Obama plays catch-up on popular movements in Egypt and Tunisia

Israel/Palestine
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There was no mention of Egypt in tonight’s State of the Union Speech, though the State Department released a statement on Egypt (below) that was blandly supportive of the protests. Obama did mention Tunisia– without any indication that the “dictator” he now denounces was “backed politically and militarily by the U.S. for more than two decades” (as Phyllis Bennis said on PBS). Obama:


We saw that same desire to be free in Tunisia, where the will of the people proved more powerful than the writ of a dictator. And tonight, let us be clear: the United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of all people.

Here is tonight’s  State Department statement on Egypt. Note that the clarion call for the right of peoples to choose their own government is ignored in Gaza, and the West Bank too.

Press Statement Philip J. Crowley Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs Washington, DC January 25, 2011

We are monitoring the situation in Egypt closely. The United States supports the fundamental right of expression and assembly for all people. All parties should exercise restraint, and we call on the Egyptian authorities to handle these protests peacefully.

As Secretary Clinton said in Doha, people across the Middle East – like people everywhere – are seeking a chance to contribute and to have a role in the decisions that will shape their lives. We want to see reform occur, in Egypt and elsewhere, to create greater political, social, and economic opportunity consistent with people’s aspirations. The United States is a partner of Egypt and the Egyptian people in this process, which we believe should unfold in a peaceful atmosphere. 

We have raised with governments in the region the need for reforms and greater openness and participation in order to respond to their people’s aspirations – and we will continue to do so.

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