It should be shocking to the Obama Administration, and Americans, that a foreign nation can sentence our citizens to death for the “crime” of free speech. Free speech, and the First Amendment, is supposed to be sacrosanct in the US. Our Founding Fathers were certainly very supportive of it. President George Washington said, “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” Benjamin Franklin understood that, “(i)n those wretched countries where a man cannot call his tongue his own, he can scarce call anything his own. Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.” And prominent Supreme Court Justices have continued to praise free speech over the years. Justice William O. Douglas stated, “Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.” Justice Louis Brandeis believed, “Fear of serious injury cannot alone justify suppression of free speech and assembly. Men feared witches and burned women. It is the function of speech to free men from the bondage of irrational fear.”
Based on the strong historical support for freedom of speech evidence by these quotes, you could be forgiven for thinking that any attempts by foreigners to infringe upon American speech in our own country would prompt our nation to do something about it. But, apparently, we are living in new times. President Obama has already said at the UN that “(t)he future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.” Perhaps he believes that a little thing like the First Amendment in the US Constitution should not be allowed to get in the way.
In fact, instead of objecting to this kind of Egyptian bad behavior, the US continues to reward it. The American foreign aid money keeps flowing to Egypt. Roughly $1.5 billion a year, most of it military aid. Over $50 billion total since 1979. There are new proposals by President Obama for $1billion in debt relief for Egypt. And through international organizations like the IMF, even more American aid is coming.
Technically, much of this aid is conditioned on good behavior by the Egyptian regime, but the dirty little secret is that the Obama Administration always waives these restrictions when they aren’t met by President Morsi. And no bad behavior stops them. When President Morsi first won his term, he immediately demanded the release of convicted terrorist Omar Abdel-Rahman, i.e., the “Blind Sheikh,” the spiritual and terrorist leader for the first Islamist attack against the World Trade Center that killed six U.S. citizens. Silence from the Obama Administration. Morsi allowed Islamist protestors to overrun the US Embassy in Cairo – sovereign US territory – and raise the black flag of the Islamists. President Obama did nothing. The Morsi regime continues to suppress protests by ordinary Egyptians, most horrifically by paying gangs to go out and rape women and beat men who are demonstrating in opposition to Morsi’s new judicial immunity and new dictatorship. No objections for the US. The MB-led Egypt is rushing to institute Sharia law, a barbaric code of law which requires that raped women be put to death for adultery. No complaints came from Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. Morsi’s Administration has presided over a regime that slaughters and discriminates against Egyptian Copts. The crickets are chirping in the US government. Figures in the MB call for another genocide against Jews. “Never mind,” the Administration says, rather than “never again.”
“Don’t worry,” the foreign policy experts assure us, countless times, “US money provides us with great influence over the new Egyptian rulers.” The MB is a “moderate, secular organization.” “If we keep funding them, we will get a seat at the table.”
Of course, President Obama only sits silently at that table. This isn’t too surprising, since we already know from his UN speech that he doesn’t always value speech. So what good is that seat anyway?
Adam Turner serves as staff counsel to the Legal Project at the Middle East Forum. He is a former counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee where he focused on national security law.