Revenge, apparently a dish only properly served by the United States military

by · May 31, 2011


Pakistani tribesmen offer funeral prayers after 60 people killed in two US missile strikes in 2009 
Now, The Australian can be depended on to run some of the most reactionary arguments one is likely to see in the Australian press in its notorious op-ed pages. But as a keen follower of the Egyptian Revolution I was drawn to today’s reprinted offering from Washington Post Writers’ Group member David Ignatius, entitled “Arab progress not served by revenge”.

With Egypt’s brutal former dictator Hosni Mubarak facing prosecution for conspiring to kill unarmed protesters, Ignatius is deeply uncomfortable with the possible outcome of this example of “prosecutorial zeal”. Quoting Milton’s “Paradise Lost” no less — “Revenge, at first though sweet, Bitter ere long, back on itself recoils” — he demands “safeguards against vindictive prosecution,” because, er…
The greater danger is that Egyptian and international investors will steer clear of the country if they think doing business there might expose them to legal risks.
US Democrat senator John Kerry had it right when he told a gathering of the Woodrow Wilson Centre’s trustees last week that a vengeful legal assault on Mubarak would be an “enormous mistake”. The biggest cost, Kerry said, is that it would undermine the economic strategy of innovation, investment and entrepreneurship that was the overlooked centrepiece of US President Barack Obama’s big speech on the Middle East.
So a dictator can order the slaughter of his people but we shouldn’t let abstractions like justice and human rights get in the way of doing business. Mubarak certainly didn’t.
But for someone so appalled by revenge, it was curious to find Ignatius writing in the Washington Post on 4 February 2010 about “Revenge on the Taliban, from 10,000 feet”. Invoking suicide bombings against US and Pakistani targets as justification, he speaks glowingly of newfound cooperation between the two nations around “a classic piece of battlefield advice: Don’t get mad, get even.”
Ignatius doesn’t whitewash what this really means:
Though the Predators launch their Hellfire missiles from the lofty altitude of 10,000 feet, make no mistake: This is an intense and unrelenting campaign of assassination. It continued Tuesday with a fusillade of at least 17 missiles in North Waziristan, in an apparent assault on senior al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters.
The Predator blitz this year followed a Dec. 30 suicide attack on a CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan, that had been active in targeting the Taliban insurgents across the border. That attack killed eight CIA personnel and left the agency eager to settle scores. The agency, backed by Pakistani intelligence, has done just that. [Emphases added]
I don’t suppose we can expect Ignatius to be equally outraged by “vindictive prosecutions” against anti-regime activists like Amr Abdallah Elbihiry or Maikel Nabil, still being carried out by the Egyptian military. Or the summoning for questioning of campaigning blogger and journalist Hossam El-Hamalawy and TV presenter Reem Maged after El-Hamalawy held the head of the military police responsible for the torture of activists on Maged’s show (like that’s news or something).*
Ignatius is appalled when revolutions go too far, calling for a “path to reconciliation” or “there will be blood”. Shame he couldn’t find that spirit of reconciliation before celebrating bloody US operations along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

*UPDATE: Happily, it appears that the two were summoned in order to provide evidence against alleged torture by military police. Let’s hope they did so in the spirit of reconciliation

Filed under: Egypt, imperialism