A number of human rights NGOs have condemned the string of recent massacres by the Egyptian Junta of their citizens, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. When you also read the accounts by these NGOs of the ongoing nature of this state terrorism, accounts of the associated political repression, but especially accounts of the forcible removal of an elected government, then a clear picture emerges from independent sources of a military coup by a repressive régime having occurred in Egypt. The evidence is in fact so overwhelming that legal cases are now being brought against the perpetrators of these atrocities in international courts, with the first batch of cases being announced this week by the London legal team handling them.
However, the US and the EU have refused to officially call these political events a ‘coup’, or to condemn the massacres at the protests camps at Raba’a al-‘Adawiyya and at al-Nahda on August 14th, or indeed the massacres before this at the Republican Guard Building, or the several and ongoing massacres since, culminating, during the recent storming of Cairo’s universities, in the killing of over a hundred students and wounding many others protesting the new anti-demonstration law. In fact, in the midst of all this, the UK is now rapidly re-introducing licenses for the export of arms to Egypt, having only briefly suspended them.
If the US and EU seem to be backing this ‘coup which isn’t a coup’, in fact things are much worse. We read in the State Department report presented at the proceedings of the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearings on Egypt on 29th October, the assessment that “President Morsy was voted into power in an election viewed as free and fair”, and then the judgement that “ Mr. Morsy, however, proved unwilling or unable to govern in a way that was inclusive”. This report is conclusive evidence that the US State Department colluded in if not planned the demonstrations on the 30th June, which were supposed to justify the 3rd July coup in the manner of the ‘colour revolutions’ we have now become accustomed to everywhere. The EU Councillor for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, under whose tenure the unelected position could be argued to have become an office of NATO, visited Mohamed Morsi in his prison cell, the only the person to have been able to do so before December this year, including Morsi’s own family. It turns out Ashton visited Morsi to offer him a mere 3 months in power before early elections would be forced on him, an offer Morsi refused. This confirms the EU’s collusion in this matter.
Film of the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearings is interesting to watch, especially the intervention of Congressman Gerry Connolly (Democrat, 11th District VA). Connolly says of the above State Department judgement regarding Morsi’s governance that it is: “one of the most extraordinary statements I’ve ever read from a United States official”. In short, the outraged congressman cannot reconcile himself to the idea that his government believes it is right to overthrow a foreign official duly, fairly and democratically elected to his position under any circumstances, especially circumstances where mobs in the street are set to calling for the removal of democratic politicians. Ambassador Elizabeth Jones representing the State Department is unable to respond to his onslaught in any coherent fashion. Connolly predicts a Pinochet-style outcome with arrests, deaths and disappearances over a long period of time.
But Connolly’s is not intended to be a geopolitical analysis, merely a reminder of past costly US mistakes. Clearly Egypt in 2013 is not Chile in 1973. We think that things could actually end up being much worse for the region and the world as the new ‘Constitution for all Egyptians, except the opposition’ cheats its way onto the statute books – a foregone conclusion since pre-referendum it is already in the bookshops in final form – and as the official US/EU position stays the same. Egypt, if compared with the failed states in the region in Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, has tended so far to be a force for stability. This factor largely continued into the revolutionary period post-2011, because of the Muslim Brotherhood’s commitment to peaceful means of protest since the very beginning, despite the political bad faith of the military pre-2013 coup, and despite the obvious post-coup provocations. If the new Egyptian Junta and its military constitution are expected by the US/EU and its financial backers in Saudi Arabia to somehow represent a force for stability, this will eventually be seen to have been a fatal error of judgement.
In order to see the extent of the ability of US/EU foreign policy establishment to make fatal errors of judgement, we only have to look at the incomprehensible slack that they have cut Saudi Arabia in its ongoing policy of exporting religious militancy, which has now reached such heights in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Pakistan that it qualifies as daily mass murder. The world became generally aware of this source of Islamic terror, as a result of the disclosures of the Embassy cables by Wikileaks. Everyone knew about the Saudi role in funding jihadists in the Afghan war against the Russians in the 1980s, although it was never fully understood the extent to which the Saudi state was involved, or that it never stopped. In fact, Prince Bandar, the organiser of the Saudi backing for the coup in Egypt, and a close personal friend of the Bush family, has been at the centre of the terror machine all along. When the UK Serious Fraud Office sought an investigation into alleged bribes he took from arms manufacturer BAE systems, it was called off after he threatened Tony Blair with a terrorist attack on London. More recently accepted is his intimate role in 9/11, which George W. Bush did his best to cover up.
In other words, terrorism in the world today isn’t simply ‘blow-back’ from US imperialism; it is the direct result of the foreign policy priority of keeping a medieval monarchy in power to protect the US investment in the oil company ARAMCO, the need of this monarchy to export the ideology on which its state has been built to save itself being consumed by it, and the additional preparedness of elements of this monarchy to callously use terrorism for personal ends. Whilst such events as 9/11 are bound to cause a proliferation of unsolvable conspiracy theories, some things never lie and among those things are numbers on the stock exchange. 9/11 was clearly a Saudi operation, although it is those devastated communities in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Syria that have paid the price for it.
This same Saudi Arabia and the same Prince Bandar have been backing a megalomaniac completely off his head as leader of Egypt. Abdel-Fattah Sissi’s dreams have bizarrely told him that he is going to build ‘Abdel-Fattah’ into a brand name as ubiquitous and well-known as that of the ‘Omega’ Swiss watch. This is what must have been behind the deluge of chocolates with Sissi’s likeness moulded into them that have been hitting confectionary shops in Cairo over the past three months. A Kim-Jong Il- type of personality cult is building around him which even dictator Gamal Abdel-Nasser would have thought twice about foisting on Egyptians. Oligarchs curry favour with Sissi by pandering to this new streak of insanity, such as Naguib Sawiris encouraging the female reporters on his Masri al-Youm daily newpaper to offer themselves up as slave girls for his harem. This new inbred emperor also seems to be enjoying playing hide-and-seek with his minions by employing a drag-queen pulled out from the night clubs of the Pyramids Road as a double to replace him at formal events.
When the ‘Committee of Fifty’, who drafted the recent ‘constitution for all Egyptians, except the opposition’, went to attend a celebratory dinner at military headquarters, they were in for a rude shock. Already the constitution had been militarised with their help. The Minister of Defence (i. e. Sissi) according to the constitution does not report to the President, only to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), and he gets double the term of the President (8 years). And get this – also according to the constitution, the Minister of Defence appoints the members of SCAF. Furthermore, military courts have the right to claim jurisdiction over civil courts over any matter that they feel concerns them. In other words, say you are staying in any of the myriad hotels in Egypt owned or simply run by either the military or a retired general, and you refuse to pay for dinner because it was inedible, then you could find yourself in front of a military court. The same would apply if you have an altercation with a security guard seconded from the armed forces say on a petrol station forecourt.
But it wasn’t enough that the military had directed the proceedings the ‘Committee of Fifty’ from the outset. At the end of the dinner party, the military hosts distributed a plush gilt-version of the final constitution to be signed by the current President of Egypt (originally appointed by them after the coup), only it was different from the one that the committee had signed off on. This was disclosed in an interview with TV channel al-Tahrir, by Mohamed Aboul Ghar, a member of the committee and leader of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party. On his account, none of the committee members, obviously fairly replete and somnolent from the effects of the military table, bothered to read the document, except for the head of the Catholic Church in Egypt, Pope Antonius. What he discovered was that a headline reference to the fact that Egypt enjoyed ‘civil governance’ was replaced by the statement that Egypt had a ‘civil government’.
In other words the military, through the auspices of their 77-year old scribe and head of the drafting committee, Amr Moussa, had discovered that the constitution headline belied its content, and they simply changed it without bothering to mention this to their gofer committee members. When the talk show hostess on Tahrir TV asked Aboul Ghar what they did about the change, he said that when they all learned about this, nothing was done because nobody ‘wanted to make waves’, a response which shocked even this most pro-coup talk show hostess and which led her to mock him on air. The background to this could only be that the ‘Committee of Fifty’ was concerned about the outcome of the referendum, despite the fact that voting slips had already been forged, given that many of the liberal parties representing their power base had declared against the constitution. The poet Abul Rahman Yusef, from el-Baradei’s Constitution Party, for instance, had fervently denounced the new constitution as a ‘dream of old men’, one that the young generation of Egyptians would refuse to abide by. It wasn’t that the outcome of the referendum would be in doubt; merely that a successful outcome would look unrealistic if too many parties opposed it.
So already the black comedy surrounding this ‘constitution for all Egyptians except the opposition’, whose entire leadership is in prison, whose media outlets have been shut down and whose parties have been banned , begins to rival that of the ‘coup that isn’t a coup’. After 167 days of continuous protests by millions of people who voted for Mohamed Morsi in his successful democratic election, it wasn’t only necessary for the Junta to ban protests in general, but get this – more specifically the new constitution contains a side-splitting clause making it illegal to carry out protests which demand the removal of a sitting President. So colour revolutions are now no longer allowed, having served their purpose on 30th June 2013. This is the US/EU roadmap proposed by officials who are supposed to represent us, such as Elizabeth Jones and Catherine Ashton, but who are really no more than moral pigmies helplessly swimming in the wake of such Princes of Darkness as Bandar.
The thing is that this US/EU quiescence is fuelling the utter insanity of this Junta and its actions, with dire consequences for the Middle-East region as a whole. Human Rights Watch admit to 1000 people killed at the Raba’a al-‘Adawiyya protest camp on 14th August, although the families of protesters who vanished in the clear-up and the burning of the square, and who are still to this day scraping the pavements in search of their DNA, put the figure closer to 2,600. The great and the good who have returned from the junket in Pretoria for the memorial to Nelson Mandela need, in their policy-making towards Egypt, to remember that it was 69 people who were killed at the Sharpeville massacre, and that it was after that massacre that Mandela was appointed the first military leader of the ANC. Furthermore, while the Muslim Brotherhood continues to insist on peaceful protest, one should not forget either that even as ex-IRA leader Martin McGuinness acts as Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister, the ‘real IRA’ or the ‘continuation IRA’, can and have erupted back into life with bloody consequences.
The new constitution is a victory for Nasserism in the continuous battle which started in the first Palestine War in the 1940s between the ‘Free Officers Movement’ and the Muslim Brotherhood of which as the historian Hussein Hamouda writes in his ‘Secrets of the Free Officers Movement and the Muslim Brotherhood’, it was originally a cell. After the defeat at the hands of Israel in 1948, Nasser would champion the cause of ‘might is right’ against the ‘justice for all’ pursued by the Muslim Brotherhood, and he would incarcerate, torture and kill Muslim Brothers on an industrial scale first in 1954, then again in 1965. This last period is recalled in a BBC interview with Mustafa Amin. So if those events are anything to go by, the current victory for Nasserism must be a surely pyrrhic one, for the Muslim Brotherhood is back in the 21st century in even greater numbers.
Egypt is 91% Muslim in religion and yet the military constitution has eradicated any reference to the country’s Islamic faith, not as a source of law, or a source of inspiration, or even as a significant culture. If the matter of omitting the nation’s Muslim identity from the constitution can, let us say, for argument’s sake, be borne with equanimity by some of the Muslim population in the north of Egypt, this is certainly not the case for the 30 million who live in the Deep South (known in Arabic as the Sa‘id), or in the tribal areas in Sinai, or indeed those of the Western Desert. These populations have always had at best a tenuous relationship with the centre, and have reluctantly only ever accepted Cairo’s hegemony in return for tourism revenues, which have now all but evaporated. These are communities with an attitude to life not entirely dissimilar to the honour code of Afghans, and the new constitution will most definitely be taken as an affront to be avenged.
A sense of what we will increasingly be seeing in the future, is a change in the temperature of protests such as the running battles between the students at the Cairo Universities whose front line elements are packed with the sons of Sai‘idis, in which the riot police come off worst. Now if the crack in Egyptian society caused by the massacre at Raba‘a and Nahda, then splits all the way down through the fabric of society – all hell will break loose. Southern Egypt and the tribal areas, with their traditionally large caches of weapons, will be at one with its contiguous areas, and will join Libya, Chad, the Central African Republic, Northern Nigeria, Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia – an area the size of the US – as a world of lawlessness. Violence will explode beyond anybody’s worst nightmare and the relatively small numbers of illegal immigrants going for EU destinations will turn into relentless hordes.
The election of President Morsi had brought hope, stability and increased business to Egypt in virtue of the arrival of democracy and the rule of law. A virtuous circle beckoned for other nations in the region. Egypt at that time welcomed any refugees from the Syrian disaster. These refugees in one year alone opened no less than 1000 businesses. Now Syrians are being expelled, their new businesses in dire straits, and Egypt itself risks sadly turning into a new Syria. Where three new multinationals had made commitments to investment in the Egyptian market under Morsi, now these, and most of the old ones already there before Morsi, have left. In all, between North Africa and the Middle-East, as Egypt turns into a basket-case, there must be now close to half a billion people that represent a seriously underemployed population without access to a decent education. A massive black hole in world GDP together with a new cycle of violence opens up which is a testament to the fact that we live in a world ruled by moral pigmies.
Mohamed Malik can be reached on email@example.com.
Omar Kassem can be reached through his website: http://different-traditions.com/