Moral Outrage
Whew! God help us!

The need to democratize Western societies and claim control of our foreign policy

With respect to the Egyptian revolution, the discussion here in the West should focus on the factor we are responsible for and can influence – the role our governments have played in suppressing the Egyptian people. Your taxes have been used to arm, fund and fuel this dictatorship. You have unwittingly helped to keep these people down. The tear-gas canisters fired at pro-democracy protesters have “Made in America” stamped on them, with British machine guns and grenade launchers held in the background.

Very few [American or] British people would praise a murderer and sell him weapons. Very few [American or] British people would beat up a poor person to get cheaper petrol. But our governments do it all the time. Why? [American and] British foreign policy does not follow the everyday moral principles of the people, because it is not formulated by us. This might sound like an odd thing to say about a country that prides itself on being a democracy, but it is true.

You can see this most clearly if you go through the three reasons our governments give for their behavior in the Middle East. Explanation One: Oil. Some 60 per cent of the world’s remaining petrol is in the Middle East. We are all addicted to it, so our governments support strongmen and murderers who will keep the oil-taps gushing without interruption. Addicts don’t stand up to their dealers: they fawn before them.

Explanation Two: Israel and the “peace process”. We have persistently been told that Mubarak was a key plank in supporting “peace in the Middle East”. The opposite is the truth. Mubarak has been at the forefront of waging war on the Palestinian population. There are 1.5 million people imprisoned on the Gaza Strip denied access to necessities like food and centrifuges for their blood transfusion service. They are being punished for voting “the wrong way” in a democratic election. Israel blockades Gaza to one side, and Mubarak blockades it to the other. In return for this, Mubarak receives $1.5bn a year from the US.

Explanation Three: Strongmen suppress jihadism. Our governments claim that without dictators to suppress, torture and disappear Islamic fundamentalists, they will be unleashed and come after us. Indeed, they often outsourced torture to the Egyptian regime, sending suspects there to face things that would be illegal at home. Robert Baer, once a senior figure in black ops at the CIA, said: “If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear, you send them to Egypt.” Western governments claim all this makes us safer. The opposite is the truth. Modern jihadism was invented by Sayeed Qutb as he was electrocuted and lashed in Egyptian jails and grew under successive tyrannies. Mohammed Atta, the lead 9/11 hijacker, was Egyptian, and named US backing for his country’s tyrant as one of the main reasons for the massacre. When we fund the violent suppression of people, they hate us, and want to fight back.

It doesn’t have to be like this. We could make our governments as moral as we, the people, are in our everyday lives. We could stop them trampling on the weak, and fattening thugs. But to achieve it, we have to democratize our own societies and claim control of our foreign policy.

[Excerpt of an article by Johann Hari, writing in The Independent]

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