Sunday, 28 July 2013

Egyptian military opens fire on crowd

The anti-Morsi demonstrators who poured into the streets a few weeks ago chanting, ‘The army and the people are one hand’ might be suffering a few pangs of guilt now that the Egyptian people’s army has staged a deliberate massacre—as well they should be. It was their political cover that gave and continues to give the generals permission to slaughter Muslim Brotherhood supporters in the streets and to drum up charges against the imprisoned former president. Post hoc criticism of military ‘excesses’ doesn’t change that.

Morsi gravely miscalculated the meaning and significance of his narrow electoral support. He mistook numbers for power and thought that the ‘legitimacy’ provided by the polls would trump all resistance. Perhaps there’s some peculiar logic in a party so single-minded about the role of a supernatural being in people’s affairs maintaining to the bitter end such blind faith in the mystical power of a vote despite the country’s revolutionary upheavals.

It’s now pretty clear that the success of the anti-Morsi demonstrations had a lot to do with clever work by influential remnants of the Mubarak regime, wealthy businessmen and the deeply MB-phobic security forces. One doesn’t have to fancy religious fundamentalism to regret that the reactionaries who benefited from the Mubarak dictatorship now have the upper hand.

The revolutionary youth and unions that toppled the dictatorship two years ago now see the fruits of their sacrifices being reaped by the generals and their rich allies. Perhaps they regret cheering so loudly when the military issued an ultimatum to Morsi, an elected, albeit autocratic, president and then promptly arrested him. If a president more to the liberals’ liking comes to power one day, what’s to prevent the army from bouncing him out, too? Egypt could start to look like Pakistan or imitate the old patterns of Turkey or, for that matter, Latin America where militaries long formed a shadow state.

Muhammed El-Baradei and the other civilians who rushed to the generals’ side after their coup to offer to replace the guy they couldn’t beat in the voting now look like accomplices to mass murder. The Coptic Pope might be rethinking his eager post-coup backslapping as well, given the possibility that resentful fundamentalist Muslims will consider Egypt’s Christians—10% of the population—even more worthy of reprisals.

It’s encouraging that some of the democratic organizations like the April 6 Movement are distancing themselves from practices like the army’s deployment of snipers to assassinate Egyptians expressing their political beliefs. Given the descent of Syria into a nightmarish state of permanent war and trouble in neighboring Libya and Tunisia, the Arab Spring is desperately in need of some good news.

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