Monday, January 30, 2012

Cultural Tradition?

Hindu India and the countries of the Muslim world share a culture of male entitlement to female domination. The culture itself and the manifestations of institutionalized, culturized misogny are manifest and deeply engrained, from widows in India being burned alongside their husbands on funeral pyres, arranged marriages of girls to older men, abortion of female foetuses and killing of female infants, flinging of acid on women, and all manner of viciousness by the groom's family to express dissatisfaction with the bride's dowry.

In Muslim countries, the practise of honour killings, accepted by some governments as a legitimate way of dealing with wayward women who bring disgrace to their families and their tribes by not sufficiently adhering to the values of modest demeanour, conduct and dress, predates Islam. Yet the ancient practises of control of women in male-dominating countries where the patriarchy has been entrenched firmly over the millennia has been absorbed by Islam as well.

In Islam as well, young girls are given in marriage at a very young age, and often to elderly men. The girls and their mothers have no say in the matter of their marriage dispersal. Rural girls are commonly not given an education simply because they are female, intended to spend their lives cloistered, with garments completely shielding them from public view, bearing children, serving men, becoming expendable when they are barren.

A man, his family and his tribe's honour is integrally bound by female purity. Females of the family, be they wife or sister, mother or cousin, must be beyond reproach in their modest conduct. There must be no hint of impropriety; women must be segregated from men; there are no innocent encounters devoid of sexual intent. Should a woman be raped this represents an assault on the honour of her menfolk and her fate is sealed with death, to restore that honour.

Should a woman be accused, whether with malign intent to smear an innocent woman, or having committed the sin of being with a man not of her family, she is consigned to death. A rumour is sufficient to seal her fate. And because such consequences of conduct and assumed guilt are accepted as normal in backward societies that deny equality and justice for women, there are few in those societies who commit to overturning those customs.

"In our culture, everybody knows but nobody says. I get cases that say the cause of death is a firearm injury. I know inside what really happened, but what can I do? I sign the certificate and say 'Bye-bye; that's it." This, from a medical doctor who sees an infinite number of family honour killings. He is the chief coroner of East Jerusalem, affirming he rarely sees a case in which honour killing is given as the official cause of death.

Throughout Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Jordan, and elsewhere in the Middle East and Africa, tribal shame and honour are linked to female 'purity'. Violence against women is endemic. And as emigration from those countries becomes increasingly common, countries in Europe and North America which accept them as immigrants see a rising tide of honour killing.

Those who practise this peculiar form of restoration of 'honour' by murdering women and girls, bridle at criticism from those who are aghast at such atrocities as parents conspiring to murder their girl children to restore family pride and honour. They insist that what they do is their own affair, and not anyone else's business.

They learn, through the justice system, that it is society's business, that to conduct themselves in such a manner has a grave penalty, that the receiving society will not accept that this is their 'culture, their religion', that demands such gruesomely horrible remedies.

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The Democratic Virus

The virus has been unleashed and it is unremittingly creating chaos and havoc wherever it strikes. It struck originally in the most unanticipated of places: Tunisia. Who might have imagined? And from there the virus ricocheted throughout the Middle East and northern Africa. One dictatorship after another came under protest by their populations.

The genie that erupted from the stifling-bottled atmosphere of tyranny brought with it, its impish sense of humour, liberally sprinkling the virus wherever it hovered on the landscape. From Tunisia to Egypt, Egypt to Libya, Libya to Syria, Syria to Jordan, Jordan to Bahrain, and on the fever flourished. Aided and abetted by poverty, unemployment and lost aspirations.

And while the jury is still out wherever the eye wanders, the virus still spreads, the genie enjoying its belly laughs. The genie very much appreciates that this is an entirely other world he has been loosed within. It is a world not of flying carpets but of another type of gravity-defying miracle; an invisible Internet that conveys news and photographs and links people and causes.

China and Russia are both in a lather of apprehension, although China acted in a more accelerated manner than Russia, being less arrogant and more attuned to the vagaries of citizen unrest. Its first line of defence was offensive; to shut down websites, and stifle as much as it might, the Internet conversation and thrust of enquiry leading to inconvenient demands and intrigues.

Russia is now in the throes of a backlash caused by its democratic deficit. Which once looked so promising, extending into the future, suddenly truncated by the appearance of an old-style strongman, so traditionally beloved of Russians. And suddenly that strongman's allure has dimmed, the party of Vladimir Putin, no longer Unites Russia.

The man who would be President - once again and in perpetuity - seems held by protesters in Russia to have concluded his usefulness to the country as Prime Minister. United Russia is now seen as a party "of thieves and swindlers". Thousands of opposition activists are voicing their distrust, disgust and dismay at the plans of Mr. Putin's longevity and the supine acquiescence of Dmitry Medvedev.

The genie invoked Internet networking sites to inform and advise the protest, inspiring the Voters League of journalists, bloggers, writers and artists, all campaigning for democratic elections. Sunday's rally on Moscow's Garden Ring road in the city centre has inspired the expectation that 50,000 will show up the following Saturday.
A woman waves a sheet of white paper and a ribbon to drivers on the Moscow's Garden Ring road during a protest in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)

A woman waves a sheet of white paper and a ribbon to drivers on the Moscow's Garden Ring road during a protest in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)

"Today is an example of people who ... have come out in the streets of the city to show that we are numerous, that we are afraid of nothing."

That impetuous, impertinent genie takes all the credit all the time.

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Our Brothers' Keepers

It represents a deep-seated, deeply-rooted impulse. Almost universal in nature. That is, a wish to be helpful to others. A sense of personal responsibility to those whom we do not know. The knowledge that others suffer and we may help them motivates us to act. Or to spur our governments to act, on our behalf. Those who are fortunate offering aid to those who are not.

Some characterize this is assuaging our guilty consciences. That we feel guilt at being well off while others may not be, is simply another way of expressing our humanity. Irrespective of the goad, our wish to ensure that others may be given a helping hand is indeed carried out by western, democratic governments who see it in the best interests of all concerned to be involved.

There are the cynics who scoff and say that the growing ranks of the poor, the disenfranchised, those whose human rights are violated and who suffer the most basic deprivations of food, clean air and water and health, that we take for granted as becoming us, will one day rise in their wrath and invade us with their disease, truncated life-span, swollen bellies and truculent demands.

That we make overtures of help to them to ensure that they remain where they are. That in sending to those countries with their forever-emerging economies and their intractable lack of social amenities for their populations, we maintain the status quo in ensuring that their dictatorial governments remain in power, handsomely rewarded through siphoning off aid meant for the people.

Over $2-trillion in treasury representing transfers from wealthy, advanced countries of the world to the disastrously poor ones has been spent, attempting to to help the backward advance. Most of the aid-dependent countries have become just that; dependent on aid, incapable of proceeding on their own to find their niche, develop industries, employ their people, enjoy the fruits of wealth.

Developing countries with natural resources see foreign corporations extract their minerals, pay their governmental entities for the privilege and nothing trickling down to benefit the population. When poor countries become dependent on tourism to attract foreign dollars, home-grown entrepreneurs and government agents profit, the poor remain servile.

Despite - or even because of, in many instances - foreign aid, poor countries are stagnating economically. Negative growth rates, further plunges into mass poverty, and increasing violence results. And why is that, why is it that investing in the future on behalf of the poor by transferring wealth from rich countries to poor does not result in advantage to the indigent?

Humanitarian aid has many faces, thousands of them, with noble names and inspiring aspirations. All those aid entities which comprise one of the world's largest enterprising corporate businesses en masse, clamour for the wealthy countries to increase the amounts of aid money they transfer.

All those humanitarian institutions with their compelling aid agendas, employing hundreds of thousands of idealistic, dedicated aid workers who feel empowered by their causes and by their sources of income to strive for greater excesses in aid programs and contributions to achieve their goals. The World Bank, the IMF, UN agencies, national government aid groups, NGOs and various charities employ a half-billion people.

That is a gigantic industry. Busy doing their thing, delivering funding to employ locals employed by them, to ferry food, medical assistance, pharmaceuticals, potable water, building supplies, dig wells, encourage local agri-business, setting up schools, encouraging women to become enterprising free agents. Why does poverty persist and initiatives lag?

The solution, some claim, is to fully empower local authorities, make them responsible, put the money where the need is directly, stimulate the locals to do everything required to proceed toward the future for themselves. Canada has tried all of that, encouraging the building and administration of local civil infrastructure; security, courts, schools, health clinics.

Our international development assistance program has grown over the years; from $3.756-billion in 2005 to $5.131-billion in 2010. What will it take to stimulate local governments in under-developed areas of the world to establish their own accountability, deliver necessary services, make sustainable economic policy initiatives, create employment?

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Arbeit Macht Frei

Our next war will be fought for the highest interests of our country and of mankind. This will invest it with importance in the world's history. "World power or downfall", will be our rallying cry.
Friedrich von Bernhardi, Germany and the Next War
Just for a word, "neutrality", a word which in wartime had so often been disregarded - just for a scrap of paper, Great Britain is going to make war on a kindred nation who desires nothing better than to be friends with her.
Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweo, German Foreign Minister, to Sir Edward Goschen, British Ambassador, 4 Aug. 1914
Let us put Germany, so to speak, in the saddle! You will see that she can ride.
Bismarck, 11 March, 1867
Berlin: Germany marked the 67th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp Friday facing serious doubt about how well its institutions are dealing with right-wing extremism. Polls published this week suggest up to one in five Germans aged 18 - 30 do not know what happened at Auschwitz, while 20% of all Germans harboured anti-Semitic sentiments. "That is precisely 20% too many for Germany", Norbert Lammert, speaker of the Bundestag, told a ceremony where Marcel Reich-Ranicki, 91, an eminent literary critic, told how he survived the Warsaw Ghetto. Half a million Polish Jews were rounded up in the ghetto by the Nazis and most were later deported to Auschwitz, where up to 1.4 million people died. Reuters
Aerial picture of Auschwitz I, the main camp.

(Picture from the National Archives, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives.)

If a man were drowning today he would have to shout for help in German.
Sir Oswald Mosley, 1931

Germans are honest men.
Shakespeare, Merry Wives of Windsor

Ah, a German and a genius! a prodigy! Admit him.
Swift, his last words, referring to Handel.

Germany, the diseased world's bathhouse.
Mark Twain, Autobiography

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

"Re-Elect Obama, Vote Newt"

The proud old assurances of equality in America that once dominated in expressing national pride in a liberal, egalitarian society, no longer applies. For one thing, the gap between the poor and the wealthy in America has widened to a degree that can no longer be overlooked. The vast wealth that has accrued to a relative handful of fortunate families and individuals remains in stark contrast to the plight of the poor of America, the unemployed and the vulnerable.

In a wealthy country that remains the world's super power, with the largest economy and social and political clout of any other country on the Globe, the social welfare that most other democratic countries take for granted as necessary in fairness and justice to all, is absent in America. A disabling medical condition, an unfortunate accident, a catastrophic disease all of which require medical help available in abundance for the insured and the wealthy, can ruin lives.

And over the past several decades it has become abundantly clear that those who wish to place themselves in the public arena as political candidates with an intention to win nominations, must do so with the understanding that it takes millions of dollars to succeed. Those with connections and access to rich corporate funding interests, or who themselves possess sufficient wealth, are able to run successful political campaigns.

The political campaigns during election years are themselves vestiges of what they once were, when sober-minded, intelligent and socially progressive, aware and capable candidates where opportunity to exercise a mandate to benefit the public weal was uppermost in mind appears now to have been overtaken by power-hungry, cash-wielding candidates. Focused on their ambitions to succeed to the presidency as a goal to delight themselves; they ask not what they can do for their country.

What's worse, is that while income disparities have accelerated, leaving a poor America restively complaining about that rich America whose comforts and securities they can only dream of, the two political parties that alternate in governing the country themselves now reflect those two polarities. With the Democrats under a populist and popularly-elected biracial president crusading for the poor America - even while it courts the corporate power bases.

And the Republicans who honour themselves with the sobriquet of the Grand Old party, defending the merits of sparing the wealthy and taxing the middle-class and the poor, using tax dollars to support the international conglomerates that have their home offices and official origins in the United States, rapaciously studying their bottom line. While denying the financial feasibility of creating a universal health-care system to benefit the needs of the under-represented lower middle-class.

The current race for the Republican presidential nomination has seen the contenders outdoing themselves in forwarding their messages that condemn the shallow and sinister backgrounds and plans of their adversaries. Each of the contenders celebrates their unassailable pious level of religious affiliation, claiming that their stewardship of the country's future, and only theirs, is capable of reflecting America The Great.

Their rhetoric and off-putting accusations one against the other, each doing their best to inflate past indiscretions of the other as opposed to their own sterling credentials has brought the Republican Party itself to the realization that it has become its own worst enemy. The two leading candidates have their reflections of the situation facing the country: moral probity hampered by the expenditure of $14-million in advertising in one state alone.

As opposed to moral turpitude and a mass appeal by one whose former Washington performance so alienated members of his own party all turned their backs on him while he serenely spouts lies and innuendos and denies ever having been involved for huge monetary gain in supporting the financial elites he now denounces.

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Violently Disaffected

Aggrieved aboriginals who rebel against the history that disadvantaged them when their original possession of the land later 'discovered' by Europeans who exercised their assumed superiority of race and technology and might-of-arms to dislodge the original inhabitants of land from their positions of comfort in their place on the land, most certainly have a legitimate cause.

History, from the ancients to the relatively recent disruptions of original land entitlements as a result of constant and historical presence, is replete with details of original inhabitants experiencing the unsettling reality of another society and culture impinging on their own, through conquest leading to eventual assimilation with the newly-arrived in control and the original inhabitants being set aside.

History has also demonstrated that over a sufficient length of time both the original inhabitants and the succeeding and dominant newcomers gradually melded, often when the intruders eroded the legitimacy of the original settlers on the land by discounting the value of their society, their culture, their heritage and enacting laws to outlaw their language and religion.

In the most recent examples of such imperialistic human interaction, European countries colonized less developed and handsomely natural-resource-endowed countries with their ancient lineages and culture, to enrich themselves and extend their territorial holdings. In modern times this habitual colonization is viewed through a lens of self-disowning violations of human rights.

The former colonizers have spent decades within the last Century, doing reluctant penance for their forbears' assumption of cultural, social superiority. Within the British Empire formerly colonized countries in particular, have become proud and forward-looking honouring their pasts, while using their enforced introduction to British values, civil-structuring and justice to their advantage.

The former penal colony of Australia set up by Britain as a repository of those within its own society it wished to rid itself of, now represents as a strong Western, democratic-values-imbued island-country in the Pacific reflecting its source. Its treatment of Australian aboriginals as less than wholly human remains a blot on its history that the country has latterly been attempting to reverse.

The growing move to empower, respect and entitle Australia's aboriginal communities has resulted in a new level of interaction and co-operation between the Australian government and its minority aboriginal population. Some aboriginals have been welcomed into Australia's parliament. The slow but steady movement toward equalization of opportunities for all Australians is on track.

But as with all attempts at remediation of past wrongs, the devil is in the details, and no group is ever completely convinced that they have reason to be satisfied at the glacial pace of restoration of what has been destroyed. And when the leader of the country's opposition political party made a public statement that offended many within the aboriginal community, a typical scenario resulted.

"The indigenous people of Australia can be very proud of the respect in which they are held by every Australian. I think a lot has changed since the embassy was created, and I think it probably is time to move on from that"; referring to an impromptu and now-iconic structure named the "Aboriginal tent Embassy" that has been in place for the past 40 years as a symbol of aboriginal struggle for legitimacy and their rightful place in society.

That statement violated the feelings of those who consider themselves activists, and the very person who had originally been responsible for the presence of the 'tent embassy', characterized the suggestion it was time to dismantle it and return the park on which it stands to its original function for all Australians, as an "incitement to racial riots".

Unwilling to allow such an opportunity to pass without further comment, aboriginal activists, who mark Australia's 1788 arrival of white settlers as Australia Day with their own nomenclature of Invasion Day, created a riot in the capital. Their legitimate seeking out of a conclusion to their long struggle for land rights and Aboriginal sovereignty was blighted by a mob attack on Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

LUKAS COCH/AFP/Getty Images Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard (C, white jacket) is bundled out of a restaurant by security service agents after it was surrounded by furious Aboriginal rights protesters in Canberra on January 26, 2012. Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott were stranded in The Lobby restaurant as dozens of demonstrators from a protest against Australia Day, which marks the arrival of British settlers in 1788, converged on the hotel.

A ceremony that took place in celebration of Australia Day was the scene of a violent group of aboriginal protesters trapping Ms. Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott at the ceremony venue until riot police were able to free them from the violence-prone, shouting, accusing mob of protesters. Creating, in the words of a former Australian Labour Party president and indigenous leader, a "disgrace".

The Aboriginal tent Embassy, said Warren Mundine, had long ceased to be relevant as far as most aboriginals were concerned. Sufficient advantage had been accrued to the aboriginal community to make the ramshackle, shambolic structures nothing less than an eyesore. And the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner had his own words to add:
"While we need to acknowledge that there's a real anger, frustration and hurt that exists in some indigenous communities around Australia, we must not give in to aggressive and disrespectful actions ourselves."
There is much for Australian aboriginals to feel aggrieved and disappointed about. Along with their historical state of disentitlement to their own land because of the actions of an entitled-feeling majority based on colonial-era prejudices, they have the present reality to contend with. They are hugely societally disadvantaged, with a much shorter lifespan and higher rate of crime and imprisonment and disease than their white counterparts.

At the time of British settlement they were said to have numbered approximately one million. At the present time Australia has a total population of 22-million, one-half million of whom are aboriginals.

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European Court of Human Rights

UK's Cameron Warns: Human Rights Court Fails to Fight Terrorism
by Amiel Ungar Cameron Claims  ECHR Undermining Anti-Terrorism

British Prime Minister David Cameron delivered a speech before the Council of Europe, the 47 nation grouping that is responsible for the European Court of Human Rights.

Britain has been discomfited by the court's activism and decisions. A recent parliamentary study found that Britain lost 75% of the cases in which it was sued. While some of the British media and Parliament have gone ballistic over some decisions, David Cameron provided a more measured plea for change.

The British PM prefaced his remarks by reviewing his country's record on the struggle for human rights, from the groundbreaking Magna Carta and Bill of Rights through the British struggle against Nazi Germany - and as recently as its position on the Arab Spring.

We are not and never will be a country that walks on by while human rights are trampled into the dust. This has a lot to do with Britain's national character – a love of freedom and an instinctive loathing of over-mighty authority. But it is also about our national interest – to live, travel and trade in a more open, secure world. When a government respects its citizens' human rights, that makes for a more stable country – and that is good for all of us.

Britain also had deep respect for the 60-year-old European Convention that gave rise to the European Court of Human Rights and did not believe that Europe could dispense with it, given current examples of tyranny, such as Belarus.

That said, David Cameron began to critique the court.

The court is submerged by cases. In its first 40 years 46,000 cases were referred to the court; in 2010 alone 61,300 applications were presented. Some were farcical. One case, dismissed in the end, involved a passenger whose human rights had been "violated" because a bus transporting him from one place to another had not come with fully reclining seats.

Britain's major complaint is a serious one. The UK is concerned about court rulings on immigration that prevented the country from protecting its citizens against terrorism. Terrorists who had entered the country illegally could not be deported.

But the problem today is that you can end up with someone who has no right to live in your country, who you are convinced – and have good reason to be convinced – means to do your country harm.

And yet there are circumstances in which you cannot try them, you cannot detain them and you cannot deport them.

By too zealous a protection of human rights the court was in danger of obtaining the opposite effect by alienating public opinion.

When controversial rulings overshadow the good and patient long-term work that has been done, that not only fails to do justice to the work of the Court … it has a corrosive effect on people's support for human rights. The Court cannot afford to lose the confidence of the people of Europe.

Another problematic area is the penchant of the European Court of human rights to review cases that have gone through the entire appeals process in the national courts, adding yet another tribunal. The court "should not undermine its own reputation by going over national decisions where it does not need to."

Finally Britain would like to see a reform in the judicial selection process. David Cameron did not go into details, but the current court is picked by having one judge for each of the 47 countries on the Council of Europe.This includes such repositories of judicial wisdom as Liechtenstein, San Marino, Monaco and Andorra. Twenty of the judges have no prior judicial experience.

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Surprise, Stalwart Supporters!

Tribalism is tribalism. It is also predictable. Tribal societies have their own special brand of getting even, getting their own back, teaching their competitors a lesson. And if they've been brutalized, why then, they brutalize back. They may speak the language of conciliation and co-operation, fundamental human values and freedom, liberty and democracy, but they act out the theatre of tribal vengeance.

There are some countries on some Continents which are so absorbed by their culture of tribalism, so deeply ingrained and thoroughly embedded in their subconscious, their psyches, their traditions and heritage, that they're subsumed by it. Civilizing influences do what they can, but they're little match for deeply entrenched tribalism. Where the welfare of the specific tribe and its constituents supersede all other entitlements.

The National Transitional Council of Libya, which the West went out of its way through NATO forces represented primarily by the military air and sea forces of the U.S., France, Britain, Canada, Italy and um, Qatar with their no-fly agreement to aid and assist the rebels in Misrata, Tripoli and elsewhere to eventually conquer the regime of Moammar Gadhafi, has spoken justice and democracy.

But it has been incapable of instilling a sense of justice and forgiveness in the hearts and minds of the revolutionary tribal forces that swept them into transitional authority. Nor has it been able to persuade the tribal revolutionaries to become a trifle more civil. Nor was it able to exert sufficient authority to persuade those same tribal groups to surrender their arms to a national security agency.

So what followed was inevitable, and had been occurring, in any event; the imprisonment, torture and murder of those held to be supportive of the former regime.
"Patients were brought to us in the middle of interrogation for medical care, in order to make them fit for further interrogation. This is unacceptable. Our role is to provide medical care to war casualties and sick detainees, not to repeatedly treat the same patients between torture sessions." Christopher Stokes, general director MSF
Amnesty International, for their part, have been interviewing detainees, among them Africans who had been working in Libya before the start of the protests, and not necessarily as mercenaries in the army of Col. Gadhafi. They are, however, accused of being mercenaries, resulting in their imprisonment and torture. And sometimes death. They have been beaten hours on end with whips, cables, plastic hoses, metal chains, bars and sticks; electric shocks with live wires.

"Several detainees have died in the custody of armed militias in and around Tripoli and Misrata in circumstances that suggest torture", a report by Amnesty International claimed. The United Nations human rights head, Navi Pillay, lays the blame at the feet of the NTC leadership, not having addressed the problem. The problem is they have attempted to, then shrugged in resignation.

"The torture is being carried out by officially recognized military and security entities, as well by a multitude of armed militias operating outside any legal framework", further reads the report. Hospitals have been commandeered by the militia groups representing particular tribes, and their patients have been consistently tortured and many killed.

In towns where legend has it that the inhabitants supported the Gadhafi regime, the tribal militias have emptied those towns of their inhabitants, driving out almost all of the citizens of Tawergha, for example. No one shed a tear from the international community at the untimely and brutal death of Col. Gadhafi, although civility and justice would have preferred he stand trial.

But that event, a stark symbol of tribal justice, is repeating itself infinitely in the Libya of today. So much for freedom, liberty and justice. The tribal elements have the freedom and are at liberty to mete out their brand of justice.

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Detaining Democracy

In the category of biting the hand that feeds it, you can add, besides sometimes-wayward dogs, Pakistan which hungrily consumes for its military, billions awarded it by the United States treasury, and Egypt, whose military has also benefited hugely from American generosity. Both of these countries' governments are currently in grave difficulty. Pakistan considers itself a great democracy with a free judiciary, and is infiltrated heavily by Islamists with their very Islamist agenda.

And Egypt, struggling to celebrate the anniversary of a perceived success that burst onto the scene with their version of the Arab Spring, sees the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces deeply ensconced as a replacement for Hosni Mubarak, juggling a future that Egyptian voters have promised to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist Al Nour parties, standing on the sidelines, eager to take their place as revolutionary leaders in the new Egypt.

The presence of Washington-backed non-governmental organizations like Freedom House and the International Republican Institute, irritates the ruling Generals no end. For they chafe under the obvious interference of 'foreign' groups such as these NGOs funded by the United States, whose function in Egypt is to encourage the growth of demand for free democratic reforms. The National Democratic Institute also has a presence, for it too, like its sister-organization, agitates.

And while Hosni Mubarak, while never promising to loosen the reigns of tyrannical power, sternly tamping down the powerful aspirations of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists, still offered a welcome accommodation for these American NGOs, knowing his people and his country better than they did. The ruling military council, however, sees a use for the presence of these NGOs, other than as irritants, claiming their interference in Egypt's affairs unsettles the country.

The NGOs doubtless wish they could claim the same, that their message of liberty and democracy is making inroads in the consciousness of ordinary Egyptians. But ordinary Egyptians have lived too long in poverty and hopes for a future that will be more enabling than the past. Their aspirations reach no higher for the time being than a need for abundant food and fuel at affordable prices, subsidized by the government.

And it has been not the government necessarily that has responded to their fundamental needs, but the wily outreach of the Muslim Brotherhood which, while espousing and teaching their especial brand of Islam, accompanied it with educational, health and funding support of Egyptians in need. The easiest way to the heart of a people, who respond with gratitude to those who offer help when needed.

The ruling military hardly knows now where to turn. They have been simply coasting along on the familiar, ruling as the former President Mubarak did, with a firm hand and an authentic sense of fulfilling the needs of a country he loved and felt obliged and entitled to rule. His former military chief, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi is continuing his reign, without his presence. They have no particular wish to defer total authority to the Muslim Brotherhood.

The various members of the Egyptian Youth movements have crowded Tahrir Square again, reluctant to leave it, since the last time they trustingly did, all that they demanded of the military rulers was promised, but everything swiftly returned to the status quo, and more. And while they understand that when the civilian government eventually does take the reigns of government with the military hovering helpfully in the background, their dream of equality will be starkly diminished; they know too that their brief moment in the sun has been relinquished to the Islamists.

The revolution was accomplished by their activism and their idealism and their having sparked Egyptians to flood Tahrir Square, but it now belongs to others. Who quietly and confidently stepped into the opportunity they provided. Their own time may come, but it is not yet. They will be frustrated for a long time to come. And the military regime will continue to blame the U.S. NGO presence for the youth dissatisfaction, and hamper them, confiscate their property, confine them.

And confidently continue to take American funding for the ongoing support of the military.

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