Eyes wide shut: The New York Times reports on Egypt

Editor’s note: This is an opinion column by George Salamon.

The headline on Page 1 in the 4th of July New York Times proclaimed that “Ambassador Becomes Focus of Egyptians’ Mistrust of U.S.” Ambassador Anne Patterson’s face and name were indeed featured on many signs among the anti-Morsi protesters on Tahrir Square before his ouster by the Egyptian army. But the suggestion that she, and not President Obama, was the “focus” of anti-American rage (for our government’s closeness to and endorsement of Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood party) belies the evidence available from photographs – photographs our paper of record and others in the mainstream media chose to ignore.

The article quotes former State Department official Vali Nasr: “The fact she’s being excoriated instead of the president only represents the fact that the rest of the American administration is absent.” It’s that phrase – “instead of the president” – that the Times reporter and his editors might have checked out before accepting it, unscrutinized, as a “fact.”

Had they looked, for example, at the pictures taken by Doug Ross (DougRoss@journal) on July 1, they might have discovered, among signs with Anne Patterson’s faced crossed out in red, the following messages to our president:

  1. “Wake Up America Obama Backs Up Fascist Regime in Egypt”
  2. “Obama Supports Terrorism”
  3.  “Obama you idiot. Keep in mind that Egypt is not Muslim brotherhoods. If you don’t then go and see what’s happening in Tahrir Square <<NOW<<”
  4. “Obama Your Bitch Is Our Dictator”
  5. “ Obama Supports Dictator Morsi”
  6.  “American Democracy Stinks of Hypocrisy”

Maybe some of the protesters had learned what Obama was reported (in the New York Times, of course) as saying about their own president: “Obama told aides that he considers Morsi a straight shooter who delivered on what he promised.” President Obama did not want to, or could not, acknowledge what former White House adviser Marc Ginsberg expressed so clearly: “Instead of fulfilling his pledge to heal divisions upon taking office, Morsi insincerely exacerbated them by abusing his mandate to rule like a modern day pharaoh determined to rid Egypt’s government of secular opponents.”

Most Egyptians figured it out and expressed their rage at Obama for his support of Morsi. Patterson merely was the face in Cairo that represented Obama’s embrace of a man and party who betrayed their expectations.

As the New York Times already has shifted the focus of the Egyptians’ rage, so Washington is preparing to assign the blame for yet another foreign policy disaster. “Knives Come Out for U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson,” Foreign Policy’s blog reported on July 3. She’ll be the scapegoat – and, as always, human sacrifice will work in Washington.

Isn’t it time that a reporter asks President Obama at his next press conference: “Sir, does the buck ever stop at your desk?”

Salamon taught German literature and culture at several East Coast colleges, and served as staff reporter for the St. Louis Business Journal and as senior editor for Defense Systems Review. He has published three academic books and contributed articles to the Washington Post and the American Conservative.

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