Live by the mob, die by the mob


Mobs confront police

Mobs confront police

It was the Egyptian “mob” that brought Muhammad Mursi into power and it was the same mob that swept him out of power.  During the interim he managed to do some things for his country but in the minds of many alienated himself and his party from the majority of Egyptians.

Immediately after his rise, ascent to power, Mursi was faced with the usual Israeli aggression against the Palestinians and particularly in  Gaza.  No doubt he was being goaded by Israel in order to test his mettle.  His response was he  surprisingly managed the situation in a way to avoid further aggression and even win the praise of some in the West. At the same time he helped Gazans in a show of humanitarianism  rarely seen in Middle East politics.

Despite the intense economic difficulties facing Egypt Mursi refused to devalue the Egyptian pound, which would lower export costs and might be a short-term fix but have a negative impact for a  majority of Egyptians.  He was in the process of negotiating with the IMF for a loan that some said was necessary  but wanted, during his negotiations, to  avert the catastrophe of the ’70s when there was an increase in prices due to the IMF mandated reduction of government subsidies for necessities.  He almost seemed to be adhering to a GOP platform of no new taxes, refusing to raise taxes on  alcoholic drinks, cigarettes and a range of goods and services because of the impact it would have on Egyptians. Surprisingly, he and the IMF were even negotiating on those issues.

Mursi, however didn’t help himself much with some really stupid mistakes, like decreeing to himself powers that resembled the actions of a dictator, only to rescind such decrees a month later

The Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, has scrapped a decree that had generated widespread unrest by awarding him near-absolute powers…..

Selim al-Awa, an official who attended a “national dialogue meeting” called by Morsi at the presidential palace in Cairo but boycotted by his opponents, said the Islamist-dominated discussion recommended removing articles that granted the president powers to declare emergency laws and shield him from judicial oversight.

 

and having the baggage of the Muslim Brotherhood, that much maligned Islamic party certainly didn’t help Mursi’s chances with many Egyptians and others across the Arab world who feared a politically strong Islamist power  in the most powerful and populous Arab country.

Victim of the military's justice in Cairo

Victim of the military’s justice in Cairo

The problem with Mursi’s rise to power is that it was done at the behest of the mob and mobs by definition are unruly, lawless masses of people who are not visionary which is what is needed to govern, but rather reactionary by nature.  After 30 years of Mubarak’s despotic rule Egyptians had had enough and took their frustrations to the streets.  They were confronted by an army whose sole interest is remaining in power, no matter who the titular head of Egypt may be.  That army owns upwards of 40% of Egypt’s gross domestic product, it is a money making franchise for some but it is also brutal and often times as lawless as the mob it faces.

Mursi and his supporters hitched their political aspirations to the mob and upon seizing power diplomatically changed the make-up of the army.  It appeared the transition was smooth, but obviously it wasn’t because one year later the opposition’s mob used the same military to takeover power from Mursi in what could only be described as a banana  republic like act of political gamesmanship. One can expect that the same thing could happen again after whatever period of time passes. Even in the face of a Constitution, mob rule can negate at will laws and systems merely by taking to the streets and asking the military to join with it and if the population is used to, acquiesces to such displays of opposition the “when” just becomes a matter of time.

Trying to chart change by any yardstick to ANY party in power after a period of one year is inherently an exercise in futility. Using western models of political success for a government taking over the reins from a 30 year dictatorship is immature at best, doomed to failure at worse and so it (the Morsi government) was.  Articles appeared which sought to chart Morsi’s success after the first 100 days in office as if he possessed a magic wand that could change everything wrong with Egypt so shortly after Mubarak’s regime.  Mursi was even given a report card that detailed what he did and did not do, as if he alone was the catalyst for change among a nation mired in neglect and overwhelming collapse.  When the obvious happened, i.e. he could not produce for Egypt what it was promised after one year, the mob took to the streets and exclaimed it was only doing what was necessary to protect the country.  One tweeter eloquently said, ‘You can call Egypt’s opposition groups many things, but not “liberal” — liberals don’t support military coups. Emerging secular extremism’….. a rather scary foreboding of what’s to come, perhaps.  Sadly, the same could have applied to Mursi’s climb to power a year ago, with the help of the same military.

mobruleEgypt therefore joins the ranks of those countries in the Arab spring that have not yet reached their zenith and are still societies of chaos and strife.  Palestine, Syria, Iraq, perennially Lebanon are all embroiled in some sort of prolonged armed struggle which has disrupted the lives of its citizens and now Egypt can be added to the list.  Also, it’s interesting to note all of these countries are contiguous to or neighbors of Israel which profits militarily and economically from the instability of her neighbors by increased American largesse.  There are still other countries on the periphery with unrest, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tunisia, Libya, Mali, which mars social cohesion and prosperity and endangers peace.  Moreover, indefinite instability is never good for any country, and the fact that Egyptians so quickly embraced it is almost suicidal for its hopes of an upturn in the economy, but they’ve gone down that road and there’s no turning back.

egypthistoryWhat is equally troubling is too many in the West seem to encourage Egyptians to use yardsticks that are wholly inappropriate for what it is Egypt is facing.  What democracy can expect a 180 degree turn in the political direction of a country of 82.5 million people in anything less than decades?  How can it be that a society as old as Egypt, centuries old some would say extending to the very beginning of mankind, should expect a political reconstruction in anything less than years and why is it that people with  internal clocks that date to the Pharaohs feel the need to be in such a hurry?  It almost seems as if  it’s against their nature.   The usual course of affairs in democracies is ineffective leaders are voted out of office, not run out as was the case with Mursi.  Why anyone from a western styled democracy would suggest anything other than that for Egyptians is suspicious.  Democracies are big ships with many different captains at the helm who must all work in sync with one another.  When brought together for the first time, the cooperation needed to successfully guide the ship of state takes time..years, not months.  Almost six years after the waning days of the Bush Administration, America is still trying to recover from merely 8 years of unbridled spending and rampant military  adventurism which pales in comparison to 30 years of Mubarak’s rule.   Do Egyptians think they possess some other other worldly recuperative powers that can rebuild their country so quickly?

Hardly. Let us hope the disease for the change of power at the hands of mobs is quickly replaced in Egypt with true representative government  that’s instituted not at the threat of a gun barrel but by participatory democracy.  This must be the goal and the means to be employed by all concerned, those in power today and those who oppose them.

 

 

The Oppression of Egyptian women under military rule


We may never know the name of the woman pictured here who was brutalized by the Egyptian army in horrific ways, but she is symbolic of what happens to Egyptians, men and particularly women, under the military rule of the government of Egypt.  There is nothing that this woman could have done to merit the public treatment she received at the hands of the men in this picture.  We will never know if the men are Christian or Muslim……does it matter, they  disrobed her purposefully and publicly and beat her mercilessly and senselessly.    This is the fate of women who protest against the government of Egypt and it doesn’t matter to the thugs who participate in this mass orgy of violence and sexual humiliation whether their victims are Muslim, Christian, Jewish,  Egyptian or foreign, expressions of dissent of any form is not tolerated and public examples must be made of those who violate that unwritten tradition or culture.  This is the face of totalitarianism, not Islam, of autocratic militarism that has plagued Egyptian society, our ally, for over 30 years.  It is what Lara Logan saw and faced during her last visit to Tahrir Square.  It is raw, naked brutal, and it is ugly.  You can read about what else women in Egypt are facing and have faced from the military regime here.  The accounts there are demoralizing, and inhumane and characteristic of military rule which has its own precepts and pillars, in that part of the world.

More rape news out of Egypt


More female reporters alleged they were sexually abused by crowds in Tahrir Square in Cairo Egypt last week.  It’s interesting that their claim has received far less notoriety than the one made by CBS News’ Lara Logan earlier this year. We wrote, in response to the Islamophobia that sprung up about her assault, that it had less to do with religion or Israel and more to do with the very rage of rape and its presence in Egyptian society.  So now the stories of other women being molested, two of them Egyptian and one French receive barely a notice in sensational American media.

What provoked my ire about the Logan rape story is how it was elevated above what normally happens in that country……as if Logan herself was single out and abused.  To the contrary asserts one of the more recent victims of sexual assault in Tahrir square, Mona Eltahawy who said, ‘It was an awful night, but what happened to me is just a taste of what happens to so many Egyptians. The brutality of Egyptian security forces has long been documented and I experienced just a bit of it.’

Too Many Strings Attached


The Egyptian government has decided not to accept any funds from Washington to help it along with its democratization after the overthrow, somewhat peacefully I might add, of former president Hosni Mubarak.  The government has warned non-governmental organizations not to accept money from Washington saying doing so only undermines the security of Egypt at a very delicate time in its history.  Normally that would be good advice and even Americans should be happy that an ally is not extending its hand during our hard times but removing Washington’s ability to control the internal politics of a country once under its sway is most likely an anathema to career politicians who will use such information as this to start to discredit the Egyptian government.  Let’s not forget elections have not taken place in Egypt yet; it is still under the control of the  military which means any rejection of US aid could merely be posturing on Egypt’s part.  Moreover there may be some things that have to be addressed as far as Washington is concerned before such aid is actually given, or perhaps more sinisterly such aid is extended to lay the seeds for future discord should things not go according to Washington’s plan.  For now, Egypt with a history that dates Americas by several centuries has declared itself independent of American money, and that’s a good thing for them and us.

Raped by hands


Lara Logan, the CBS correspondent who was assaulted in Cairo, Egypt during the “Egyptian revolution” has finally come out and spoken about what happened to her.  It sounds very dramatic and Logan does an excellent job of provoking the imagery, stimulating the schemata but it rings flat on my dead old ears.  Not because I assume the typical attitude of many who don’t believe a rape victim’s story or dismiss it but because Logan, a member of the main stream media elite, has a job that depends on her exciting such mental images of noble wars of empire and chivalrous soldiers intent on serving the Nation or rescuing damsels like herself from the hordes of grabbing, prodding savages of far away place.

Initially we were told she was raped or suffered a violent assault.  Now we are told, by her, that she was ‘raped by hands’ an equally evocative expression.  It’s second nature to her, it’s her job to blur distinctions and make things equivalent when they are not.  Cairo, the city where the ‘rape by hands’ took place is 20 million strong and about a million of them were in Tahrir Square the night Logan’s attack took place.  Raping by hands undoubtedly happened to a lot of people there, men and women, who were jammed in an area not meant for their numbers.

Logan had previously been expelled from Egypt by the Mubarak regime, who at that time was an ally with America in its war on terror, but she was able to re-enter the country shortly thereafter. It appears even from her account she was recognized or identified as being a spy, an Israeli, a Jew or any other appellation to single her out from the rest and then set upon, but how and by whom it is not clear.  One account seems to suggest that Logan wasn’t raped by hands, but rather man handled as she was led away from the place where she was reporting.   Another female reporter claims she too was groped, fondled, sexually assaulted by the crowd but certainly not to the extent that her clothes were ripped off or that she felt fear for  her life.  Instead, this female reporter  claims, defiance at how she was violated;

In the middle of that crowd I suddenly found hands in the intimate parts of my body. When I realised that this was not a one-off incident, but that many people were interested in touching me, I felt vulnerable and became angry.

In an instinctive response, I wanted to smack the molesters, but they disappeared fast. Touching and pulling went on for some minutes when people around me started to notice what was happening.

My Egyptian friends and other friendly Egyptians closed the space around me, and gave precise instructions: while I was pulled forward, they told me to finger point to those people who were molesting me. They looked different from the bright, celebrating faces. After taking me out of the crowd, my new bodyguards turned against the attackers. An awful quarrel started.

With the right embellishment, the account above can turn into ‘rape by hands’ as well as a fear of an impending death, but the above account doesn’t give one that impression; moreover, she doesn’t seem to have assumed the role of  victim and is far too combative to warrant collective sympathy.  I get the impression she would and could readily wipe the floor with her attackers and instead of pitying her want to cheer her on to just such an end.  Yet that’s not what I  feel when I  listen to Logan.

What happened to her reminds me of  an amplified Adela Quested of A Passage to India, the book by E.M. Forster.  Quested an adventurous woman visiting colonized India  became confused after venturing alone into one of the Marabar Caves and emerges from it accusing her host of raping her.  What really happened is a story of human psychology, where a young woman backed up by a cultural belief in her absolute desirability focuses her rage and confusion on one man because of the damage he and by extension everyone in his group, i.e. Indians  have done to her emotional well being.  Logan reminds me of that Quested character , as she spoke of how she was penetrated front and back by the hands of rape during her 60 Minutes interview.  Yet all we have is her word.  None of the people who were with her have been interviewed, she does identify them and one was American, nor do we hear  from any of her rescuers even though she speaks pointedly of how they helped her.  Do we, the general public need to hear any of this or that?  Is it necessary to be allowed into Logan’s pain and suffering?  No, but Logan chose to reveal it to us, to take us there, and give a face to rape.  For me it’s hard to disassociate it from the other faces she’s given us in her role as a reporter.

More from Egypt


Cairo, prayers at dusk in the shadow of the army, bloodied but unbowed (photograph by Guy Martin)

Main Stream Media At it Again-What the AP left out of Obama’s speech


The AP posted a transcipt of Obama’s speech in Cairo, but this is what they left out:

Threatening Israel with destruction — or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews — is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people — Muslims and Christians — have suffered in pursuit of a homeland.  For more than 60 years they’ve endured the pain of dislocation.  Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead.  They endure the daily humiliations — large and small — that come with occupation.  So let there be no doubt:  The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable.  And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.  (Applause.)

For decades then, there has been a stalemate:  two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive.  It’s easy to point fingers — for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought about by Israel’s founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond.  But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth:  The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.  (Applause.)

That is in Israel’s interest, Palestine’s interest, America’s interest, and the world’s interest.  And that is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience and dedication that the task requires.  (Applause.)  The obligations — the obligations that the parties have agreed to under the road map are clear.  For peace to come, it is time for them — and all of us — to live up to our responsibilities.

Palestinians must abandon violence.  Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed.  For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation.  But it was not violence that won full and equal rights.  It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding.  This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia.  It’s a story with a simple truth:  that violence is a dead end.  It is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus.  That’s not how moral authority is claimed; that’s how it is surrendered.

Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build.  The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have to recognize they have responsibilities.  To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel’s right to exist.

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s.  The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.  (Applause.)  This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace.  It is time for these settlements to stop.  (Applause.)

And Israel must also live up to its obligation to ensure that Palestinians can live and work and develop their society.  Just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel’s security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be a critical part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.

And finally, the Arab states must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities.  The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems.  Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state, to recognize Israel’s legitimacy, and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.

America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and we will say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs.  (Applause.)  We cannot impose peace.  But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away.  Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state.  It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.

Too many tears have been shed.  Too much blood has been shed.  All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of the three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra — (applause) — as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, peace be upon them, joined in prayer.  (Applause.)

The third source of tension is our shared interest in the rights and responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons.

This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran.  For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is in fact a tumultuous history between us.  In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government.  Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians.  This history is well known.  Rather than remain trapped in the past, I’ve made it clear to Iran’s leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward.  The question now is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.

I recognize it will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude, and resolve.  There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect.  But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point.  This is not simply about America’s interests.

Hat tip to Kabobfest.