It has been almost a month since Ex-President Morsi was removed from office, and the conversation about whether or not he was removed by revolution or coup, or some unholy mixture of both has become both tedious and redundant. As usual, people are less concerned with logic, than with the fulfillment of their desires. Those who wanted Morsi removed but think ‘coup’ is a dirty word have (in complete disregard for the actual final mechanism of his removal) continued to insist that it wasn’t, and those who have struggled against the military from February 11th, 2011 to the present time are either flat-out admitting it was a coup (albeit one with huge popular support) and tried to (optimistically or doggedly) push towards re-framing it as a course-correction to the January 25th Revolution – that all but the most short-sighted understand to be a revolution still in it’s infancy.
The truth is, it is too early to tell.
For those who find this disorienting, the best advice on how to deal with it might be that offered by Hatem Rushdy, who concluded that ‘We must resist the coup as if there were no revolution and support the revolution as if there were no coup.’
If the military does what millions of Egyptians have called on it to do, if it not only fulfills its road-map, but does so in a manner which fulfills the demands of the revolution, then, and only then – would there be anything ‘revolutionary’ about the 30th of June.
If not, then we are either somewhere on a reformist slope, or we are deep down in the same gutter of military rule that we have been consigned to since Mohamed Naguib was put under house arrest by the late Gamal Abdel Nasser. It is ironic that many regard El-Sissi as being the new Gamal Abdel Nasser, when I myself insist that his greatest achievement would be to prove that he is not the ‘new’ Gamal Abdel Nasser. Again, time will tell.
The deeper, and more pressing concern now is that, between the public rage generated against themselves by the monopolistically named Muslim Brotherhood, and the jingoistic adulation being heaped on the military, a dark, and largely artificial polarization has come into shape; you are with the army, or with the Brotherhood.
For most, there is no third alternative, and, worse yet, both sides regard the middle ground as treason; you are either somebody with no sense of patriotism, or you are somebody who has sided with the infidels.
Three Is Not Always a Crowd
In desperation and in a show of admirable fortitude, a small group of people have emerged, the ‘third square‘ – whose most heralded slogan states that they are ‘against all who have betrayed [Egypt & the Revolution] – the Feloul (remnants of the Mubarak Regime), the Askar (the military), and the Ikhwan (the Brotherhood). My position on the third square can be summarized in a tweet in which I wrote that my heart is with the third square, but that the difference between drama and comedy is that of timing, and that these are, in SCAF-Measured Time, September protests being held in March.
The Military Yo-Yo
If you know what I mean by that, you can skip this paragraph. If not, let me explain; when SCAF (the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) took over from Mubarak on February 11th, and due to the simple fact that they had not (yet) run us over in armored APC’s, or turned their guns on us, people were jubilant. So much so, that they initially chose to ignore military violence against protesters (something that started at least as early as February 25th) and they were openly hostile to anybody who tried to discuss ongoing military trials and military brutality. I myself was once very close to being physically assaulted by an angry mob of around 50 people in Tahrir Square for trying to draw their attention to the physical abuse (including the so-called ‘virginity tests’) – being conducted at the time in the nearby Cairo Museum. It wasn’t until a full six or seven months later, due to repeated attacks by the military on peaceful protesters and an ongoing campaign against Military Trials by the No Military Trials for Civilians group and those that supported it, that the people started to very loudly object to military rule. This led first to a large protest against military trials on the 30th of September, then the clashes of Mohamed Mahmoud in November 2011, and through those to an accelerated transition schedule which saw the presidential elections move six months closer.
It took a while, and the canaries in the those mines were the first to suffer; people like Ali Maher, a 16 year old who lost his life in the military’s attack on Tahrir on April 8th, and people like sheikh Emad Effat who lost his life at the parliament sit-in in the months that followed. But the poison that took those two lives, and many others like them – was real – and the people reacted to it eventually.
And then we got Morsi.
Morsi was a disaster, a failure at best, and a traitor at worst – and other than wonder what his final fate will be, discussing him is a waste of time.
Regarding the Brotherhood Sit-In at Rabaa
I am horrified at the prospect of another Maspero all over again, but this time, with popular cheering and applause. I know that there are terrorists out there, I am not afraid of the word, and I define them simply as any who would threaten or murder civilians for political gain. It’s not a complex equation for me. But I also understand that the lying heads of the Brotherhood, those who know they are lying, will be the first to make deals, the first to escape, the ones upon whom the least harm will fall. It is the ignorant and ill-educated faithful, the believers who will be brave, who will try to stand up to the tanks, as we once did, and they will be murdered, butchered for it. And it is our fault that they have fallen into the Brotherhood’s web of lies, because it is us that have allowed them to grow uneducated and illiterate, it is the Mubarak regime which we tolerated for 30 years (and Sadat before him, and Nasser before him) that has allowed them to become cannon-fodder for the forces of so-called political so-called Islam. First, we abandoned them to ignorance, and now we will murder them for it.
When I look at my social media timelines, I see half the people sharing videos proving that the Brotherhood use guns, and the other half shows the security forces using guns. I have two comments on that; first of all, and as I’ve said repeatedly – both sides do nothing better than lie. Second; of those two sides, only the security forces are supposed to be walking around with guns. However, those security forces are also supposed to follow very strict guidelines for using those guns, and the fact that they feel the need to lie about having guns in the first place strongly implies that those guidelines have not been followed, and most probably implies a complete lack of any real intent to ever follow them.
The Military and the Shape of Things to Come
The first real test of the military’s intent was the cabinet assignments made, and if they are anything to go by; this is the shape of things to come; a military establishment independent of the state, at best keeping to itself but retaining huge economic power and complete political (and mostly legal) immunity from the civilian state, and a civilian state somewhat roughly divided between technocrats, old regime affiliated figures, and revolutionary figures – with all so-called ‘sovereign’ ministries completely shaped by the military, because, ostensibly, it ‘knows best’.
The second real test will be the constitution. I predicted, as Morsi was about to be deposed, that the military would offer not a new constitution, but ‘fixes’ to that hammered into existence by the Brotherhood, and that is precisely what they did. This was predictable because the military had, through the Brotherhood’s pandering to them, secured their own existence as an uber-state – one which happens to control an estimated 20-35% of the Egyptian economy, yet represents around one million Egyptians (despite ostensibly, serving the 84 million others).
This situation, unbalanced as it is, leads to some very circuitous arguments that go something like this;
A: The army needs that money! They don’t just buy weapons and train soldiers, they also have their own hospitals.
B: Why can’t they just be treated in regular public hospitals?
A: Have you seen the public hospitals? It’s suicide to go there.
B: But it’s okay for regular citizens to go to them?
A: That’s not the point! The military hospitals are much better.
B: Yes, but aren’t they much better because they have maybe 25% of the money and only need to spend it on a population that constitutes around 1.5% of Egyptians?
A: What’s your point?
B: If that money was spent more fairly, the regular public hospitals would be good enough for everybody, including the military.
A: But the army needs that money! They don’t just spend it on weapons and training, they also spend it on their hospitals!!
And so it goes…
Frustrating as this may be, it is should not be treated as the most immediate of concerns, although it is certainly one of the greatest. The factor the matter is that it will take, at best, one or two decades to get to a point where our military is not making television sets and growing chicken, and does not lay claim to any land they want to in Egypt on the grounds of National Security (such as the ongoing issue with Qurasaya Island) – but that is so unsolvable in the near future that it barely constitutes a ‘problem’ – it is a reality.
Look Closely, Your Eyelids Are Getting Heavy…
More importantly, we face a constitutional battle, and anything else going on now, is – if we’re thinking about the long term – a distraction.
Already the ten-man committee has come back with a proposal to amend only 16 articles of the farcical document that Morsi calls the constitution, a document that rather than unite Egyptians did nothing but divide them, and was rejected by more than a third of the population, which by the way, is counter to Islamic Sunna, since the closest analogue to a constitution in Islamic history seems to be the Madina Agreement negotiated by Mohamed and which was agreed on by consensus that it took Mohamed around 7 months to negotiate.
I am no lawyer, and certainly no constitutional expert, but I did read that constitution when it was finalized, and despite the fact that I am unqualified to detect some of the loopholes, even I found 37 articles either objectionable or downright abhorrent. That the ten-man committee concluded that only 16 articles need ‘fixing’, and have chosen not to, effectively, rewrite the damned thing within a truly representative and inclusive constitutional writing process is worrying.
Keep your eye on the ball.