Sen. Rand Paul is hammering his fellow senators for keeping billions in financial aid flowing to Egypt’s military — even as Cairo’s security forces massacre anti-government activists.
"This is something that those who voted in Congress are going to have to live with," Paul told The Cable on Thursday. "The question is: How does their conscience feel now as they see photographs of tanks rolling over Egyptian civilians?"
As the official Egyptian death toll climbs to 638, the legislation the Kentucky libertarian is referring to was an amendment to suspend aid to Egypt until the country holds free and fair elections. Two weeks ago, Republicans and Democrats rejected it by an overwhelming 86-13 vote — and top lawmakers in both parties protested it loudly.
"This amendment may be good politics, but it is bad policy," Sen. Bob Menendez, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said at the time.
"It would be a terrific mistake for the United States to send a message to Egypt: you’re on your own," Republican Senator John McCain added back then. "I urge my colleagues to vote to table the Paul amendment."
The vote has already come back to haunt some lawmakers, such as McCain, who is now advocating a cancellation of aid to Egypt and criticizing White House policies as a "colossal failure."
"Congress is way out of touch on this issue," said Paul. "These people who believe in projecting American power, really believe in projecting American weakness. They don’t want us to respond to words with actions or obey our own laws."
Earlier today, President Obama announced the cancellation of a joint U.S. military exercise with Egypt, but did not cut off the $1.3 billion in military aid the U.S. provides to the country. "While we want to sustain our relationship with Egypt, our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back," Obama said.
Paul called the decision a cop out. "Too little too late," he said. "If he wants to send a message to the military, tell them they’re not getting anymore planes. Tell them they’re not getting any more tanks."
Defenders of U.S. military aid to Egypt, such as Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass, say the U.S. can’t afford to lose its influence in Egypt, the largest country in the Arab World and a neighbor to U.S. ally Israel. Others have warned that Paul’s desires to disengage with the world will make the U.S. more vulnerable, a charge Paul disputes.
"This mindset that if you don’t give people money and weapons, then you’re not engaged is bizarre," he said. "I want to engage with the world, I just don’t want to be engaged in battle."
"For those who think more weapons is engaging us with the Egyptian people, ask an Egyptian," he continued. "When you’re protesting in the streets and you’re run over by an American tank, you’re not going to be appreciative of American engagement."