Source: The New Yorker
By Robin Wright
On February 11, 2011, shortly after 3 p.m., President Obama stepped before a microphone in the Grand Foyer of the White House. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had just resigned after weeks of mass protests, in Tahrir Square and nationwide, and a final nudge from the White House. “There are few moments in our lives where we have the privilege to witness history taking place,” Obama said. “This is one of those times.” He compared the peaceful overthrow of Mubarak—who had been the centerpiece of U.S. policy in the Arab world for three decades—to the fall of the Berlin Wall and Gandhi’s civil disobedience against British colonialism.
“The wheel of history turned at a blinding pace as the Egyptian people demanded their universal rights,” Obama said. Two months later, Mubarak was detained on allegations of corruption, embezzlement, abuse of power, and negligence for failing to stop the killing of hundreds of peaceful protesters. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.
The wheel of history is now turning, at an equally blinding pace, in reverse. Mubarak was freed last month; he returned to his mansion in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis. His two sons and other Mubarak-era officials, also jailed for corruption, are free now, too. On Monday, President Trump hosted Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the former field marshal who orchestrated a military coup, in 2013, against Mubarak’s successor. In 2014, Sisi ran for President and won. Since then, he has amassed a far worse record on human rights than Mubarak had. The annual State Department Human Rights Report, released last month, faults Sisi’s regime for arbitrary arrests, “unlawful killings and torture,” politically motivated trial verdicts, “enforced disappearances” of dissidents, and restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly, the media, and civil liberties. Obama refused to invite Sisi to Washington for just those reasons.
In contrast, Trump invited Sisi into the Oval Office, where, on Monday, as they sat next to each other before the press, Trump said, “I just want to let everybody know, in case there was any doubt, that we are very much behind President El-Sisi. He’s done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation.” He added, “You have a great friend and ally in the United States and in me,” and then reached out his hand toward Sisi. They shook hands warmly for the cameras.