America's military aid to the current military government of Egypt is the focus of criticism from many sides. Here in the United States both Senator John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have called on President Obama to suspend all military aid to the interim government given the spiraling violence taking hold. That the canceling of joint U.S/Egyptian military exercises was an inadequate response to the toppling of Egypt's first freely and universally elected head of state. Lindsey and McCain were quoted that Egypt's military government is "taking Egypt down a dark path, one that the United States cannot and should not travel with them" (AP 08/16/13).
Yet more ominously is the following comment published by the Guardian in a random question and answer column this past week, not by a state or public authority but perhaps even more significantly revealing, a far more inflammatory mindset inculcated among many in Egypt and worryingly throughout the Middle East:
"Since the slaughter of over 600 civilians with U.S. weapons yesterday in Cairo was a crime against a humanity, how is Obama's decision to keep sending more and more weapons not aiding and abetting a crime against humanity?
What possible legal justification can there be for NOT prosecuting Obama at the International Court of Justice for this?
Of course he deserves a fair trial, with due process and legal counsel, but it would seem obvious to ANY impartial attorney that he must be prosecuted immediately."
Our weapons as the tool of Egyptian civil slaughter? That may well be hyperbole. Yet given the tensions extant and a landscape where perceptions are received as reality, it is an ominous and dangerous turn of events risking America's standing and influence in a part of the world that is becoming evermore the cauldron of contemporary history.
In a New York Times Friday op-ed, ("Egypt's Blood, America's Complicity") Mr. Amar Darrag, member of the Executive Board Freedom and Justice Party and a close affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood, vented:
"Americans need to recognize that every passing day solidifies the perception among Egyptians that American rhetoric is empty; that American politicians wont hesitate to flout their own laws or subvert their declared values for short term political gains; and when it comes to freedom, justice and human dignity Muslims need not apply."
Coming from a stalwart allied to an organization that helped form al Qaeda's current leader Ayman al-Zawahri, who joined the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood at the age of 14 and went on, together with Osama bin Laden, to give us 9/11, it can be taken with a grain of salt. Yet it shouldn't be ignored.
Perhaps, in recognition of the troubling perceptions our current military aid is eliciting among so many facets of the political and emotional turmoil in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East, that an alternative and life enhancing, and singularly American alternative be put in place.
Some months ago the food crisis facing Egypt had become acute and was reported in the New York Times ("Short of Money, Egypt Sees Crisis on Fuel and Food"). Also please see HuffPost "Egypt's Looming Famine and America's Grain Bounty" 4/4/13). The articles highlighted that Egypt was at the precipice of a food disaster, a causation of much of the unrest that followed. The articles also highlighted that Egypt is the world's largest wheat importer, importing some 75 percent of its needs essential to its food chain providing her people their daily bread.
Fortuitously, the United States is blessed by being the world's largest grower and exporter of wheat. How extraordinary it would be were we to figuratively "beat our swords into plowshares," that is, to convert our weaponry deliveries to a like value in wheat deliveries, showing a brotherly concern for the travails of all Egyptians in this, their dark hour. That would be an America steeped in its history and tradition harkening back to the great vision and achievements of the likes of the Marshall Plan.
A very different backdrop, certainly, but anchored in the same sense mutual destiny.