President Obama’s Middle–East policy is now on the ropes. His man in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, has been brought down by the Egyptian Armed Forces. The vast crowd in Cairo’s Tahrir Square burst into joyous celebration at the announcement of the news. “Freedom! Freedom!” Their pride and pleasure would have contrasted with the mood inside the White House. The loss of Morsi constitutes not only a deadly blow to the global ambitions of Sunni supremacists in the grip of apocalyptic millennialism, but also an enormous setback to Obama’s standing on the world stage.
Morsi, before his fall, claimed that his “electoral legitimacy” necessitated he serve out his full term of office. From his place of incarceration he smuggled out this message: “I will not accept this attempt to take us backwards.” Obama echoed the same sentiment when he announced that he was “deeply concerned by the decision of the Egyptian Armed Forces to remove President Morsi”. The One also expressed his disquiet about the “arbitrary arrests” of leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Barack Obama’s distress at the lack of due process in the toppling of Morsi will impress nobody, except – of course – progressives in the West and MB sympathizers.
The Egyptian people, 52% of whom allegedly voted for Morsi twelve months ago in the presidential election, see things differently from Obama. Protesters describe the one-year of rule of the Muslim Brotherhood as “an occupation” and the Islamist movement itself as a “terrorist organisation”. The vehemence of the crowd’s dismay at the series of events ensued after June 30, 2012, might be encapsulated by this comment: “We were in an occupation by the Brotherhood worse than the British occupation.” In the lead up to the July 3 coup d’etat signs appeared on the streets accusing Barack Obama – at the time on a multimillion-dollar family tour of less tricky parts of Africa – of collusion with Egypt’s MB thugocracy. One of the politer placards read: “Obama, you idiot, keep in mind that Egypt is not the Muslim Brotherhood’s.”
The people of Egypt deserve to enjoy their victory, and yet nobody would deny parlous nature of the economy, chronically short of fuel and even bread, and protein of any kind increasingly beyond the reach of 90% of the population. This shocking state of affairs helped create the tidal wave of discontent that swept President Hosni Mubarak from power in February, 2011; obviously it also played a part in undermining the (brief) popularity of President Mohamed Morsi. The voters in Egypt, like their counterparts in Turkey, Gaza and Tunisia, had hoped that Islamists in power would prove relatively honest and sufficiently savvy to fix the economy.
Instead – and this is what enraged the population – Morsi and his fundamentalist coterie made a grab for total political power, which included devising a non-secular constitution and, earlier this year, the declaration of Mubarak-style emergency rule in three cities. There were also the Morsi-appointed governors, one of whom did not even try to hide his terrorist past. The writer of the celebrated The Big Pharaoh blog contends that most Egyptians came to view the Muslim Brotherhood as “not very Egyptian”. In his own splendid style he portrays the Muslim Brotherhood as “a cultic organisation with a fascist twist”. The Brotherhood regarded their nation as nothing more than “a tool for them to meet the petty geopolitical goals of their organisation.”
The Egyptian people might be forgiven for entrusting power to Islamofascists before realizing the error of their ways. After all, argues The Big Pharaoh, they are no different from the Italians in the 1920s and the Germans a decade after that. At least they quickly learned their lesson and tried to rescue the situation.
Many in the West, including Senator Patrick Leahy (Democrat), chairman of the subcommittee that oversees US foreign aid, are decrying the overthrow of an Islamofascist regime as a setback for Egyptian democracy. But where were their protests when agents of the Muslim Brotherhood murdered the spiritual father of Egypt’s Shia, Sheikh Hassan Shehate, in broad daylight? Or when Egypt’s Coptic Christians, constituting 10% of the nation’s 85 million population, came under repeated attack, forcing many to flee the country?
The case of Barack Obama is even more troubling. There is every reason to think the President of the United States of America, his worldview built on the gibberish of post-colonial theory and puerile post-modern identity politics, genuinely believes the Muslim Brotherhood represents the best interests of modern-day Egypt.
As late as last week, Obama’s Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson was enjoying private and cozy tête-à-têtes meetings with the upper echelons of the Muslim Brotherhood while urging Egypt’s persecuted Christians to abstain from demonstrating against the Islamist government. Tellingly, the Wednesday night’s coup maker, Defence Minister General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, made a point of having Christians – along with liberal secularists and non-MB Muslim clerics – at his side as he proclaimed an interim civilian government in Egypt to be headed by Aldi Monsour, Chief Justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court.
Obama, reputedly, was trying right up to the last minute to persuade General Sisi to retain Morsi as president. Had the good general complied with President Obama’s request, the standing of the Egyptian Armed Forces in the eyes of the nation would have been shattered in an instant. As it is, the secular and democratic Egypt now has some chance against the likely counter-attack by the various militias and terrorists associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Already MB adherents are threatening the country with reprisals: “Dying for the sale of God is more sublime than anything!” A banner in Tahrir Square carried the only riposte the fanatics are likely to understand: “The people and the army are one hand.”
None of this is to ignore the fact that for sixty years military-backed regimes spent much of their time blaming the West for their country’s woes, while milking Soviet and later US Cold War largesse for all they were worth. Moreover, thanks to a state-run television series that went to air during Mubarak’s time too many Egyptians remain convinced of the authenticity of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Egypt’s only long-term hope, as Atatürk understood about Turkey, is to embrace modernity and the liberal-democratic secularism that accompanies it. Radical or political Islam, with its subjugation of women and irrational hatred of the West, is an evolutionary dead end.
The best-case scenario is that Egypt’s two revolutions, the Arab Spring (2011) and now the Arab Summer, will reverse the precedent of Russia’s two 1917 revolutions, with the democratic secularists winning out over the violent apocalyptic millennialists rather than the other way around. That might not put beans on the table or provide bread for the poor, but surely it is a start. The MB fanatics will no doubt attempt to slaughter their way back into power but the horse – the strong horse as Osama bin-Laden would say – has bolted. The Egyptian people have their country back.
Daryl McCann has a blog at darylmccann.blogspot.com.au