US hypocrisy on Egypt

President Obama last night called for 'concrete steps' to advance democratic rights in Egypt. Here is one concrete step he could make. He could cut the American aid that is propping up the rotting Mubarak dictatorship the Egyptian people are so heroically striving to rid themselves of.

If Obama were to do so, Mubarak would be running for his plane with the same speed that the Tunisian dictator Ben Ali ran for his.

The Mubarak regime is the second largest recipient of US aid in the world. And as the democracy protestors on the streets are directly experiencing, that money is buying the tear-gas they are choking on (see picture). Without American support Mubarak's days would be numbered.

So why does Obama not just do the right thing? How can the US Vice President Joe Biden say the craven thug Mubarak is 'not a dictator'? Why was it that even after dozens of deaths in Tunisia, and right up to the overthrow of their dictator, American Secretary of State Hilary Clinton was stating the Americans 'would not be taking sides'?

Neither the Americans nor our own government will take the side of the protestors. They are not on the side of 'democracy',  they are on the side of what Tony Blair described, in typically Orwellian language, as 'stability'. 'Stability' is code for supporting those regimes in the Middle East who best support American interests. And Egypt is a key ally. It protects the Suez Canal, vital for the movement of oil supplies to the West; and it is a willing supporter of America's most important ally in the Middle East, Israel, in its repression of the Palestinians.

The movement for democracy is not just terrifying Mubarak and other dictators across the Arab worlds, it is scaring the daylights out of their backers in the White House and Downing Street. If the Arab peoples had anything approximating democracy in their countries there is no way they would allow their natural resources to be exploited by Western multinationals, no way they would allow their governments to do the bidding of the West and collude in the oppression of the Palestinians. Hosnai Mubarak knows this too well, as does President Obama.

If the Americans calculate that Mubarak is finished they will no doubt try to pose as friends of the people. But if democracy is to be won in Egypt it will be the Egyptian people who will deliver it.

The reports of the demonstrations describe people of all classes, ages and even entire families taking to the streets. Their bravery and heroism is inspiring. At the time of writing Al Jazeera is reporting that tanks sent onto the streets of Egypt to quell democracy protestors were instead fraternising with them. Other reports suggest clashes between the army and the people. My sincere hope is that these are signs that the Egyptian soldiers are starting to side with their brothers and sisters and not the tyrants.

As hundreds of thousands of Egyptians again take to the streets today, my thoughts and prayers are with them.