The Military Dialogue

I went to the nearby election committee today, but not to vote.

I went and I saw the long queues of voters, people whose right to vote, whose freedom to vote has been paid for by the blood of those who can no longer share in the experience.

I saw the posters of candidates, and it occurred to me – that I had never seen most of them in Tahrir. They are not leaders, they are vultures, preying on our dead.

I wanted to take some photos and wanted to shoot some video as outlined in an idea I explained in this video on YouTube.

Instead I got into a 2-3 hour conversation with a lieutenant colonel from the army.

He had overheard me speaking to a friend I ran into, it was clear that my position towards the military was one of distrust, and he wanted to discuss that with me.

I started off with the standard disclaimer, that I am primarily discussing SCAF, and not really the entire army. That I was boycotting the elections for a whole lot of reasons.

So he asked me why I distrusted SCAF so much, and I explained. I explained the countless violations SCAF had committed against the lives and dignity of Egyptians since they took over the country. I explained that if he had paid attention to the 3rd Communique of SCAF it would be clear that they believed their authority derived not from the Egyptian people or the Revolution of Jan 25, but from Mubarak. I explained that for months now, I had seen the army kill our youth in an attempt to abort the revolution and crush any and all voices of dissent. I explained, and recounted the various horrors we have been enduring under the yoke of the military; beatings, murders, detentions, military trials, virginity tests, attacks on peaceful protesters, the use of shotguns, live ammo, etc.

He asked me about Mohamed Mahmoud, the same old tired story about how the revolutionaries were trying to break into the Ministry of the Interior. I explained to him that I myself, had been shot by the CSF’s beads on the intersection of Kasr El Eini & Sheikh Rehan Street, that I was nowhere near the ministry. That those of us who were engaged in battle in Mohamed Mahmoud were doing so in order to protect the square. That on various days there had been hundreds of thousands in Tahrir, and that had we wished to ‘attack the ministry’ as the media claimed, there would not be a brick left in the building, and that Mohamed Mahmoud Street was not the only way to get to the ministry.

Every time I explained something the lieutenant colonel tried to explain it away. He would say it was a ‘mistake’ or that ‘had it happened’ – it must’ve been an individual action by a soldier who was not doing what they had been told. He tried to explain that no such systematic abuse was condoned. He even tried to convince me that those who had murdered civilians, those who had ran over them in APC’s, those who had subjected our girls to sexual abuse in the name of ‘virginity tests’ – were all being tried in military courts, that some had been sentenced, that these actions could not be possibly have been condoned or encouraged.

I explained that this was not possible. That had the abuses not been sanctioned, they would have stopped. That if soldiers had actually been tried for murdering civilians, or for abusing girls, then those actions would have happened once, and never again. That the recurring abuses make it quite clear that no such explanation is possible, no such explanation is credible.

All his explanations could be summarized quite simply, “The military is not evil, it is stupid.” – that was basically his reasoning. That they were incompetent at politics, that they did not have the skills to deal with politics or with a civilian population. That they did in fact, want to hand over power but that it was the liberals of all people who had stopped them from doing so! That they were willing to hand over authority to a government headed by Dr. El Baradei, for instance, but that the political parties had all refused such a deal.

“They told me,” he would repeat, over and over. “I’ve been told,” he would say, over and over.

I had to stop him at some point and explain, “all your sentences start with ‘they told me’ – and most of mine start with ‘I’ve seen’! – doesn’t that alone tell you something?”

“They’ll hand over authority in six months,” he swears – as promised.

I say “No, they won’t. They’re killing people so that they don’t.”

He asks “What’s yr number? We’ll talk.”

I say “I’m not giving you my number.”

He seemed genuinely hurt. I told him it wasn’t personal. That my distrust extended to his establishment and not to his person. That the fact that he believed their lies proved to me that he himself, was too decent to imagine that they are as brutal as I have come to know.

Then I told him “You know what? You say they’ll cede power in June? Fine. I’ll meet you back here on the 1st of July.”

He says “Okay, but do you mean it? Right here? First of July?”

I say “Yes, unless they’ve killed or detained me by then.”

He actually looked worried about me.

Then, with a look of great concern, he said “Okay, don’t give me yr number, but at least take mine – if anything happens – anything at all, please call me.”

I told him I could not do that, that I was no better than any of those they’ve killed or the thousands that they have already detained.

He said “But I might be able to help you if anything happen.”‘

I asked, rhetorically, if he expected me to accept help and leave thousands behind just because they can’t call in similar favors?

Finally, in commenting on all the lives lost, on the thousands of injured, he said that casualties were inevitable, that in order to reclaim Sinai we had lost many, many lives.

“Yes,” I said – “but are you comparing our army to that of Israel?”

So it goes.

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  1. Avatar

    Ismail Nazif

    I overheard a similar conversation with an army officer guarding the cabinet. They’re really convinced that we are “mainly” spies and thugs. He even made the same argument about “casual” casualties. They are brainwashed. However, during the conversation, i got the feeling that he is being mind-screwed by the facts that keep hitting him. We left him confused.

  2. thanks for this comment : these conversations are very usefull for solidarity with your fight to get out SCAF and have a real democratic regime.
    The international press is not so supportive to the struggle … of course : it’s not really the same as it was in jan-febr 2011. But we try to turn it around.
    Always that same story that this soldier told you : M.M. square are “thughs”.
    If the poor of Egypt take part in the revolution and they regain their proud by dong so… thats not only their natural cause ,but it will set their minds free. Even if they died for this struggle . The lies of the Scaf will come out very very soon… the truth of the acitivist will set Egypte free at last !
    We are behind you 100% and make articles , follow your everyday struggle… with the most respect and solidarity. Greetz from Belgium

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