Trump s record of lying, especially when confronted with uncomfortable facts.) Bolton attests that Trump agreed to interfere in investigations into a Turkish bank and undercut attempts to impose crippling sanctions on Chinese telecom company ZTE, which had violated sanctions against Iran. And, of course, he chose to shrug off the Saudi-backed assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. None of these actions are in America s interest -- but they can only be explained that Trump believes they benefit his self-interest, political or otherwise. So let s get clear about the definition of treason and traitor. It has nothing to do with personal loyalty to President Trump. It has everything to do with loyalty to the transcendent interests of the United States of America. Ignoring that basic difference for job security or partisan purposes is defining deviancy down while degrading our democracy.
Egypt currently faces two major challenges. The first, which is existential, is related to the issue of water rights and to Ethiopia s insistence on completing construction on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) with no regard to Egypt s “right to life.” The second challenge relates to borders, and to the threat to Egypt s national security posed by the terrorist militias in Libya that are backed by Turkey. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi s recent speech sparked lively discussion (most of which does not appear in the media) among a large number of Egyptian people, discussion that is far from the calls for war that some have made, knowing that they will not pay the price of their warmongering. One side was supportive of the speech, while another posed the question: Will Egypt give priority to Libya over Ethiopia? Will the tough language the president used with Libya s Government of National Accord (GNA) result in a misplaced arrangement of Egyptian priorities? I do not think that the only priority should be to confront the threats of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and extremist groups, while ignoring the existential issue of the Renaissance Dam. Egypt s tougher stance toward Libya likely aims to influence Ethiopia, part of a strategic vision. This may be the case, provided that Egypt is not involved in a comprehensive long-term war with Turkey — which is something we do not expect in any case — and that the limit of Egyptian intervention remains the cities of Sirte and al-Jafra, which Turkey wants to invade in order to control eastern Libya s Oil Crescent region. Sisi s speech was not a declaration of war on Turkey, nor would it mean controlling Libya. Rather, it was an attempt to establish new red lines that are based on the support of regional and international parties for both sides of the conflict in Libya without direct intervention. Turkey changed the rules of the game when it brought terrorist militias from Syria to Libya, when it sought to establish military bases in Libya (despite all North African countries struggle for independence and an end to foreign bases), and finally, when it began speaking about occupying areas in eastern Libya that are rich in oil and natural gas. If Egypt is successful in stopping Turkish penetration into Libya without significant losses or getting involved in an all-out war, the result will be a message of deterrence for Ethiopia, especially since many major countries, such as Russia and France, want to limit Erdogan s influence in Libya. Even America wants to limit his presence and influence. And Italy — which Turkey tried to draw to its cause — will not deal with Turkey if doing so comes at the expense of its relationship with the European Union. Some of these countries will support any Egyptian military intervention in Libya — which should in any case be limited. The same countries, however, will not welcome any Egyptian military action, even if limited, against Ethiopia. Other countries, meanwhile, will not oppose Egyptian incursion into Ethiopia. Egypt s role is to make these countries understand the correctness of its choices and its efficiency, whether via the effectiveness of its limited military intervention in Libya or via its intensive diplomatic and political moves to push Ethiopia to review its position on the severe damage the GERD poses to Egypt s existential water interests, and to understand the use of force in the event that all political solutions fail.
Unfortunately, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has become a constant headache for Africa. Instead of being a tool of cooperation and integration among Nile Basin countries, it became the biggest crisis facing the African continent in the 21st century. Ethiopia is insisting on deception and procrastination. It is no surprise the latest round of negotiations, sponsored by Sudan and held last week, has failed. Making negotiations fail is an Ethiopian skill par excellence, where it announces the opposite of what it does and reveals the opposite of what it conceals. It entered all the rounds of negotiations with the aim of wasting time and procrastinating in an attempt to impose a fait accompli situation on downstream countries Egypt and Sudan. Because Egypt was aware of this, it made a reservation before the beginning of the latest round of negotiations. But it answered the invitation of Sudan and didn t want to close doors in the face of goodwill and sincere efforts of sister Sudan. Headed by Sudanese irrigation minister Yasser Abbas, the negotiations, which lasted for more than a week, were an attempt to reach consensus regarding the points of contention in the technical and legal fields. However, Ethiopia stood still, kept dodging and didn t offer solutions except exert efforts to impose a fait accompli on downstream countries. At the same time, it did its utmost to blow the Egyptian-Sudanese consensus. It was a malicious approach adopted by Ethiopia since the beginning of the crisis and it started practising it with Omar Al-Bashir. It employs this approach until this very moment; sowing division between the Egyptian and the Sudanese sides, in spite of the Sudanese government s clear standpoint in refusing both the unilateral Ethiopian moves and refusing to join a bilateral agreement concerning the first fill of the GERD. The Egyptian Irrigation Ministry s statement was clear in refuting the Ethiopian standpoint which led to the failure of the latest round of negotiations in Sudan. According to the statement, Ethiopia refused to discuss the legal aspects for the three countries to conclude a binding agreement based ont inernational law. Ethiopia wanted these aspects to be guiding rules which it can amend solely. It also sought to gain the absolute right to establish projects up the Blue Nile. It also refused that the agreement include a binding legal mechanism for dispute resolution or that effective steps be taken to face drought. At the end of the talks, the Ethiopian side refused that points of contention be referred to the three countries prime ministers as a last chance for accord. This led to ending the negotiations without reaching a solution like the previous rounds held during the last nine years. This is the Ethiopian stance that has been repeated time and again throughout the last nine years. It pretends to be searching for a solution and announces its desire to reach consensus and a new round of negotiations begins extending for years on end and stops at the same point where it started. The Washington negotiations, called upon by the US and sponsored by President Donald Trump with the participation of the World Bank revived hopes for eaching a final agreement. Marathon negotiations were held in which Ethiopian delegation participated and ended with a semi-final agreement. There were some points of contention for which the delegations of the three countries agreed on accepting the mediation of the USA and the World Bank. Indeed, a legal phrasing of these points of contention was reached from the participating international parties. The Ethiopian delegation made an excuse to have a break for consultation but it didn t show up during the last round of negotiations. Egypt signed the agreement solely. This was an extremely intelligent move by the Egyptian delegation. The Egyptian signature meant agreement has been reached by international partners and there was international acceptance of this agreement. Hence, Egypt was keen on signing to confirm to the entire world its desire for peace and at the same time expose the dodging and deceitful Ethiopian stance before the world. Despite Egypt s insistence on keeping the Washington card, it entered the latest round of negotiations with good will, under the sponsorship of Sudan, to explore all available means to reach an equitable and balanced agreement regarding the GERD that ensures Ethiopia s developmental objectives and at the same time secures the interests of downstream countries. However, Ethiopia shows every time its bad intentions and that it doesn t want peace or good for the peoples of the Nile Valley. Instead of being a source of cooperation, the GERD became a source of concern and tension in the African continent. Perhaps the only benefit gained from the latest round of negotiations was showing the unified Egyptian and Sudanese stand, where Sudan reiterated its refusal to a unilateral filling of the GERD as announced by its irrigation minister Yasser Abbas who pointed out the hazards of the Ethiopian unilateral stands, with regards to the Sudanese Roseires Dam, and the dangers awaiting it in case of operating the GERD unilaterally. The Sudanese government stands are positive in their entirety, and accordingly the Egyptian irrigation minister Mohamed Abdel-Ati commended them and all the serious Sudanese efforts in this respect. The Egyptian diplomacy cleverly and wisely exposed the Ethiopian tricks before the world and revealed the aggressive Ethiopian intentions aiming at harming the Egyptian people and its water resources while Ethiopia isn t in need of more water resources. Ethiopia announced that it wants the GERD in order to generate electricity and Egypt doesn t oppose this principle since the beginning of the crisis but in the negotiations it showed the opposite and wanted to employ the dam as a gate for creating problems and disputes, pushing the region to the edge of the abyss and driving the whole African continent into a circle of conflicts and wars. This tense situation, which Ethiopia has created in the region, drove the US National Security Agency (NSA) to tell Addis Ababa that it is time to reach a deal over the disputed GERD before starting to fill the dam s reservoir. In a tweet on its official account, the NSA said that “257 million people in East Africa are relying on Ethiopia to show strong leadership, which means striking a fair deal.” The NSA s move should be the beginning of a rapid international movement against Ethiopia, especially in the UN Security Council in order to play its expected role in keeping peace and stability in Africa and finding a solution to the permanent and continuous Ethiopian headache for Africa that started nine years ago. It is also important that the African Union defuse the Ethiopian crisis before becoming exacerbated, especially that the African Union (AU) headquarters is in Ethiopia. The AU should adopt a clear and effective standpoint towards the Ethiopian bad intentions and its attempt to harm the interests of downstream countries, even if it requires freezing Ethiopia s AU membership and relocating the headquarters of the union. Ethiopia has become a state that creates disputes and instability and isn t keen on peace and security in the continent. I believe that there is no need for more negotiations and the Washington card is decisive in this respect. It all relies on the political will of Ethiopia and the Ethiopian leadership s desire to embrace the path of peace and stability for the peoples of the three countries or else insist on moving in the opposite direction and setting off a crisis that has no justification in reality.
President Donald Trump couldn t wait. His presidency is nosediving, with bad news erupting all around him. His answer was Tulsa, a campaign rally in blood-red Oklahoma, the state he won by a crushing 36 points in 2016. But Tulsa did not deliver. The event that was supposed to trumpet his return to greatness -- and the country s return to normalcy -- instead brought embarrassing scenes of empty bleachers, a dismantled stage and a familiar speech unsuccessfully trying to reignite public fears. After raising expectations with claims that a million people had requested tickets for his first campaign rally in more than three months, the vacant seats were the biggest story of the night. It was a bad omen for November, and Trump undoubtedly saw it with his own eyes as he scanned a sea of blue seats devoid of supporters on the top level of the arena that he and his campaign had said would be bursting beyond capacity; so full, they expected, that the campaign planned for a second outdoor speech to bring an additional 40,000 people unable to find a seat indoors. Instead, the outdoor speech was cancelled, the stage dismantled. The campaign absurdly tried to explain by claiming that protesters blocked the entrances. But every reporter there confirmed that was not true. Maybe Tulsans weren t dying to see Trump during a pandemic, although many thousands did come, possibly risking their lives to follow a president who showed he doesn t value the health of his supporters enough to follow the advice of health experts. They had urged him to postpone the rally. Oklahoma has seen rising numbers of coronavirus diagnoses in the runup to the meeting, and an indoor gathering of thousands -- most of them without face masks -- may be the best possible way to spread the contagion. The speech covered mostly familiar terrain, old promises, boring attacks and outrageous statements. The theatrical incitement and divisiveness genuinely energized the crowds when Trump first took to the hustings four years ago. Now it s mostly more of the same. We re used to him now. We ve heard it all before. Still, as with so much that is happening in the world today, we have to remind ourselves how abnormal it all is, to hear a president of the United States threaten violence against Americans and traffic in prejudice. Speaking of recent anti-racism protests, he warned, "our people are not nearly as violent. But if they ever were, it would be a terrible, terrible day for the other side." It s unclear who exactly "the other side" is. The speech was filled with the usual racist innuendo. He called Covid-19 the racist term "Kung-flu," dog whistled, "they want to demolish our heritage," and spoke of the brutality of gangs, claiming that if Vice President Joe Biden and the Democrats are elected, "our country will be destroyed." Does anyone really believe that? The crowds cheered when Trump attacked CNN or China, but it appeared to me that his effort to make them hate Biden didn t elicit quite so much excitement. The speech was typically self-centered, with a bizarre more than ten-minute long riff on his ultra-slow descent from the West Point ramp, and absolutely no words of compassion for the nearly 120,000 people in this country who have died during the pandemic. Instead, Trump repeated the lie that coronavirus numbers are climbing because there s more testing, shockingly revealing that, "I said to my people, slow the testing down, please." Experts say testing saves lives. Slowing the testing leads to more deaths. The White House predictably claimed he was joking. If this was the great comeback, the relaunch of Trump s campaign for re-election, it was a flop, and Trump most likely knows it. Don t be surprised if heads roll in the campaign. Instead of a showcase for the great enthusiasm Trump is supposed to engender in his supporters, it left quite a different impression. Not only did we not see the massive crowds we were promised, we saw something else, something deeply disturbing. We saw a president willing to risk the lives of his supporters in order to garner political support. Six Trump staffers organizing the event had tested positive. Every image of the crowd of tightly-packed Oklahomans holding Trump 2020 signs made one wonder how many among them was breathing in the coronavirus. How many will contract Covid-19; how many will take it home to their relatives, to their neighbors, friends and co-workers? How many will die because of this Trump rally? Instead of a triumphant relaunch, we saw a president threaten anti-racism protesters, and that started even before the rally. Instead of a president confident in his achievements, we saw a man in the midst of a string of defeats. We saw a man unable to recognize the depths of the crisis faced by his country. Trump is in freefall, presiding over the worst public health crisis in a century, the highest unemployment rate since World War II, the biggest sustained protests in decades. He is losing in the Supreme Court; his poll numbers are nosediving. And in the 24 hours before this rally, his administration launched a shambolic effort to push out a prosecutor who is investigating criminal cases targeting people close to Trump. It was a spectacularly incompetent effort, and one that succeeded in making us wonder why Trump wanted to get rid of the prosecutor; one more wound on a presidency that is bleeding its way to the finish line. If Tulsa was supposed to salve Trump s wounds and send him on his way to victory, it accomplished nothing of the sort. You cannot count Trump out, but he is certainly down.
To anyone following developments in Libya it is obvious that Turkey has gone on the rampage, unrestrained by the US, influential powers in NATO, the EU and needless to say, the UN. After acquiring a foothold in western Libya, Turkey now seeks to press eastwards to conquer the rest of the country. Although it claims to back the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), the reverse is the case. The GNA is Ankara’s puppet in its current game of playing NATO policeman against Russia in the Eastern Mediterranean. The aggressiveness with which Ankara is performing this role has jeopardised peace-making efforts in Libya and raised tensions as never before in the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa. The pro-government press in Turkey has recently revealed Ankara’s plans to establish two military bases in Libya. One is the Watiya Airbase to the southwest of Tripoli and the other is a naval base in Misrata. The facade towards this end is a military cooperation pact with the GNA which has been fighting the Libyan National Army (LNA) under the command of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. Behind that facade resides Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ambition to grab as large a share as possible of Libyan oil and gas and to assert Turkish military and political hegemony over Libya. Other North African countries are acute to the dangers of the Turkish expansionist project which seeks to promote the Islamist project as its instrument and to advance the Muslim Brotherhood, the mother organisation of all extremist Islamist groups, as its partner in sowing chaos and destruction in the region. The Turkish occupation of Libya also strengthens Ankara’s hand in its various disputes with Europe. More immediately, it bolsters its position in growing tensions with Greece over oil and gas fields in the Eastern Mediterranean, and over the Greek islands that Ankara has set its sights on. The spurious Turkish-GNA maritime border agreement has furnished Ankara with another facade in order to deploy warships in the area, whether to protect Turkey’s illegal drilling activities and or to advance its other acquisitive ends. Turkish entrenchment in Libya has reached such a level that it will take concerted international efforts to halt the revival of the Turkish occupation. France has expressed its alarm at the Turkish danger on numerous occasions. Last week, a spokesperson for the French presidency harshly censured Ankara for its “even more aggressive and insistent stance... with seven Turkish ships deployed off the Libyan coast and violations of the arms embargo”. He added: “The Turks are behaving in an unacceptable manner and are exploiting NATO. France cannot just stand by.” Unfortunately, NATO appears to prefer appeasement when it comes to dealing with Turkish belligerence. NATO’s condonation (if not behind the scenes approval) of Turkey’s Libya campaign will prove the most disastrous mistake it has committed since the NATO bombardment of Libya nine years ago, which opened the doors to the hell of civil war, the proliferation of militias and the influx of terrorists. Hopefully, influential powers can take some constructive action before it is too late. The US and Russia, above all, should agree on a formula to promote a political solution to the Libyan conflict before it spirals out of control. The international community can also take advantage of the Egyptian peace initiative that Ankara sought to undermine. The Turkish regime will continue to obstruct attempts to promote a return to the political process, which runs counter to its current campaign of conquest. Whatever justifications the Turkish media advances for Ankara’s military intervention, they are nothing more than smokescreens for the true nature and ends of the Turkish designs. Unfortunately, Turkish propaganda finds willing buyers in some major international media outlets which claim to support the “legitimate” government in Tripoli. Curiously, these same media never mention the Libyan House of Representatives, which rests its legitimacy on the fact that it is the only popularly elected body in the country, and they conveniently ignore the fact that, under the UN-backed Libyan National Agreement, any sovereign agreements that the GNA concludes with foreign powers require the House of Representatives’ ratification. The international community and major powers need to draw some clear and strong red lines to put a stop to Turkish aggression before it precipitates military clashes in the Eastern Mediterranean where Ankara is deliberately cultivating war.
We are still in the midst of a historic public health crisis that requires access to health care. The number of coronavirus infections and deaths continues to grow every day. Many frontline workers still don t have the personal protective equipment they need as they courageously risk their lives to serve others and keep our country running.Families across the country have lost their incomes -- and health insurance -- and don t know how they ll pay bills or put food on the table. More than 40 million workers in the US have filed for unemployment. Now more than ever, people need reliable health care that they can afford. But the Trump administration wants to tear down the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that provided access to health care for millions of people across the country. The ACA is a literal lifesaver: 20 million more Americans now have health insurance; 135 million people with pre-existing conditions now have protections; 17 million people now have coverage under expanded Medicaid; 12 million seniors now pay lower prescription drug costs; and 2.3 million young people can stay on their parents health insurance.But if Republicans and the Trump administration have their way, millions of people will have the rug pulled out from under them in the middle of a deadly global health crisis. Republicans have been fighting the ACA from the moment it became law. Mitch McConnell -- in his own words -- sought to make former President Barack Obama a one-term president and knew that destroying the ACA could help him do it. Republicans in Congress weren t concerned about ripping coverage away from the millions of people who finally had lifesaving treatment and protections. They only wanted to score political points and hurt former President Obama s legacy. Republicans voted dozens of times to repeal the entire ACA ("root and branch" as McConnell described it), but failed every single time. When President Donald Trump took office, he continued the party s crusade to destroy the ACA and undermine the American health care system. His administration allowed insurance companies to sell nearly worthless "junk" plans to unsuspecting consumers unaware that they may not cover prescription drugs, maternity care, or mental health.And during the "repeal and replace" fight during my first year in the Senate, Republicans sought to gut the law and rip health insurance away from millions of people, and increase costs on millions more. But the American people organized, marched, and made their voices heard. Like every preceding Republican attempt to dismantle the law, President Trump s failed. But the fight continues. Trump s Justice Department is working to overturn the ACA, refusing to fulfill its traditional responsibility to defend federal laws in court. We simply cannot let them win. The ACA is benefitting millions of Americans, and its destruction would have a devastating impact on low-income communities, people with preexisting conditions, seniors, and people of color -- especially during a pandemic. People of color are more likely to have pre-existing conditions that put them at a higher risk of hospitalization or death from Covid-19. Black people are 40% more likely to have high blood pressure than their white counterparts; Latinas have a one in two risk of developing diabetes, and American Indian/Alaska Natives have a higher rate of diabetes than white people. These are not faceless columns on a spreadsheet. These are real people with families, friends, and community. There is no denying -- if this administration prevails lives will be put at serious risk.This pandemic has underscored the need for every American to have health coverage when they need it -- and they need it now. As lawyers and stakeholders continue to file amicus briefs in the latest case to overturn the ACA, we must continue to expose this repeal attempt for what it really is: heartless and dangerous. The American people must once again raise their voices once and tell Donald Trump: stop playing politics with our health care.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile has been a controversial project that troubled waters between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan. The project draws the attention of the world to potential unrest in the relations between Ethiopia, on one hand, a key player in the Horn of Africa, and Egypt, on the other hand, a strategic country in the central pivot of the three continents of Africa, Asia, and Europe and one that maintains balance, peace and security in the Arab Region and the Middle East. Ethiopia s Violation of International Law The GERD project unilaterally launched in April of 2011 by Ethiopia on the Blue Nile, the largest tributary of the Nile (the world s longest river) was seen by Egyptians as a project that took advantage of Egypt s political vacuum immediately after the forced resignation of its president at that time. The launching of the Dam construction without consultation with Egypt was seen as a violation of the principles of international law, the 1993 agreement signed between Ethiopia and Egypt, and the 1902 agreement signed between Ethiopia and the United Kingdom, which necessitates consultation with downstream countries on Ethiopian structures that may affect the flows of Nile headwaters through the Blue Nile, Lake Tana, and the Sobat River flowing downstream to Sudan and Egypt. Ethiopia seems to see the Nile river headwaters originating within its territories as a matter of absolute sovereignty and that agreements signed between Ethiopia and Egypt or the United Kingdom (on behalf of Egypt and/or Sudan) as non-binding to Ethiopia.
Breaking news: Republicans might finally be willing to break with President Donald Trump. Following the president s performance with Covid-19 as well as his response to the Black Lives Matters protests there have been a number of stories speculating about whether the GOP will finally come undone. The drama is greatly exaggerated. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski told reporters that she is "struggling" to figure out how to vote in November ... When Colin Powell announced that he would support Joe Biden and former president George W. Bush revealed he would not support Trump, the New York Times reporters a "growing number" of Republicans were debating how far to go. The speculation about internal handwringing and possible "turning points" within the GOP never ends. It s the drama that never happens, but one the press loves to keep following. It needs to stop. The notion that there is a major fissure between the Republicans and President Trump simply masks the character of the modern party. Republicans nominated and elected Donald Trump to be President four years ago. They have stood by him, and done so even in the toughest of times. Nothing, even his "fine people" remarks after a 2017 white supremacist march in Charlottesville or his recent hardline response to mass marches over George Floyd s death at the hands of Minneapolis police, shakes this. When we look at President Trump we see the modern party before our very eyes. Stories about internal division mask this basic reality and suggest that there are greater options outside the Democratic Party than actually exist. When Trump decries those who want to bring down Confederate monuments and treats the job of governance as if it is a third rate reality show, he represents the party. When he invokes former president Richard Nixon and conservative Democrats George Wallace and Frank Rizzo while screaming about "law and order" as a response to civil rights protests, or tweets out "when the looting starts, the shooting starts," he speaks for the GOP. The story of the Trump presidency has been a story about how comfortably he sits within his party. Throughout his term, polls have shown remarkably solid support for the President within the Republican electorate, regardless of his actions. By and large, congressional Republicans have stood by him at every turn, protecting him from investigations and continuing to vote the party line on most issues. Of course, some such as Maine Sen. Susan Collins hem and haw, but that s the sum total of their profiles in courage. The saga of Sen. Mitt Romney captures where the party has gone. After launching the #nevertrump "movement" in 2016, Romney ended up going along with the President in the early years. Recently, he has received kudos for standing up to Trump that, while being well deserved, actually reveals how low the bar has moved. When Senator Romney was the only Republican to vote for conviction during the President s impeachment trial for using foreign policy to help his re-election bid, it said more about what the rest of his party now considered to be acceptable than it did about Romney. When it was a headline to see Romney march with civil rights protesters against police brutality, the moment showed how far the GOP has distanced itself from this basic call for social justice. The most realistic assessments of the President have come from George Conway, a genuine conservative married to the President s adviser, Kellyanne Conway, knows Trump well. Conway has started the Lincoln Project, launching blistering ads about the President and the entire party. He has consistently blasted former colleagues who suggest that they can distance themselves from the person in the Oval Office. These are platitudes meant to disguise the choice voters actually face in November, between a party that has gone all in with Trumpism and another that has not. Every American is free to decide which choice they prefer for the next four years, but nobody should be under the illusion that a different option is on the table.
On Saturday, President Trump delivered a commencement speech at the US Military Academy at West Point, New York, honoring the graduating cadets for their service while touting the "colossal rebuilding" of the armed forces under his presidency. "To the 1,107 who today become the newest officers in the most exceptional Army ever to take the field of battle, I am here to offer America s salute. Thank you for answering your nation s call," he said. What wasn t immediately apparent from his speech -- which Trump delivered with the help of a teleprompter -- was the growing disconnect between the President and the US military. Not since President John F. Kennedy ignored his top military officers advice to invade Cuba and deploy nuclear weapons against the Soviets during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis has there been such a split between an American president and the Pentagon. Consider that Trump s top military adviser General Mark Milley publicly said it was a "mistake" for him to have appeared in an infamous photo op with the President after a walk from the Rose Garden at the White House. The photo op, which culminated in Trump holding up a bible outside St. John s Church, was made possible by first violently dispersing peaceful protesters outside the White House two weeks ago. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued the apology in a video commencement address to the National Defense University on Thursday and said, "I should not have been there. My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics." Trump s Defense Secretary Mark Esper also tried to distance himself from that photo op. The former US Army officer publicly broke with the President and said he did not support Trump s calls to invoke the Insurrection Act and use active duty troops to quell the protests that had broken out after George Floyd s killing. CNN reported that Esper s statement went over "poorly at the White House, where his standing was already viewed to be tenuous." Around the same time, Esper s predecessor, retired General Jim Mattis, broke his long silence and launched a personal attack on the President he served for two years. He said, "Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership." To top it off, four former chairmen of the joint chiefs, going back to the administration of President George H. W. Bush, all took the extraordinary step of publicly breaking with the President to condemn the use of violence against peaceful protestors. For good measure one of those former chairmen, retired General Colin Powell, told CNN s Jake Tapper that Trump lies "all the time." Many other retired four-star generals and admirals have spoken out against Trump. There is a widespread perception that Trump is quite popular within the US military. But many active duty personnel have soured on him, and Trump s chairman of the joint chiefs and his defense secretary have publicly distanced themselves from the President -- as have some of the nation s most revered retired generals and admirals. President Trump has long thrilled to the power of the US military, which he celebrated in Saturday s West Point speech. But he is now in the unusual position of being the Commander in Chief of a military that is turning away from him. This article was updated to clarify the scope of the President s photo op, which began at the White House and culminated outside St. John s Church.
The current Egyptian political order began in 2014, a year after the 30 June Revolution that overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood regime. The new order rectified and supported the process of transition and change that was launched by the January 2011 Revolution. As it struggled to overcome enormous challenges at home, complicated and aggravated by the repercussions of regional crises, the government, under the leadership of President Abdel- Fattah Al-Sisi, who was elected in June 2014, set into motion the largest comprehensive modernisation process that bolstered Egypt s ability to confront the diverse threats and dangers that loomed over the country. Terrorism was at once the most dangerous and complex threat during this period. Directly targeting the home front, the danger was spearheaded by the Muslim Brotherhood, which sought to avenge itself against state and society for the 30 June 2013 uprising that erupted when Egyptians found themselves prey to a scheme that sought to uproot the nation state founded in 1952 and to put their country and society at the service of a radical ideological organisation with a ruthless and fanatically militant universalist vision. This threat naturally had to take the highest priority especially when it became clear how closely connected it was to major terrorist threats that were on the rise elsewhere in the region, most notably the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq and the proliferation of Al-Qaeda affiliates in Libya and elsewhere in the Sahel and Sahara. To complicate matters further, all these countries fall in the spheres of concern of Egyptian national security, which compelled the government to act quickly at the regional and international levels to promote effective and unconventional responses that would achieve crucial gains while sparing the country additional burdens. It should be added that successes in this domain have worked to increase the confidence and respect of Egypt s regional and international partners, especially those most concerned and influential in transnational threats such as terrorism. These successes naturally extended to other related phenomena such as arms smuggling, money laundering, human trafficking and organised crime. The Egyptian government applied a strategic vision that enabled it to act effectively within its regional spheres of national security and that incorporated the international geopolitical centres most connected with these spheres. At the African level, the post-2014 order began under very difficult circumstances as Egypt s membership in the African Union (AU) had been frozen in 2013. As soon as he came to power, President Al-Sisi immediately set into motion a plan of action to reinstate Egypt s AU membership. His first visit abroad after his election was to attend the AU Summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, which immediately worked to bolster Egypt s continental relations. As he followed through with a range of bilateral exchanges, he reoriented the Egyptian political compass southward, reviving Egypt s African role in a new modernised edition. Egypt went to great lengths in order to reactivate and innovate frameworks of inter-African cooperation. An early important landmark in this regard was the Egyptian Agency for Partnership for Development in Africa, established in 2014 as an umbrella organisation for the promotion and organisation of Egyptian-African collaborations. These efforts were soon crowned by Egypt s election as chair of the African Peace and Security Council in 2016 which, in turn, opened new horizons for Egypt to play a prominent role in conflict resolution and peace-building in Africa. Another qualitative shift in Egyptian-African relations began in 2019 when Egypt assumed the chair of the African Union. Egypt s African drive experienced numerous critical successes during this period. For example, the African Free Trade Agreement went into effect under Egypt s AU chairmanship. Cairo organised the first coordinating summit in Niger in July 2019 to formulate and develop “the foundations of partnership and cooperation between the African Union, the regional economic blocs, and the member nations” towards the realisation of the principles of African integration and mutual dependency. That summit also launched the second working plan (2021-2030) for the comprehensive African infrastructural development programme which accords particular attention to the development of a continental electricity grid and the creation of an African-wide common energy market. In addition to this remarkable success, Egypt took the lead in representing Africa in major international forums with the aim of expanding opportunities for partnerships and networking between Africa and important loci on the international investment map. The most important milestones in this regard were the Chinese-African Summit in June 2019, the G20 Summit in Japan in June 2019 and the G7 Summit in France in August 2019. On top of these international summits came two that will be forever associated with Egypt in the history of the continent because of Cairo s success in pioneering them: the first Russian-African summit in Sochi in October 2019 and the first British-African investment summit in London in January 2020. The new Egyptian strategic vision accords considerable importance to African security and defence. In this regard, Egypt has initiated numerous dynamic cooperative mechanisms along the linkages between Egyptian national security and African security, starting with the AU police training centre to train security forces for the Sahel and Sahara countries. Egypt followed through by hosting the headquarters of the African Centre for Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development and then the permanent headquarters for the Sahel-Sahara Regional Counterterrorism Centre. The Aswan Forum for Peace and Development, which was held in December 2019, lay the cornerstone for an annual event, sponsored by the Egyptian presidency, dedicated to the advancement of peace and sustainable development in Africa. In the first forum, the Egyptian president launched “Silence the Guns 2020”, an initiative developed by the AU Peace and Security Council in 2019 during Egypt s chairmanship of the African Union and that Egypt was keen to get off the ground in the framework of its commitment to conflict resolution and peace-making throughout the continent. The strategic projects and plans that President Al-Sisi has inaugurated during the past six years share a common thread, which is the conviction that Egypt and its national security interweave in many significant ways with Africa and the Middle East, in which Egypt stands at crucial junctures, and with the international centres with which it is essential to work in order to generate a robust security climate. In this framework, Egypt has dedicated great efforts to promoting effective cooperation with all regional and international powers in order broaden the scopes of common interests that serve the welfare of all parties, out of the belief that such processes contribute in crucial ways to safeguarding Egypt s vital interests at home and abroad. Accordingly, the Egyptian presidency s action plan in the African sphere during the past six years was complimented by projects and agendas in other directions. Within the neighbouring Mediterranean sphere, for example, Egypt announced its strategic partnership with Greece and Cyprus in December 2015. Over the following years this first successful step towards promoting collaboration along the northern axis continued to evolve until it culminated in the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum. Launched in 2019, the seven-country forum is the most important regional grouping in the field of energy as well as cooperation in other fields. Cairo, as a pioneering spirit and the headquarters of that forum, has become the centre of increasing international attention, and many other countries, including France and the US, have been inspired to ask to join the forum. Nevertheless, 2016 stands out as the most important year in the evolution of Egypt s international profile under the post-2014 order. That was the year in which Egypt acquired a seat on the UN Security Council, enabling it to truly reap the fruits of its efforts and visions concerning many major world problems. The attention and respect that Egypt acquired in the fight against terrorism poised it to head the UNSC Counterterrorism Committee, which is responsible for formulating and following through on the international community s comprehensive strategy for fighting terrorism around the world. The work that Egypt performed as chair of this committee during the peak of the terrorist peril, which had begun to rear its head more widely and fiercely than ever before, earned Cairo greater trust and respect among its partners in the committee and the international community as a whole, many among which grew increasingly convinced by the Egyptian outlook on this issue. Egypt s success here led to other important and related posts and activities. It was unanimously elected as a member of the Human Rights Committee for the 2017-2021 term. In May 2018, it took part in the international conference on Libya that convened in Paris and brought together 20 states and four international organisations including the Arab League with the purpose of developing a roadmap for a political solution to the Libyan crisis. Egypt s presence in that forum underscored both how crucial the Libyan situation is not just to Egypt but to the whole of North Africa and how influential a role Egypt can play in that crisis. Egypt, represented by President Al-Sisi, subsequently participated in the Palermo Conference in 2018 and the Berlin Conference in January 2020, taking its place along other major international stakeholders in the processes of developing solutions to lead Libya out of the vicious cycle of war and towards a healthy and stable political future. The foregoing is only a segment of Egypt s record of international relations and activities, but it is a strong indicator of how Al-Sisi s government worked to elevate Egypt s regional and international status and strengthen the bonds of mutual trust and cooperation between it and many other nations and international organisations. However, if the strategic vision that Al-Sisi set into motion in 2014 had the power to safeguard and secure Egypt s strategic security at many levels, we ultimately have to underscore, if only briefly here, another essential component in the national security equation: the largest ever military modernisation and development drive in the history of modern Egypt. Any comprehensive concept of national security will provide for a major element of hard power to take its place alongside the soft power components of strategic strength. This is not to suggest that the Egyptian army was not as central to the protection of our national security before the revolution as it was after 30 June 2013. However, the sheer magnitude and multiplicity of the threats and challenges that faced Egypt as well as the rest of the region and the world during the past decade imposed new and unfamiliar burdens on our armed forces. This is what made President Al-Sisi accord the highest priority in his first six-year plan to the development of the Egyptian Armed Forces in accordance with the latest concepts of comprehensive power. This meant not only upgrading the structures, equipment and capacities of our army in order to render it as effective a safeguard as possible for Egyptian national security, but also equipping it to undertake new functions in the framework of protecting and promoting the comprehensive development and modernisation programme that is unfolding on the ground in Egypt at present. Under today s conditions, active deference is a guarantee for sustaining the building processes that lead to success.
The self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) under the command of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar retreated in the last three weeks from its positions around Tripoli and lost control of the largest airbase in the western part of Libya, Al-Watiya. Last Thursday, 4 June, his forces retreated from another stronghold after the city of Tarhuna fell to the forces of the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA). The official spokesman of the Tripoli government said that with the fall of Tarhuna, the forces of the GNA “liberated” all of the western part of Libya from the forces loyal to Haftar. Moreover, Fayez Al-Sarraj, president of the government in Tripoli, promised that the intention of his government is to retake control of all of Libya, implying that their next move is to advance towards the east where the seat of the interim Libyan government is located in Benghazi. In other words, his forces will get nearer to Egyptian borders, and probably in the presence of Turkish military “advisers”. If this happens, it would constitute a major escalation in the conflict with uncalculated regional consequences. On Thursday, 4 June, Al-Sarraj was in Turkey where he conferred with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Turkish government promised that it would continue providing assistance and aid to the government in Tripoli to safeguard recent successes achieved by its forces in the war against the LNA. Furthermore, it announced that it would start exploration for gas and oil in the territorial waters of Libya in conformity with the agreement it signed last November with the GNA in Tripoli on the delimitation of an exclusive Libyan economic zone in the Mediterranean. While Al-Sarraj was in Turkey, Haftar and the speaker of the Libyan parliament were conferring with senior Egyptian officials in Cairo. After two days of talks, the Egyptian President, Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, announced in a joint press conference in their presence that the talks held by the Egyptian government had led to agreement, translated to a document dubbed the “Cairo Declaration” that dealt with an “initiative” aiming at reaching a political solution for the Libyan conflict in accordance with the Security Council resolutions and the decisions and conclusions of various international meetings on the situation in Libya, namely, the Berlin Summit and other meetings in Paris, Palermo and the United Arab Emirates. The major highlights of the “initiative” include the reunification of the economic, financial and political institutions in Libya, the fair and transparent distribution of national wealth, and the demobilisation of the various militias operating in Libya, in addition to the exit of foreign mercenaries brought by Turkey, principally from Syria, to fight with the forces of the GNA. The Egyptian president said that the two Libyan officials have called for a ceasefire in Libya to become effective at 6:00am on Monday, 8 June. There is talk of setting up a presidential council, representative of the three Libyan regions, coupled with the drafting of a “constitutional declaration” that sets forth the next steps in the smooth transition towards a stable national government, representative of the Libyan people. In a nod to the Berlin Declaration of 19 January, the Egyptian president emphasised the importance of complementarity among the three tracks that had been incorporated in this declaration; namely, the economic/financial, the military/security and the political tracks. In this context, he called on Libyan parties to discuss the military aspects of the conflict and how to secure a total ceasefire in the context of United Nations-sponsored 5+5 talks. Furthermore, he proposed an international meeting in Geneva under the auspices of the United Nations and attended by the European Union, the Arab League, as well as the African Union, to provide an international framework for the political process whereby the Libyan parties would reach a political solution for the Libyan conflict. What was striking in the joint press conference was the insistence of the Egyptian president on how dangerous the present situation in Libya is from the standpoint of the national security interests of Egypt. He warned against any attempts to settle the Libyan conflict through the use of military force, stressing that Egypt is closely watching developments on the battlefields in Libya. Some observers would interpret this as a warning to the Tripoli government not to get nearer Egyptian borders with Libya. Similarly, the warning is also addressed, without naming it, to Turkey. Still, I firmly believe that Egypt should never get involved militarily in the Libyan quagmire. Our absolute priority should be to defend our western borders against intrusions and infiltrations from the Libyan side of the border. The Egyptian president was right, of course, in sending out a warning, so that neither the Tripoli government nor the Turkish government misread Egyptian intentions. The New York Times in its edition dated Saturday, 6 June, quoted Emadeddin Badi, who is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, as saying that there is “clearly more conflict still to come, but everybody — domestically and externally — is going to recalculate their position”. I tend to agree with this assessment. Needless to say, everyone hopes that the warring parties in Libya would reason that there could never be a military solution in Libya and, consequently, they opt for a political solution that would guarantee the territorial integrity and independence of Libya. However, the recent military gains by forces loyal to the Tripoli government could encourage these forces to push for launching a major attack against the forces of Haftar throughout Libya. The open question is whether Turkey would oblige or not. The Egyptian warning against military escalation in Libya could, hopefully, be a wake-up call for both the Tripoli and the Turkish governments, in this respect, against such a grave miscalculation. Maybe Russia could play the role of a buffer between the two Mediterranean powers, if need be. The day the Cairo Declaration was out, the spokesman of the forces of the Tripoli government announced that these forces are advancing towards Sirte, a major stronghold for Haftar forces, as well as Gafra Airbase. Going to press, indications are that the defences of the forces loyal to Haftar would be overpowered. The balance of power on the Libyan battlefields has shifted dramatically to the advantage of the Tripoli forces, a development that would make it difficult to persuade the Tripoli government to negotiate with the defeated party — at least for the time being. *The writer is former assistant foreign minister.
At some point in the lead up to the criminal trials of the four former Minneapolis police officers who face charges relating to the killing of George Floyd, the defendants likely will seek to move the venue -- the geographical location -- of the trial. Motions to change venue are commonly made by defendants in high-profile, high-stakes cases, but are rarely granted. If and when the defendants in the Floyd case make such a motion, the court must deny it. A change of venue could diminish the number of African American individuals in the jury pool and would likely badly undermine public confidence in the ultimate verdict. Under Minnesota court rules, a criminal case should be tried in the county where the conduct occurred, barring extraordinary circumstances. But the Minnesota rules permit a judge to move a case to another county if "a fair and impartial trial cannot be had" in the county where the conduct occurred, where pre-trial publicity has made it reasonably likely that a fair trial cannot be held, or "in the interests of justice." The judge can decide to move a case to any of Minnesota s 87 counties, but not outside the state. Justice demands that the Floyd case not be moved out of Hennepin County, encompassing Minneapolis where the charged murder occurred. Most importantly, a transfer of the case from Hennepin County to another county will almost certainly result in a jury pool with a lower percentage of African Americans -- potentially far less. Hennepin County is Minnesota s most populous county and also has the highest percentage -- 13.6% -- of African American residents. Only one other county in Minnesota is even over 10% African American population, and 47 counties are below 1%. Even Wright County, which borders Hennepin County, has only 1.6% African-American population. Simply put: it is almost unimaginable that the American public will accept as fully legitimate a verdict from a non-representative jury pool in a county where the charged crime did not even occur. Further, the rules do not support a transfer of venue. While there has been an extraordinary amount of pre-trial publicity about the case, there is no logical reason to believe the impact has been any different on potential jurors in Hennepin County than those in any other county. Anybody with an internet connection or cable tv -- in any county in Minnesota, or anywhere in the country -- has been exposed to coverage of this case. The transfer of venue rule seems grounded in antiquated notions of local, paper-based media where word spread slowly based on geography. That simply does not apply to the modern world. And if the case remains in Hennepin County as it should, the law provides important procedures designed to root out potential jurors who may be unduly predisposed for or against any party. While the law does not require that a juror has never heard anything about a case -- realistically, all or nearly all potential jurors will have heard plenty about the Floyd case -- it does give lawyers for all parties the opportunity to question potential jurors to determine whether they have formed strong opinions and are incapable of deciding the case based solely on the evidence at trial. With the world watching, the Minnesota courts must get it right. Moving the case out of Hennepin County would be a serious mistake, and a step away from true justice. Now, your questions: Patrick (Oregon): Is there a possibility that federal criminal charges will be filed against the officers involved in the death of George Floyd? Yes, federal charges are both possible and likely here. The Justice Department announced that it has opened an investigation and "has made the investigation a top priority and has assigned experienced prosecutors and FBI criminal investigators to the matter." There is no prohibition against both the federal government (through the Justice Department) and a state government (through state or local prosecutors) charging the same person with crimes relating to the same conduct. The Supreme Court confirmed just last year that this type of dual approach to prosecution -- sometimes called "separate sovereigns" -- is constitutional. The most likely federal criminal charge here is deprivation of civil rights. Prosecutors must prove that somebody acting under "color of law" (police officers certainly qualify) willfully deprived a person of his constitutionally protected rights -- here, that means Floyd s right to be free of unreasonable seizure by the police. Given the strength of the evidence, I expect the Justice Department to file such charges against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin (who kneeled on Floyd s neck while Floyd said he couldn t breathe) and potentially the other officers at some point. Page (Arkansas): Does the legal concept of "qualified immunity" mean the charges against the officers could be dismissed? No. "Qualified immunity" is a legal doctrine that makes it extraordinarily difficult to sue a public official (including a police officer) for money damages based on the officer s on-the-job conduct, unless it was already "clearly established" by law that the officer s actions were unconstitutional. The Supreme Court may soon take up a case that could limit or eliminate the qualified immunity doctrine. But qualified immunity has nothing to do with criminal charges. There is no such thing as a qualified immunity defense to a murder charge, or any criminal charge. So while qualified immunity could pose a barrier to potential civil lawsuits filed by the Floyd family against the individual officers -- though the family could sue the police department or the city, rather than the individual officers -- it will have no bearing on the criminal case. Russ (Canada): Does the President have legal power to deploy military troops to respond to protests or to provide police services in the states, even if a governor does not request aid? Yes. Under the Insurrection Act of 1807, the President has authority to deploy federal troops in certain delimited circumstances: (1) where requested by a state governor, (2) where necessary to "suppress" unlawful "obstruction" or "rebellion," or (3) where required to prevent interference with enforcement of federal or state laws. While a request from a governor is necessary under the first of those provisions, it is not necessary under the second and third. Thus far, however -- despite his statement that "If the city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residence, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them" -- Trump has not actually deployed federal troops domestically beyond Washington DC in any significant manner.
Black Lives Matter in the time of Covid-19 The chaos currently gripping the US has divided Egyptians, despite that causes closer to hand — like the Palestinian struggle — share with the Black Lives Matter movement a common horizon Black Lives Matter, Covid-19, coronavirus, United States, rights, equality, racism, Egypt Recently, the phrase “Black Lives Matter” has created a great deal of controversy amongst Egyptians and on Egyptian media. Misunderstandings and varied views regarding this movement currently gripping the US make a discussion of its parameters direly due. Despite the fact that the “Black Lives Matter” movement was founded in the US in 2013 as a result of the shooting of African American teen Trayvon Martin, it has currently escalated to unprecedented heights after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police. Police violence against African American citizens has been a volatile issue for years in the US, but this incident taking place amidst the Covid-19 pandemic along with two other recent instances were the match that lit the fire of the current unrest. Racism in the US has been pinpointed by many as a historically sustained pandemic. But how do we as Egyptians position ourselves towards all of this? Egyptians, whether on social media or in the street, are quite divided. Some can only see the current protests in light of the limited violence, looting and rioting, arguing that “Black Lives Matter” is a violent exclusionary movement and that blacks should go back to their original homelands (of course, this group is completely clueless regarding the history of slavery and dispossession that brought blacks originally to American/Native American soil)! Others, on the other hand, are quite empathetic, but feel that Egyptians’ empathy with the “Black Lives Matter” movement is trend-oriented and shortsightedly ignores other oppressive struggles closer to Egyptians, such as the Palestinian struggle. This group draws attention to all the violence Palestinians face on a daily basis at the hands of the Israeli occupation, which cannot be denied. What we need to understand, though, is that whether it is the “Black Lives Matter” movement or the Palestinian struggle, it is the same issue: standing up against violence and racist hatred. The current support Arab-American groups and Palestinian-American groups are showing towards the “Black Lives Matter" movement in the US is proof of this. This undermines the empty argument that “Black Lives” is a reverse racist, exclusionary movement, since “All Lives Matter.” In reality, claiming and naming a particular black position now is the only means to overcome the systemic racism ingrained in the American political system, which normalises racism that is against the rights of all American citizens and humans in general. As citizens, African-Americans in the US have a very distinct history of dispossession that needs to be taken into account. The majority of African-Americans in the US did not leave their original homelands of their own accord but were abducted, sold into slavery and forcibly moved to build the US capitalist economy under the worst of conditions. In the Declaration of Independence, the American Forefathers stated that “All men are created equal” and that everyone has the right to “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Sadly though, actuation of these ideals was continuously questioned by the institution of slavery that supported American capitalism. Abolitionists in the past rose to argue that blacks should have equal rights and that the practice of racist laws such as the ones denying blacks education and fining any whites teaching slaves to read had to be stopped. The Civil War took place to acquire the rightful freedom of blacks and end their economic oppression by whites, but Jim Crow laws of racial segregation remained in the US till the 1950s. These laws prevented African-Americans from being educated in the same schools as whites, riding the same transportation, or even using the same washrooms (social distancing at a whole new level). The Civil Rights movement headed by figures like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X called for the end of segregation and the inclusion of blacks into the American Dream, and some gains were won, but curiously enough both of these leaders were assassinated. Though outright laws of segregation ended, white supremacist practices remain and are still practiced by groups such as the KKK, which has chapters all over the US. That is why Floyd’s murder and his plea to police officers, “I can’t breathe,” is an actual description of suffocation that African-Americans have been experiencing long before the lung failures resulting from Covid-19. A suffocation that has led to the sudden grasp for breath, that is literally taking place now. Writers like Dr Cornell West have long been analysing the dire conditions of poverty and injustice that have led to this current situation and have anticipated its outcomes. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery are all points in a circle of institutionalised injustice and violence that has robbed African-Americans of their humanity for years. The Covid-19 pandemic has only starkly placed this injustice before our eyes as we compare the numbers of African-Americans and minorities killed by this disease as a result of misguided funding directed to black communities. This is why the current protests are calling for redirection of funds to develop African-American communities rather than criminalise and police them. This uprising is gaining momentum, moving actually and digitally to encompass the parameters of all such injustice, undermining mainstream capitalist funded media framing of the movement as violent. Nations face demise and decay when their central creeds and belief systems become blatantly questionable. The various major crises in American history have been shaped by this kind of crisis of identity. The men who crafted the US Constitution were above all shaping a dream of equality and freedom, and this has for a long time shaped how Americans like to define themselves, irrespective of the realities of racism, which were always relegated to the sidelines as isolated incidents practiced by a minority. The current chapter of unrest in American history will not end until the real problems of systemic racism and discrimination are addressed. A digital uprising is already being organised and movements like “In Defense of Black Lives,” which stress capitalist economic oppression suffered by blacks, are joining forces. Political leaders like Andrew Cuomo, Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama have all expressed the need to face the realities of systemic racism. As Egyptians, we need to look in the mirror and realise our own blackness and attempt to understand the historical context. *Somaya Sami Sabry is an associate professor of American and cultural studies at the English Department of Ain Shams University.
Whether invoked by a neo-conservative in the George W Bush administration or denied by a liberal in Obama’s, America is an empire. However, for decades the reach and influence of this empire were checked by the existence of other empires. The 30 years since the end of the Cold War and the defeat of the former Soviet Union have been a unique moment in history when America became the world’s sole empire. Now that moment is coming to an end, and geo-strategists are busy thinking about the multitude of scenarios in which the American empire could interact with today’s rising power, China, which is determined to become an empire and very likely will become one. Yet, what is happening inside America today still merits close attention, for it has a major influence over how America will interact with China and the rest of the world. American politics are becoming much more polarised than at any point since the end of the Civil War and the period of the Reconstruction of the South that followed in the second half of the 19th century. This polarisation transcends the Republican and Democratic Parties descending into wars of words to discredit each other. Today’s polarisation has become socially entrenched and in terms of opposing (and not just different) views of what America means and what its social order ought to be. The polarisation stems from different identities and ways of living, rather than from political positions or economic interests. This is important, because it means political contestation in America is no longer based on seeing the other as intellectually wrong, but rather on seeing the other as belonging to a different moral (and spiritual) place. When societies arrive at this point, politics typically become paralysed. The public space becomes increasingly empty. If one faction sees the other as intellectually, morally and spiritually corrupt (or at best utterly mistaken), it will not only not discuss with it. It will also try to cut its links with anything that has to do with it. This is already happening in different parts of the US today, not only geographically, but also culturally. The result is that the common social space – to which the nation as a whole used to come to debate, discuss and find compromises – initially loses its centrality and then gradually disappears. The diminishing importance of American newspapers, traditional centres of excellence (for example, top universities), national TV networks, and culturally unifying threads (think of the great American novel that captures the national mood and sentiment) are all cases in point. Some might say that the extreme bipartisanship in the US Congress today is the most glaring example. As political contestation becomes increasingly polarised, representing not only different viewpoints, but also different convictions, ways of life, and identities, the other could well become more than just “different” or even “wrong”. It could become “evil”. American political rhetoric has often combined the sacred with the secular. More than in any other Western country, God has always had a central presence in America’s politics. (It is important to emphasise that the most influential of the country’s Founding Fathers, the initial architects of the American project at its birth-moment, saw God in grander hues than those gleaned from anthropomorphic understandings.) As articles of faith and views stemming from what is “good” and what is “evil” take centre stage in any highly polarised polity, demonising the other quickly follows. As a result, the centre becomes diluted, and power is fragmented. The traditional nodes of power in America get marginalised in favour of powers that traditionally were on the margins. We are already seeing this as far-right (and to some extent also far-left) groups that were always on the fringes are now at the centre of the two American political parties. The rest of the world should care about this because what happens in America has always affected how it deals with the world outside. And at this moment when China’s rise is bringing American global hegemony to an end, the effect of the inside on the outside is particularly important. The situation is historically unique. Never before in modern history (at least in the past three centuries) has a single empire ruled supreme in the world. There are no precedents for how America will behave at this moment of global transition. America’s internal dynamics accentuate the uncertainty. The acute polarisation concerning what constitutes American values, frame of reference and way of life could translate into acute differences as to what its national interests are, what its role in the world is and what it is willing to do to defend those interests. The increasing polarisation is unlikely to lead America to over-aggressive or over-acquiescent positions with regard to China. But the diverging views that result from polarisation could well lead to confusion and chaos, or at least to weakened decision-making processes. Previous foreign policy mistakes have cost America dear, but serious mistakes in delicate geo-political situations (such as dealing with China at this moment in history) are of a different order of magnitude. They will have serious consequences for the whole world. This is because the interaction between America and China in the coming decade will affect international trade, the functioning of the most important international institutions, the development of revolutionary technologies, the global economy, and of course politics in different parts of the world. Dousing the demon of acute polarisation in American society will benefit many parts of the world and not just America. As for those who have always looked with admiration at the intellectual rigour of the original American project, they are now looking at today’s American politics with surprise and wistfulness.
In his last speech, president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi called on the Egyptian people to be as brave and powerful as lions and work hard each in his position. He added that this way Egypt would be so powerful as great lion that nobody can threaten. I remembered this story that my mother used to tell me. The story says a great lion woke up to see a small mouse falling on his leg. The lion grew angry and decided to kill