As Thomas Friedman, columnist for The New York Times, describes him, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, is "the new strongman/president of Egypt, whose regime debuted this week by shamefully sentencing three Al Jazeera journalists to prison terms on patently trumped-up charges." Friedman states that this action was an example of "a great nation acting so small."
The timing of these prison sentences could not have been worse. The Obama administration, with Congress's blessing, is planning to restore $1.5 billion in aid to Egypt which was briefly suspended after the military coup. Most of this money will go directly to the Egyptian military so it can buy American planes, tanks and missiles. This begs the question as to why the United States would want to provide aid to a military dictator in Egypt or anywhere else.
I understand that we want to maintain our influence with Egypt, and international aid provides us with some leverage. I understand that Egypt buys lots of military equipment from us, and this is important for certain sectors of our economy. I also understand that Egypt has a treaty with Israel, which has lobbied hard for us to continue aid to Egypt. However, one has to ask if we are getting our money's worth in Egypt. I also imagine that the Egyptian people will not forget any time soon that during this time of oppression by their own government, America sided with the dictator, not them.
There is actually a law on the books stating that the U.S. cannot give aide to a country after a military coup. But it seems that as long as we don't call what happened in Egypt a coup, it isn't.
Any hopes of democracy in Egypt have been squashed by a brutal military takeover. Egyptians have no due process rights. Actually, they have no rights at all. The three journalists sent to prison in Egypt for doing their job had no evidence presented against them in court. Evidence was not necessary. The government prosecutors stated that they needed to set an example for other reporters by sending these three reporters to jail.
The free press is dead in Egypt, and this alone should be reason enough for the United States to cut off aid, especially military aid currently used against the Egyptian people. There should be standards of conduct for other nations to qualify for American aid.
I hope Americans are paying attention to the situation in Iraq, where much of the military equipment sent to Iraq over the last 10 years is now in the hands of ISIS, the group taking over a large part of Syria and Iraq. Iraqi army forces deserted their posts in northern and western Iraq, leaving all of the American equipment behind for ISIS forces to capture. Once again American military equipment sent to help a nation has been captured by unfriendly forces and can now be used against our allies and our own troops.
Now we get to watch ISIS forces driving around in American vehicles and ponder the thought of American drones bombing the military vehicles we gave to Iraq.
America finds itself working with Iran and Syria in the fight against ISIS to defend Iraq. In this last sentence, I named three nations where the war hawks in Washington would like us to send more military equipment and aid. While on any given day it is difficult to determine which side any of these counties are on, they are clearly not our friends.
America's contribution to the world should not be the militarization of nations which, on any day of the week, can turn out to be our enemy or, in the case of Egypt, become the enemy of their people. I think we can significantly contribute to world peace by agreeing to keep our weapons for our own defense and away from current or future dictators around the world.
Surely we have learned by now that the military aid we give to these folks today will likely be used some day in a way not consistent with our intentions or values.
Tom Zirpoli writes from Westminster. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at email@example.com.