On Egypt, Obama blew it

February 03, 2011

There is a billboard in Bethlehem overlooking a settlement: the back of Barack Obama's head and the words, "The people to Obama: what would you change?"

With our government's half-hearted response to the extraordinary popular revolt in Egypt, we Americans have lost yet another golden opportunity to turn a page in our relationship with the rest of the world. As a Pakistani-American, the scenes of millions of Egyptians demanding their human rights by standing up to violence are an all too familiar reminder of my own birthplace's recent history. Pakistan's own dictator, Pervez Musharraf, clung on to power for a decade in the face of even larger and deadlier protests due to the same kind of public cowardice by our leaders in America.

And today, as American made F-16 fighter jets and M1 Abrams tanks try to intimidate ordinary citizens in Cairo, we have indeed sent a clear message to the world: We don't care about your future; in fact, we don't even care about our own future.

President Obama, I thought you were a smart man, but you have failed an exam that couldn't have been easier for you. Hosni Mubarak will be brought down within the next few weeks, without doubt, by Egyptians. Our press-briefings calling for "orderly transitions" will have no impact on that fact.

They could have, however turned a nation of 80 million Arabs, more than half under the age of 25, into admiring friends. Instead, like millions of Muslims from Palestine to Pakistan, they will remember the day that another tyrant clung on to power for a few more bloody days. They will remember those that will surely be killed now.

They will remember that we, America, made it possible. But we will forget.

Umar Farooq, Baltimore

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