A Good Piece
Analysis by Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa Al-Omrani
"CAIRO, Jun 5 (IPS) - Egyptian officials are lining up to praise U.S. President Barack Obama's address to the Islamic world delivered in Cairo Thursday. But local campaigners for political reform say the speech was disappointingly light on the issues of democracy and human rights.
"Obama spoke very briefly and in very general terms on these two subjects," opposition journalist and reform campaigner Abdel-Halim Kandil told IPS. "Despite the hype, Obama's speech was little more than an exercise in public relations."......
Bahaieddin Hasan, head of the Cairo Centre for Human Rights Studies, described the address as "superficial" and devoid of details. "There didn't appear to be any concern for either democratic reform or human rights," he was quoted as saying in the Friday edition of independent daily Al-Dustour. "This came as a major disappointment."
Hisham Kassem, a leading Cairo-based rights activist, agreed. "The Obama administration appears to have put human rights and political reform at the bottom of the agenda," he told IPS. "It's noteworthy that only 367 words of the speech out of a total of almost 6,000 were devoted to democracy and human rights. This tiny proportion appears to be an indication of Obama's priorities.".....
Kandil said that Obama's choice of Egypt - ruled by Mubarak under a draconian state of emergency for 28 years - sends the wrong message. Saudi Arabia that Obama visited earlier lacks even pretence of democracy.
"Obama's visit was a show of support for both the dictatorial Egyptian regime and the criminal policies of Israel regarding the Palestinians," he said. "It represents an acknowledgement of Egypt's role in serving U.S. and Israeli policy objectives, while totally overlooking the regime's dismal record on human rights and political reform.
"The government, in crisis due to skyrocketing inflation and enormous popular disaffection, is hoping that Obama's visit will somehow bolster its legitimacy and lengthen its dwindling lifespan," said Kandil.
Kandil is also coordinator of the pro-democracy Kefaya movement, which decided to boycott the event. "Instead of attending, Kefaya members staged a protest march in downtown Cairo on the eve of the speech in order to remind the U.S. President that he is visiting a dictatorship," he said. Kandil said the new Obama administration differs from its predecessor "only in style and not in substance."......
Kandil pointed to recent statements made by U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates as a more reliable indicator of the Obama administration's long-term approach to the issue. Early last month, Gates, after meeting with Mubarak, announced that U.S. military assistance to Egypt would not be made conditional on Egypt's human rights record or the pace of democratic reform.
"Democratic change can't be expected to come from the White House, because, ultimately, the U.S. and Israel - like the regime itself - don't want real democracy in Egypt," said Kandil. "They know that if fair elections were ever held, they would be handily won by opponents of U.S. policy and the American-Zionist project in the region.
"And as for human rights, the U.S. is a constant perpetrator of rights violations in Iraq and Afghanistan - and now Pakistan - while simultaneously overlooking violations committed by Israel and its own Arab allies," he said. "