“…eyewitnesses and reporters say troops were firing indiscriminately at the crowd, including with snipers who picked-off unarmed civilians at an alarming rate.”
– GlobalPost story about the Egyptian military’s Wednesday massacres against Islamists, in Cairo
The Muslim Brotherhood and their backers say they will sacrifice themselves to preserve the integrity of their fledgling democracy, and the abrogated presidency of Mohammed Morsi. “As soon as he left the house with a Koran in his hand,” a brother of a killed Islamist told reporters, “he was ready to become a martyr.”
The New York Times tells the story of snipers firing at crowds of panicked protesters, an old man yelling, “We only meet one death. Let it be martyrdom.”
There is even an ongoing “live list” of “massacre martyrs,” being promoted by members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that history is repeating itself as tragedy in Egypt,” said Mohammed Ayoob, a University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of International Relations, Michigan State University, and Adjunct Scholar at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. In a blog for CNN, he wrote, “This year reminds me of 1954, when Colonel Nasser, who had led the Egyptian military coup against the then corrupt monarchy in 1952 with the help of the Muslim Brotherhood, turned against his Islamist allies, banned the party, threw its leaders in jail and ultimately executed several of them.” The result, he said, was the radicalization of the Islamist movement.
Movie analogies can often trivialize a tragedy like the one going on right now in Egypt, but this one seems somehow appropriate. It is a scene from Godfather II, when Michael Corleone is in Cuba, visiting the elderly Hyman Roth, who is looking for Michael to invest in a country which is in the middle of a violent revolution.
I saw an interesting thing happen today. A rebel was being arrested by the military police, and rather than be taken alive, he exploded a grenade he had hidden in his jacket. He killed himself, and took a captain of the command with him… it occurred to me. The soldiers are paid to fight — the rebels aren’t.
What does that tell you?
They can win.
Dr. Ayoob warns that “Wednesday’s events must have made clear to the Brotherhood faithful, not only in Egypt but across the Arab world, that [Muslim Brotherhood founder, Sayyid] Qutb and his disciples were right and that politics in the Muslim world is indeed a zero sum game and the taghuti (Satanic) regimes will never allow Islamist political formations access to political power.
“The time is therefore ripe for the rise of another Sayyid Qutb and his call to arms.”
The United States’ reaction to the coup has been ambiguous and confusing to a country and a region struggling to find a way to succeed with their new democracies, while fathers hold their murdered children in their bloodied arms. President Obama’s statement, Thursday, condemning the violence and announcing that we would not participating in biennial Bright Star war games with the Egyptian military, was a pointless gesture. There have been other times when we didn’t hold those joint maneuvers, and it’s probably something that wouldn’t have happened, anyway, because Egypt’s army is otherwise occupied.
Even the State Department’s spokesperson, Jen Psaki, admitted in Thursday’s press briefing, “I don’t think anyone in the government thinks that simply the cancellation of Bright Star is going to change actions on the ground.”
Earlier this week, Psaki’s boss, Secretary of State John Kerry, rather than calling the overthrow of Morsi a coup – which would have meant halting more than a billion dollars in aid to the country – called it “a restoration of democracy,” a phrase Ayoob characterizes as “Orwellian.”
Meanwhile, Psaki said, the administration continues to evaluate the situation because “we believe the door remains open for dialogue and to return to a long-term sustainable democracy. That’s why we’re continuing to work with all parties on it.”
And that’s why they won’t call it a coup, because they don’t want to piss off the Egyptian army leadership who are running – or perhaps ruining – that country. But maybe we need to piss them off, call it a coup and hold back the money, to get their attention.
It’s as if the Obama administration is following the advice of Hyman Roth, when he confronts the wisdom of Michael’s discernment:
I wouldn’t want it to get around that you held back the money because you had second thoughts about the rebels.