How they see us: Will America back democracy in Egypt?

The U.S. has to choose between continuing to support corrupt, authoritarian regimes that suppress the majority of people or standing up for Arab democracy.

The U.S. stands at a crossroads, said Abd-al-Bari Atwan in the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi. For decades, it has propped up the undemocratic Egyptian regime of President Hosni Mubarak with more than $1 billion a year in aid. Washington was content to ignore human-rights abuses and political repression as long as its ally agreed to play nicely with Israel—and keep the Islamists from coming to power. But those days are over. Egypt is erupting, and other oppressive dictatorships allied with the U.S., such as Yemen, could also soon be in the throes of regime change. The U.S. now has to choose between continuing to support regimes that are responsible for “corruption, oppression, muzzling the people, and brutal violations of human rights” or standing up for Arab democracy. It shouldn’t be a tough choice. Momentum—and justice—are with the people.

Washington knows that Mubarak’s days are numbered, said Lebanon’s Daily Star in an editorial. American leaders are “giving every hint possible that they want him to go without telling him explicitly to move on.” But the belated about-face won’t fool the Egyptian people. “Decades of double standards based on support for anti-democratic regimes, under the pretext of security, cannot be erased” so easily. For now, the U.S. should simply “stay out of the drama that is unfolding in the land of the Nile and avoid provoking the situation.”

American “mixed signals” toward the protests are an insult, said Adel Iskander in Egypt’s Al-Masry Al-Youm. The Mubarak regime “lost the last bit of legitimacy it may have possessed” when it sent the police out en masse to brutalize demonstrators. Of course, that violence “should come as no surprise.” Egypt has long poured its state resources into “building the largest police force in the region”—twice the size of the army—and making its sole task to “torture, subdue, and oppress its own people.” But we the people are no longer passive. Whether we call it “the Lotus Uprising, the Bread Intifada, or the Anger Revolution,” one thing is clear: Egyptians of all ages, classes, and religions have risen up.

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And it’s not just Egyptians, said Taher al-Adwan in Jordan’s Al-Arab Al-Yawm. Spurred by Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution and inspired by Egyptians’ bravery, Arab peoples are also awakening in Algeria, Sudan, Jordan, and Morocco. The authoritarian regimes “rendered freedom and bread the monopoly of a small ruling handful,” while the majority of people have been “ground down by the misery of seeking their daily livelihood.” Enough! “Sweeping, fiery currents have accumulated under the surface in Arab society” during these decades of repression, and these are now bursting out in demonstrations for freedom and democracy. The Middle East will never be the same.

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