Null and void

The Egyptian blogger Sandmonkey has a harrowing first-hand account of brutal repression at a small demonstration in Cairo against the Mubarak government’s anti-democratic constitutional amendments.

Sandmonkey writes:

Who do you go to when it’s your police that’s assaulting, kidnapping and raping? What can you do to stop them, when they are the law? What do you do when you need protection from those who swore to protect you? Where exactly do you go?

For an American sympathizer, perhaps the most distressing part of the account is when Sandmonkey– a self-described “extremely cynical, snarky, pro-US, secular, libertarian”– writes:

[I]t’s not a good sign that [Secretary of State] Rice is meeting up with Mubarak today and… the US doesn’t give a damn anymore what happens to us.

Sandmonkey and his fellow demonstrators could hardly have been encouraged by Rice’s tepid comments on the constitutional admendments, which rights groups have called a step backward for freedom and democracy.

Rice, in Egypt as part of a Middle East tour on the eve of a nationwide referendum on the amendments, said she had broached the issue with President Hosni Mubarak but recognized that political change would have “ups and downs.”
Rice said Washington was not trying to give orders to Egypt how to proceed with reforms. “We recognize that states do this in their own way, and that they do it in a way that is consistent with their own cultural circumstances,” she said.

According to a Washington Post editorial:

The package essentially will make the “emergency laws” that have underpinned Mr. Mubarak’s regime a permanent part of Egypt’s political order. One amendment would write into the constitution the authority of police to carry out arrests, search homes, conduct wiretaps and open mail without a warrant and would give the president the authority to order civilians tried by military courts, where they have limited rights.

Other amendments would ban independent political candidates as well as parties based on religion, which would eliminate the Muslim Brotherhood from parliament. Only parties with parliamentary representation would be able to nominate presidential candidates; since the government has refused to register most opposition parties and rigged parliamentary elections, there would be no alternative to the ruling party’s choice.

It appears President Bush’s genuinely stirring second inaugural address (“All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you”) is now null and void– at least when it comes to putative allies.

(Via Andrew Sullivan.)