By Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall
The Obama administration has come under fire for violating Section 508 of the 1999 Foreign Assistance Act by continuing $1.5 billion in military aid to the Egyptian generals who led the coup against Egypt’s democratically elected president and recently slaughtered more than 1,000 peaceful civilian protestors. The millions of dollars of secret aid the State Department funneled to anti-Morsi activists responsible for the mass protests preceding the coup is also illegal. However the corporate media is silent on this issue. It’s a non-event in the US mainstream media, despite the July 10 Al Jazeera expose by Emad Mekay from University of California-Berkeley’s Investigative Reporting Program.
Mekay’s article is mainly based on Internal Revenue and State Department documents he received via a Freedom of Information Act request, interviews with former Egyptian police intelligence officer Colonel Omar Afifi Soliman and Stephen McInerney, Executive Director of the Washington-based non-profit Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED), Egyptian court documents from Soliman’s 2011 trial in absentia for inciting violence against the US and Saudi embassies, and Soliman’s social media posts.
The Key State Department Front Groups
What Mekay learned was that since 2002, the State Department has been channeling hundreds of millions of dollars to Middle East pro-democracy activists through three State Department agencies, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL), and the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), as well as the CIA-linked nonprofit foundation National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Australian political scientist Michael Barker and William Robinson (Promoting Polyarchy 1996) have both written extensively about the role of NED and similar CIA-funded foundations in promoting US friendly “revolutions” in Eastern Europe and third world countries.
The funds are then re-routed to other organizations, such as the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), and Freedom House. Tax returns and federal grant records show these groups have subsequently disbursed these funds to Egyptian non-profit organizations run by senior members of anti-Morsi political parties. This – funding foreign politicians and financing subversive activities targeting democratically elected governments – is also illegal under US law.
The NED has removed public access to Egyptian grant recipients in 2011 and 2012 from its website. However POMED’s executive director Stephen McInerney estimates Washington spends approximately $390 million annually on “democracy promoting” groups in the Middle East, with roughly $65 million going to Egypt in 2011 and $25 million in 2012. McInerney estimates anti-Morsi groups will receive comparable funding for 2013.
Our Man in Falls Church
Mekay mainly focuses on Soliman, who began receiving NED funds in 2008. Until 2011, Soliman’s “pro-democracy” group targeted Mubarak’s repressive regime. More recently his social media sites have targeted Morsi’s government. Tax returns show that NED paid Soliman tens of thousands of dollars through an organization he created called Huku Al-Nas (People’s Rights), based in Falls Church, Virginia. Soliman is the only employee.
After he was awarded a NED human rights fellowship in 2008, Soliman moved to the US. His group Ukuk Al Nas subsequently received a $50,000 NED grant in 2009, a $60,000 grant in 2010 and a $10,000 grant in 2011. Soliman acknowledged receiving the funding in an interview with Mekay. It also complained it was nowhere adequate.
In 2012, an Egyptian court sentenced Soliman in absentia for his 2011 role in inciting violence against the US and Saudi embassies. Court documents Mekay obtained revealed Soliman used media interviews, YouTube, and Facebook to call for the violent overthrow of Mubarak’s government.
Court documents indicate Soliman has taken down some of his older social media posts. However his recent Facebook posts to his 83,000 followers are pointedly graphic. A post in late May, as anti-Morsi opponents were in the planning stage for massive anti-government street protests instructs protestors to “behead those who control power, water and gas utilities.”
Then in late June, he advises his followers to “incapacitate them by smashing their knee bones first … ake a road bump with a broken palm tree to stop the buses going into Cairo, and drench the road around it with gas and diesel. When the bus slows down for the bump, set it all ablaze so it will burn down with all the passengers inside … God bless.”
Other Anti-Morsi Groups Funded by the State Department
Mekay’s article goes on to detail (with dates and amounts) other anti-Morsi groups who have received State Department funding. These include the The Salvation Front main opposition bloc, a key organizer of recent protests that turned violent and Esraa Abdel-Fatah, a prominent figure in the Egyptian Democratic Academy. Last year Abdel-Fatah called on her followers to lay siege to mosques that supported Egypt’s new constitution, which was established via public referendum in December 2012. Other organizations identified in the IRS and State Department documents include the Hand in Hand for Egypt Association, which rallied Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority to take to the streets on June 30, and Reform and Development Party member Essmat al-Sadat, founder of the Sadat Association for Social Development. Sadat was a member of the coordination committee, the main organising body for the June 30 anti-Morsi protest.
US Encouragement to Incite Unrest
A number of recipients of US “democracy promoting” funding indicate that their US funders encouraged them to incite protests to whip up public sentiment against Morsi. Mekay’s article links to a YouTube video by anti-Morsi activist Saaddin Ibrahim, as well as an article in Egypt’s English language Daily News.
Mekay’s findings about the US role in fomenting public unrest in Egypt are corroborated by French Canadian Ahmed Bensaada’s 2011 Arabesque Americaine. The book details the role of State Department and CIA funding in all the so-called “Arab Spring” revolutions. I have posted an English summary of Bensaada’s key finding at Smoking Gun: US Role in Arab Spring.
There have been a few rather timid attacks against Mekay’s article and Al Jazeera (for running it) at the usual “free market” and pro Obama websites. Predictably the role State Department funding may have played in Egypt’s recent coup has been invisible in the corporate media. It’s an issue Washington policy makers prefer to keep hidden from the American people.
Dr. Bramhall is a retired American child and adolescent psychiatrist, activist and political refugee in New Zealand.
Her first book The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of an American Refugee describes the circumstances that led her to leave the US in 2002. She has also published two young adult novels about political activism: The Battle for Tomorrow: A Fable
She is involved in the national leadership of the New Zealand Green Party and has a political blog at StuartJeanneBramhall.com