Was It A Coup? The White House Still Isn’t Saying

U.S. says cutting off aid immediately is not in its interests

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Amr Abdallah Dalsh / REUTERS

A supporter of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi stands in front of army soldiers at the Republican Guard headquarters in Nasr City, a suburb of Cairo, on July 8, 2013

Nearly a week after the Egyptian military deposed President Mohamed Morsi, White House press secretary Jay Carney said the Obama Administration still hasn’t determined if the apparent coup d’état was indeed a coup.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Carney engaged in a bit of lexicographic jujitsu when repeatedly asked if, when and why the U.S. hasn’t called Morsi’s ouster a coup. He said the U.S. is “going to take the time necessary to review what has taken place,” and is in no hurry to brand the transfer of power a coup, which would require the government to cut off $1.5 billion in aid to the country.

Merriam-Webster defines coup d’état as “a sudden decisive exercise of force in politics; especially: the violent overthrow or alteration of an existing government by a small group.” The Obama Administration’s definition is more nuanced — and hard to pin down. From Carney’s comments, as well as State Department press secretary Jen Psaki’s remarks on Monday, it’s possible to see the general rubric: a coup isn’t defined only by the transition of power, but by how quickly the new regime moves to hold elections, how the citizens of the country view the takeover and — nebulously — whether it is in the interests of the U.S. to call it a coup.

(MORE: With Egypt in Crisis, Is Obama Playing It Too Safe?)

“To be blunt, there are significant consequences that go along with this determination, and it is a highly charged issue for millions of Egyptians who have different views about what happened,” Carney told reporters, saying there was no timetable for the review. “I would say that we are going to take the time necessary to review what has taken place and to monitor efforts by Egyptian authorities to forge an inclusive and democratic way forward. And as we do, we will review our requirements under the law, and we will do so consistent with our policy objectives. And we will also, of course, consult with Congress on that.”

“There are millions of people on the ground who do not think it was a coup,” Psaki said in her daily briefing. “We factor lots of factors in.”

In an attempt at justification, Carney said the Administration believes immediately cutting off aid to the Egyptian military would not be in the best interests of the U.S. And at the moment, lawmakers of both parties, in a tacit acknowledgement that cutting off foreign aid to the Egyptian military would further destabilize the country, are allowing the White House to skate around the letter of federal law. Senators Robert Menendez and Bob Corker, the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, respectively, issued noncommittal statements on Wednesday calling for the return of democratic government, and were equally acquiescing to the Administration’s position on the Sunday shows. “The situation in Egypt is a tenuous one,” Boehner said in a Monday afternoon press conference. “One of the most respected institutions in the country is their military. And I think their military, on behalf of the citizens, did what they had to do in terms of replacing the elected President. But anything further, I think we’ll wait for consultations with the Administration on how we would move ahead.”

(MORE: Did Egypt Experience a Coup? The West May Not Be Sure, but Turkey Is)

But for most, including the media and veteran lawmakers like Senators John McCain and Patrick Leahy, it’s not that complex. “It was a coup,” McCain said on CBS Face the Nation on Sunday. On Wednesday, Leahy called on the Obama Administration to cut off aid to Egypt in compliance with federal law.

Not that McCain wants to cut off aid entirely, calling on the Administration to follow the letter of the law, but also to “explore creative and lawful means to cooperate with the Egyptian military on a limited basis.” Another alternative includes Congress quickly passing a bill to carve out a national-security exemption for Egypt.

Under existing federal law, included in every appropriations bill for more than a decade, U.S. nonhumanitarian aid must be cut off to “the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup d’état or decree or, after the date of enactment of this act, a coup d’état or decree in which the military plays a decisive role.” The law does not offer a definition of coup d’état.

PHOTOS: Egyptians Protest the Rule of Morsi

13 comments
destor23
destor23

Who is served by such a childish debate?  It was a coup, sure, by any common understanding of the word.  And, the law says what the law says.  Now, do you want our foreign policy to be entirely without nuance?  If you think nuance is a good thing, especially in the middle of a changing situation, then you don't push this silly issue.  If the Egyptian military is unwilling to return to democracy in a timely manner, then we can call it a coup and cut off their money.

It's still, anyway, that if there's already  dictator in power we do aid on a case by case basis but if there's a coup, there are different rules.

gysgt213
gysgt213

It was a coup.  You don't have to wait for the WH permission to call it what it is.  Why don't you men and women in the media at least try to handle this better than you did the word "torture." 

TheDonaldo
TheDonaldo

There was a coup before - When the MB/Islamist over played their position.  Hey Hilter was elected by an over whelming majority of Germans, Austrians...  And it was a coup that overthrew them, Mussolini and the Emperor of Japan.  Anyone complaining?  

eatbothsquaresplease
eatbothsquaresplease

It's not entirely correct for Obama to say the US Govt supports no party in Egypt since by the US silence, the US does in fact support the brutality of this military regime that is killing Egyptian citizens, courtesy of the US taxpayers as a previous poster points out.  

cjh2nd
cjh2nd

obama not taking a stand on something? shocking. i mean, that never happens

Lily333
Lily333

@destor23 I am Egyptian; I am one from 33 million  who went down in the demonstrations on June 30 asking Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood to make early elections,  you are not the one who decide if its a coup or not because obviously you didnt hear both side of the story, The Egyptian military wont rule they are just helping people return to the right path, Egypt shouldn't be ruled by one religious sector and ignore all other sectors in the society in addition to Morsi's mistakes, you dont know what was the current situation in Egypt; basic need in life wasnt available, for example people had to wait for more than 7 hours in the gas station to have gas, electricity was off for more than 3 hours on daily basis, etc....

 

As for the Aid, that was mentioned 7 times in this article and in your comment, the US government could have stopped it from day one but they didn't, so stop mentioning it, if they want to Just do it

yogi
yogi

Because then they wont get that special interview or "unnamed source" to speak to them.

UMMLocal12
UMMLocal12

Another way of saying that is that the US has spent a lot of money over the past 3 decades to keep the Israelis and Egyptians from starting another war.

bob.sol
bob.sol

@Lily333 @destor23   well I am Egyptian too and I am one of these people you  talking  a bout ...we wanted Morsi  to leave "yes we wanted that" ...but we do not want the Army and yes it was a Military coup in Egypt.. because we wanted  "early elections" as you said ...but the army did not do what we wanted and took every thing we made in 25 January revolution away again .."we asked Morsi to leave but we did not ask the Army to make Military coup"....all what we wanted is to make an early election and see what the result after It  and the Army should make that early election but they wanted to be back again to control the whole country ...and now they saying <<we did that for the people they wanted us to make that >>  ...yes we had no electric no gas and many things but the army is responsible for all those problems .they made all those problems to make people go to the streets and say no to Morsi ..."sorry for my English ...I saw that comment by mistake and I decided to answer it...

destor23
destor23

@Lily333 @destor23 I hope that the military is just trying to help Egypt's democracy, that its hand was forced and that its time in power will be swift.  So far, though, protesters have been slaughtered and journalists jailed so, it has some explaining to do and needs to worry about its own path as much as the path of the people it supposedly serves.

As for who gets to make these determinations, the U.S. has to come to its independent conclusions because of its interests in the region and, yes, the aid that you think we're mentioning too frequently.  I guaranty you that the provisional government in Egypt does not take a "just cut off the money if you're going to get so worked up about it," approach.  I'm afraid that since my government is ultimately accountable to people like me for not only how the aid money is spent but its other actions in the region that, yes, people like me do get a voice in the debate over whether or not the military's actions were proper.

Thank you for bringing us more context and information, we need it.

bob.sol
bob.sol

@Lily333 @destor23    and I am not proud to share this video too  : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TiC3PpzbYdQ     police men did that for 30 years ...now and I am asking any one here ...if u were living in that place with them would you trust the police people and the Military  people after 30 years of lies and killing ...and give them another chance to take control...even when they say it`s not Military coup  and they only trying to help us and they will leave soon... "and they already saying that right now"....would u trust them ????  I have many videos like that one and you can search by your self ....I do not care what is going on now all what I know that we can not trust those people any more ..we gave them a chance for more than 60 years ...and they do not deserve another chance ...I want to see a good government here in this country before I die...is it that difficult ???? I was waiting for 30 years now and did not see any good person ...when will it happen ????

Lily333
Lily333

@destor23 I Hope so too, but as I've told you you are seeing the picture from one perspective because you only mentioned the journalists and the protestors who support Morsi's regime, and I am against any kind of violence for any of the sides because nothing deserve to kill each other for, just one example for the violence from the other side (MB- Morsi supporters) you can see this video which I am not proud to share here : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kiBe89JrLK0 where 4 teenagers where afraid and hiding on the top of one building from Morsi's supporters, and you can see by yourself what happened to them, one of the most cruel videos you can ever see, and by the way three of them are dead now and only one survived, they r just kids has nothing to do with politics and if so, no one deserve this, this is not what we wanted for Egypt on January 25, people who speak in the name of religion and they have nothing to do with it (some of them), I am muslim myself and I cant hurt a fly, so they do not represent Islam on the contrary they give a bad image for the religion and the country, politics has nothing to do with religions.