The pachyderm in the pyramid

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5 July 2013

In his “Poetics” Aristotle said that the unexpected has a tendency to occur. In Egypt today the contrary is the case. Nonetheless, the long-expected coup d’état by the army on Wednesday 3 July 2013 appears to have taken the world’s kremlinologists entirely by surprise.

What is equally unsurprising is the limp-wristed reaction from the paladins of democracy in the free world. Not a whisper of condemnation has come from the United States or its satraps.

In Britain, US satrap No 1, Foreign Secretary William Hague is quoted as referring to the putsch as a  “popular” move involving “military intervention” rather than a coup d’ état.

According to today’s London Guardian, he said: “We have to recognise the enormous dissatisfaction in Egypt with what the president had done and the conduct of the government over the past year.”

Are we to take it then that unpopular governments warrant military intervention to topple them?

We can think of quite a few governments that could be described as “unpopular”, not least the current British government of which Mr Hague is the foreign affairs mouthpiece.

Does Mr Hague agree then that military intervention to topple the British government would be justified?

As to whether the coup d’ état is “popular” with Egyptians, well, it depends on whom you speak to. Certainly, it is popular with Egypt’s anti-Islamist secularists as well as with diehard supporters – particularly numerous among the police and the army – of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian dictator deposed in February 2011. It is certainly not popular with the Muslim Brotherhood, whose candidate Mohamed Morsi won 52 % of the vote in the 2012 presidential election.

However you spin it, four legs, a trunk and two tusks make an elephant.

When the democratically elected leader of a state is overthrown by the army, this is a coup d’état. There is no other word for it.

Mohamed Morsi assumed office as President of Egypt almost exactly a year ago on 30 June 2012 after a clear victory at the polls. Today, unceremoniously stripped of office, he languishes in military custody.  The army has ordered the arrest of the Muslim Brotherhood’s entire senior leadership – up to 300 people – in an attempt to decapitate the organisation and so render it ineffectual.  A total of 36 people have been killed in post-putsch violence, at least three of them being shot dead by the army.

These facts give the lie to the propaganda being peddled by the putschists led by General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.

First prize for hypocrisy must go to the senior judge,  Adli Mansour, who was chosen by the military to replace Morsi as their puppet president. Adli is said to have reached out to the Muslim Brotherhood, post-coup, calling it “part of the fabric of Egyptian society”.

Then there is the disingenuous statement issued after the coup by the Egyptian army command:

“Wisdom, true nationalism and constructive human values that all religions have called for, require us now to avoid taking any exceptional or arbitrary measures against any faction or political current. Peaceful protest and freedom of expression are rights guaranteed to everyone, which Egyptians have earned as one of the most important gains of their glorious revolution.”

Incredibly, given that Morsi and many of his supporters have actually been arrested, US President Guantanobama has called on the Egyptian military to “avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsi and his supporters”.

Why this weak-kneed reaction from the West?

Well, in the first place, Mohamed Morsi led a government controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, a motley crew of conservative Muslims, who could not be relied on to toe the party-line set by the global superpower.

In any case, western attitudes towards Muslim-dominated governments have turned increasingly negative since the attack by a group of Muslims on the World Trade Centre in New York on 11 September 2001.

Another running sore was the Brotherhood’s ambiguous attitude towards Israel, America’s principal ally in the Middle East.

Last but not least, the Egyptian military – as the Egyptian institution most favourably disposed towards cooperation with the US world order –  is receiving annual aid amounting to an estimated $1.3 billion from the United States. In these circumstances, it is a racing certainty that the US was advised in advance of the impending putsch and okayed it.

In other words, the US-backed Egyptian army staged a coup d’ état against the democratically-elected Egyptian president.

If media reports are to be believed, proof of US collusion comes out of the mouth of President Guantanobama himself. These concur that, in commenting on the coup d’ état, the US president has deliberately avoided using the world “coup d’ état” since, under US law, the US government cannot give aid to armed forces which have staged a putsch against a democratically elected leader. If this is true, then it means that the US president wishes to continue to give military aid to a putschist regime that has overthrown a legitimate government. Which means that the US – not by any means for the first time – is backing a coup d’ état against a democratic government it dislikes.

These factors go some way towards explaining why western reaction to the military takeover has been exceedingly muted.

 Unlike the “democratic” states of the west, however, Muslim governments seem to have no problem calling a spade a spade.

In Tunisia Rached Ghannouchi, head of the ruling Islamist Renaissance party,  is said to have condemned Morsi’s deposal as “a flagrant coup against democratic legitimacy”.

Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu is reported to have said that it was unacceptable that Morsi had been brought down by a “military coup”.

And the African Union – an organisation not usually considered a bastion of support for democratic rights –  has also called the putsch a coup and suspended Egypt’s membership.

Additional comment on 6 July 2013

Writing in today’s London Guardian, commentator Jonathan Freedland makes what we consider to be some valid comments:

“To remove an elected president, to arrest a movement’s leaders and silence its radio and TV stations, is to send a loud message to them and to Islamists everywhere. It says: you have no place in the political system. It says: there is no point trying to forge a version of political Islam compatible with democracy, because democracy will not be available to you.

“It is the same message sent in Algeria two decades ago, when Islamists were on course to win an election but were pushed aside in a military coup before they could take power; and similarly in Gaza in 2006, when Hamas won the votes but were internationally shunned. Except this week, the point has been rammed home in one of the largest, historically mightiest Muslim nations. Chatham House’s Nadim Shehadi worries that, after this week, “extremists will tell moderates, ‘Don’t even bother fighting elections. This is what happens to us if we win.’.

“… more radical jihadist voices – recall that at al-Qaida’s helm is Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian – will now have a powerful rhetorical weapon. You tried the democratic route, they will say. And look where it got you.”

An editorial today in the same paper warns: “Once you stage a coup once, you can stage another one again. Once parliaments are dissolved and constitutions suspended, the street becomes the only arbiter of legitimacy.”


 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)

2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)

3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)

4. Capitalism in practice  (4 July 2012) 

5.Ladder  (21 June 2012)

 6. A tale of two cities (1)  (6 June 2012)

 7. A tale of two cities (2)  (7 June 2012)

 8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.


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