I met with Sandmonkey (at an undisclosed location) and commiserated. He is as charming and clever as you might expect from the "writer of an extremely cynical, snarky, pro-US, secular, libertarian, disgruntled sandmonkey." Fabulous. But his words of premonitory warning gave me great pause. He has scorn for the "new Democrats" that sold out reformers and activists and destroyed fledging movements of democracy.
Upon learning of his blog departure, I was heartbroken. Look, the blogosphere and the fighters for liberty and democracy lost a warrior when Sandmonkey backed away from the keyboard, signed off on his blog and wrote his last post here.
One of the chief reasons is the fact that there has been too much heat around me lately. I no longer believe that my anonymity is kept, especially with State Security agents lurking around my street and asking questions about me since that day. I ignore that, the same way I ignored all the clicking noises that my phones started to exhibit all of a sudden, or the law suit filed by Judge Mourad on my friends, and instead grew bolder and more reckless at a time where everybody else started being more cautious. It took me a while to take note of the fear that has been gripping our little blogsphere and comprehend what it really means.
Listen to our conversation here:
Here are some excerpts. On reform:
SANDMONKEY: "Any kind of democratic reform in the country [Egypt] for the past 3 years has been rolled back specifically because there is no more pressure coming from Washington anymore."
ATLAS: Why? What happened to the pressure in Washington?
SANDMONKEY: You know what happened to the pressure in Washington. The Democrats won the Congress. There is no more pressure coming from Bush because he is not able to push people anymore to do those things. He is not able to push the Egyptian government anymore because the American public is suddenly not interested in reforming the Middle East because of what's going on in the Iraq. So suddenly the Egyptian government is not afraid of the American pressure. They are doing whatever they want to do. They are beating up demonstrators, they are cracking down on activists, they are changing the constitution, and eroding civil liberties once and for all and they are using proxies to take down bloggers.
On personal security:
SANDMONKEY: Security people began to ask more and more questions about me. I ignored it. But I don't think about stuff like that. You can die any day. Is that going to stop you from living? No. So they can crack down and and they can get me any day. There is no point in worrying about that. But when are on my doorstep, and coming down on me and you see people in Egypt getting arrested left and right for no reason and being charged with the most ridiculous charges..... the majority of the Egyptian blogosphere is becoming silent. People that were vocal before are censoring themselves big time.
ATLAS: Who are they arresting and for what?
SANDMONKEY: They're arresting activists. People they don't like. They are threatening to arrest any journalists with the new terrorism law who might voice any opinion that contradicts with the government. They are calling anybody the defends that is deemed a terrorist as a terrorist collaborator and should be thrown in jail. And the thing is there is no definition of "terrorist." Anybody can be a terrorist. They actually stated that trying to pressure the government is a form of terrorism. Anybody that talks bad about the government ...........lawsuits left and right for "defaming Egypt's reputations."
On the Democrats embracing Muslim Brotherhood:
Atlas: Where you shocked when Hoyer met with the Muslim Brotherhood?
SANDMONKEY: Let me tell you something. I was in Turkey a couple of weeks ago and I met a couple of Syrian activists. They one thing they told me that was really funny about the Pelosi visit. After Pelosi came to Syria two things happened. People on Syrian TV were saying, "We forced the Americans to knock on the Damascus gate!" Sort of like an admission that we messed things up in Iraq so much that America had to come and beg for their help.
But the day after Pelosi's visits there were immediate arrests of Syrian activists. That was the fruit she yielded. "Oh the Americans came over and they said they have a different foreign policy and they're more interested in placating Bashar's ego." And he went out and got [arrested] everyone he wanted because he knew he had an ally in Washington that wouldn't pressure him as much.
ATLAS: Isn't that disgusting?
SANDMONKEY: Yeah, but what are you going to do?
ATLAS: We have to educate the American people. You think the American people know this?
SANDMONKEY: No, but do they even care at this point? I don't think they are interested in the discussion any more. There are people that have made up their mind, they think we need to placate the dictators because America is wrong and everyone else is always right. That's how they operate.
SANDMONKEY: What they are doing is completely irresponsible.
ATLAS: THe world is watching.........
SANDMONKEY: Of course the world is watching and the world is gloating.
Everyone wanted Bush to lose the 2004 elections. If he had lost 2004 we would not have had our push for democracy in 2005. The moment Bush won again that's when Mubarak said maybe we should have democracy because Bush didn't go away. And had Bush gone awaythere wouldn't be democracy right now ...... like there wouldn't be two years of freedom and fresh air that we were able to breathe and that' we've had.
After 2006 [elections] the change went in the opposite agenda.
ATLAS: As an Egyptian who understands democracy, life, liberty the pursuit of happiness....and who admires America. Looking at America, I want to know what you see.
SANDMONKEY: I'm seeing a country in great danger. Simply speaking, I don't think the people get what's at stake anymore. I don't think they see where they are heading.
There's more on compromise, diplomacy, Rumsfeld, Bolton, truth, Israel, the second amendment, the Bedouins, America's founding forefathers ........Listen to the interview. Every word.
UPDATE: Check out WaPo's: NO RESULTS FROM DAMASCUS hat tip ejo
UPDATE: More of Pelosi's fruit:Repression getting worse in Syria: opposition figures AFP Six leading opposition figures jailed in Syria warned on Tuesday that the "repressive climate" in their country was worsening and called for the release of all political prisoners.