The Sadness That is Egypt


The recent repression of Islamists by the army appears to be a deliberate attempt to sabotage a genuine “people’s coup,” as though all along the military used the people cynically in order to depose Morse and then itself remain as usual the power behind the throne.  The US could not be more pleased, because confirmation of military power in Egypt pertains to a favorable relationship with Israel, the military elites of both continuing their two-to-tango dance of death.  Without long-standing US aid to the Egyptian military, it is doubtful their state-within-a-state could have survived, one more example of the internal meddling, nay, curse, of American intervention where it has no business being.  Of the many killed and wounded earlier this week, how many bore the marks of US aid, therefore making America complicit in the murders?  When the army is free to kill fellow Egyptians (and the deafening silence of the army, the interim government, and the “liberals” offering as candidates, over these crimes), a precedent is created for turning the guns on those seeking democratic government, too.

Idealism on the part of the huge political crowd is being cruelly thrown back in their face—the army was not transformed on the spot into a people’s army, and, unless mass protest is renewed and even enlarged, perhaps never will be.  What better way to move the democratic process forward than if Islamists, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, and the anti-Morsi demonstrators could unite in their demand for the complete subordination of the military and the necessity of inclusiveness in all phases of Egyptian life—whether or not this meets the expectations of the US and Israel?  If only the masses, across sectarian lines, including full toleration of a secularist position, could realize they are being played against each other, with the Egyptian army carrying water not only for themselves, but also outside powers, the chances for democratizing Egyptian society (yes, with assurances of belonging as full members, the Muslim Brotherhood would and should be given a chance!) are immeasurably improved.  As matters stand, the Egyptian people are faced with a divide-and-conquer strategy, not only for Israel’s sake, and also enlarge American influence in the region as a whole, but also to keep alive the hostility toward all things Islamic, and hence, Homeland Security in the US, massive defense budgets, open sesame to further interventions, and, I believe, the gradual fascistic direction, all pushed forward—in this case, on the backs of the Egyptian people.  My New York Times Comment (July 9) on the military repression follows:

In this situation six months may seem an eternity. What is clearly lacking is an admission of guilt by the interim president, the army, and liberals including ElBaradei for the recent atrocity (no other word will do). Condemnation is the only path to reconciliation, and even then the latter may not be possible. We are so used to demonizing the Muslim Brotherhood that we cannot see the justice of their present argument. I would also emphasize that the outsize rule of the army in Egyptian life would probably not be possible without the billions in military aid the US provides it. Yet Obama will not pass judgment on an obvious war crime! Power politics has been the elephant in the room: the US desire to stabilize Egypt on lines satisfactory to Israel where the military leaderships of both Egypt and Israel are in close working condition.

My hope remains: the Egyptian people will rise up against the army itself (as many have stated) if the timetable toward democratic constitutional government is not met, and in the immediate setting, denounce the massacre of Islamists and the closing of their media outlets. The surest way to ensure violence–and possibly civil war–is to continue repression. I am particularly disappointed in ElBaradei, who has not forthrightly condemned the anti-Morsi violence. And in America, we preach democracy but add fuel to the fire of military actions to kill with impunity. I am saddened for the Egyptian people, whose dreams deserve better.

Norman Pollack is the author of “The Populist Response to Industrial America” (Harvard) and “The Just Polity” (Illinois), Guggenheim Fellow, and professor of history emeritus, Michigan State University. His new book, Eichmann on the Potomac, will be published by CounterPunch/AK Press in the fall of 2013.



Norman Pollack has written on Populism. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.

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