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U.S. Opinions: Washington

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Egypt erupts, U.S. dithers

From an editorial published in Thursday’s Washington Post:

Before the July 3 coup in Egypt, the Obama administration privately warned the armed forces against ousting the government of Mohammed Morsi, pointing to U.S. legislation that requires the cutoff of aid to any country where the army plays a “decisive role” in removing an elected government. Yet when the generals ignored the U.S. warnings, the White House responded by electing to disregard the law itself. After a prolonged and embarrassing delay, the State Department announced that it had chosen not to determine whether a coup had taken place, and Secretary of State John F. Kerry declared that Egypt’s military was “restoring democracy.”

Because of those decisions, the Obama administration is complicit in the new and horrifyingly bloody crackdown launched Wednesday by the de facto regime against tens of thousands of protesters who had camped out in two Cairo squares.

At least 278 people were reported killed, including many women and children. The military imposed a state of emergency, essentially returning Egypt to the autocratic status quo that existed before the 2011 revolution.

The Obama administration duly protested the latest crackdown, just as it previously urged the military not to use force against the demonstrations and to release Mr. Morsi and other political prisoners. The military’s disregard for these appeals was logical and predictable: Washington had already demonstrated that its warnings were not credible. Indeed, even as police were still gunning down unarmed civilians in Cairo Wednesday, a White House spokesman was reiterating the administration’s determination not to make a judgement about whether the terms of the anti-coup legislation had been met.

This refusal to take a firm stand against massive violations of human rights is self-defeating for the United States.

It may be that outside powers cannot now change this tragic course of events. But if the United States wishes to have some chance to influence a country that has been its close ally for four decades, it must immediately change its policy toward the armed forces. That means the suspension of all aid and cooperation, coupled with the message that relations will resume when – and if – the generals end their campaign of repression and take tangible steps to restore democracy.

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