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Morsi's Democratic Dictatorship

Egypt’s president Mohamed Morsi Recent actions by Egypt’s president Mohamed Morsi expose how ludicrous U.S. foreign policy is, both with respect to its purported goal to spread democracy around the world and its ardent support of brutal dictatorships.

Morsi has announced that he intends to ignore adverse rulings by the Egyptian judiciary, at least until a new constitution is approved. Since the judiciary previously disbanded the legislature, there are no constraints on Morsi’s powers. His powers are omnipotent. He is a supreme dictator of the country.

Of course, Morsi’s actions won’t stop U.S. officials from continuing to send more than a billion dollars a year in U.S. foreign aid to this dictatorial regime. What matters to them are not the powers that Morsi is now wielding against the Egyptian people but rather whether this dictator will do the bidding of the U.S. government.

For some three decades, the U.S. government supported Egypt’s previous dictator, Hosni Mubarak, with cash and armaments, which enabled Mubarak to build up one of the most powerful and oppressive military dictatorships in the world. Throughout that time, Mubarak, who was a military officer, was closely aligned with the military.

There are two big differences, however, between Mubarak and Morsi:

One, unlike Mubarak, Morsi has been democratically elected.

Two, while Morsi has so far managed to get along with the military, he isn’t one of them. The military continues to insist on retaining ultimate control in the country, something that the Egyptian people don’t want. Yet, Morsi knows that any dictatorship depends on receiving full support from the military and the intelligence forces, which are used to enforce crackdowns on the citizenry.

But one thing is now clear: Morsi is as much a dictator as Mubarak was. One might say that he is a democratically elected dictator.

This is, sadly, what so many Americans fail to grasp. They have bought into the democracy-spreading tripe spread by U.S. officials. That’s what, we are told, U.S. troops killed and died for in Iraq — to bring democracy to that land. They say the same about the 11 years of the deadly and destructive military occupation of Afghanistan.

Yet, as we see, time and time again, democracy is not freedom. It’s only benefit is that it enables people to peacefully change those in power. But it does not guarantee freedom. In fact, as we see in Egypt, democracy oftentimes leads directly to dictatorship.

When the U.S. Constitution called the federal government into existence, the idea was to strictly limit the powers of the government, especially the president and Congress. The powers they could exercise were limited to those enumerated in the document.

In other words, even though the president and the members of Congress would be democratically elected, they wouldn’t have the power to do whatever they felt was in the best interests of society.

To make sure everyone got the point, our American ancestors insisted on the passage of the Bill of Rights, which expressly protected the people from democratic rule. Congress, for example, was prohibited from enacting any law that infringed upon freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right to keep and bear arms. The president was prohibited from torturing people, incarcerating people without trial, searching people’s homes and businesses without a judicial warrant, and denying people the right of trial by jury. Those guarantees were enforced with the writ of habeas corpus, which had been protected in the Constitution.

Why all those limitations on powers? Our ancestors understood that that’s what determines a free society. A free society is not based on a benevolent dictator who exercises his powers wisely and prudently. It instead turns on the absence of dictatorial powers by a ruler, whether he is democratically elected or not.

We should keep these principles in mind, not only as U.S. foreign aid continues to flow into Egypt in support of Morsi’s dictatorship but also as the president and the U.S. national-security state continue to wield and exercise the “temporary,” emergency powers that they assumed after the 9/11 attacks, especially many of the same powers now exercised by Morsi, including the powers to arbitrarily arrest people as suspected terrorists, keep them in military prisons indefinitely, torture them, and to execute or assassinate them.

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.


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