QUESTION: I'm a day late with this one, but I wonder if you have any reflections on the extension of emergency rule essentially in Egypt, which has been going on for a quarter century now?Wonder if there will be any other consequences...
MR. MCCORMACK: It's a disappointment. It's a disappointment. We understand that Egypt has certainly facing its own issues related to terrorism, but President Mubarak during the presidential campaign had talked about the fact that he was going to seek a new emergency law, but one that would be targeted specifically at fighting terrorism, counterterrorism, and that would take into account respect for freedom of speech as well as human rights. Certainly we would like to see President Mubarak and his government follow through on that pledge. So with respect to this particular action, I can only say that we're disappointed.
QUESTION: Does the structure of this legislation sort of conform to what you were looking for, do you know?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I don't have the particulars of it at this point and I think that it is, at this point, prospective -- is at some point out in the future and we would have hoped that the Egyptian government would have used this time between the elections that they have had to do a lot of different things, but to also work on this legislation. But it appears that it is now going to extend -- this emergency law is going to extend far out into the future, at least for a couple of years, and I think that -- I would characterize that as a real disappointment to us.
In the meantime the IHT has an editorial titled "Bush turns a blind eye to repression in Egypt:"
Sadly, it now appears that intervening events have cooled President Bush's ardor for liberalization in Arab countries governed by clients of the United States. The relative success of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood in last winter's tightly controlled parliamentary election and the outright victory of the Brotherhood's Palestinian offshoot, Hamas, in balloting for the Palestinian Authority legislature seemed to shock Bush and his advisers. Suddenly they noticed that years of autocratic rule in much of the Arab world have emptied the political playing field of all serious competitors save the established elites and their Islamist foes.'ala fikra, feenak ya Jackson Diehl?
Mubarak was able to go back on his pledge to begin opening up Egypt's political system because Bush ceased hectoring him to end his repressive ways. Bush's course correction reflects an incoherent policy rooted in a superficial, highly ideological notion of political reality in Egypt and other Arab societies.