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Speaking of double-speak…

Just how genuine is Michele Bachmann’s support for Egypt?

Joel Gulhane
Joel Gulhane

Michele Bachmann kindly wrote an opinion piece for this publication, calling for the Muslim Brotherhood to be designated as a terror organisation. This is a step that many in Egypt would welcome, as it is already a major component of the rhetoric used by the media and government, which have such influence over large parts of the population.

Bachmann visited Egypt last week with two of her fellow republican representatives, Steve King and Louis Gohmert. This is the trio’s second trip to Egypt in recent months.

They have all been a strong supporter of the military intervention in Egypt and seem to be desperately trying to fit in. It is well known that Bachmann is not a fan of Islamists, most recently suggesting that the Brotherhood had infiltrated the US administration. She called on US citizens to “ask for answers to questions regarding the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical groups’ access to top [President Barack] Obama administration officials.”

At the end her visit to Egypt in September, she erroneously implied the Brotherhood was to blame for the 9/11-terror attack in the US in a press conference televised on Egypt’s ONTV. The three republicans expressed their unwavering support for the Egyptian military and its efforts in fighting terrorism.

Now Bachmann is once again throwing her weight behind Egypt’s interim government and military, through issuing an opinion that sounds like it could have been written in the halls of Maspero.

One topic Bachmann highlights is that of the Muslim Brotherhood’s double-speak; the illuminating “MB in English” blog displayed this perfectly, translating articles published on the Brotherhood’s Arabic website that stood in stark contrast to the English equivalent.

Believe it or not though, Bachmann is guilty of a bit of double-speak herself.

The military and government claim to be protecting the 25 January and 30 June “revolutions”. Bachmann may have been cheering in front of her television earlier in 2013 but rewind to 2011 and there is a very different picture. She accused Obama of “sitting on his hands” while former President Hosni Mubarak was toppled (34mins – unless you want to watch the whole speech…). This is definitely not the kind of “support” that the majority of Egyptians would want to hear.

Bachmann may say now that she will “stand strong” by the Egyptian people and military but that obviously wasn’t the case in 2011 and who is to say it is today? Bachmann is a republican crowd pleaser, she opposed Mubarak’s ousting because it was another way to take a jab at Obama’s foreign policy and her support now of Egypt is for the same reason. The administration was considering the suspension of military aid during her visit in September and she then expressed her unwavering opposition to any change in the terms of the aid package.

Her two tours in the Middle East over the last few months, accompanied by two other republican representatives, only served as an attempt to undermine Obama’s policy in the region. To be absolutely clear I am not supporting Obama’s foreign policy but rather questioning Bachmann’s motivation for her assertions. It almost seems that the trio are taking the opportunity to further weaken the US administration’s position in the region at a time when it is already vulnerable.

If Bachmann really does care about Egypt I would suggest that she starts by not making such inflammatory assertions regarding an internal matter of the legal status of the Brotherhood.

In her op-ed, Bachmann provided us all with a brief history of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which was mostly accurate. She did fail to mention that in the 1970s the Brotherhood de-radicalised, put down their weapons and actively sought to engage in the political arena, but that wouldn’t fit into her argument so is therefore unimportant.

I’m of the opinion that if you are to repress, attack and demonise a group enough then it very well could become exactly what you are accusing it of. Radicalisation comes through continued repression. This is not to say the Brotherhood and its supporters are not doing themselves any favours at the moment, but the collective demonising of anyone who supports Morsi, is more dangerous than people may like to acknowledge.

Through her words Bachmann is adding to this dangerous cycle, and quite honestly she has no right to do so. Fanning the flames of an internal conflict of another country is not something for a foreign politician to be doing. Think carefully before you rush to label a group a terrorist organisation. Especially when it comes from a woman who believes the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, which Egypt is a member of, intends to attack America’s right to freedom of speech, or be it hate speech against Islam.

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