On Dec. 17, 2010, turmoil erupted in Tunisia against the 23-year regime of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. After nearly a month of increasingly violent confrontations and silence from Washington, the Tunisian strongman opted to flee. On Jan. 14, as Ben Ali was departing for Saudi Arabia, Obama finally found reason to "condemn and deplore the use of violence against citizens peacefully voicing their opinion in Tunisia." The 10-line written statement also called for "free and fair elections in the near future."
No doubt inspired by this ringing endorsement, popular dissent against autocratic governments immediately appeared in Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen. The O-Team, caught flat-footed by the uprisings, was, at best, uncertain. On Jan. 27, a day after heavily armed police officers and protesters clashed in Cairo, Vice President Joe Biden went on television to describe Mubarak as "an ally of ours" and said, "I would not refer to him as a dictator."
The following day, tens of thousands of Egyptians rushed from Friday prayers demanding an end to Mubarak's rule. Over the course of the next two weeks, as the ranks of protesters swelled in Cairo's Tahrir Square, Obama raised "the situation in Egypt" more than a dozen times in White House statements and remarks he made during media interviews and appearances. On Feb. 11, the day after our Egyptian "ally" abdicated in the midst of a military takeover, Obama joked to reporters at a "send-off" for his retiring press secretary, "Well, listen, obviously (Robert) Gibbs' departure is not the biggest one today."
This week, as violent protests swept Iran, Libya and Bahrain, where the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet is headquartered, nobody outside the White House was laughing. On Feb. 16, as the Iranians dispatched warships for an unprecedented transit of the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean Sea and Mideast oil spiked at more than $100 per barrel for the first time in three years, the O-Team struggled yet again with what to say. At the State Department, spokesman P.J. Crowley was asked whether Libyan despot Moammar Gadhafi is a dictator. His stunning reply: "I don't think he came to office through a democratic process."
The administration's insipid message to dissenters demanding regime change in Tehran is even more alarming. Though Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said the protesters are "a testament to the courage of the Iranian people," her boss, President Obama, has only alluded to the increasingly bloody confrontations three times in as many weeks.
Meanwhile, at the United Nations, the O-Team is focused on "obstacles to Middle East peace." Now there's an unambiguous response to Arabs and Persians demanding freedom from their own tyrannical governments: Throw Israel under the bus.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.