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US response to Tahrir Square crackdown angers Egyptians (VIDEO)

Security forces have killed at least 29 as Tahrir Square protests entered their fourth day. Many Egyptians have criticized the US for its cautious response to  the military junta's heavy hand.

By Correspondent / November 22, 2011

A general view of Tahrir Square, with protesters keeping their distance and fleeing from tear gas fired by riot police during clashes, while protesting against head of the ruling military council and government Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, in Cairo on Tuesday.

Amr Abdallah Dals/Reuters

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Cairo

The US attempt to reposition itself as a supporter of democracy and human rights in the Middle East is being undermined by a growing Egyptian perception that Washington will back Egypt's military junta unreservedly despite its increasing repressiveness.

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That perception was reinforced yesterday, when a White House statement on the clashes between protesters and security forces appeared to place the blame equally on both sides for violence that has killed at least 29 protesters since Saturday.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the US was "deeply concerned" about the violence and "tragic loss of life" and called for "restraint on all sides, so that Egyptians can move forward together to forge a strong and united Egypt.”

That call for restraint on “all sides,” in the face of days of excessive use of force by police and soldiers, was met with incredulity in Cairo. Security forces have shot not only tear gas and rubber bullets, but bird shot and live ammunition at protesters throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails.

“Should we stop dying? Is that how we should show restraint?” scoffed protester Salma Ahmed as heavy gunfire echoed through Tahrir Square.

In recent months, Egypt’s military rulers have become increasingly repressive – torturing with impunity, jailing bloggers, sending more than 12,000 civilians to military tribunals, and using excessive force against protesters, killing dozens. Yet as the abuses have stacked up, the US has mostly refrained from public criticism of Egypt’s military, whose $1.3 billion in US aid could come under review if critics in Congress prevail. Washington's relative silence has created the appearance that the US has returned to its Mubarak-era policy of turning a blind eye to its ally’s abuses to preserve the relationship.

“We can't fall into the position where it looks like we've given the SCAF a blank check,” says Michael Wahid Hanna, a fellow at The Century Foundation in New York. “If this doesn’t change soon, the United States is going to be in a very difficult position because it'll be seen to have not learned any of the lessons of the Arab Spring. And we'll be right back where we started – supporting stability for stability's sake, even in light of the continuation of many of the same practices that triggered the whole uprising to begin with.”

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