As the protests escalate across Egypt, I have a simple question: on which side are the US and UK governments? The side of the protesters, fighting for their democratic rights and freedoms, or the side of the ageing, corrupt dictator, Hosni Mubarak, and his secret police? The US and UK governments, aided and abetted by the US and UK media, might like us to believe that it is the former, rather than the latter.
But the reality is that Mubarak is in power in Cairo with the west's blessing, approval, support, sponsorship, funding and arms. Democrat and Republican presidents as well as Labour and Conservative prime ministers have all cosied up to Egypt's "secular" tyrant, a self-proclaimed but ineffective bulwark against "Islamic extremism", since he assumed the presidency in 1981.
Mubarak might be a son of a bitch but, as the saying goes, he is very much OUR son of a bitch. Some facts to consider:
* Egypt is the one of the biggest recipients of US economic and development assistance -- $28bn since 1975, according to USAid. Only Israel, Pakistan and Afghanistan have received more cash.
* Egypt is the second-biggest recipient (behind Israel) of US military aid -- over $1.3bn a year.
* The US State Department describes Egypt as "a strong military and strategic partner of the United States".
* According to the Federation of American Scientists' Arms Sales Monitoring Project, "The United States sells Egypt a large amount of military equipment and a significant number of small arms; such weaponry is both likely to be used for internal security and difficult to track once sold."
* This is what President Obama said about the despotic ruler of Egypt in August 2009:
I am grateful to President Mubarak for his visit, for his willingness to work with us on these critical issues, and to help advance the interest of peace and prosperity around the world.
Obama described Mubarak as a "leader and a counselor and a friend to the United States".
* This is what President Bush, that great neoconservative crusader for freedom and democracy in the Middle East, said about Mubarak in April 2004:
I'm pleased to welcome my friend, Hosni Mubarak, to my home. Welcome. I always look forward to visiting with him, and I look forward to hearing his wise counsel . . . Egypt is a strategic partner of the United States and we value President Mubarak's years of effort on behalf of the peace and stability of the Middle East.
* It's not just the dastardly Yanks who have been playing footsie with Mubarak, his torturers and his secret police. According to the UK's Foreign Office, "The British and Egyptian governments have a strong relationship and share mutual objectives."
* The UK is the largest foreign investor in Egypt.
* Tony Blair, that other great neoconservative crusader for freedom and democracy in the Middle East, visited Egypt with his family on holiday on several occasions, had countless meetings with Mubarak, but never chastised him in the manner that he now chastises, say, the Iranians. Shamefully, Blair, while in office as prime minister of the United Kingdom, allowed Mubarak to pay for his family's luxury holiday at the Red Sea resort of Sham-el-Sheikh in December 2001. Was he worried, I wonder, about the freedom and human rights of political prisoners languishing in Egyptian prisons while he sunned himself in his holiday villa, as a guest of Mubarak's dictatorship?