Was WikiLeaks Right? Did Union Organizers and the U.S. State Dept Help Plan Egypt's Uprising?

Last evening on MSNBC, Rachel Maddow took a few moments on her show to jab at the Beltway press, suggesting that the press in DC is so annoyed at being "sidelined" by the Egypt story that it's "clawing and scratching to find some partisan story to tell here." Maddow then proceeded to slam a list of conservative politicians and bloggers, including freshman Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, Michigan Congressman Thaddeus McCotter, former UN Ambassador John Bolton, and blogger Pam Geller.

One other story that Maddow called out was from RedState.com, to which she mocked the suggestion that unions and the U.S. state department are involved in the Egypt protests and quipped, "What, no ACORN?"


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The author of that post is a friend of mine and fellow BigGovernment contributor, who, in addition to blogging at RedState.com, also runs Labor Union Report. I was surprised when I saw his post called out on Maddow's show. Not only is he not usually a typical target of MSNBC's brand of snark, but it was obvious that Maddow – or whomever does her research – had not even read the post beyond paragraph two. If they had, they would have noticed that the information came from a few familiar sources: the Huffington Post and WikiLeaks. And those sources contained some potent information that's directly related to the current uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.



The post in question, "The American Left’s Role in Leading Mid-East Regime Change," essentially establishes two key points:

  1. Labor unions played a large role in the recent Tunisian revolution and are actively engaged in similar future protests

  2. According to one of the Wikileaks cables, the U.S. State Department appears to have had a hand in supporting, training and networking with Egypt's protesters


As much as Maddow would like them to be, these aren't conspiracy theories. The author did a thorough job of laying out all the supporting pieces. To make it easy, let's recap some of these.

The RedState post makes good use of a January 25th piece on the Huffington Post titled "Tumult in Tunisia: Labor Propels Protest." Its author, blogger Michelle Chen contributes to Colorlines.com, a magazine with investigative articles concerning minorities and organizing, and In These Times, a popular magazine that focuses on labor issues. Chen discusses the crucial role that organized labor activists played in the days leading up to Tunisia's protests:
Though the movement appears to be a mix of grassroots spontaneity and targeted direct actions, it has achieved political valence through the savvy of organized labor activists. In the days leading up to the uprising, unions were feeding the foment of the demonstrators by calling strikes nationwide, including an 8,000 strong lawyer strike that paralyzed the courts.

The entire piece pays homage to the power of organized labor in uprisings such as Tunisia, and the importance of the collaboration of so many involved in the movement. It's a very interesting read, and really zeroes in on how labor is fueling the youth movement, the "forgotten majority" in so many Maghreb/Arab countries.

In expanding upon the solidarity amongst the youth of Tunisia, Chen also cites Dyab Abou Jahjah, founder and former president of the Arab European League, who republished a 1/14/2011 piece at the Monthly Review Zine. Several of Dyab Abou Jahjah's accounts of the Tunisia protests are especially worth noting:
The youth played an important role in all this and cell phones combined with Facebook connected through proxy services was the media of the revolution. The trade union (UGTT) played the role of the momentum regulator and political indicator. It was clear that as long as the trade union kept on declaring strikes the battle was on, and that was the signal to the people to stick to the streets.

The global AFL-CIO of course has also been supportive of an overthrow of the Egyptian government, having been active there for quite a while. In fact, the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center published this study just last year on the legislative, social and direct action that has been undertaken to change the Egyptian government and its views on workers rights. Yesterday, the AFL-CIO announced that organizers were successful in defying the ban on unionizing in Egypt and have formed a new labor federation called the Federation of Egyptian Trade Unions.

Reflecting upon the recent success in overthrowing Tunisia's dictatorship, Dyab Abou Jahjah describes the sentiments of the Tunisian protesters and their outlook for Egypt and the rest of the Arab world in the near future:
As for the repercussions on the Arab world and beyond...They are paramount. All Arab dictators are now shaking on their thrones. Especially in the Maghreb countries, but also Mubarak will have a sleepless night. The Arab peoples now saw and know for sure what a people can do. They saw another Arab people bring down the harshest of dictators in less than a month. All that was needed was unity and determination to go all the way. This will certainly lead to the revival of revolutionary dreams among the Arab oppressed classes (middle class and masses) and will start the dawn of democracy. The Americans and the Zionists -- and also France -- are nervous today: their best friend in the area was kicked out. . . . And the people is [sic] heading to govern itself in Tunisia with its own agenda with all the anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist elements of that. A free democratic Tunisia will not only be a model for democracy for all Arabs, it will also be a safe haven for revolutionary powers and a place of support for the resistance against Israel and the U.S. The international alliance against empire hegemony will have another member.

Place of support for the resistance against Israel and the U.S.?

While I'm fully aware of the disdain for the U.S. from some regions of the world due to our country's perceived intervention and government meddling in their affairs, any American must admit, this statement seems a bit disconcerting for the U.S., no?

That leads us to the second point, which is, the level of involvement of the U.S. State Department.

The RedState post takes its lead on this particular part of the story from one of the leaked Wikileaks cables. As the post notes, a Telegraph article titled "Egypt protests: America's secret backing for rebel leaders behind uprising" claims that the U.S. was aware that a plan to overthrow the Egyptian government had been discussed.
The American Embassy in Cairo helped a young dissident attend a US-sponsored summit for activists in New York, while working to keep his identity secret from Egyptian state police.

On his return to Cairo in December 2008, the activist told US diplomats that an alliance of opposition groups had drawn up a plan to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak and install a democratic government in 2011.

Stunning details, including info related to the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups, are provided in the Wikileaks documents, specifically within the section titled, "Washington Meetings and April 6 Ideas for Regime Change."

The Telegraph article also mentions that Egyptian security has already arrested this dissident in connection with the protests. The paper says that it is protecting his identity; in following the #Jan25 hashtag stream on Twitter, there appears to be some discussion of this individual's arrest.

The RedState post made special note of the Alliance of Youth Movements Summit (AYM) mentioned in the document (also referred to as Alliance for Youth Movements). It indicates that based upon both the information from the Wikileaks document, as well as the AYM website, the U.S. State Department appears it may have been openly working with various private corporations to support and train grassroots activists involved in the current and future uprisings in support of human rights.
From the leaked US Embassy document:

On December 23, April 6 activist xxxxxxxxxxxx expressed satisfaction with his participation in the December 3-5 \”Alliance of Youth Movements Summit,\” and with his subsequent meetings with USG officials, on Capitol Hill, and with think tanks. He described how State Security (SSIS) detained him at the Cairo airport upon his return and confiscated his notes for his summit presentation calling for democratic change in Egypt, and his schedule for his Congressional meetings. xxxxxxxxxxxx contended that the GOE will never undertake significant reform, and therefore, Egyptians need to replace the current regime with a parliamentary democracy. He alleged that several opposition parties and movements have accepted an unwritten plan for democratic transition by 2011...



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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressing the Alliance of Youth Movements Summit in 2009.


On its surface, the Alliance for Youth Movements initiative and its partnership with the State Department seem relatively benign. But, the Wikileaks document implies that there was potentially a deeper level of collaboration with the Alliance for Youth Movement and protests in Egypt, including at least some of its participating members/sponsors, several of which are crucial components to the protests we're seeing today. At this point in time, we simply have no way of knowing for sure and to what extent (unless of course all of the Wikileaks documents were suddenly validated as 100% fact).





[Oh, look at that – MSNBC is on the list!]

No one's stating a position on Egypt one way or the other in this post. But one thing's for certain - if WikiLeaks was right, then so was RedState. And we haven't even scratched the surface on this yet.

** Read LaborUnionReport's follow-up post, "Clinton’s 21st Century Statecraft a Success! AFL-CIO Applauds New Egyptian Unions"

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