Mr. President: 'Talk turkey' to Egypt
Dear Mr. President: Recent events in Egypt show the failure of your administration’s policies toward this largest of Arab countries. You helped in the overthrow of dictator Hosni Mubarak. Very well. Americans should shed no tears for Mubarak’s departure. He stayed in power for thirty years the way the Tsar did: by combining secret police crackdowns with fanning the flames of antisemitism. It did not work out so well for the Tsar, either.
Your administration gave little thought to what would follow in the wake of Mubarak’s ouster. What followed was chaos. The Islamist Muslim Brotherhood is well-experienced in riding into power on the back of the tiger of chaos. Once they had their man Mohamed Morsi installed in Cairo, they proceeded to demolish the elements of civil society. They opened the door to Islamist terrorists infiltrating the Sinai Desert in flagrant violation of Egypt’s 30-year treaty with Israel.
Coptic Christians especially felt the hot breath of religious hatred as their churches were torched and their young people killed. Still, your ambassador Anne Patterson pooh-poohed the mounting opposition to Mohamed Morsi’s misrule and urged all sides to stick with “democracy.”
Mr. President, what Morsi was running was no democracy. A democracy is more than purple fingers voting. If those same purple fingers torch churches and cut the throats of their neighbors who worship differently, it is no democracy. Do you contend that Germany was a democracy because 89 percent of German voters confirmed Hitler as Fürer in 1934?
We believe you should “talk turkey” to Egypt. That is, you should urge Egyptians to learn from the happy experience of the United States and from their own unfortunate history. The Pew Forum tells us that 84 percent of Egyptians think that someone who leaves Islam should be killed. Unless they can be persuaded to change this belief, Egyptians will never have a true democracy.
The late civil rights leader, Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, pointed to America’s great achievement in religious and civil liberty. “We came to believe it was the will of God that we should not kill each other over differing views of the will of God.” This is the necessary foundation for true democracy.
Now is the time to urge religious freedom for the Egyptians. It was most encouraging to see the Coptic Pope Tawadros II seated in the front row during the military’s broadcast announcing the toppling of Mohamed Morsi’s Islamist regime.
We do not suggest that the Coptic Christian leader join the new government, or take a role in directing civil affairs, but his presence at the announcement of the interim government must be seen as a very hopeful sign. Ten percent of Egypt’s millions are Copts. Their human rights must be protected too.
The ousted Mohamed Morsi delivered a bleating televised message in which he complained of Egypt’s military violating “legitimacy.” He had done everything possible to trample on legitimacy.
After putting his hand out for more billions in U.S. foreign aid, his very next demand of us was to release the Egyptian Blind Sheikh. Omar Abdel Rahman is in prison here for directing the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. Seven people died in that attack. It is no accident that the later, more devastating 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center was led by a radicalized young Egyptian, the jihadist Mohammed Atta.
And while you are talking turkey to Egypt, Sir, it would not be a bad idea to talk Egypt to Turkey. There, too, an Islamist regime is tightening the screws on all of civil society. There, too, journalists are being jailed and Christians are in danger. There, too, antisemitism is being used by a demagogue to gain power with the masses.
In Turkey the civilian leader is gradually undermining the very basis for democracy. In fact, he openly says that democracy is only a “streetcar” that you ride until you get to the stop you want. That stop is an Islamist state.
Your administration has been led by the nose by Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He is working hard to dismantle Turkey’s successful effort to modernize and democratize their country. He is grinding down the military, opposition parliament members, and journalists.
Hillel Fradkin and Lewis Libby in the respected journal, World Affairs, describe your regional tilt toward Islamists thus:
[He] declared that Erdogan was one of five world leaders with whom he felt the closest relations. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton deferred to Erdogan’s leadership in the Middle East, stating in 2011, at the early stage of the Syrian crisis, that the United States would follow Turkey’s lead.
We hope, President Obama, that you will take advantage of this pivotal moment in the Middle East to “reset” your entire policy toward that perennially troubled region. Urge them to respect religious freedom, to give up their poisonous antisemitism, and to stop persecuting Christians. Talking turkey to the Egyptians can bring positive results. And a favorable example in Egypt could help stem the tide of intolerance in Turkey.
Editor's note: This piece was co-written by Bob Morrison