Article by John Glaser.
Before the successful ouster of Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak, Tahrir Square was filled with chants and handcrafted picket signs pleading with the U.S. to stop funding Mubarak’s repressive government. Rubber bullets, shotgun shells, and teargas canisters were collected by the largely peaceful protestors – and given to news agencies to show to the world – with the names of American military contractors branded on them. The Mubarak regime received approximately $60 billion in U.S. aid throughout his tenure.
Uprisings in Yemen and calls for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down have been intensifying. Reports in late March of non-violent protestors being shot with live rounds, killing and wounding hundreds, put in question the Obama administration’s escalation of support to Yemen. A June 2010 Amnesty International report published “images of a US-manufactured cruise missile that carried cluster munitions” aimed at “an alleged al-Qaida training camp in Yemen that killed 41 local residents, including 14 women and 21 children.” The bombings were later corroborated to have been launched on presidential orders and in conjunction with the Yemeni government, which has received over $300 million from the U.S. in the past five years.
In Bahrain in late February, when security forces opened fire on peaceful demonstrators and began to enforce martial law, similar revelations of U.S. backing came to the fore. The tens of millions of dollars sent to the Bahraini government each year in part help King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa maintain domestic stability – as well as compensate for his country hosting the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, one of the largest military forces in the region.
The recent onset of anti-government demonstrations across the Middle East has placed an integral pillar of U.S. foreign policy into flux. America’s consistent, decades-long policy of lavish support for Middle Eastern autocrats is becoming prominent enough in the national debate to shake it from its seemingly unshakable roots.
The maverick Tea Party Senator Rand Paul grabbed headlines in late January when he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer he would end all aid to foreign governments, including Israel. Other congressional leaders, like Senator Patrick Leahy, exhibited similar scrutiny for foreign aid when he stated during Egyptian protests that “if [Mubarak] doesn’t leave, there will not be foreign aid; I mean, it’s as simple as that.”