What's Next in Egypt: 'Mubarakism Without Mubarak'?

Mubarak has stepped down. But the question remains of whether this will change anything.

This is a critical moment for the U.S. government to make clear its intention to support the Egyptian people -- not the next despot.

President Obama should now make it clear that the U.S. government will not support despotism -- and take steps to bolster democratic reform for the Egyptian people.

Just two days ago in the U.S., "Mubarakism without Mubarak" is what one witness said we needed at a Congressional hearing on developments in Egypt. This will not stand.

The United States is not the arbiter of power in Egypt. It cannot appoint and dismiss presidents at its will, nor write and rewrite Egyptian laws. These powers belong to the Egyptian people.

However, the Mubarak regime has relied on U.S. assistance to deny the Egyptian people basic rights and freedoms again and again. If the U.S. government continues the status quo, it will be endorsing the same despotism that has brought us to this point of crisis.

Vice President Omar Suleiman has made disturbing remarks inferring that Egyptians are not "ready" for democracy, giving protesters the choice between dialogue, controlled by him, or "a coup." President Mubarak has set up a committee for constitutional reform that is dominated by veteran repressors.

If the U.S. backs these leaders and policies, we won't see change, but continued repression. Now is the moment to urge President Obama to push back against Mubarak and Suleiman's tactics of continued repression.

Human Rights First urged Congressional leaders to take up many of the human rights concerns in hearings this week. When the "Made in the USA" tear gas was raised, the response was that the policy was "under constant review," but there was not enough focus on the need for the U.S. government to promote respect for human rights in Egypt.

Our leadership must stand with the Egyptian people, and not just the next despot. That's what the U.S. community needs to demand, right now. Join me in asking President Obama to take the necessary steps.