Against the People 

Why did Obama coddle Egyptian dictator?

Here is Egypt, America's neo-con dream come true. Democracy! In the Middle East! And it isn't costing us a single soldier. You'd think American policy makers would be pleased as punch. So why are they messing it up?

At first glance, the uprising in Egypt puts the United States in an awkward spot. We've propped up Hosni Mubarak for three decades.

But the Obama administration had an easy way out. They could have disavowed the policies of the past 30 years, policies they merely inherited. The president could have made a clean break, announcing that he is cutting off U.S. funding to the Mubarak regime until things settled down. Then shut up. Simple.

Yet he didn't. First, there's the arrogance. On Fox News President Barack Obama agreed with Bill O'Reilly that he doesn't want the Muslim Brotherhood to take over.

"I want a representative government in Egypt," Obama said. Dude, what matters is what the Egyptians want.

There's the shortsightedness. Like previous presidents, Obama doesn't understand that repression isn't a synonym for stability.

There's the failure to recognize the broader implications. Hated for Egypt's joint blockade with Israel of the Gaza Strip, Mubarak is viewed throughout the Muslim world as the embodiment of American-funded corruption.

Last but not least, there's that classic Cold War-era mistake: backing the wrong side. In this case, Mubarak's new vice president Omar Suleiman. Since 1993 Suleiman has run Egypt's feared Mukhabarat intelligence agency. He is Egypt's chief torturer.

As head of the General Intelligence Directorate, Suleiman was the Bush administration's main liaison and coordinator for its "extraordinary rendition" program. Victims of extraordinary rendition are kidnapped by CIA agents and illegally transferred to other countries for the purpose of being tortured.

According to experts on the war on terror, Suleiman is a torturer's torturer, a hard man who sets a high bar--from which he hangs his bleeding victims. Personally.

One of the CIA's victims was Mamdouh Habib, an Egyptian-born Australian citizen. U.S. agents bought him from Pakistani intelligence and shipped him to Egypt.

"In Egypt," reports Lisa Hajjar for Al Jazeera, "he was repeatedly subjected to electric shocks, immersed in water up to his nostrils and beaten. His fingers were broken and he was hung from metal hooks.

At one point, his interrogator slapped him so hard that his blindfold was dislodged, revealing the identity of his tormentor: Suleiman." Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi was a former trainer in the Afghan jihadi camps who famously "confessed" a connection between Saddam Hussein and al -Qaida while under torture in one of Suleiman's dungeons. Colin Powell cited al-Libi's "information" in his 2003 speech of lies to the United Nations arguing for war against Iraq.

Note the word "was." Al-Libi died in a Libyan prison in 2009. Suleiman's fearsome resume may come as a surprise to you. But Egyptians know all about him. Headlines like "Obama Backs Suleiman-Led Transition" (from The New York Times) aren't making us more popular.

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