Matt Lee reports: For decades, foreign armies that received U.S. assistance were on notice that toppling their freely elected civilian leaders would mean an aid suspension.
After Egypt, that seems no more, despite a law requiring just that if Washington determined a coup had taken place.
The Obama administration made a technically legal move to decide not to decide if the Egyptian military’s ouster of the country’s first democratically elected president was a “coup.”
That’s now created a wide opening to skirt legislation intended to support the rule of law, good governance and human rights around the world — principles long deemed inviolable American values.
Previous U.S. administrations have endured criticism for appearing to pay them only lip service. But this new and unprecedented finding sends a confusing message that probably will resonate beyond Egypt to other fragile — and perhaps not so fragile — democracies where soldiers are unhappy with ballot box results or the policies of their elected commanders in chief.
“The law does not require us to make a formal determination … as to whether a coup took place, and it is not in our national interest to make such a determination,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Friday. She spoke in the administration’s only on-camera news briefing a day after members of Congress were informed privately that the U.S. laws was no longer necessarily applicable.
That interpretation of the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act might come as a surprise to juntas and militaries in Mali, Madagascar, Honduras and Pakistan. All of them, and others, have coped with U.S. aid suspensions over the past decade or so because of coups. In each case, there was a presumption that the United States would make a coup determination based on the law, and it did. [Continue reading…]