Have you seen this nonsense from FOX News?
Turns out the image is over a year old, but it seems to be authentic. Really? Can they not find Iraq on a map after all those years of drum beating for the war? As one clever commenter said about the original image; "that's one way to liberate a country."
I can kind of understand confusion in the Middle East. Very few Americans will actually ever go there. We don't want to think about where oil comes from. We don't get the whole tribal thing, and what is an Emirate, anyway?
But Egypt is on a whole other continent. We learned about Egypt in our childhood story books and Middle School Social Studies. Doesn't anyone remember World Civ? Oh wait, it's that whole 40 years in the desert thing, isn't it?
It's been incredible to watch so much of this whole thing transpire on Twitter. I have a Twitter account that I use mostly for work. The people I follow are mostly learning specialists, but there are some personal bloggers, a few journalists, a couple of comedians, and the State Department (still a Hillary Clinton fan, you know). Almost immediately after it was announced that the Egyptian goverment was shutting down the Internet, Twitter came alive with people retweeting anything that could get out of or about Egypt. My favorite so far is from Anil Dash: "Mr. Mubarak, tear down this firewall!" Only the Haiti earthquake has attracted this much attention from people not directly involved.
(A brief pause while we consider what it would have been like to have had Twitter in 1989)
Clearly as a Democracy we don't like dictators and shouldn't be supporting them, but I'll admit to being a bit concerned about what might come after Mubarak. Is this going to turn into the experience we had with Iran? Who exactly is the Muslim Brotherhood, besides the most organized entity in all of this chaos? Are they friend or foe? Okay, they are not fans of al Qaida, not at war with the West so far, so good. Mohamed ElBaradei; Nobel Laureate with strong Western ties, another possible positive outcome. Omar Suleiman; friend of Israel, okay; friend of the Bush Administration's Extraordinary Rendition program, not so good.
The point I'm trying to make here is that although we shouldn't assume that Egypt will become the next Iran, there's really not a whole lot we have to say about it if it does. We've been touting the benefits of democracy, while supporting some decidedly undemocratic regimes; usually for the sake of "furthering our interests." Over the years, and particularly in the last decade, this kind of hypocrisy has diminished respect for the United States around the world and threatened the security we enjoyed, both as a nation, and as individual American travellers. Interesting, isn't it that those who most fear a conservative theocracy in Egypt are those who want to come as close as possible to such a thing here at home.
In the meantime, while street protests move from Tunisia to Egypt to Iran to Libya, Americans are getting a much needed lesson in spreading democracy without invading a country.
We're learning a bit about geography, too.