Tweet like an Egyptian — Hillary Clinton tries it out
Young Egyptians, who famously used Internet services like Facebook and Twitter to launch their recent revolution, turned their focus to Hillary Clinton on Wednesday. They peppered the top U.S. diplomat with skeptical questions about longtime U.S. support for former President Hosni Mubarak and what many felt was its slow embrace of the movement to topple him.
Clinton, taking a personal spin at what she has called “21st Century Statecraft”, fielded a selection of some 6,500 questions that young Egyptians posed through Twitter, Facebook and the Arabic-language website www.masrawy.com — and many reflected deep suspicions about the U.S. role in Egypt.
“My question is: Does America really support democracy? If yes indeed, why the U.S. was late in its support of the Egyptian revolution?” one questioner asked Clinton.
“The attitude of the U.S. during the Egyptian revolution was to support the Egyptian regime first. Then, when the revolution turned successful, the U.S. switched sides and supported the Egyptian youth and the youth revolution, and the U.S. said that we learn from Egyptian youth. Why was such delay?” another wondered.
Clinton gamely took them on, stressing that the United States used its influence in Egypt to help press for a peaceful resolution to the crisis and the launch of a reform process that would lead to “an Egyptian model of democracy.”
“So I think that we were walking a balance, because we wanted to be sure that our messages did not push anyone into doing something that we disagreed with, namely violence, which we tried to, in every way possible, prevent,” Clinton said.
Clinton — who in the past has described the Mubaraks as family friends — said U.S. officials had not been shy about pushing the Egyptian strongman to make political reforms.
“I personally know how strongly the United States did speak out on behalf of reforms, ending corruption, ending human rights abuses. We were not successful. I mean, I will be very honest with you. Our efforts, whether they were in public or in private, did not change the regime.”
Clinton has steered the State Department deep into the waters of social media, using everything from YouTube to Arabic-language Twitter feeds to get the U.S. message across. And while she gave full credit to Egypt and its young people for achieving political transformation, she did note that the United States provided “many of the tools” that built the revolution.
“Facebook and Twitter, even the Internet, are American inventions, and we are proud that these American inventions are helping to connect people up around democracy and human rights and freedom and an agenda that will lead to a better life in Egypt,” she said.
She said that U.S. hopes were now riding on the transition process, and urged young Egyptians not to allow their politics to get “hijacked, either by a return to dictatorship or by an imposition of extremism or any other reason in between.”
PHOTO CREDIT: REUTERS/Mike Segar (Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seen through a camera viewfinder on Feb. 18, 2011)