Egypt: revolution redux or military rule?

Numerous were killed in street-fighting in Egypt July 5, two days after the military deposed President Mohamed Morsi, with CNN putting the number at nearly 30. Several were slain as they protested in front of the Republican Guard headquarters, where Morsi is believed to be detained. AFP portrays the incident as a gunfight between the Republican Guards and armed Brotherhood militants. Dozens of Brotherhood leaders and their staff have been arrested, including the group's supreme executive, Mohamed Badie and his deputy Khairat el-Shater. After Morsi's removal, Egypt's Foreign Minister Kamel Amr (a holdover from the period of military rule before Morsi's election) called US Secretary of State John Kerry to insist that the ousting was not a military coup. But his overstatement revealed the obvious sensitivity of the topic (especially as concerns keeping US military aid going): "There is no role, no political role whatsoever, for the military… This is the total opposite of a military coup." (Huffington Post)

On July 1, with the military's 48-hour ultimatum to Morsi pending, Egypt's most respected daily Al-Ahram reported that leaders of the protest movement had "reacted with worry" to the development. The 6 April Youth Movement (Facebook page), the Revolutionary Socialists, the Egyptian Popular Current and the Strong Egypt Party apparently issued a joint statement rejecting both Muslim Brotherhood rule and military rule. Ingy Hamdy of the 6 April movement said of the ultimatum: "We are totally against this; we support the role of the army as protector of our borders, our people and our national security, but we do not want to return to military rule or a political roadmap… The roadmap is already there; it has been provided by revolutionary youth in the form of the roadmap of the 30 June Front," which emerged as the leading body of the Tamarod (Rebel) protest camapign. "We don't want anyone to adopt this roadmap, whether the military or remnants of the Mubarak regime or Morsi. We want the people to adopt it."

But the adoption of this "roadmap" by the military seems to be exactly what happened; its plan called for Morsi to be replaced by the head of the High Constitutional Court, for the Morsi-era constitution to be scrapped, and for an "independent" prime minister and "technocratic" cabinet to be appointed until new elections can be held. Exactly what the military has now imposed. And Aswat Masriya informs us that the official spokesman of the 30 June Front was Mohamed ElBaradei, who has now been appointed as prime minister.

Leaders of the moderate-Islamist Strong Egypt Party and left-wing Revolutionary Socialists were also quoted in the Al-Ahram account. "The Revolutionary Socialists demand Morsi step down and at the same time refuse the armed forces statement," said the group's leader Ahmed Ezzat. "I believe the armed forces had to issue this statement and take this step because it does not want civil disobedience. The people were leading the movement and wanted to launch a civil disobedience campaign; at the same time, after the arrogance the Muslim Brotherhood showed, the army had to move."

This strikes us as a salient point. The military had to step in and appropriate the demands and leadership of the movement against Morsi in order to keep things under control—in line with the imperialist strategy of controlling the political trajectory of the Arab revolutions.

It should be noted that Aswat Masriya also reports that there was an editorial coup at Al-Ahram after Morsi's removal, portrayed as a staff revolt against editor-in-chief Abdel Nasser Salama, in which he was detained until he agreed to step down. Al-Ahram is partially owned by the Egyptian state, and Salama had been appointed by the Morsi administration. Perhaps his removal was prompted by such indiscretions as reporting on the protest leaders' statement rejecting military rule. Perhaps it came at military behest. It will be interesting to see how their coverage changes in the days to come.

A commentary in the Wall Street Journal stated with refreshing blatancy: "Egyptians would be lucky if their new ruling generals turn out to be in the mold of Chile's Augusto Pinochet, who took power amid chaos but hired free-market reformers and midwifed a transition to democracy. If [armed forces chief] General Abdul [Fatah] Sisi merely tries to restore the old Mubarak order, he will eventually suffer Mr. Morsi's fate."

Sickening revisionism aside (Pinochet as democratic midwife; "chaos" as a result of Allende's misrule rather than CIA destabilization), this is an incredibly revealing statement. The Egyptian military's imperial masters in Washington and on Wall Street care nothing for the freedom of the Egyptian people—only "freedom" for Western capital in Egypt. Morsi is not reviled here for his repression or his reactionary constitution, or the Muslim Brotherhood's sinister politics. His sin was failing to deliver "stability." And Mubarak is not reviled for his undemocratic state but (left unsaid, throwing the Journal's well-heeled readers a wink) failing to sufficiently dismantle the Nasser-era restraints on Western access to local labor and resources. And Egypt's own resources (which are meager compared to its oil-rich neighbors) are less what is at issue here than the nation's status as leader of the Arab world. A neoliberal counter-revolution in Egypt is critical to the imperial agenda throughout the region.

If the figure of up to 30 million Egyptians in the streets in recent days is to be believed, we've just witnessed perhaps the largest demonstrations in the history of the human race. This can't but strike some panic in the planet's corridors of power. Morsi's ouster is the fruit of this world-historic upswell, and represents a significant defeat for political Islam—especially critical in light of the recent Sunni-Shi'ite sectarian violence in Egypt, part of a terrifying pattern that threatens to ignite the entire Islamic world. But a new dictatorship (even behind a veil of democratic legitimacy) could position the Brotherhood very well to recoup its losses—allowing it to pose once again as champion of the oppressed rather than oppressor.

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    1. Egypt: evidence of destabilization campaign

      A New York Times story of July 10, "Sudden Improvements in Egypt Suggest a Campaign to Undermine Morsi," points to the possibility that the chaos of Morsi's rule may have been due to a destabilization effort:

      CAIRO — The streets seethe with protests and government ministers are on the run or in jail, but since the military ousted President Mohamed Morsi, life has somehow gotten better for many people across Egypt: Gas lines have disappeared, power cuts have stopped and the police have returned to the street.

      The apparently miraculous end to the crippling energy shortages, and the re-emergence of the police, seems to show that the legions of personnel left in place after former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011 played a significant role — intentionally or not — in undermining the overall quality of life under the Islamist administration of Mr. Morsi.
      And as the interim government struggles to unite a divided nation, the Muslim Brotherhood and Mr. Morsi’s supporters say the sudden turnaround proves that their opponents conspired to make Mr. Morsi fail. Not only did police officers seem to disappear, but the state agencies responsible for providing electricity and ensuring gas supplies failed so fundamentally that gas lines and rolling blackouts fed widespread anger and frustration.
      "This was preparing for the coup," said Naser el-Farash, who served as the spokesman for the Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade under Mr. Morsi. "Different circles in the state, from the storage facilities to the cars that transport petrol products to the gas stations, all participated in creating the crisis."
      Meanwhile, Egypt's leading feminist Nawal El Saadawi has now weighed in—saying that the upsurge against Morsi was a "people's revolution, not a coup"…
  1. Reuters’ garbled analysis of Egypt & Syria
    A Reuters analysis of July 7, “Syria’s Islamists disenchanted with democracy after Mursi’s fall,” opens: 

    Syria’s Islamist rebels say the downfall of Egypt’s popularly elected Muslim Brotherhood president has proven that Western nations pushing for democracy will never accept them, and reinforced the view of radicals that a violent power grab is their only resort.

    Perhaps the most unintentionally ironic lead ever written. What “Western nations”? There were 30 million Egyptians in the streets demanding Morsi’s ouster, and Egypt’s leaders are desperately trying to convince Washington that it wasn’t a coup so their military aid won’t be cut off! Talk about getting it 100% backwards! And since when did the Islamists have any “enchantment” with “democracy,” we’d love to know? Have we forgotten already how Morsi tried to grab dictatorial powers, thereby setting off the rebellion against his rule?

    For all the supposed demonization of Islamism in the media, Western accounts—being entirely focused on the threat of terrorist attacks on the West, and not human freedom in the Middle East—more often give political Islam a free ride. As we have pointed out before.

  2. Numerous were killed…several were slain…
    “Numerous were killed in street-fighting in Egypt July 5, two days after the military deposed President Mohamed Morsi, with CNN putting the number at nearly 30. Several were slain as they protested in front of the Republican Guard headquarters, where Morsi is believed to be detained.”

    Numerous who? Street-fighting men? Several who were slain? Holdovers from the Mubarak Regime that over the course of 30 years had the armed forces that Mubarak had headed in his Egyptian air force days bathing in Washingtonian taxpayer largesse and that used much Amurrikin capital to establish one of the most vital sectors of the Egyptian national economy, all crony, natch, from textiles to commodities to construction and various contract services all controlled and staffed with the army and its feudal subjects. Without bearing in mind the economics paradigm at work in Crony Socialist Egypt of the post-Nasser period, we can’t even begin to populate the missing demographics in your otherwise measured lede.

    In other ways your aggregation and analysis of this almost surreal scenario in serial revolution of the Arab World’s most populous and once most western and multi-ethnically diverse state does deepen our understanding. Provided our understanding is already reaching beyond the repetitious shallow scripts of all tv coverage and much commercial radio and wire service coverage.

    This would be an ideal time to re-launch your once-WBAI crit-thinking radio program Moorish Ortho Radio Crusade.  A panel with WW4 alongside Egypt’s blogger-of-choice Sand Monkey and Algeria’s exiled reporter The Moor Next Door augmented by long-time Independent UK Egyptian hack & Water Wars scholar, Adel Darwish would make for a welcome alternative analytical universe for, say, Democracy Now or a syndicated community radio weekly audio magazine.  KBOO Programming Board can you hear me?

    1. MORC is dead
      Thanks for your comment. I’m not sure I understand what you are taking issue with. I think it is pretty obvious that the slain were Muslim Brotherhood supporters, certainly not Mubarak nostalgists. 

      WBAI is finished as far as I am concerned, and I am not relocating to Portland. The MORC vlog may again have life, if I can find a new producer. But that’s about it. After I was purged from WBAI, I sent a proposal to WNYC, complete with demo disks—and never even heard back from them.