Good Grief. Obama Cut Funding for Egyptian Democracy Programs Before the Current Crisis
Obama failed to support the people of Georgia when Russian tanks plowed across the border.
Obama failed to support the freedom protesters in Iran when the regime was shooting at them from rooftops.
Obama failed to support the Honduran people when a tyrant tried to take their freedom.
Obama also failed to support freedom activists in Egypt.
When Barack Obama went to Cairo to talk about peace, freedom and brotherhood in 2009 he forgot to mention that he had cut funding for democracy and governance programming in Egypt by more than half his first year in office.
Democracy protester Mohamed Atef lies on the ground after being shot in the head while demonstrating in the town of Sheikh Zoweid northeast of Cairo, January 27, 2011. (REUTERS/Stringer)
President Obama’s historic speech at Cairo University galvanized millions of people across the Arab world with its inspiring message of peace and brotherhood among Muslims. And his stirring endorsement of democracy gave hope to many Egyptians that his words would ring in a new era, helping pressure their own government to hold free and fair elections and to adhere to the rule of law.
But when it comes to backing up the president’s rhetoric since that speech in June 2009, the administration has a decidedly mixed record and has disappointed many Egyptians, foreign policy experts tell The Huffington Post. Though Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has championed human rights around the world and American diplomats have quietly encouraged political and legal reforms in Egypt, when it comes to promoting democracy in the riot-torn country, efforts have generally been less aggressive than the Bush administration’s. On Friday, amidst violent protests, longtime leader Hosni Mubarak announced the resignation of Egypt’s government.
In its first year, the Obama administration cut funding for democracy and governance programming in Egypt by more than half, from $50 million in 2008 to $20 million in 2009 (Congress later appropriated another $5 million). The level of funding for civil society programs and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) was cut disproportionately, from $32 million to only $7 million. Though funding levels for 2010 are not yet available, they are expected to show an increase to $14 million, says Stephen McInerny, the director of advocacy at the Project on Middle East Democracy. He notes that the Bush administration slashed economic aid to Egypt in the 2009 budget but kept the funding for democracy and governance programs constant, while Obama cut funding to those programs in an effort to make the cuts more proportional and under pressure from the American embassy in Cairo.
The White House and the State Department did not return emails for comment.
Of course, this surprises no one.