Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein trav­els across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea, the United States, Britain, Greece, and Australia to witness the reality of disaster capitalism. He discovers how companies such as G4S, Serco, and Halliburton cash in on or­ganized misery in a hidden world of privatized detention centers, militarized private security, aid profiteering, and destructive mining.

Disaster has become big business. Talking to immigrants stuck in limbo in Britain or visiting immigration centers in America, Loewenstein maps the secret networks formed to help cor­porations bleed what profits they can from economic crisis. He debates with Western contractors in Afghanistan, meets the locals in post-earthquake Haiti, and in Greece finds a country at the mercy of vulture profiteers. In Papua New Guinea, he sees a local commu­nity forced to rebel against predatory resource companies and NGOs.

What emerges through Loewenstein’s re­porting is a dark history of multinational corpo­rations that, with the aid of media and political elites, have grown more powerful than national governments. In the twenty-first century, the vulnerable have become the world’s most valu­able commodity. Disaster Capitalism is published by Verso in 2015 and in paperback in January 2017.

Profits_of_doom_cover_350Vulture capitalism has seen the corporation become more powerful than the state, and yet its work is often done by stealth, supported by political and media elites. The result is privatised wars and outsourced detention centres, mining companies pillaging precious land in developing countries and struggling nations invaded by NGOs and the corporate dollar. Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein travels to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea and across Australia to witness the reality of this largely hidden world of privatised detention centres, outsourced aid, destructive resource wars and militarized private security. Who is involved and why? Can it be stopped? What are the alternatives in a globalised world? Profits of Doom, published in 2013 and released in an updated edition in 2014, challenges the fundamentals of our unsustainable way of life and the money-making imperatives driving it. It is released in an updated edition in 2014.
forgodssakecover Four Australian thinkers come together to ask and answer the big questions, such as: What is the nature of the universe? Doesn't religion cause most of the conflict in the world? And Where do we find hope?   We are introduced to different belief systems – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – and to the argument that atheism, like organised religion, has its own compelling logic. And we gain insight into the life events that led each author to their current position.   Jane Caro flirted briefly with spiritual belief, inspired by 19th century literary heroines such as Elizabeth Gaskell and the Bronte sisters. Antony Loewenstein is proudly culturally, yet unconventionally, Jewish. Simon Smart is firmly and resolutely a Christian, but one who has had some of his most profound spiritual moments while surfing. Rachel Woodlock grew up in the alternative embrace of Baha'i belief but became entranced by its older parent religion, Islam.   Provocative, informative and passionately argued, For God's Sakepublished in 2013, encourages us to accept religious differences, but to also challenge more vigorously the beliefs that create discord.  
After Zionism, published in 2012 and 2013 with co-editor Ahmed Moor, brings together some of the world s leading thinkers on the Middle East question to dissect the century-long conflict between Zionism and the Palestinians, and to explore possible forms of a one-state solution. Time has run out for the two-state solution because of the unending and permanent Jewish colonization of Palestinian land. Although deep mistrust exists on both sides of the conflict, growing numbers of Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Arabs are working together to forge a different, unified future. Progressive and realist ideas are at last gaining a foothold in the discourse, while those influenced by the colonial era have been discredited or abandoned. Whatever the political solution may be, Palestinian and Israeli lives are intertwined, enmeshed, irrevocably. This daring and timely collection includes essays by Omar Barghouti, Jonathan Cook, Joseph Dana, Jeremiah Haber, Jeff Halper, Ghada Karmi, Antony Loewenstein, Saree Makdisi, John Mearsheimer, Ahmed Moor, Ilan Pappe, Sara Roy and Phil Weiss.
The 2008 financial crisis opened the door for a bold, progressive social movement. But despite widespread revulsion at economic inequity and political opportunism, after the crash very little has changed. Has the Left failed? What agenda should progressives pursue? And what alternatives do they dare to imagine? Left Turn, published by Melbourne University Press in 2012 and co-edited with Jeff Sparrow, is aimed at the many Australians disillusioned with the political process. It includes passionate and challenging contributions by a diverse range of writers, thinkers and politicians, from Larissa Berendht and Christos Tsiolkas to Guy Rundle and Lee Rhiannon. These essays offer perspectives largely excluded from the mainstream. They offer possibilities for resistance and for a renewed struggle for change.
The Blogging Revolution, released by Melbourne University Press in 2008, is a colourful and revelatory account of bloggers around the globe why live and write under repressive regimes - many of them risking their lives in doing so. Antony Loewenstein's travels take him to private parties in Iran and Egypt, internet cafes in Saudi Arabia and Damascus, to the homes of Cuban dissidents and into newspaper offices in Beijing, where he discovers the ways in which the internet is threatening the ruld of governments. Through first-hand investigations, he reveals the complicity of Western multinationals in assisting the restriction of information in these countries and how bloggers are leading the charge for change. The blogging revolution is a superb examination about the nature of repression in the twenty-first century and the power of brave individuals to overcome it. It was released in an updated edition in 2011, post the Arab revolutions, and an updated Indian print version in 2011.
The best-selling book on the Israel/Palestine conflict, My Israel Question - on Jewish identity, the Zionist lobby, reporting from Palestine and future Middle East directions - was released by Melbourne University Press in 2006. A new, updated edition was released in 2007 (and reprinted again in 2008). The book was short-listed for the 2007 NSW Premier's Literary Award. Another fully updated, third edition was published in 2009. It was released in all e-book formats in 2011. An updated and translated edition was published in Arabic in 2012.

We should thank Cairo for repressing people?

Democracy for Arabs? Not in the Murdoch world. Here’s a senior Australian editor, Alan Howe – the man has formwriting today on Egypt in Melbourne’s Herald Sun. It’s all about Israel, screw freedom or rights. The Zionist state has corrupted our souls:

Sayyid Qutb. Remember that name. You’ll hear it often in coming months and years. Indeed, he may end up being the most influential person of the 21st century.

He’s been dead 46 years. But Karl Marx was the person who most influenced the 20th century he did not live to see.

Marx’s writings inspired the communism and socialism that spread throughout large parts of the world after the Russian Revolution. The internal contradictions of communism eventually caused its collapse, as surely as China has turned away from it and the command economy.

Qutb’s influence is more menacing than Marx. The radicals of the Muslim Brotherhood that are these days inspired by his manifesto, In The Shade of The Koran, will be central to the riots and violent chaos in Cairo.

It has always been the ultimate aim of the likes of Qutb and the Koran-quoting assassins he inspires to die advancing the cause of Islam. It goes without saying that an Egypt led by Islamic theocrats would attack Israel, unleashing god knows what.

The world understands Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak corruptly keeps government and that some of his people are illegally repressed. But that draconian rule has kept Egypt stable and its Islamic core under control. After losing wars with Israel, it decided to join the modern world in accepting that country’s right to exist, even if Egyptian Muslims still see it as an enemy.


A young girl in Egypt tells Mubarak to shove it

We see and hear female protesters in Egypt far too infrequently:

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Wikileaks told us that Mubarak was going to appoint a VP


The London-based Financial Times reported on June 15 that President Mubarak intends to name a Vice President – a step he has refused to take throughout his 24 year tenure as President – after the September Presidential elections. We reached out to the reporter who filed the story, who confirmed to us that Soliman Awad, a key aide to Mubarak and his official spokesman, had made the remark, on-the-record, over dinner with her and several British colleagues. Most contacts we have spoken with were unaware of and surprised by the news, with a number expressing skepticism, noting that the timing of such a revelation and the means of conveying it, were unorthodox, at the least. Of those who gave the story credence, all agreed that Intelligence Chief General Omar Soliman was the most likely to be named to the post. We do not doubt that Mubarak’s aide made this statement to the British journalists. However, given the sensitive and even historic nature of such news, we doubt it was intended as an official and on-the-record statement, and though revelatory, it could still be subject to change. End summary.

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Journalists, don’t be afraid to rely on Arabs to tell you Egyptian truth

Here’s an idea for a Western newspaper trying to report in Egypt. Rather than sending your own correspondent who doesn’t get anywhere near the action – or know any of the important writers, bloggers, Tweeters etc – you actually rely on other, perhaps indigenous sources, who are seeing the real action on the streets.

Not the Australian’s finest hour:

What do you do when the man who’s just checked you into your hotel is out the front looking up the street with an iron bar in his hand?

A gang was heading our way as the largest Arab city in the world descended into anarchy.

Iron bars have become the only tool of law and order in the chaos that is Cairo at night.

By day the Egyptian capital is the centre of a revolt that is shaking the Arab world.

But the mood of hope for political reform darkened into violent lawlessness yesterday as police abandoned the streets and soldiers largely watched the chaos from a distance.

That split left the Indiana Hotel part Fawlty Towers and part Once Were Warriors.

Safe hotels near Tahrir Square had become unreachable. “Too dangerous,” a driver said. “I take you to another hotel that is safe.”

I checked into the Indiana, although we could hear gunfire in the distance.

From a balcony an hour later I saw the receptionist, along with about 15 other men, holding metal bars, saws and metal poles with hooks at the end. Weapons in one hand, mobile phones in the other.

Staff in the hotel frantically hid valuables and moved furniture across the door to shore us up. They brought out the fire hose.

They explained that gangs of looters were roaming the wealthier neighbourhoods, storming hotels and other buildings.

Soon after dark, shouts erupted at the front of the hotel. Several people ran inside.

Then a gunshot.

More shouting. No room service here tonight.

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Israel “surprised” that Arabs may want democracy

Almost funny:

Despite its renown for gathering precise intelligence about its Arab neighbors, Israel was caught completely off guard by the political upheaval in Egypt, officials said Sunday.

The dramatic outpouring of Egyptians demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, Israel’s longest standing ally in the Arab world, has shaken this country’s foreign policy establishment.

Top officials held lengthy talks Sunday about the implications for Israel’s security, but they were unable to produce any recommendations on what steps to take.

“There is no doubt that Israel was caught with its pants down,” said a minister in Israel’s defense cabinet. “We were completely surprised by what is happening in Egypt right now. Nobody predicted this.”

This official, like others, spoke anonymously on Egypt, because the government is maintaining an official silence, fearing that any public statement could harm Israeli interests as events unfold.

Mubarak has long been a trusted partner for Israel, not only upholding the peace agreement that was signed in 1979, after three major wars in 30 years. He cooperated with Israel to maintain a tight cordon around Gaza, where Hamas militants now rule, and generally has been supportive for Israel’s stance on peace talks with Palestinians.

Defense officials told McClatchy that they would do everything they could to help strengthen Mubarak, whose regime is under severe threat after six days of street protests demanded for his ouster. But it wasn’t clear how Israel could assist Mubarak and not cause him further damage.

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Boys with deadly toys in Egypt and US don’t want any change

Democracy is a messy beast, especially if it isn’t reliability “pro-US”. Hence, the last decades have seen very close relationships between Washington and a host of brutal dictatorships.

Cairo is no different. No wonder America is worried that a “reliable” state – read pro-torture and pro-Israel – is teetering:

The officer corps of Egypt’s powerful military has been educated at defense colleges in the United States for 30 years. The Egyptian armed forces have about 1,000 American M1A1 Abrams tanks, which the United States allows to be built on Egyptian soil. Egypt permits the American military to stage major operations from its bases, and has always guaranteed the Americans passage through the Suez Canal.

The relationship between the Egyptian and American militaries is, in fact, so close that it was no surprise on Friday to find two dozen senior Egyptian military officials at the Pentagon, halfway through an annual week of meetings, lunches and dinners with their American counterparts.

By the afternoon, the Egyptians had cut short the talks to return to Cairo, but not before a top Defense Department official, Alexander Vershbow, had urged them to exercise “restraint,” the Pentagon said.

It remained unclear on Saturday, as the Egyptian Army was deployed on the streets of Cairo for the first time in decades, to what degree the military would remain loyal to the embattled president, Hosni Mubarak.

The crisis has left the Obama administration to try to navigate a peaceful outcome and remain close to an important ally, and the military relationship could be crucial in that effort.


El Baradei man of the people?

BBC World just tweets:

A number of political movements in Egypt have asked Mohammad El Baradei to form a transitional government.

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Memo to MSM; Assange is less important than his leaks

Julian Assange, facing a barrage of personal attacks from media companies and foreign governments, rightly tells the UK Observer today that it’s highly revealing how much attention is directed at him as opposed to the allegations presented in the Wikileaks-released documents. He slept with women? Sure, that’s clearly more vital than criminality or torture backed by Washington:

There have been suggestions elsewhere that WikiLeaks has supplied grist to the mill of America’s enemies and even endangered the lives of those who are identified in material it has disseminated itself – identities that Keller’s paper was careful to redact.

“How do you best attack an organisation?” retorts Assange rhetorically. First, “you attack its leadership… with the dozens of wildly fabricated things said about me in the press – such as that I was living in luxury in South Africa. I have never been to South Africa.” Second, “you attack the cash flow”: Assange recounts the “extra-legal” sanctions by Visa, MasterCard, PayPal and others that have “cost us 90% of our revenue”. And then “you attack our moral standing. There have even been claims we have killed people. Although no person is infallible, we have to date a perfect record in two important respects. One: we have not once, in our four years of publishing, got it wrong. We have never published something that was false and said that it was true. Two: despite our publication of serious material on over 100 countries, no one has come to any harm; neither is there any specific claim that anyone has.”

Another criticism often levelled at WikiLeaks is that bursting the banks of information in this way will only lead to the construction of new flood defences by powerful institutions; in other words to more, not less, secrecy.

“The reaction by large corporations and government power,” says Assange, “to a substantial increase in disclosure to the public was thought about in depth in 2006, when we launched WikiLeaks.” The idea that powerful institutions would “go off record” in such a way is fanciful, he argues; discovering their behaviour will always be possible by obtaining internal records. “For instance, when I obtained the manual for standard operating procedure at Guantánamo Bay, I was surprised to see that it included not only many inhumane practices, but it instructed guards to falsify records to the Red Cross. [Because] there is no way for the centre of an organisation to reliably have its peripheral elements reliably carry out its orders… there is a clear, authorised paper trail. Any form of large-scale abuse must be systemised.” And the acquisition of that paper trail, he argues, is the way to expose the abuse.

In this situation, organisations have two choices, says Assange. One is to “engage in plans that the public will support if they are revealed”, meaning that they will have nothing to fear from transparency. The other is to “spend additional resources to keep those plans secret”. The second, more common, course entails a toll on the economic logic of the organisation, which Assange calls a “secrecy tax”. Also, “when an organisation acts in a more clandestine manner”, he says, “its own internal efficiency decreases, because information cannot flow quickly through the organisation. This is another form of secrecy tax.” For organisations to be efficient, they should be transparent, he insists.

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Sri Lankan elites crave “normality” post Tamil massacres

The significance of the Galle Literary Festival statement that I signed recently is now clear; it’s caused massive debate at the event itself and forced the question of Colombo’s appalling human rights record to the fore:

During a lunchtime session at the Galle Literary Festival, one isolated-looking teenager sat among the audience.

He watched for a while before getting up and joining his mother standing at the back.

They were the 16-year-old son and the wife of Prageeth Eknaligoda, a journalist-come-cartoonist missing since 24 January 2010.

They visited the annual festival to lobby its participants on his plight – a plight which has inspired some to call for a festival boycott and provoked a debate in Sri Lanka.

Mr Eknaligoda, who had written articles critical of the government, was apparently abducted on his way home from the office and has not been seen since.
‘Not given chance’

After the session, Sandhya and Sanjaya Eknaligoda handed out leaflets to as many people as they could.

In the pamphlets, Sandhya said that her husband – a Sinhalese – worked ceaselessly to expose human rights abuses against minority Tamil civilians during the war against the Tamil Tigers “including the use of chemical weapons against civilian communities by government forces”.

The government denies using such weapons. It also denies any involvement in Mr Eknaligoda’s disappearance but says it has made no progress in investigating it.

The family gave out more leaflets at the festival’s cafe before returning to Colombo.

“I’m not 100% satisfied with our trip to Galle as I expected to speak to the whole crowd, at least for five minutes,” Sandhya Eknaligoda told the BBC.

“We were not given a chance to do that. But we did manage to give out leaflets, and I’m happy we spread some awareness at least.”

Two groups – the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Berlin-based exile group Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS) – urged writers to stay away from the Galle festival because, they said, many writers in Sri Lanka were being attacked, threatened or intimidated because of what they wrote.

The government, however, denies victimising journalists.

Mrs Eknaligoda said it was up to individuals whether or not they turned up.

She felt that a total boycott might have helped highlight human rights issues but hoped that those attending would intervene in her husband’s case, seeking more information or getting their governments to do so.
‘Legitimising status quo’

During the festival in the quaint 17th century fort town, there has been much talk about the call to boycott.

Dozens of writers had to make a quick decision on whether to pull out.

The only one who did so explicitly heeding the stayaway message was South Africa’s Damon Galgut.

Canada’s Lawrence Hill addressed an audience on his novel that draws on his own father’s ancestry as a slave in America.

“It’s shocking what has happened to this disappeared journalist and so many other people who died or were made to disappear during the war or after,” Mr Hill told the BBC.

But he decided to support the festival as he believed it was a forum for free speech.

He thought he could fulfil the family’s request that he return home and “spread word of these abuses and speak about them with a little more authority and credibility, having been here”.

But the organisations calling for a stayaway say that having so many renowned authors in Sri Lanka will sustain the government’s message that all is well in the country – something they say is not the case.

If they “failed to express their concerns about the precarious conditions faced by the fellow writers and journalists… it simply legitimises the status quo,” the JDS said last week.
Political overtones

The festival’s founder, Geoffrey Dobbs from Britain, said he “really sympathised” with Mrs Eknaligoda and the criticisms of the human rights situation.

But, he said, the problems would not be solved through “a call to go to the barricades and shut down an event”.

“I think what the festival does is it does promote discussion,” he told BBC News.

Some, though by no means all, of the festival events had political overtones.

Sri Lankan poet Vivimarie Vanderpoorten read from her works, including a horrified reaction to the still unsolved killing of newspaper editor Lasantha Wickrematunga.

In a further discussion, three Sri Lankans read from their own novels, highlighting the events of July 1983 in Colombo when Tamils were burnt to death because of their ethnicity.

There was an airing of topics and opinions that often fail to get publicity in Sri Lanka – a country where meetings or seminars regularly get cancelled either by the authorities or by organisers, fearing a negative reaction from the state.

But this was not a conference and there was never going to be a unified statement of concern of the type that human rights groups might have liked.

A more official view, published in Sri Lanka’s Sunday Times, just wants us human rights campaigners to shut up and enjoy Sri Lanka’s glorious post-war freedoms:

For 30 years the country went through a kind of hell and endured untold economic and cultural deprivation. Now, with things looking up, we need all the friendly input we can get from well-meaning outsiders. Let the writers and the artists and the goodwill ambassadors come here and brighten up our lives, for Heaven’s sake. We have had enough dark days as it is.

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“This is not Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt anymore”

Democracy Now! journalist Sharif Kouddous returns to his homeland Egypt from New York and reports on the ground from a nation in transition:

I grew up in Egypt. I spent half my life here. But Saturday, when my plane from JFK airport touched down in Cairo, I arrived in a different country than the one I had known all my life. This is not Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt anymore and, regardless of what happens, it will never be again.

In Tahrir Square, thousands of Egyptians–men and women, young and old, rich and poor–gathered today to celebrate their victory over the regime’s hated police and state security forces and to call on Mubarak to step down and leave once and for all. They talked about the massive protest on Friday, the culmination of three days of demonstrations that began on January 25th to mark National Police Day. It was an act of popular revolt the likes of which many Egyptians never thought they would see during Mubarak’s reign. “The regime has been convincing us very well that we cannot do it, but Tunisians gave us an idea and it took us only three days and we did it,” said Ahmad El Esseily, a 35 year-old author and TV/radio talk show host who took park in the demonstrations. “We are a lot of people and we are strong.”

In Cairo, tens of thousands of people–from all walks of life–faced off against riot police armed with shields, batons, and seemingly endless supplies of tear gas. People talked about Friday’s protest like a war; a war they’d won. “Despite the tear gas and the beatings, we just kept coming, wave after wave of us,” one protester said. “When some of us would tire, others would head in. We gave each other courage.” After several hours, the police were forced into a full retreat. Then, as the army was sent in, they disappeared.

The military was greeted warmly on the streets of Cairo. Crowds roared with approval as one soldier was carried through Tahrir Square today holding a flower in his hand. Dozens of people clambered onto tanks as they rode around the square. Throughout the day people chanted: “The people, the army: one hand.”

While the police and state security forces are notorious in Egypt for torture, corruption and brutality, the army has not interacted with the civilian population for more than 30 years and is only proudly remembered for having delivered a victory in the 1973 war with Israel.

A 4pm curfew set for today was casually ignored with people convinced the army would not harm them. The police were a different story. Their brutality the past few days–decades in fact–has been well documented.

Saturday, some of the police forces were holed up inside their headquarters in the Interior Ministry building near the end of a street connected to Tahrir Square. When protesters neared the building, the police began firing live ammunition at the crowd, forcing them to flee back to the square. Three bloodied people were carried out. “The police are killing us,” one man yelled desperately while on the phone with al Jazeera from outside the building. When the firing stopped, defiant protesters began approaching the building again. In the background, the smoking, blackened shell of Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party headquarters served as an ominous reminder of their intentions.

At this point it seems clear the people are not leaving the streets. They own them now and they are refusing to go until Mubarak does. They chanted, “Mubarak, the plane is waiting for you at the airport,” and “Wake up Mubarak, today is your last day.”

At one point, a rumor spread through Tahrir Square that Mubarak had fled the country. A massive cheer rippled through the crowd. People began jumping up and down in joy. One man wept uncontrollably. When it turned out not to be true, the cheers quickly ended but it provided a brief glimpse of the sheer raw desire for Mubarak’s ouster. Reports now indicate that Mubarak’s two sons and his wife, Suzanne, have fled Egypt, as have some of his closest business cronies. Many people believe that is a sign that Hosni will not be far behind.

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This is how the White House “manages” its empire

Such details merely confirm why America’s decrepit empire is in need of serious break-down:

After much discussion, it was decided that President Obama would not try to speak directly to Mubarak. According to an informed source, the assessment was that president-to-president intervention should be held in reserve as a last recourse. Besides, any exchange with Mubarak would require Obama to say whether he supported Mubarak’s continued rule. And the president was in a bind: He couldn’t bluntly say no. On the other hand, Egyptian authorities would instantly broadcast any expression of support as proof that Washington was backing Mubarak’s hold on power. (Shown this article for review, the White House said: “There’s nothing we’d comment on here at the moment.”)

So the administration tried to reach Mubarak by other means. The Cairo embassy reached out to his advisers. Other Arab leaders were enlisted. Across the region, the events in Cairo were viewed with mounting concern by other governments. The longer their television screens were filled with those scenes of protest, the likelier they were to trigger comparable uprisings in other capitals. The administration’s message was clear: for your own sake, persuade Mubarak he has to quell the revolt by offering concessions.

By Thursday, though, the Cairo embassy was reporting that Mubarak was mobilizing the Army. Everyone knew that Friday, the Muslim day of prayer, would see the biggest demonstrations yet. Mubarak’s mobilization of the military could only mean that he was set on suppression. There was a real risk of bloodshed—and the judgment both of analysts in Washington and of Arab leaders in other capitals was that killings on any scale could ignite a firestorm—not only in Egypt but across the region.

Meanwhile at the Pentagon, a high-powered delegation of Egyptian military leaders, including the armed forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Sami Hafez Enan, cut short a scheduled week-long visit after only a few hours, departing instead for the airport. Their Pentagon hosts wished them well, with careful expressions of hope that a peaceful resolution of the crisis in Egypt would permit the continuation of the U.S. military’s long-standing relationship with Egypt’s armed forces. (Since the U.S. funds the Egyptian military to the tune of $1.3 billion a year, the message was clear.)

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Wikileaks shows that Egypt/US cuddling achieved little positive

Wikileaks cables released this week show the real relationship between Washington and Cairo, a toxic brew of money, slight pressure, fear of Islamism and reliability.

Who needed whom more?

US diplomats and their masters never imagined a different Egypt because they never wanted it to happen. It suited America just fine. The real rights of the Egyptian people were almost irrelevant. Who knows where things are going but people power has already made history:

It was Hillary Rodham Clinton’s first meeting as secretary of state with President Hosni Mubarak, in March 2009, and the Egyptians had an odd request: Mrs. Clinton should not thank Mr. Mubarak for releasing an opposition leader from prison because he was ill.

In fact, a confidential diplomatic cable signed by the American ambassador to Egypt, Margaret Scobey, advised Mrs. Clinton to avoid even mentioning the name of the man, Ayman Nour, even though his imprisonment in 2005 had been condemned worldwide, not least by the Bush administration.

The cable is among a trove of dispatches made public by the antisecrecy group WikiLeaks that paint a vivid picture of the delicate dealings between the United States and Egypt, its staunchest Arab ally. They show in detail how diplomats repeatedly raised concerns with Egyptian officials about jailed dissidents and bloggers, and kept tabs on reports of torture by the police.

But they also reveal that relations with Mr. Mubarak warmed up because President Obama played down the public “name and shame” approach of the Bush administration. A cable prepared for a visit by Gen. David H. Petraeus in 2009 said the United States, while blunt in private, now avoided “the public confrontations that had become routine over the past several years.”

The cables, which cover the first year of the Obama presidency, leave little doubt about how valuable an ally Mr. Mubarak has been, detailing how he backed the United States in its confrontation with Iran, played mediator between Israel and the Palestinians and supported Iraq’s fledgling government, despite his opposition to the American-led war.

Like other Arab leaders, Mr. Mubarak is depicted in the cables as obsessed with Iran, which he told American diplomats was extending its tentacles from “the Gulf to Morocco” through proxies like Hamas and Hezbollah. He views these groups — particularly Hamas, a “brother” of Egypt’s banned Muslim Brotherhood — as a direct threat to his own rule.

In a meeting with General Petraeus on June 29, 2009, Mr. Mubarak said the Iranian government wanted to establish “pockets” of influence inside Egypt, according to a cable. General Petraeus told him the United States was responding to similar fears among Persian Gulf states by deploying more Patriot missiles and upgrading its F-16 fighter jets stationed in the region.

Despite obvious American sympathy for Mr. Mubarak’s security concerns, there is little evidence that the diplomats believed the president, now 82, was at risk of losing his grip on power. The May 2009 cable noted that riots over bread prices had broken out in Egypt in 2008 for the first time since 1977. And it said the growing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood had prompted the government to resort to “heavy-handed tactics against individuals and groups.”

But the cable, again signed by Ambassador Scobey, portrayed Mr. Mubarak as the ultimate survivor, a “tried and true realist” who would rather “let a few individuals suffer than risk chaos for society as a whole.”

“During his 28-year rule,” the cable said, “he survived at least three assassination attempts, maintained peace with Israel, weathered two wars in Iraq and post-2003 regional instability, intermittent economic downturns, and a manageable but chronic internal terrorist threat.”

Another cable, dated March 2009, offered a pessimistic analysis of the prospects for the “April 6 Movement,” a Facebook-based group of mostly young Egyptians that has received wide attention for its lively political debate and helped mobilize the protests that have swept Egypt in the last two days. Leaders of the group had been jailed and tortured by the police. There were also signs of internal divisions between secular and Islamist factions, it said.

The United States has defended bloggers with little success. When Ambassador Scobey raised several arrests with the interior minister, he replied that Egypt did not infringe on freedom of the press, but that it must respond when “people are offended by blogs.” An aide to the minister told the ambassador that The New York Times, which has reported on the treatment of bloggers in Egypt, was “exaggerating the blogger issue,” according to the cable.

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