Former US Rep and current Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood has had an additional concern the past few days. His youngest son is in effect being detained by the new Egyptian government. He’s not locked up (yet), but he and 9 other US citizens have been prevented from leaving Egypt after the offices of the NGO’s they worked with were raided last month. They found out that Egypt had put them on a “no fly list” when they arrived at an airport to board a plane.
Sam LaHood was an official with the International Republican Institute, an NGO operated by the Republican party. They and members of the Democrat Party’s equivalent organization the National Democratic Institute had been in the country to monitor the country’s first elections after the “Arab Spring” overturned the Mubarak Administration. After the raids last month, the Obama administration stated the problem had been resolved when Leon Panetta spoke with an Egyptian general and received a promise that the issue would be resolved. According to a New York Times editorial after the raids, the organizations were “authorized by the Egyptian government to monitor the country’s first post-Mubarak parliamentary elections”.
So what’s changed since these groups were authorized? The Muslim Brotherhood’s political party, misnamed “The Freedom and Justice Party” won a majority in the parliamentary elections. They are in effect “in charge” of Egypt now. It’s likely they want to cement their power before the presidential elections. They are also sending a message to the US, they are in charge and will tolerate no dissent. By intimidating the American organizations that monitor their elections, they are also sending the message to other organizations that they better tread carefully or their members will be similarly harassed. I suspect they are also testing the Obama administration while getting to tweak the nose of the Americans that many people in Egypt openly hate.
This is not the first time US citizens have been mistreated by foreign powers. In Ronald Reagan’s famous “City Upon a Hill” speech (H/T Nessa), he told the story of Captain Ingraham, a US Navy Captain who was willing to start a war (and likely lose his ship to a stronger force) to protect the life of a new US Citizen. Captain Ingraham has set the standard that we should follow here. We must show firm resolve that no foreign nation may mistreat US Citizens. We MUST make it clear that we are willing to sacrifice ourselves in order to protect the lives of US Citizens. It’s time to let the world know that we will help our friends, but will punish those who do harm to the US or it’s citizens.
Unfortunately, the Obama administration is showing no signs that it has the ability to stare down those who threaten us. They don’t have to threaten force. There are other unused tools at the President’s disposal. The first and most obvious tool is the $1.3 Billion that we give to Egypt each year. That money should be stopped immediately. There are also a variety of other diplomatic pressures that can be brought to bear short of military threat. But this President has used none of the tools at his disposal to ensure the safety of our citizens who are legitimately in a foreign land. It shows that he has none of the character of Captain Ingraham.
Update: LaHood has taken refuge in the US Embassy
According to Bikya Masr (a Middle Eastern news source published in English) LaHood and the other NGO employees have taken refuge in the US Embassy.
There is a pattern of failure to protect US Citizens in Egypt. According to the Bikya Masr article, they had a US Citizen employee who was detained by the Egyptian government as well.
The embassy did not return calls from Bikyamasr.com for a comment on the situation, but in recent months has been unwilling to assist American citizens arrested and detained by the military, including Bikyamasr.com Editor-in-chief Joseph Mayton, who was detained, beaten and held for more than 12 hours by the military. The US Embassy told Mayton that they would not come retrieve him and had to deal with “the political relationship between Washington and the military.”
A Hungarian citizen detained hours after Mayton, was picked up by his embassy in the early evening.
The US Embassy has since claimed it always assists its citizens in Egypt, but did not comment on specifics.