GOP Reps. Michele Bachmann (Minn.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), and Steve King (Iowa) were part of an eight-member U.S. House delegation to Egypt last week. On Saturday, the three conservative lawmakers held a televised press conference in the country. (Watch above.) All three were unambiguously supportive of the July 3 military ouster of democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi.
The entire video "is a doozy," says Max Fisher at The Washington Post, especially Bachmann's outsize contribution. The trio spoke just hours after meeting with coup leader Gen. Abdel Fatah el-Sissi, and while Bachmann's claims about Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood organization don't comport with reality, Fisher says, they are "deeply consistent with Egyptian state propaganda that has portrayed the Muslim Brotherhood as a secret terrorist organization and an internal enemy."
Here are some of Bachmann's more dubious or outright ridiculous claims:
- "Together, we've been through suffering. Together, our country — the United States — and Egypt have dealt with the same enemy. It's a common enemy. And it's an enemy called terrorism."
- "We have that common enemy in the terrorists who have shown themselves so recently in the form of the Muslim Brotherhood. The point is, we don't have a choice: They must be defeated."
- Financially, I will "stand in support of the military in Egypt. We know that you've been a partner. You've been a partner in the war on terrorism. You've acted bravely here on the front lines, and we want to make sure that you have the Apache helicopters, the F-16s, the equipment that you have so bravely used to capture terrorists and to take care of this menace that's on your border."
- Thirty million Egyptians took to the streets to protest Morsi, making his downfall a popular uprising instead of a coup.
- "We have seen the threat that the Muslim Brotherhood has posed here for the people in Egypt. We've seen the threat that the Muslim Brotherhood has posed around the world. We stand against this great evil. We are not for them. We remember who caused 9/11 in America. We remember who it was that killed 3,000 brave Americans. We have not forgotten. We know that you have dealt with that enemy as well."
- "We are for standing with you, we are for standing with American contributions to your nation, so we can help you in your efforts to defeat our common enemy, which are the terrorists known as the Muslim Brotherhood. Because, again, we don't misunderstand this enemy. We don't underestimate this enemy. We know the real facts of this enemy."
Bachmann apparently knows very little about the Muslim Brotherhood. The New York Times' David Kirkpatrick explains:
Brotherhood leaders say the group has denounced the use of violence as a political tool in Egypt for a half-century. It condemned the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which were, in fact, carried out by al Qaeda. The Brotherhood has explicitly opposed the theology and tactics of violent Islamist groups like al Qaeda for decades, and al Qaeda scorns the Brotherhood for its commitment to nonviolence, elections, and gradual change. [New York Times]
Since the Muslim Brotherhood isn't al Qaeda, or tied to violence in or against the U.S., it's quite a stretch to say the group is a "common enemy." Also undermining the "enemy" claim: Morsi was elected by a majority of Egyptians just over a year ago, and plenty of Egyptians are still at least sympathetic toward the Brotherhood. And 30 million is almost 40 percent of Egypt's population — the military was erring on the high side when it estimated 14 million people in the streets protesting against Morsi right before his ouster.
Now, some things Bachmann said do, at first glance, appear to have at least a grain of truth in them. For instance, notes The Washington Post's Max Fisher: It's true that by the time Morsi was forced out, many Egyptians were skeptical of him. But while he "governed poorly and failed the economy, military rule has seen widespread state violence that has killed hundreds of civilians and a rapid rollback of the country's meager democratic advances," Fisher said.
A "small fraction of Egypt-watchers" were optimistic when the military took over, Fisher adds, but "virtually none see the past two months as anything short of a complete disaster, with not just the Egyptian state but society badly broken in ways that could take years to fix."
It's not clear what Bachmann is talking about with Egypt's big help in the war on terrorism, either — the country didn't aid the effort to fight al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and Egypt hasn't exactly captured a lot of high-profile anti-U.S. terrorists. The most egregious flub, though, is Bachmann's suggestion that the Muslim Brotherhood played a role in, as she calls it, "nine-one-one."
Samara Shehata, a University of Oklahoma political scientists who studies Egypt's Brotherhood, tells The New York Times that the bizarro press conference mostly demonstrates "a confluence of interests among the coup leaders in Egypt and Islamophobes in the Congress." But Bachmann's "utterly absurd" statements take the cake, Shehata says: They're like "a Saturday Night Live skit — unbelievable, ludicrous, almost comic if it wasn't so painful."