Ambassador Anne W. Patterson's Speech at the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies
June 18, 2013
Good afternoon and thank you for that warm welcome. I am so pleased to be here at this prestigious institution. The Ibn Khaldun Center long has been at the forefront of promoting dialogue, tolerance, and respect for human rights in Egypt. It has done truly remarkable work over the years, and I think it is no exaggeration to say that the efforts of its courageous men and women have made a positive difference in the lives of millions of your fellow citizens. I salute Executive Director Dalia Ziada for always speaking her mind, no matter what others might think. And, of course, I wish to pay special tribute to Ibn Khaldun Center Founder and Chairman Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim. More than anyone I know, Dr. Saad embodies the history of Egypt's human rights struggle. He is a brave man who has become a legend in his own time, and I feel deeply honored to say that he is my friend and a friend of many Americans.
Dr. Saad asked me to speak today about the United States government's relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood. I, frankly, embraced this as an opportunity to set the record straight, and I look forward to an exchange of ideas in the discussion after my remarks. I am going to provide you with facts. It is my hope that these can form the basis of Egyptian public discussion in the future.
I have been the Ambassador to Egypt for two years now, and I am in a position of authority to talk about my government’s relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Our policy remains what it always has been: the Government of the United States of America supports Egypt, its people, and its government. The U.S. Government, which represents the interests and desires of the American people, wants Egypt to succeed. We want Egyptians to have the same benefits of living in a free and democratic society that we enjoy. Americans want Egyptians to have the right to choose their leaders, to say what they think, to believe and worship as their consciences dictate, to associate with whomever they wish, and to have fair laws that apply equally to all, irrespective of status or wealth or social class.
And why does the United States want Egypt to succeed? One reason, of course, is that we believe in universal rights and values. But America's self interest as a nation also is a key consideration. Stable democracies, particularly those that respect civil liberties and a have a vibrant political opposition, make the best allies. We oppose chaos. Chaos is a breeding ground for instability. Think of countries in this region and around the world where chaos and division dominate. Are these are countries where America’s interests are best served? I would argue that they are not. Now think of democracies where civil liberties, including the rights of minorities and women, are safeguarded. Does the United States consider them to be good allies? The answer is a resounding "yes." So, what kind of Egypt is in the U.S. national interest? I can tell you without hesitation that Egypt's success as a stable democracy where all citizens' rights are respected is what's best for America.
Let's examine in detail my assertion that the Government of the United States supports Egypt. In order to do this, the U.S. Government must deal with the Egyptian Government. This is the government that you and your fellow citizens elected. Even if you voted for others, I don’t think the elected nature of this government is seriously in doubt. Throughout Egypt’s post-revolution series of elections, the United States took the position that we would work with whoever won elections that met international standards, and this is what we have done.
Because many in the Egyptian Government are affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood or its Freedom and Justice Party, the U.S. Government must work with
them across a huge range of issues: commercial, cultural, political, agricultural, trade, and our consular immigration issues.
I know that some would counter that the U.S. Government, specifically the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, has had contact with the Muslim Brotherhood for more than two decades. Is this not, they might ask, evidence of a long-term plan or conspiracy to support the Muslim Brotherhood to replace the government of former President Hosni Mubarak?
An understanding of how nations deal with each other will show that I believe such speculation is groundless. Like many other countries, the United States--in addition to dealing with the political actors running any given government--also maintains contacts with those out of power. This is in keeping with our belief in universal rights and values: we seek to ensure that the diverse views of all citizens are fairly represented and that their human rights are respected. It also is consistent with America's self interest: today's political outcasts may be tomorrow's leaders, and therefore it is wise to get to know them and their views. This may seem like a very simple picture compared to the complicated scenarios proposed by some. But I think if you look at history, you will find that the simple explanations invariably are the correct ones.
After 30 years of political repression and the resulting lack of responsibility for making political decisions, it is understandable that some would resort to conspiracy theories to explain what they see and hear. But, in my view, Egypt deserves better. Egypt deserves citizens with open minds who are unafraid to think for themselves. This is the first step toward becoming invested in the future, toward planning and building a new Egypt that will surpass the old.
Some say that street action will produce better results than elections. To be honest, my government and I are deeply skeptical.
Egypt needs stability to get its economic house in order, and more violence on the streets will do little more than add new names to the lists of martyrs. Instead, I recommend Egyptians get organized. Join or start a political party that reflects your values and aspirations. Egyptians need to know a better path forward. This will take time. You will have to roll up your sleeves and work hard. Progress will be slow and you often will feel frustrated. But there is no other way.
Ladies and gentlemen, democracy is a means, not an end. There is no winner, except for the people, who have the right to choose. They are the real power brokers, and it is your responsibility to help them see your vision. Every day, my colleagues and I at the U.S. Embassy meet with Egyptians from across the political spectrum. If you belong to a party or a trend and feel that we have overlooked your views, please tell me, and get in touch with us. We want to get to know you, because you never know what tomorrow may bring.
Let me end my remarks by reiterating our policy toward Egypt: the Government of the United States of America supports Egypt, its people, and its government. The U.S. Government, which represents the interests and desires of the American people, wants Egypt to succeed. We want Egyptians to have the same benefits of living in a free and democratic society that we enjoy. We want Egyptians to have the right to choose their leaders, peacefully, to say what they think, to believe and worship as their consciences dictate, to associate with whomever they wish, and to have fair laws that apply equally to all, irrespective of status or wealth.
Egyptians, like Americans and other people living in democracies everywhere, must find a way to live and pursue their dreams together. Thank you very much for your kind attention.