Kerry Goes to Egypt to Support Murderous Dictator Sisi: 5 U.S.-Funded Nations That Torture, Execute and Jail With Impunity
The United States has long funded governments that systematically abuse human rights. Over the weekend, Secretary of State John Kerry showed how that is still true when he visited Egypt and pledged American support for a regime that came to power in a coup.
Kerry’s jaunt to Cairo was his first visit to the country since General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the man who lead the military coup last year that deposed the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, was elected to the presidency. Sisi’s election came in the midst of a massive crackdown on political dissent that has included the killing of Muslim Brotherhood activists and the jailing of other secular activists who sparked the 2011 revolution that overthrew another U.S.-backed dictator, Hosni Mubarak.
Kerry pledged that the U.S. would fully renew ties to the Egyptian regime. The Obama administration has at times criticized Sisi for the stifling of dissent, though it never amounted to much more than rhetoric. Kerry’s visit indicated that the U.S. would continue to provide Egypt with $1.3 billion in military aid, a portion of which was suspended after Egyptian security forces carried out the coup and killed hundreds of unarmed protesters affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood in August 2013.
The New York Times reported that “Kerry expressed firm confidence that the United States would soon fully restore $650 million — the first tranche of the $1.3 billion in annual aid — to the military that the Obama administration had partly withheld after the takeover.” The Secretary of State added that he was confident that Apache attack helicopters “will come, and that they will come very, very soon.” In fact, the State Department announced Sunday that the U.S. had released $575 million in military aid to Egypt, which eventually circles back to the U.S. when Egypt buys U.S.-made military equipment.
That money will fund the weapons and equipment the Egyptian security forces use to keep a tight lid on political activism against the government. Since the military coup, Egypt’s armed forces have killed more than 3,000 people and jailed thousands more. On June 23rd, three journalists from Al Jazeera English were sentenced to seven to ten years on trumped-up charges of conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood--now a banned political group deemed “terrorists”--and harming national security. And earlier this month, the prominent activist Alaa Abd El Fattah was sentenced to 15 years in jail for allegedly putting together a protest that violated a law banning demonstrations.
The arming of Egypt’s security forces fits into a long-standing pattern of U.S. funding for repressive regimes in the Middle East and elsewhere who are fully aligned with American goals. Here are 4 other repressive governments that are funded by American taxpayer dollars.
1. Afghanistan. In 2001, following the September 11th attacks, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and deposed the Taliban regime that harbored Al Qaeda. The invasion was swift. The U.S. quickly overpowered the Taliban. Then, the U.S. began propping up a government that has turned into a corrupt human rights abuser headed by President Hamid Karzai, who was appointed president and then re-elected (the second time under a cloud of fraud allegations).
Every year, the U.S. government has appropriated billions of dollars to the Afghan government, which still finds itself under attack by the Taliban and other forces opposed to their rule. Since 2013, the U.S. has given $93 billion to Afghanistan, $56 billion of which has gone to their security forces.
The U.S.-trained Afghan security forces have engaged in torture and extrajudicial killings. In 2011, the U.N. reported that the Afghan police and intelligence services tortured people with electric shocks and beat prisoners. Little has changed since then: Another U.N. report, this one from January 2013, found that at least 81 people had been disappeared by Afghan forces in one province alone, and that bodies had been found after being executed.
The 2013 human rights reported authored by the State Department also confirms widespread human rights abuses. The State Department found that arbitrary killings by security forces, torture and disappearances continued.
2. Israel. America’s number-one ally in the Middle East has institutionalized a system where human rights abuses are the norm. The most blatant and shocking human rights abuses can be found in the West Bank and Gaza, which have been under military occupation since 1967. (In 2005, Israeli soldiers and settlers pulled out of Gaza, but the military still retains control over Gaza’s borders and air and sea space.)
The U.S. funds Israel to the tune of over $3 billion a year, supplying the country with deadly weapons used to control Palestinians under occupation.
In the West Bank, Israeli soldiers are routinely accused of killing Palestinians, some of them innocent, some of them who were throwing stones at occupation forces who invaded Palestinian areas. In February 2014, Amnesty International issued a report concluding that “Israeli forces have displayed a callous disregard for human life by killing dozens of Palestinian civilians, including children, in the occupied West Bank over the past three years with near total impunity.”
In the Gaza Strip, it’s bombs and missiles that kill Palestinians. Israel routinely raids Gaza by air, often responding to rocket attacks from Palestinian militant groups. In 2012, a large Israeli operation codenamed “Operation Pillar of Defense” resulted in the deaths of 101 Palestinian civilians, according to the U.N.
Israel has also tortured many of the tens of thousands of Palestinian prisoners it has detained for offenses committed against Israeli soldiers or civilians. Despite the use of torture being banned by the Israeli Supreme Court, rights groups like the Public Committee Against Torture have documented its continued use, which includes methods like violent shaking and the tying of prisoners’ hands to chairs. Last year, the United Nations alleged that Israel tortured Palestinian child detainees.
3. Iraq. Much like Afghanistan, the U.S. has poured billions of dollars into the Iraqi government it has propped up after the U.S. invasion deposed Saddam Hussein in 2003. The majority of that money--which amounted to about $2 billion in 2012 and 2013--goes to the Iraqi military and police. That money is in addition to the estimated $2 trillion the U.S. spent waging war on the country.
The human rights abuses perpetrated by U.S.-funded Iraq’s security forces are legion: torture, arbitrary detainment, arrests of journalists and protesters, crackdowns on dissent, and corruption. Many of the victims of human rights abuses are the Sunni minority, who have chafed under the rule of Shia Nouri al-Maliki, who has widened the sectarian gulf. These abuses have attracted more attention in recent months as the Islamic extremist group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) has made gains in the country, which has prompted more U.S. assistance in the form of military advisers and intelligence sharing.
When ISIS attempted to take over parts of Anbar province in early 2014, Iraqi security forces tried to wrest control back. Fighting has been raging ever since. One example of Iraqi-perpetrated human rights abuses was documented by Human Rights Watch in May 2014, when the group said Iraq had attacked a main hospital in Fallujah. The group also said that the government had dropped barrel bombs in Fallujah, which caused civilian casualties and displaced thousands of people.
More recently, the Iraqi police executed 44 Sunni prisoners they were holding under a anti-terrorism law that gives the government extraordinary powers and has fueled discontent against the government.
4. Pakistan. The U.S. has made Pakistan a key ally since the 9/11 attacks, even though Pakistani intelligence forces are known to have links with the Taliban. As the New York Times’ Carlotta Gall, who reported from Afghanistan and Pakistan since 2001, put it this year: “The strategy that has evolved in Pakistan has been to make a show of cooperation with the American fight against terrorism while covertly abetting and even coordinating Taliban, Kashmiri and foreign Qaeda-linked militants.”
The dysfunctional relationship hasn’t stopped the U.S. from giving over $1 billion a year to Pakistan’s military following 9/11. And like Israel, Egypt, Iraq and Afghanistan, human rights abuses are the norm.
Sunni militant groups with ties to the government wreak havoc. The security forces round up thousands of suspected terrorists--even those with links to the intelligence services--and hold them without charge. The Pakistani government also cooperates with U.S. drone attacks, which target militants but have also reportedly killed thousands of civilians. Amnesty International’s annual country report documented that in Pakistan there were “hundreds of unlawful killings, including extrajudicial executions and deaths in custody.”