The Arithmetic of Justice

The status quo costs the Government of Egypt $1.1 million annually.  That was the price paid to Washington lobbyists, by a foreign government, to keep Senate Resolution 586, which pressed for “democracy, human rights and civil liberties in Egypt,” off the Senate Floor.  What is the human cost? What is the arithmetic that the Egyptian and American governments hold by?  300 new jobs in Mississippi are worth 300 dead protestors and a potentially threatened Israel.

On July 20th, 2010 Senator Russ Feingold put forth Resolution 586 which:

Reaffirms that respect for human rights is a fundamental U.S. value and that providing unconditional support for governments that do not respect human rights undermines U.S. credibility and creates tensions, including in the Muslim world, that can be exploited. Recognizes that while the government of Egypt faces legitimate security threats political reform in that country will help to counter extremism and solidify prospects for stability and prosperity. Encourages the government of Egypt to repeal the state of emergency. Calls on the government of Egypt to lift legislative restrictions on freedoms of assembly, association, and expression in advance of the 2010 elections. Urges the President and the Secretary of State to: (1) make respect for human rights and democratic freedoms a priority in the U.S.-Egyptian relationship; and (2) broaden engagement with the people of Egypt and support human rights and democratic reform efforts in Egypt.

The response to Feingold’s bill, which sought to help establish the freedom and democracy promoted by Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech, was a flurry of lobbying aimed at appeasing an irked Egyptian Government.

How did this happen?  One active player in the assault against Senate Resolution 586 was Lobbyist Bob Livingston, who in his attempt to halt the progress of the bill, found a supporter in Mississippi Congressman Roger Wicker.  Only three months prior to the bill being introduced, shipbuilder VT Halter Marine Inc. struck an $807 million deal with the Egyptian Government, creating 300 jobs for Mississippians.  In addition, VT Halter Marine received $3.2 million in earmarks requested by Congressman Wicker.  Quid Pro Quo, perhaps not, but it certainly reeks of corruption.

What are the ramifications of American Lawmakers preventing a potentially impactful bill from hitting the floor?  In this case, 300 Americans get jobs, and 300 Egyptians, whose lives could have been improved or at least on track to improve, would still be living.

How does this affect the shape of Middle East politics?  American policy makers may have prevented the adoption of a bill that would have improved living conditions for Egyptians, prevented the necessity of protests and revolution in Egypt, and preempted a potentially dangerous situation for Israeli’s if the new Egyptian government takes a hostile stance towards Israel.

If you are interested in contacting Congressman Wicker to follow up on this issue, please follow this link.

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