by Anthony Shadid
CAIRO -- On June 20, 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stepped onto
the arabesque campus of the American University in Cairo, built around a
former pasha's palace, and delivered a call to action that overturned
decades of American policy in the Arab world.
"For 60 years," she said, "my country, the United States, pursued stability
at the expense of democracy in this region, here in the Middle East, and we
achieved neither. Now we are taking a different course. We are supporting
the democratic aspirations of all people." For five paragraphs of her
speech, diplomatic niceties made way for a series of declarative "musts"
directed at Egypt's government: It must give its citizens the freedom to
choose, Egyptian elections must be free, opposition groups must be free to
assemble and participate. The Egyptian government, Rice said, "must put its
faith in its own people."
The language was black-and-white, but America's relationship with Egypt --
with President Hosni Mubarak and with the reform movement -- never is.
Nearly two years later, the legacy of Rice's words is intimately tied to the
fate of Egypt's democracy movement, divided and withering under unrelenting
repression by a government that remains one of America's key allies in the
region. What began as a test of American mettle ended in failure to bring
about far-reaching change in a country that has received more per capita
U.S. aid than Europe did under the post-World War II Marshall Plan. In the
eyes of activists and, at times, the government itself, that failure stands
as a narrative of misperception about the people Americans sought to court,
and of naivete about those the Americans wanted to reform.
In the end, they say, pragmatic priorities triumphed over promises. . . .
Saad Eddin Ibrahim, "The 'New Middle
East' Bush Is Resisting," Washington Post, August 23, 2006
[Controversial amendments to Egypt's constitution have been approved by
75.9% of those who voted in Monday's referendum, government officials say.
Turnout for the vote was 27%, Justice Minister Mamdouh Marei announced.
Some independent groups monitoring the poll put the figure at 5% or
reforms approved," BBC News, March 27, 2007]