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Does America’s stance on Egypt mean it’s time to dump Karzai?

How can America take a principled stand alongside Egypt’s protestors and still support Hamid Karzai?  

ICC Note:

After nearly thirty years of U.S. support for Mubarak’s dictatorship in Egypt, the mass demonstrations calling for the president to stand down resonates with America’s own national story. While Egypt’s future is difficult to predict, America has an obligation to stand firm in support of freedom and democratic principles. Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to stand behind President Karzai in Afghanistan who has allowed an Afghan to be imprisoned for nine months and possibly receive the death penalty for his conversion to Christianity. David Rothkopf of Foreign Policy reports that there is a large gap between America’s words and its actions.

By David Rothkopf 

2/6/2011 Egypt, Afghanistan, U.S. (Foreign Policy) – The courage of ordinary Egyptian citizens as they stand up to a corrupt regime that has denied them of their most basic rights is hard for most Americans to resist. It speaks to something that is ingrained in all of us because it so resonates with our own national story. We recognize that even though what comes next is hard to predict and change carries big risks, even though Hosni Mubarak has been a dependable ally, that we have an obligation to walk the walk when it comes to our most fundamental national principles.

Mubarak’s crony state has stolen, empowered the few, imprisoned its enemies, and even while appearing to be a bulwark for our interests actually made the region much more dangerous thanks to its repeated disregard for our insistent calls for reform. They have embraced the age old hypocrisy of some of our most noted frenemies throughout history: taking American money is fine, taking American military equipment and training is fine, but taking American advice about how to treat their people? That’s American meddling and they don’t mind telling us to buzz off.

Now go read the front-page story of Sayed Mussa in the Sunday Times of London or the piece by Ray Rivera called “Afghan Rights Fall Short for Christian Converts” in the Feb. 5, New York Times. Mussa is now being imprisoned by the Afghan government. He has been sentenced to death and reportedly regularly beaten and tortured while in prison. His crime, according to the Times, is that he converted to Christianity. While the Afghan constitution promises something like religious freedom, it also allows the enforcement of Shariah law by the courts. And according to the interpretation of Shariah law being used against Mussa, leaving Islam is an offense punishable by hanging. He was arrested as part of a systematic effort by Hamid Karzai to cut off what the president, our ally, the man we put in office, saw as a terrible threat: the spread of Christian baptisms. Mussa’s job prior to his arrest? Rehabilitating landmine victims like himself.

Could any assertion be more rich or infuriating? Clearly the worst thing the U.S. government ever did to the Afghan people was directly support the installation of Hamid Karzai as president.  Over twenty-two hundred coalition lives have been lost in Afghanistan. Almost 1,400 of these have been American. Over 10,000 Americans have been wounded. By the end of this fiscal year, our military spending devoted to Afghanistan will be approaching half a trillion dollars.  

It has been observed that consistency is not a virtue when it comes to foreign policy and that every circumstance requires its own pragmatic assessment of our national interests and how to apply whatever influence we may have. While that is indisputably true, there are circumstances in which inconsistency between our public positions-particularly in high-profile circumstances in the same volatile neighborhood-becomes untenable because it creates risks that can inflame and even empower our enemies. The gap between our words regarding Egypt and our action in Afghanistan is rapidly become one of those situations.

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