egypt

A very pessimistic view from inside Egypt

Here’s a very somber analysis of the current turmoil in Egypt by Sarah Carr, a blogger/journalist who has lived in Cairo for the past ten years, daughter of a British father and Egyptian mother:

“There is a visceral hatred of the Muslim Brotherhood and its Salafi associates amongst some Egyptians. This hatred spans all social classes and predates current events. It is born out of an arguably justified mistrust and fear of the group, which has lied, put its own interests first, excluded other groups, ram-rodded through an excuse for a constitution, attempted to give Morsi dictatorial powers, flirted with the military and dallied in sectarian politics in a frightening way.

“It failed to understand that it was running a country, and it missed the point that for public relations purposes, if you are an Arab president who desires to quash dissent through an organized group, you better make sure that that group is in uniform.

“Perhaps most importantly, they were feeble as hell at governing Egypt at a time when amateurs really just would not do.

“When Morsi supporters attempt to put their case forward, their arguments bounce back off a wall of hate, but — deep breath — in my opinion, these arguments were not without merit — up until June 30. 

“Morsi’s intransigence and the behavior of his supporters after June 30 outweighs any legitimacy they once had. Mendacity, poor governance, self-interest and the sidelining of other political powers are pretty much the watchwords of all political groups and are not, in isolation, enough to justify a president’s removal by the military….

…….“So my position on events pre-June 30 has not been changed by events since: The Muslim Brotherhood should have been left to fail as they had not (yet) committed an act justifying Morsi’s removal by the military.

“The price Egypt has paid and will pay for the consequences of this decision are too high. It has created a generation of Islamists who genuinely believe that democracy does not include them. The post-June 30 fallout reaffirms this belief, especially with Islamist channels and newspapers closed down, as well as leaders detained and held incommunicado, apparently pursuant to an executive decision.

“For 30 years, Mubarak told them that due process is not for them, and a popular revolution is confirming that. It is Egyptian society that will pay the price of the grievances this causes, and the fact that, with a silenced media and no coverage from independent outlets, they have been left with virtually no channels to get their voice heard…..

“The real revolution will happen when army involvement in politics is a distant relic of history. 

“….The only aspect of the wider argument that interests me is the notion that an elected president’s legitimacy dissolves when millions take to the streets. If this is a precedent, then it means shaky times ahead when the masses’ interests do not coincide with those of the army.

“Politically, Egypt finds itself once again in an almighty mess.

“As the euphoria fades, the opposition remembers that if they were asked to debate how many legs a cow before them had, one faction would question whether the animal was actually a cow, another would say four, and yet another would include the tail as a limb….

“If the army has any sense, it will see that the legitimacy of the June 30 regime (for want of a better term) need not be predicated on crushing Islamists, no matter what the public appetite is. They have to be included, because they are not going anywhere.

“The barely functioning political system born of January 25 has been replaced with something even more fragile: Fractious squabbling with no clear means of resolution, the military as arbiter and an incensed MB that feels it has been cheated. Fasten your seatbelts.”

ONE FINAL THING: Please like the Facebook page for my new novel,  “The Watchman’s File”. And, if you feel it merit’s attention, please pass it on to your friends.

 

Lando's Blog
The Crisis Of Liberal Democracy--Why Now?

We are witnessing a stunning decline of liberal democracy around the globe—the hollowing out of the center, the rise of the radical fringes, of populism of authoritarian Trump-like leaders who feed on know-nothing views. We’re talking not just across Europe, but on every continent, from Turkey, to Russia, to India, Venezuela and Brazil.  

Why is this phenomenon happening now? Some say it’s because of the growing gap between the rich and the poor, the market collapse of 2008, a universal disgust with traditional politics and politicians.

 

All those factors are at play. But I would argue that the principle cause for the collapse of traditional politics is the astonishing rise of the Internet and social media.

Liberal Democracy--at the Precipice?

It was Winston Churchill who observed “democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” With the defeat of Fascism in World War II, and the collapse of Soviet Communism in 1990,  Churchill’s famous dictum seemed born out.

No longer.

George H.W. Bush : the disastrous legacy of Iraq

The media has been filled today with tributes to the late President George H.W. Bush. He is portrayed as a smart, pragmatic leader, who chose wise counsellors like James Baker—very different from his wilful son, George W. Bush, who led the U.S. into a disastrous attack on Iraq in 2013, the most fateful foreign policy blunder ever made by an American leader.

The fact, however, is that it was the blundering of George H. W. Bush and Baker in 1990 that set the stage for George W. Bush’s calamitous move thirteen years later.

Trump's Enablers--An Appalling Parallel

We went to a very moving commemoration in London this week marking the 80th anniversary of Krystallnacht-- when thousands of German Jews were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. The opening salvo, as it were, of the Holocaust. But what I found most appalling–because of its relevance to today’s headlines --was not the description of those horrific events, but the motivation of a top Nazi official responsible for carrying out Hitler’s genocidal commands.

Pittsburgh and America's deeply embedded anti-semitic past.

Reading the horrified reactions to the bloody attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, one has the impression that the assault was carried out by a crazed individual operating from the most deranged fringe of America’s alt-right: a product of the brutal politics of Donald Trump and social media run amok. The fact is that, though America would dearly love to forget it, anti-Semitism has long been deeply embedded in the U.S. 

Trump's Treason-What's Next?

Donald Trump stands accused of “treason” after his outrageous summit with Vladimir Putin. Those startling charges are no longer coming from the political fringes, but from mainstream politicians, officials, and the press. Despite the gravity of the situation, craven Republican leaders still refuse to act. Is the only option to hope for the best in the November congressional elections, while leaving a treasonous leader in charge of the world’s most powerful nation? 

There is another path, a harrowing one, but one that might ultimately be the only way out for America. I describe it in my novel “Deep Strike” –the tale of a corrupt, dysfunctional American president, Walter Stokes, elected with the help of Russian hacking. The book was published a year ago, but it could never be more relevant.

America's Bread and Circuses

Watching CNN’s “Inside Africa” this morning, as they cut away from normal programming about Africa to bring us live coverage of a fatal railroad accident—two dead and at least 70 injured after a major passenger train collided with a freight train.  

The Shithole Countries of Our Family

Donald Trump’s obscene attacks against immigrants from certain benighted parts of the globe prompted me to reread some of the research I did a few years back about the origins of my own grandparents.

Trump vs America--How will it end?

A deranged American president wins election with the aid of Russian hacking. Over the following months, he becomes increasingly brutish. His wild, rabid Tweets and tempestuous acts dismay even his closest supporters. He flirts with nuclear disaster. America’s basic democratic foundations are challenged. Yet Congressional leaders refuse to act. Difficult to believe this is real life.

Some Russian Military Also Angry About Hacking?

Some top Russian generals were outraged by the decision to hack the U.S. elections. Their anger against the Russian president may ultimately have huge consequences. That's the situation in my novel, "Deep Strike", about Russian hacking, rogue CIA agents, and a new, deranged American president.

The Egyptian Army: State Within A State

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In ousting Egypt’s first freely elected president, Mohammed Morsi, the Egyptian military have certainly not acted to preserve democracy. They’ve never shown much interest in that. They’re determined to put a break on the mounting political and economic chaos that is ripping the country apart.  That turbulence was threatening not just the survival of Egypt, but, more to the point, it was menacing the vast state within a state that Egypt’s military presides over.

Of course, the Egyptian Army is not monolithic. Its lower ranks are very much of the people: filled with hundreds of thousands of conscripts, drawn from the most humble ranks of society—and has a strong identity with the Egyptian people.

It has traditionally been the most important means of socializing and educating the lower classes, in theory, inculcating them with a sense of pride and patriotism. 

Indeed the 1971 Constitution says that the Egyptian Army shall “belong to the people” 

Thus, as I have previously blogged, in 1977 when the army was called in to quell riots after President Sadat announced cuts in basic food subsidies, the generals refused to intervene unless the subsidies were reestablished. Sadat restored the subsidies.

The top ranks of the army, however, have other concerns—beginning with personal survival. They certainly will never forget the lurid spectacle of Iranian generals being publicly executed in the aftermath of Khomeini’s revolution in Iran. Iran also demonstrated that a radical revolution also means a radically transformed military. (Egypt’s generals have a constant reminder of that lesson nearby:  The Shah is buried in a Cairo mosque.).

But since the fall of Mubarak, the military have feared not just a takeover by radical Muslims. There is also the fact that real civilian rule could spell an end to the system of massive military corruption and patronage that has gone on for decades in Egypt, a system that has given the military unimpeded control over an estimated 40% of the Egyptian economy--"a state within a state" as a well-informed Egyptian friend of mine puts it.

For years, Egypt's top military ranks have enjoyed a pampered existence in sprawling developments such as Cairo's Nasr City, where officers are housed in spacious, subsidized condominiums. They enjoy other amenities the average Egyptian can only dream of, such as nurseries, bonuses, new cars, schools and military consumer cooperatives featuring domestic and imported products at discount prices. In other areas, top officers are able to buy luxurious apartments on generous credit for 10 percent of what those apartments are actually worth.

But we're not just talking about sensational official perks. Many of Egypt's brass are notoriously corrupt. Vast swathes of military land, for instance, were sold by the generals to finance some major urban developments near Cairo -- with little if any accounting.

Other choice military property ran on the Nile Delta and Red Sea coast boasted idyllic beaches, and exquisite coral reefs. In return for turning the land over to private developers, military officers became key shareholders in a slew of gleaming new tourist developments.

The generals also preside over 16 enormous factories that turn out not just weapons, but an array of domestic products from dishwashers to heaters, clothing, doors, stationary pharmaceutical products, and microscopes. Most of these products are sold to military personnel through discount military stores, but large amount are also sold commercially.

The military also builds highways, housing developments, hotels, power lines, sewers, bridges, schools, telephone exchanges, often in murky arrangements with civilian companies.

The military are also Egypt's largest farmers, running a vast network of dairy farms, milk processing facilities, cattle feed lots, poultry farms, fish farms. They've plenty left from their huge output to sell to civilians through a sprawling distribution network.

The justification for all this non-military activity is that the military are just naturally more efficient that civilians. Hard not to be "more efficient" when you are able to employ thousands of poorly paid military recruits for labor.

Many civilian businessmen complain that competing with the military is like trying to compete with the Mafia. And upon retiring, top military officers are often rewarded with plum positions running everything from factories and industries to charities.

Whatever the number, Robert Springborg, who has written extensively on Egypt, says officers in the Egyptian military are making "billions and billions and billions" of dollars."

But there's no way to know how efficient or inefficient the military are, nor how much money their vast enterprises make, nor how many millions or billions get skimmed off since the military's operations are off the nation's books. No real published accountings.

No oversight.  Even Mohammed Morsi when he became president, was obliged to agree to the military’s demand that there would be no civilian oversight of the military budget.

Of course none of the above is a surprise to U.S. officials who dole out some 1.3 billion dollars a year in military aid to the Egyptian Army, and hope that sum and the neat weapons it provides will keep the army in line. [One of the most detailed studies of the military's non-military activities was done by a U.S. military researcher at Fort Leavenworth.]

The U.S. also has a 1.3 billion dollar carrot dangling in front of the Egyptian Army. That annual American military aid to Egypt has allowed the Egyptian officers to get their hands on some of the most sophisticated of modern weapons—as we’ve seen over the past couple of years in downtown Cairo.

The generals realize there is no way the U.S. will continue paying for those goodies if a new regime more hostile to Israel takes power in Cairo.

A perceptive look into all this came via a 2008 U.S.diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.The writer in the U.S. Embassy in Cairo ticked off the various businesses the military was involved in, and considered how the military might react if Egypt's then president, Hosni Mubarak, were to lose power.

The military would almost certainly go along with a successor, the cable's author wrote, as long as that successor didn't interfere in the military's business arrangements.

But, the cable continued, "in a messier succession scenario, it becomes more difficult to predict the military's actions."

No scenario could be “messier” than the mounting chaos in Egypt over the past few months.

The military acted. 

ONE MORE THING: 

Please like the Facebook page for my new novel,  “The Watchman’s File”. And, if you feel it merit’s attention, please pass it on to your friends.