Rep. Keith Ellison: We Should Support the Egyptian People
As both a House Foreign Affairs Committee member and a Muslim, the Minnesota congressman has a unique vantage point on the Egyptian crisis. He says the real story in Egypt isn't about Obama -- it's about what's happening on the streets of Cairo.
Historically, one of the problems has been that Western governments have tried to pick leaders for other countries. So let's stop doing that. Let's do the right thing. Let's get on the right side of history and say that we stand with the legitimate claims of the people.
TR: How influential, then, is America in how this all turns out? Are the people of Egypt looking to President Obama for anything?
KE: Of course there's influence. And yes, the people are looking to the president of the United States. That's why I'm happy that there have been so many solidarity marches around the United States with the people of Egypt. And I am happy that the president has said that he wants the transition to begin now.
President Obama had a direct conversation with Mubarak, and while I don't know what they talked about, I can't imagine it was about making any long-term plans for Mubarak. But look -- a lot of times we get focused on the wrong thing. What Obama does or doesn't do is a part of the story, but the real story is what's happening on the streets of Cairo and Alexandria.
TR: In terms of what's happening on the street, there are different ideas about that. For example, you just said that it's inaccurate to say "pro-Mubarak protesters" …
KE: These people are agents provocateurs. There's evidence emerging now that they were orchestrated by the Interior Ministry, and I guarantee that as the days unfold, you will find more and more involvement by the Mubarak regime in connection with the abuse of the legitimate protesters.
TR: Meanwhile, some of your Republican colleagues have claimed that the anti-Mubarak protests are the work of the Muslim Brotherhood and radical extremists, and that we shouldn't support them. What are your thoughts on that end of the spectrum?
KE: Well, they're wrong, as per usual. These are the people who choose stability and the profitability of corporate interests over the righteous claims of the people all the time. These are the people who would side with the shah of Iran, Papa Doc and Baby Doc Duvalier, and Ferdinand Marcos. All these people care about is U.S. corporate profitability and financial interests all over the globe. They don't care about what the people are going through. For some of those people to take that position doesn't surprise me at all.