Friday, March 30, 2012

Hey America; Take A Look At What Your Tax Dollar Pays For

The Obama administration has okayed funding for Egypt’s military, despite congressional restrictions and objections from human rights and democracy advocates.
For months, the money for Egypt  more than $1.3 billion, with the bulk earmarked for the military has been withheld amid that country’s crackdown on pro-democracy groups, including several U.S.-based organizations with close ties to political parties in Washington.
A law passed by Congress in December forbids funding unless the State Department certifies that Egypt is making progress on basic freedoms and human rights.
Hillary Clinton

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is close to announcing plans to bypass those restrictions on national security grounds, according to senior administration officials and others who have been briefed on the deliberations but were not authorized to speak publicly. The administration believes failure to provide the funds would risk worsening already fraying ties with Egypt’s leaders, most notably the Egyptian military, which still controls the country.

Here's your bread, Dawg

Under the plan, which was announced last week and was first reported Friday by the New York Times, Egypt would not receive the full $1.3 billion all at once, as has been the practice for decades. The administration would instead dole out the funds in smaller portions to preserve leverage over Egyptian authorities, officials said. The plan would also allow for the continuation of U.S. defense contracts that provide American jobs.
Egypt's Future

With a presidential election coming in Egypt, officials said they are especially hesitant to release the full amount until they see what kind of government will be receiving it. The question is, "What kind of leadership will replace the military?"
The plan comes after weeks of crisis caused by criminal charges filed by Egyptian authorities against a handful of pro-democracy workers from the United States and other countries. The charges were condemned by U.S. leaders and provoked heated anti-American rhetoric in Egypt.
The immediate dilemma was resolved this month when Egypt allowed the foreign workers to leave the country after posting bail. But the criminal charges remain against them as well as Egyptian staff employed by the same nonprofit organizations.
According to administration and congressional officials, representatives of the defense industry, who are eager to keep lucrative contracts attached to the annual aid, have been among those lobbying behind the scenes to resume U.S. funding. The Pentagon, which does not want to risk its ties with the Egyptian military, one of its major allies in the region, also has pressed the case.
Tom Malinowski

There’s been enormous pressure from the Pentagon to unfreeze something before payments to contractors go past due,” said Tom Malinowski, Washington director for Human Rights Watch. “But this whole argument that American jobs are at stake just is not appropriate here when we’re talking about human rights. This sends the wrong message that the crisis is over and has been solved.”
This’s not a negligible factor. If contracts can’t be paid, production lines will shut down and jobs will be lost, acknowledged one senior administration official. But those aspects have to be balanced against other factors such as our ability to work with the new government, how much democratic progress has been made and where we still have concerns.
The plan is likely to draw strong criticism from Capitol Hill, which has been highly critical of Egypt’s treatment of nongovernmental organizations and protesters.
Patrick J. Leahy

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), the main sponsor of legislation passed last year that tied funding for Egypt to progress on democracy and rights, said he was deeply disappointed. “I believe a waiver would be a mistake,” he said. “The new conditions are intended to put the United States squarely on the side of the Egyptian people who seek a civilian government that respects fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, and to clearly define the terms of our future relations with the Egyptian military.”
Other rights groups, including Amnesty International, also urged Clinton not to resume the aid.
Victoria Nuland

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Clinton has not yet reached an official decision but added: “We want to support a more democratic and a more prosperous Egypt. And we want to see the region stay secure. So those are a lot of things that have to be kept strong and kept in balance.”
The relationship between the United States and Egyptian militaries, Nuland said, “has also enabled us to have influence during this period of transition.”
While Egypt’s generals have lobbied to resume the aid, the country’s new parliament in recent days has discussed the possibility of rejecting it, even though it does not have the authority to do so. “I don’t know that it even makes sense for the U.S. to be pushing aid on Egypt,” said Michele Dunne, an Egypt expert at the Atlantic Council. “Given everything that’s happened of late, we ought to take a fresh look at the whole U.S.-Egypt relationship and the military aid package.”
But just after the United States decided to keep sending $1.3 billion in annual aid to the Egyptian military, a new poll shows that most Egyptians don't want their country to receive American financial assistance. Pollsters say Egyptians suspect that taking money from foreigners will end up impinging on their nation's sovereignty.
More than eight of 10 Egyptians oppose receiving aid from the United States, according to a Gallup poll that finds opposition has grown over the last year. Egyptians are even more strongly opposed to the U.S. sending aid to Egyptian civil society groups, the February poll found.
Protesters in Cairo over US funding

Opposition to outside aid has grown stronger over time, the poll of 1,000 respondents showed.  Egyptian attitudes about assistance from the U.S. soured at the same time the country began accusing Americans working for non-governmental organizations of trying to stir up unrest, Gallup said.
Earlier this year, Egypt sought to prosecute 16 Americans employed by U.S.-funded groups, alleging they were working with Egyptian groups not registered with the government. Authorities claimed the defendants were fomenting unrest and attempting to advance U.S. and Israeli interests.
Most of the U.S. defendants were allowed to leave the country, though they still technically face charges. A lone American has chosen to stay and face charges alongside other defendants.
The murky circumstances and arrangements that resulted in the prosecution, travel limitations and then sudden departure of U.S. citizens facing trial in Egypt has only inflamed Egyptians' sense of distrust and suspicion regarding such organizations and what U.S. funds mean for Egyptian sovereignty.
The case upset many members of the U.S. Congress, leading to calls to stop sending money to the Egyptian military. But the U.S. government decided to continue sending aid despite the ongoing case and restrictions on political rights that ordinarily would bar Egypt from getting the funding.
Besides their wariness of the U.S., Gallup found Egyptians had grown less supportive of aid from international groups or other Arab nations. Only 36% of Egyptians polled were in favor of aid from the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund and 57% favored Arab government aid.
To find funding to help Egypt overcome its challenges, its leaders will need to show outside aid "does not come at the cost of Egypt's sovereignty.

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