There is something almost obscene about the announcement out of Washington that the U.S. is going ahead with plans to deliver more sophisticated military equipment to Egypt, despite the military coup that overthrew President Mohammed Morsi.
With Egypt in meltdown, its economy in tatters, food prices soaring, land and water resources disappearing, unemployment rampant, the government a shambles, what is the United States offering in the way of aid to this basket-case nation?
Four F-16 fighter jets.
This despite that fact that, by law, the Obama administration is supposed to cut off aid to regimes that seize power via military coups. But not this coup.
In the wake of the bloody shootings in Cairo last week, and even as the military continues to arrest hundreds of Moslem Brotherhood members, the Obama administration, in a hair-splitting fashion befitting a president who once headed the Harvard Law Review, has used every semantic trick in the book to avoid calling the coup that took place in Egypt -- a coup.
The shipment of those F-16's is also justified as the continuation of an on-going program of 20 planes -- eight of which were sent to Egypt in January. The final eight will be shipped later this year.
Who will benefit by that American "aid"?
Mostly, America's own Lockheed Martin, which sells those jets at $15 million a copy. Add a few million more for spare parts, training, and ammunition, and you've got a half billion dollar deal.
Who will those jets be used to defend Egypt against? Years ago, the Egyptians might have said Israel. But you can be sure that there is no way the U.S. would give F-16's to an Arab country unless Israel had already signed off on the deal -- usually in return for assurances that U.S. equipment furnished to Israel would be far superior.
In fact, those planes are part of a $1.5 billion annual package of aid that the U.S. began giving Egypt after President Sadat signed the Camp David Peace accords with Israel in 1974. By far the largest part of that aid --$1.3 billion a year -- has been going to the Egyptian military, in effect an on-going bribe to convince the generals not to ruffle waters with Israel.
What purpose that sophisticated American equipment serves Egypt -- other than burnishing egos of the Egyptian military -- is anyone's guess. Similarly, since the only ones with oversight over Egypt's military budget are Egypt's military, no one can really be sure exactly how and where all those billions have been spent.
But again, who really cares -- as long as they don't rock the boat with Israel....
On the other hand, it's only natural that America's largesse should take the form of military aid. So much of America's foreign policy over the past two decades -- from Iraq to the Gulf to Afghanistan -- has been defined in trillions of dollars in military equipment, sprawling bases and futile campaigns.
The other recent announcement of aid to Egypt, which dwarfs Americas, is also laced with hypocrisy. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have pledged a massive package totaling $12 billion.
That sum, of course, is vastly greater than any financial aid those Arab states actually delivered to the Palestinians over the past many decades, despite all their rhetoric about supporting the Palestinian cause.
Which makes sense: As the Arab leaders of those three Gulf states see it the Muslim Brotherhood and the Arab Spring are a much greater existential threat to their corrupt regimes, than Israel ever was.
Indeed, they have long detested and feared the Muslim Brotherhood. Not so much the Brotherhood's religious fervor, as their calls for reform -- for an end to the corrupt ruling cliques which have treated the vast natural resources of their states as their personal property.
Their current hope of the leaders of those three Gulf states is that, backed by their $12 billion dollars, Egypt's generals will somehow be able to squelch the Muslim Brotherhood in what is by far the most important of Arab countries -- and turn back the threat of the Arab Spring.
Finally, an intriguing question: Was that huge Arab aid package quickly cobbled together after the coup? Or isn't it likely that, in the frantic maneuvering that preceded the military's move, the Gulf rulers were already dangling those billions as a carrot before Egypt's generals -- to encourage them to overthrow Mohammed Morsi?
Probably with the knowledge -- and approval? -- of the United States.