Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Worse than a crime in Egypt

  • Print
Killed by security forces, the corpse of a supporter of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi lies in a Cairo field hospital Saturday.

MANU BRABO / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge Image

Killed by security forces, the corpse of a supporter of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi lies in a Cairo field hospital Saturday.

Two massacres committed by the Egyptian army in one week. At least 130 people killed in the streets of Cairo for protesting against the military coup. It is worse than a crime (as the French diplomat Talleyrand remarked when Napoleon ordered a particularly counter-productive execution). It is a mistake.

It is also a crime, of course. The killing has been deliberate and precise: only trained snipers could produce so many victims who have been shot in the head or the heart. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Adly Mansour, the tame president he has installed, tell the kind of lies that generals and politicians always tell when this sort of thing is going on, but the reports of the journalists on the scene leave no room for doubt: this is murder.

But it is, above all, a mistake. When the army fulfilled the demands of the anti-government demonstrators in Tahrir Square on July 3 by overthrowing the elected president, Mohammed Morsi, after only a year in office, it must have known that his supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood would protest in the streets. And it must have had a plan for dealing with those protests. Soldiers always have plans.

The simplest plan would be just to wait the protesters out. The Muslim Brotherhood could put large numbers of people on the streets, but at least in Cairo even larger numbers of people would go to Tahrir Square and support the coup. Use minimum force, contain the demonstrations by both sides, and wait for people to get bored and go home.

In the meanwhile, push on with the process of rewriting the constitution to remove the Islamic bits inserted last year by Morsi's party and hold a new referendum to ratify it. By the time fresh presidential and parliamentary elections are held early next year, the Muslim Brotherhood will presumably have found more modern and moderate leaders to replace Morsi -- and in any case the secular parties will win the election.

Was this really Gen. Sisi's scenario for the future when he overthrew Morsi's government? Perhaps: the army's moderate behaviour in the first week after the coup could support that hypothesis. But it wouldn't have taken long for the soldiers to understand that things were unlikely to work according to plan.

The problem was not so much the imprisoned president's refusal to legitimize his overthrow by cooperating with the military, or the tens of thousands of peaceful pro-Morsi demonstrators camped out in the streets. Morsi's non-cooperation was predictable and so were the pro-Morsi crowds, but his supporters were patient and peaceful. Wait another month or so, and most of them would probably go home.

In this scenario, the turning point would have come when Sisi or his advisers finally realized that the Muslim Brotherhood could wait it out too. Whatever the intervening process, if the Brotherhood was really free to run again in the promised election next year, it might win again. That would be catastrophic for the army's very privileged position in Egypt -- so the Brotherhood had to be excluded from politics.

That is a charitable take on the army's motives. The likelier explanation, alas, is that Sisi planned to ban the Brotherhood from the start. Democracy be damned: the "deep state," that permanent collusion between well-fed Egyptian soldiers and bureaucrats and the foreign military and commercial interests who feed them, is making a comeback. And the political idiots on Tahrir Square are cheering it on.

Either way, the army's political project now requires the massive use of force: the supporters of the Brotherhood must be driven from the streets, by murder if necessary, and its leaders must be criminalized and banned. And other political idiots, in Washington, London and Paris, are going along with that too.

U.S. President Barack Obama is uncomfortable with what is happening, but he won't call it a coup because then he would be obliged to cut off $1.5 billion a year in aid to the Egyptian army. Instead, he calls it a "post-revolution transition" and promises that the United States will be a "strong partner to the Egyptian people as they shape their path to the future."

His loyal sidekick William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary (also known as "Tonto"), asks the Egyptian authorities politely to refrain from violence because "now is the time for dialogue, not confrontation." 'Fraid not. Now is the time for murder, and foreign democrats are holding the murderer's coat.

Egypt is the biggest Arab country by far, and so long as the democratic revolution prospered in Egypt you could still say the "Arab Spring" was changing things for the better, even despite the calamity in Syria. But it's very hard to see how the Egyptians can find their way back from where they are now.

Even worse, the Egyptian coup is stark proof that political Islam cannot succeed by taking the democratic path. The message it conveys to devout Islamists all over the Arab world is Osama bin Laden was right: only by violence can their political project succeed. Thanks a bunch, Gen. Sisi.


Gwynne Dyer is an independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 30, 2013 A9

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Sanders gives other candidates a reality check

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A red squirrel peaks out of the shade in a tree in East Fort Garry, Sunday, September 9, 2012. (TREVOR HAGAN/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Local- Korea Veterans Association stained glass window at Deer Lodge Centre. Dedication with Minister of Veterans Affairs Dr. Rey Pagtakhan. March 12, 2003.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think e-cigarettes should be banned by the school division?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google