In a very fine article about Egypt, last week Johann Hari asked this question:
"Very few British people would praise a murderer and sell him weapons. Very few British people would beat up a poor person to get cheaper petrol. But our governments do it all the time. Why?"
Why do we accept such behaviour? It is not just us British, but all over the world people with decent values are acquiescent to the most outrageous behaviour of their governments. Robert Fisk supplies part of the answer in an article yesterday (again, about Egypt):
"... the first essential task of a dictator is to "infantilise" his people, to transform them into political six-year-olds, obedient to a patriarchal headmaster. They will be given fake newspapers, fake elections, fake ministers and lots of false promises."
... fake newspapers, ...false promises? Sounds familiar?
Blair told us false stories about Serbia and Kosovo - his friend Hashim Thaci, leader of the 'freedom fighting' Kosovo Liberation Army, turns out to be a mafia boss who trafficked in human body parts.
Dick Cheney told us false stories about Sadam Hussein and his links with Al Quaeda. Eventually even he had to admit it was not true - but not until five years later.
Our glorious media and prosecutors told us false stories about three men accused of assisting in the 7th July 2005 bombing of London. It was reported (for instance by the Guardian and the BBC) that details linking them to the bombers was found on one of the phones recovered from the Edgeware Road bomb site. Yet the current 7/7 inquest was last week informed by the police that the prosecution and those reports were "simply wrong"! (see the inquest transcript here, page 39, item 22) (The police and prosecutors knew this but went ahead with the prosecution anyway?!)
Over this weekend both Tony Blair and Dick Cheney endorsed Mubarak. As did Frank Wisner, the man Obama sent to mediate in Egypt, who said that Mubarak should continue in power. But then he would wouldn't he - Mubarak and his government are client's of Wisners law firm.
Can we believe these serial liars? Dare we stand up to them as millions of brave Arabs have started to do?
The Egyptian protesters know that failure has very serious consequences. If they go home they risk disappearing into the clutches of Mubarak's secret police (to whom we out-source torture clients). If they sit tight they risk being killed by the snipers who fire at them each night - typically killing with head shots.
If they fail, will we just turn the page, close the book on the story of their courage, roll over and turn our backs on their torture? Pull the blankets over our head, safe in our infantilisation, content to let the grown-ups make the decisions. It's better not to think about it.
Perhaps it is time to do some cold turkey on the super-bowl, test matches, cup finals, soaps, x-factors, celebrity worship and other such bed-time stories for the children. We really do need to grow up - and fast.