EDITORIAL – Soon after Sunday’s Maspero massacre, where the Egyptian military slaughtered Christians demonstrating over the destruction of their churches—including by running them over with armored vehicles—some Egyptian media began reporting that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, having seen enough, declared that the U.S. plans on directly intervening in Egypt.
Of course, Hillary said no such thing. According to Al Ahram:
Reports that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the US plans to intervene to protect Egypt’s Copts are false, a US State Department source has revealed. Yesterday, several internet sites circulated quotes attributed to Clinton that the US plans to send Special Forces to protect Egyptian churches after the attacks directed at Copts yesterday in front of the State TV building in Maspero.
Any American must instinctively recognize such rumors as false: our political leaders do not say or do such things. But alas, some Christians in the Middle East, who have no direct experience of the West, still think of the U.S. as a “Christian” nation that will surely empathize with their plight and take action—hence why this rumor began and resonates.
The real question, of course, is: Would direct U.S intervention in Egypt even help the Copts?
First, we must understand the context wherein the U.S. would justify intervening in a country: to promote “democracy.”
So how have the first manifestations of “democracy”—in the guise of the “Arab spring” and “people-power,” all hailed and supported by the U.S.—worked for religious minorities in the Arab world?
In post-revolutionary Egypt alone, Christians are suffering more abuses today, including from the state, than under ousted president Hosni Mubarak. After all, Egyptian military crushing the heads of Christian civilians with tanks, opening fire on them, and reportedly even dumping their bodies in the Nile to cover their deeds—all of this occurred under Field Marshall Mohamed Tantawi’s command, not during Mubarak’s 30 year reign.
But to return to our question—whether U.S. intervention would help the Copts in Egypt—the deplorable fact is, the Christians who have it worst are precisely those living in Muslim nations where the U.S. has intervened and is spending billions to create “democracies.”
Consider the silent extermination of Iraq’s “Christian Dogs.” Ever since the U.S. overthrew Saddam Hussein, beheading and crucifying Christians are not irregular occurrences; messages saying “you Christian dogs, leave or die,” are typical. Muslims threaten to “exterminate Iraqi Christians” and authoritative clerics issue fatwas asserting that “it is permissible to spill the blood of Iraqi Christians.” As John Eibner of Christian Solidarity International put it:
The threat of extermination is not empty. Since the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime, more than half the country’s Christian population has been forced by targeted violence to seek refuge abroad or to live away from their homes as internally displaced people. According to the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization, over 700 Christians, including bishops and priests, have been killed and 61 churches have been bombed. Seven years after the commencement of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Catholic Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk reports: “He who is not a Muslim in Iraq is a second-class citizen.”
In other words, Christian persecution has increased exponentially under U.S. occupation. As one top Vatican official put it, Christians, “paradoxically, were more protected under the dictatorship” of Saddam Hussein.
As for Afghanistan, earlier this week, CNS News reported that
There is not a single, public Christian church left in Afghanistan, according to the U.S. State Department. This reflects the state of religious freedom in that country ten years after the United States first invaded it and overthrew its Islamist Taliban regime. In the intervening decade, U.S. taxpayers have spent $440 billion to support Afghanistan’s new government and more than 1,700 U.S. military personnel have died serving in that country. The last public Christian church in Afghanistan was razed in March 2010.
The State Department’s report makes it clear that the Afghan government—which the U.S. helped install—is partially responsible: “The lack of government responsiveness and protection for these groups and individuals [persecuted religious minorities] contributed to the deterioration of religious freedom”; “the right to change one’s religion was not respected either in law or in practice.”
Even so, the State Department report concludes with the requisite yet meaningless jargon: “the United States continues to promote religious freedom in Afghanistan”—this even as the nation just saw its last church destroyed.
And then people wonder why Syrian Christians are backing autocratic Bashar Assad: they have seen the fruits of “democracy” in Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, and anywhere else “people-power” is burgeoning, whether organically, or—if not especially—under the auspices of the U.S.
Raymond Ibrahim, a widely published Islam-specialist, is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum. This editorial is reprinted as it originally appeared in the Middle East Forum on October 13, 2011.