Egypt: The Hangover begins (& Egypt Air wipes Israel off the map)

March 30, 2011

* Cairo’s liberals tell a different story than Team Obama

* Tom Gross: With the West now preoccupied over Libya, not enough attention is being paid to countries that are more important to Western security interests, such as Egypt, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen.

* Christopher Hitchens: “As someone who has witnessed many stages of upheaval, whether in Eastern Europe, Asia, or South Africa, I am not sure that the brave Egyptians who thronged Tahrir Square have got the resources to break the chains of tyranny.”

* Bret Stephens: “From the hotel we walk toward Tahrir Square, site of the massive protests that last month brought down Hosni Mubarak. Much was made at the time of the care the demonstrators had taken to tidy up the square, but now it’s back to its usual shambolic state. Much was made, too, of how the protests were a secular triumph in which the Muslim Brotherhood was left to the sidelines. But that judgment now looks in need of major revision.”

* David Schenker: “More than a month after Mubarak was removed from power, Egypt’s jails are again filling up. But this time, it’s not the usual Islamist suspects behind bars. Instead, Egypt’s holding cells and court dockets are swelling with senior officials of the fallen Mubarak regime.”

* Barry Rubin: “Media like The New York Times are starting to admit they were completely wrong in their coverage of Egypt.”

***

This is a follow-up to other dispatches about Egypt earlier this year.

An Egyptian protestor with a national flag painted on his face last month

 

CONTENTS

1. Egypt Air wipes Israel off the map
2. Egyptian government proposes “opening a new page” with Iran
3. Has the Egyptian military sealed an unholy alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood?
4. Dead justices
5. Jeremy Bowen, Robert Fisk, and the Muslim Brotherhood
6. The largest non-Muslim group anywhere in the Middle East
7. Egypt pro-democracy protestors attacked with swords by plain clothes men
8. “What I don’t see at the revolution” (By Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair, April 2011)
9. “Egypt – The Hangover” (By Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, March 29, 2011)
10. “A purge too far?” (By David Schenker, Weekly Standard, April 4, 2011)
11. “Western media discover Egyptian revolution not so moderate” (By Barry Rubin, March 25, 2011)


[All notes below by Tom Gross]

EGYPT AIR WIPES ISRAEL OFF THE MAP

Egypt Air – which is a member of the Star Alliance group that includes Lufthansa and other major international airlines – has wiped Israel off the map, removing the Jewish state from its on-air and online maps.

The removal of Israel comes in spite of the fact that Egypt Air continues to fly to Tel Aviv.

Is the removal of Israel from the map of the state airline a sign of where Egypt could be headed?

Israel is also concerned by the continuing failure of the new government in Egypt to supply natural gas to Israel. Weeks after militants attacked a key pipeline in the Egyptian-controlled Sinai desert, the flow of natural gas to Israel had yet to be resumed. In Israel, industry officials and experts now admit that the shutdown wasn’t due to technical problems but the changing political environment in Egypt since Hosni Mubarak was forced out of power in February.

 

EGYPTIAN GOVERNMENT PROPOSES “OPENING A NEW PAGE” WITH IRAN

Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil el-Arabi said this week that Egypt is ready to “open a new page” with the Islamic dictatorship in Iran. Egypt hasn’t had full diplomatic relations since the Iranian revolution of 1979 heralded in a Jihadist and terrorist-supporting regime.

Egyptian Foreign Minister el-Arabi made his remarks to the Egyptian state-run Middle East News Agency.

It seems that times have changed since former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat gave refuge to the deposed Iranian shah, Reza Pahlavi.

Many sections of the Western press, not wanting to “spoil the party” about the Egyptian revolution, have in general failed to highlight these and other developments which run counter to Western national interests. One news outlet that did report this is Bloomberg news.

 

HAS EGYPTIAN MILITARY SEALED AN UNHOLY ALLIANCE WITH THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD?

Two weeks ago – in spite of campaigning against it by Muhammad ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate, and Amr Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab League – more than three-quarters of Egyptian voters backed constitutional amendments which will facilitate the early election of a new parliament and president, thus giving the radical Muslim Brotherhood an advantage.

The Muslim Brotherhood is Egypt’s best-organized and largest political force, and its opponents say they will not have time to organize in anything like the same way as the Brotherhood prior to September’s elections.

As in the case of Hamas in Gaza, liberal and secular Egyptians fear that their country might hold one election, ushering in a government dominated by Islamic radicals, who will then never again hold a free and fair election, but instead will kill their opponents in the way that Hamas did.

During the vote for the constitutional amendments, the Muslim Brotherhood hung out banners saying a “yes” vote was a religious obligation, and distributed pamphlets warning that if people didn’t vote for it “the call to the prayer will not be heard any more like in the case of Switzerland, women will be banned from wearing the hijab like in the case of France and there will be laws that allow men to get married to men and women to get married to women.”

The Egyptian army seems set to form an unholy alliance with the Brotherhood, which will allow it to keep its corrupt money-making and often illicit activities in tact, rather than allowing secular-democrats who might curtail such activities, to come to power.

A Hamas rally in Gaza

A Hamas press conference

 

DEAD JUSTICES

As if to demonstrate how unreliable the ruling military council is in laying the foundation for free and fair elections, the military fulfilled its much-heralded promise for judicial oversight of the referendum two weeks ago (referred to in the above note) by including 47 dead justices and 52 justices no longer working in Egypt on its list of judicial monitors.

 

JEREMY BOWEN, ROBERT FISK, AND THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD

Several leading commentators have dismissed the threatening ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood. For example, at the height of Egyptian protests two months ago, the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen wrote: “Unlike the jihadis, the Muslim Brotherhood … is moderate and non-violent.”

(After I drew this to the attention of two senior BBC executives, Bowen’s article was amended on the BBC website to remove the word “moderate”.)

Others, such as Robert Fisk, the multi-award winning Middle East correspondent for The Independent wrote that “It was rubbish” to suggest that the Brotherhood might “take over Egypt.”

It remains to be seen whether the likes of Bowen and Fisk are right in their assessments.

 

THE LARGEST NON-MUSLIM GROUP ANYWHERE IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Meanwhile Christians in Egypt continue to be harassed and in some cases killed. Even though Christians make up over 11% of Egypt’s 85 million population – and are the largest non-Muslim group anywhere in the Middle East – the Western media doesn’t seem very interested in highlighting their plight. Nor do Western human rights groups.

Earlier this month another church south of Cairo was burned to the ground.

 

EGYPT PRO-DEMOCRACY PROTESTORS ATTACKED WITH SWORDS BY PLAIN CLOTHES MEN

Earlier this month, men dressed in civilian clothing and armed with swords and petrol bombs attacked protesters demanding reform to the security services, injuring several of them. The men are assumed to be recruited, if not employed, by the government. It was the first time the tactic had been employed since President Mubarak was forced to hand power to the military. In the days before they were attacked, the protesters had broken into offices belonging to state security, seizing documents they say were being destroyed by officers to cover up human rights violations.

***

Below, I attach four articles on the situation in Egypt, by commentators Christopher Hitchens, Bret Stephens, David Schenker, and Barry Rubin. (All are longtime subscribers to this list.)

[All notes above by Tom Gross]


ARTICLES

“THIS WOULDN’T BE THE FIRST REVOLUTION IN HISTORY TO BE PARTIALLY ABORTED”

What I don’t see at the revolution
By Christopher Hitchens
Vanity Fair
April 2011

When anatomizing revolutions, it always pays to consult the whiskered old veterans. Those trying to master a new language, wrote Karl Marx about the turmoil in France in the 19th century, invariably begin haltingly, by translating it back into the familiar tongue they already know. And with his colleague Friedrich Engels he defined a revolution as the midwife by whom the new society is born from the body of the old.

Surveying the seismic-looking events in Tunis and Cairo in January and February of this year, various observers immediately began by comparing them to discrepant precedents. Was this the fall of the Arab world’s Berlin Wall? Or was it, perhaps, more like the “people power” movements in Asia in the mid-1980s? The example of Latin America, with its overdue but rapid escape from military rule in the past decades, was also mentioned. Those with longer memories had fond recollections of the bloodless “red carnation” revolution in Portugal, in 1974: a beautiful fiesta of democracy which also helped to inaugurate Spain’s emancipation from four decades in the shadow of General Franco.

I was a small-time eyewitness to those “bliss was it in that dawn” episodes, having been in Lisbon in 1974, South Korea in 1985, Czechoslovakia in 1988, Hungary and Romania in 1989, and Chile and Poland and Spain at various points along the transition. I also watched some of the early stages of the historic eruption in South Africa. And in Egypt, alas – except for the common factor of human spontaneity and irrepressible dignity, what Saul Bellow called the “universal eligibility to be noble” – I can’t find any parallels, models, or precedents at all. (Mubarak asked to be thought of as a “father,” and found that “his” people wanted to be orphans.) This really is a new language: the language of civil society, in which the Arab world is almost completely unlettered and unversed. Moreover, while the old body may be racked with pangs, and even attended by quite a few would-be midwives, it’s very difficult to find the pulse of the embryo.

In Eastern Europe by the end of the 1980s, one knew not only what the people wanted but also how they would get it. Not to diminish the grandeur of those revolutions, the citizens essentially desired to live in Western European conditions, of greater prosperity and greater liberty. It took one concerted shove to “the Wall” and they were living in Western Europe, or anyway Central Europe. The arms of the European Community and NATO were already more or less open, and everybody from East Berlin to Warsaw was already relatively literate and qualified, and I don’t remember even a fingernail being lost by way of casualties (except in Romania, where a real Caligula had to be dealt with). Men such as Václav Havel and Lech Walesa, furthermore, had already proved that they were ready to assume the responsibility of government. Voilà tout!

In Portugal in April 1974, before the liberals in the army turned on the oldest Fascist dictatorship in Europe and broke open all the literal and metaphorical prison gates, there had been only one legal party. On May Day of that year, the Socialist and Communist Parties were able to fill the streets of the capital city. Within days, a conservative and a liberal party had been announced, and within a very short time Portugal was, so to say, a “normal” European country. Those parties, with their very seasoned leaders, had been there all along. All that was required was for the brittle carapace of the ancien régime to be shattered. The same happened in Athens a few months later: before my delighted eyes the torturers and despots of the military junta went to jail and the veteran civilian politicians came home from exile, or emerged from prison, and by the end of the year had held an election, in which the supporters of the former system of dark glasses and steel helmets were allowed to run and got about 1 percent.

Perhaps the most stirring single event of South African history was the aesthetically perfect moment in February 1985 when his jailers came to Nelson Mandela and told him he was free to leave. And he loftily declined! He would quit the prison when he was ready, and when the whole country had been released, and not a moment before. At that instant, the morons who had confined him became slowly aware that he was already the president of the republic and had in fact been in moral command of the office for some considerable time. Nor was it just a matter of his charisma. A well-rooted and experienced non-racial party, the African National Congress, had for years been saying to the apartheid authorities, with complete confidence: When you are finished running this country into the ground, we are absolutely prepared to replace you. In utero, and well into its third trimester, the new South Africa already existed.

In the Philippines in 1986, the lizard-faced goon Ferdinand Marcos was deposed by massive civil disobedience following a fixed “snap election” and replaced by Corazon Aquino, the widow of a man – Benigno Aquino – who had been murdered for threatening to win the previous one. A short while before that, I went on a plane to South Korea with the forcibly exiled Kim Dae Jung, who had narrowly escaped assassination after coming in second in a rigged poll some time earlier. We were all arrested and roughed up at the airport, and one of the largest welcoming crowds I have ever seen was broken up by rubber bullets and tear gas (some things never change), but Kim Dae Jung was leader of the opposition within a few years, and was elected president not long after that.

Not a single one of these pregnant conditions, or preconditions, exists in Egypt. Neither in exile nor in the country itself is there anybody who even faintly resembles a genuine opposition leader. With the partial exception of the obsessively cited Muslim Brotherhood, the vestigial political parties are emaciated hulks. The strongest single force in the state and the society – the army – is a bloated institution heavily invested in the status quo. As was once said of Prussia, Egypt is not a country that has an army, but an army that has a country. More depressing still, even if there existed a competent alternative government, it is near impossible to imagine what its program might be. The population of Egypt contains millions of poorly educated graduates who cannot find useful employment, and tens of millions of laborers and peasants whose life is a subsistence one. I shall never forget, on my first visit to Cairo, seeing “the City of the Dead”: that large population of the homeless and indigent which lives among the graves in one of the city’s sprawling cemeteries. For centuries, Egypt’s rulers have been able to depend on the sheer crushing weight of torpor and inertia to maintain “stability.” I am writing this in the first week of February, and I won’t be surprised if the machine – with or without Mubarak – is able to rely again on this dead hand while the exemplary courage and initiative of the citizens of Tahrir Square slowly ebb away.

Still, and for many of the same reasons, it is unlikely in the highest degree that the tremors will produce a ghastly negation: a Khomeini or a Mugabe who turns the initial revolution into a vicious counterrevolution. Egypt’s tenuous economy is hugely dependent on hospitality to Western tourists. Perhaps one in 10 Egyptians is a Christian. To the nation’s immediate south, in Sudan, millions of Africans have just voted to secede from a state that imposes Shari’a, and have taken most of the country’s oil fields along with them.

Even if the peace agreement with Israel is abrogated, Egypt will never be able to fight another war with the Jewish state, or not without guaranteeing catastrophe. No wonder the voice of the Muslim Brotherhood turned out to sound so tinny. Does it seriously expect to take on any of the problems I have just mentioned, with its feeble, simplistic slogan, “Islam Is the Solution”? The mullahs in Iran were able to hijack the 1979 revolution because in the Ayatollah Khomeini they had a figure of almost Lenin-like authority, and because (with the covert consent of the smirking Baptist Jimmy Carter) Saddam Hussein did them the immense favor of invading one of their western provinces and cementing a hysterical national unity. The mullahs also were, and remain, partly insulated from the consequences of their economic folly by the possession of huge reserves of oil, barely a drop of which is to be found in the vicinity of the Nile Delta.

As we sadly remember, the Ahmadinejad crew in Iran was also able to retain power in the face of popular (mainly urban) democratic insurrection. It, too, was ruthless in the use of force and able to rely on the passivity of a large and fairly pious rural population, itself dependent in turn on state subsidy. Heroism breaks its heart, and idealism its back, on the intransigence of the credulous and the mediocre, manipulated by the cynical and the corrupt.

The same day on which I write was to have been a “Day of Rage” in Damascus, but that was an abject fizzle which left the hereditary Assad government where it was, while having regained much of what it had lost in Lebanon after the wretchedly brief “Cedar Revolution” of 2005. In Yemen there are perhaps five separate and distinct causes of grievance, from a north-south split to a Shiite tribal rebellion to the increasingly sophisticated tactics of al-Qaeda’s local surrogate. This doesn’t mean that the Arab world is doomed indefinitely to remain immune from the sort of democratic wave that has washed other regions clean of despotism. Germinal seeds have surely been sown. But the shudder of conception is some considerable way off from the drama of birth, and this wouldn’t be the first revolution in history to be partially aborted.

 

CAIRO’S LIBERALS TELL A DIFFERENT STORY THAN TEAM OBAMA

Egypt – The Hangover
By Bret Stephens
The Wall Street Journal
March 29, 2011

Cairo -- Talk to top U.S. officials here about how things are going in Egypt, and the gist of the answer reminds me of what Apollo XI astronaut Michael Collins told Mission Control while sailing over the Sea of Tranquility: “Listen, babe, everything is going just swimmingly.”

Talk to secular Egyptians about what they make of that sanguine point of view, and they’ll tell you the Americans are on the far side of the moon.

Soon after my arrival here, I am met by an Egyptian friend – I’ll call him Mahmoud – who is Muslim by birth but decidedly secular by choice. He looks shaken. The cabbie who had brought him to the hotel where I’m staying had brandished a pistol he claimed to have stolen from a police officer. The cabbie said he had recently fired the gun in the air to save a young woman from being raped.

Mahmoud has his doubts about the truthfulness of the cabbie’s story. He also thinks that levels of street crime in Cairo are no worse than before the revolution, when incidents of hooliganism and looting spiked to Baghdad-like levels. But there’s something different, too. “People are much more scared than they used to be,” he says. “And it comes from the fact that there’s no police. People understand there’s potential for a minor incident to turn into a major massacre. If someone goes nuts, everyone will go nuts.”

From the hotel we walk toward Tahrir Square, site of the massive protests that last month brought down Hosni Mubarak. Much was made at the time of the care the demonstrators had taken to tidy up the square, but now it’s back to its usual shambolic state. Much was made, too, of how the protests were a secular triumph in which the Muslim Brotherhood was left to the sidelines. But that judgment now looks in need of major revision.

Mahmoud points to a building facing the square where, until a few weeks ago, a giant banner demanded “80 Million Noes” to a package of constitutional amendments meant to pave the way toward parliamentary and presidential elections in just a few months time. The banner had been placed there by the secular groups at the heart of the protests, which have good reason to fear early elections. Early elections will only benefit well-organized and politically disciplined groups like the Brotherhood and the remnants of Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, which is really the party of the Egyptian military.

In the event, the ayes had it with a whopping 77%, despite a fevered turnout effort by “No” voters. “The West seems to be convinced that the revolution was led by secular democratic forces,” says Mahmoud. “Now that myth is shattered. Which means that either the old order” – by which he means the military regime – “stays in power, or we’re headed for Islamist dominance.”

From Tahrir Square, we walk past the burnt-out shell of the municipal tax office to meet up with some of Mahmoud’s friends. George (another pseudonym) is a twenty-something Coptic Christian from a middle-class family. His parents, who run a small factory in upper Egypt, see no future for him in the country, and they want him to emigrate. “Canada or Australia?” he asks me. I tell him the weather is better Down Under, but that he might be better off staying put and fighting for a better future for his country. He looks at me doubtfully.

Egypt’s Copts, some 15% of the population and the largest non-Muslim group anywhere in the Middle East, have good reasons to be worried. Though the protestors at Tahrir made a show of interfaith solidarity, the sense of fellowship is quickly returning to the poisonous pre-Tahrir norm. Earlier this month a Coptic church south of Cairo was burned to the ground, apparently on account of an objectionable Coptic-Muslim romance. The episode would seem almost farcical if it weren’t so commonplace in Egypt, and if it didn’t so often have fatal results.

The threat to the Coptic community is also a reminder that beyond the Muslim Brotherhood there are Egypt’s still more extreme Salafis. “The issue is not that they have gotten stronger since the revolution,” Mahmoud explains. “It is that they are getting bolder. There is no counterbalance to their street dominance in certain poor neighborhoods. They’re not scared of the government. They’re not scared of being prosecuted.”

Ahmed, another friend of Mahmoud, stops by to say hello. A graphic designer, Ahmed got a coveted job at an ad agency two days before the protests began in Tahrir, was laid off just a few days later, and remains unemployed today. Though it’s now generally forgotten, the past seven years were economically good for Egypt thanks to the liberalizing program of former Prime Minister Ahmed Nafiz – a classic case, in hindsight, of revolutions being the product of rising expectations.

But now that’s in the past. Foreign investors are wary of Egypt, as are tourists, and the military junta currently ruling the state has embarked on a witch hunt against people who belonged to the “businessmen’s cabinet” that gave Egypt its fleeting years of growth but now serve as convenient bogeymen for a military eager to affirm its populist bona fides.

Later I return to the hotel to listen to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Ambassador Margaret Scobey deliver upbeat assessments about developments in the country. Who are you going to believe: Secular Egyptians themselves or the crew who, just a few weeks ago, was saying the Mubarak regime was in no danger of collapse?

 

A PURGE TOO FAR?

A purge too far?
By David Schenker
The Weekly Standard
April 4, 2011

During Egypt’s Papyrus Revolution, the state’s jails were emptied. Hundreds of convicts – Islamists and secularists alike – escaped and vanished. Still others were released by the doomed Mubarak regime to attack pro-democracy demonstrators in Tahrir Square. Some foreign terrorists in Egyptian custody even quit their cells and auto-repatriated to Gaza and Lebanon.

More than a month after longtime Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was removed from power, Egypt’s jails are again filling up. But this time, it’s not the usual Islamist suspects behind bars. Instead, Egypt’s holding cells and court dockets are swelling with senior officials of the fallen Mubarak regime.

Like post-Saddam Iraq circa 2003, Egypt is in the early stages of its own de-Baathification process, purging and prosecuting former Mubarak regime functionaries. Some members of the former regime, including Minister of the Interior Habib el-Adly and four of his deputies, have been indicted for killing protesters during the Tahrir Square demonstrations. To date, though, more than murder and torture, members of the Mubarak regime are being charged with financial corruption and illegal profiteering.

In addition to facing a murder rap, the once feared former interior minister is on trial for laundering money; the former tourism minister stands accused of embezzling government funds; executives responsible for Egypt’s gas industry – and the sweetheart export deal with Israel – are under investigation. The former speakers of Egypt’s upper and lower houses of parliament are likewise being scrutinized by the state’s central accounting office.

No doubt the arrests and trials of Mubarak functionaries will provide overdue catharsis for the vast majority of Egyptians who never enjoyed the trickle-down benefits of Egypt’s macroeconomic success. But carried too far, the cleansing could backfire on Egypt’s economy.

To date, the most consequential individuals targeted have been top figures from the “Government of Businessmen,” who drove (and benefitted from) Egypt’s remarkable economic growth from 2004-2011. Just this week, for example, Egypt’s attorney general said he would be issuing an arrest warrant for the former minister of finance, Yousef Boutros Ghali, for allegedly siphoning off millions of dollars from state coffers to illegally bankroll Mubarak regime propaganda activities. Most prominent of this group is Ahmed Ezz, the steel baron-monopolist long considered among Egypt’s most corrupted officials, currently incarcerated in Cairo. Should Ezz – a close associate of the ousted president’s son Gamal Mubarak – be convicted, the popular schadenfreude will be considerable.

But a warrant was also issued for the widely respected former minister of industry and trade, Rachid Mohamed Rachid, who is charged with assisting Ezz to illegally amass millions. Outside of Egypt, Rachid is viewed as a skilled and noncorrupt technocrat. Unlike Ezz, Rachid was spirited from the country prior to his arrest and remains on the lam in Dubai.

After 30 years of the corrupt and brutal Mubarak regime, emotions in Egypt are understandably running high. Resentment toward the ancien regime – and calls for vengeance – have spiked. Rachid may ultimately be found guilty of something, but at present, it appears to be more a case of guilt by association.

No one is debating the importance of repatriating stolen Egyptian assets and prosecuting former regime profiteers. The longer and deeper the purges run, however, the more difficult it will be to attract foreign direct investment and resume normal economic activity. Hard times lie ahead for Egypt, and the state can ill afford to excise all the skilled technocrats and entrepreneurs who profited under Mubarak.

During the revolution, the local stock market bottomed out and closed, foreign capital fled, and S&P downgraded its rating of Egyptian debt. Since Mubarak’s departure, the state has likewise been beset by dozens of strikes, slowing the resumption of economic growth. Worse, tourism, Egypt’s second largest source of revenue, a leading source of employment, and the oil that fuels the domestic economy, will likely not rebound for some time.

But that’s not all. Egypt is the world’s largest importer of wheat, and the daily Al Masry al Youm is reporting that food processing factories are running at only 60 percent of capacity in large part because foreign suppliers now insist on being paid in cash.

Simply stated, a deepening crisis of confidence in Egypt’s economy is brewing. The next government – liberal, Islamist, military, or a combination of the three – will be faced with deepening economic woes amidst euphoric public expectations. Macro-economic reform – the key accomplishment of the Mubarak regime – will likely be reversed as the state intervenes to alleviate poverty.

Despite anticipated rollbacks in economic reforms, the international community needs to provide urgent assistance. Renegotiating Egypt’s foreign debt and providing the state with an advance on the seized assets of Mubarak regime officials would be a good place to start.

For its part, to meet profound economic challenges at home, Cairo will need to assemble an economic brain trust, just as the former regime did in 2004. Not only will the new team have to be squeaky clean, it will also have to be up to the task, no mean feat in a state that the 2010 U.N. Human Development Report said turns out locally educated workers with degrees of “limited value.”

With the Mubarak regime vanquished, it’s time for Egyptians to get to work on rebuilding their state, an undertaking that will require deploying all the human capital the state can muster. To ensure high standards of transparency in this process, those deemed corrupt at home must be weeded out. Weeding, though, is the proper metaphor. Amidst the enthusiasm to rid the state of the former regime, Egyptians will have to take care not to uproot also the productive parts of their economy.

 

“PLACES LIKE THE NEW YORK TIMES ARE STARTING TO ADMIT THEY WERE COMPLETELY WRONG”

Western Media Discover Egyptian Revolution Not So Moderate; Muslim Brotherhood is Powerful, Still Deny That It’s Radical
By Prof. Barry Rubin
RubinReports blog
March 25, 2011

It seems mere days ago that every reporter and expert on all television channels and newspapers was preaching that Egypt’s revolution was a great thing, run by Facebook-savvy liberals, inspired by President Barack Obama and “universal values.” Those silly, paranoid Israelis had nothing to worry about. Christians were backing the revolution and everyone was going to be brothers, but not Muslim Brothers because the Muslim Brotherhood was weak, moderate, opposed to violence, and full of great people.

Anyone who said anything different was screened out and vilified.

Now, with no soul-searching, apologies, or even examining what false assumptions misled them, places like the New York Times are starting to admit they were completely wrong.

You mean they helped foist a policy that is a disaster for U.S. interests and regional stability? You mean the result might well be new repressive regimes, heightened terrorism, wars on Israel, and discrediting the United States as reliable ally or enemy worth fearing?

Oh well, what are a few hundred thousand lives lost, a whole region destabilized, and entire countries taken over by anti-American radicals who sponsor terrorism, and a couple of wars, more or less?

So now the New York Times tells us such things as “religion has emerged as a powerful political force.” How do they cover their past mistakes? They erroneously add, “Following an uprising that was based on secular ideals.” They have discovered that a lot of army officers like the Muslim Brotherhood, which we knew about long before simply by watching how officers’ wives were transformed from imitators of European fashions to being swathed in pious Islamic garb.

The newspaper explains, “It is also clear that the young, educated secular activists who initially propelled the non-ideological revolution are no longer the driving political force – at least not at the moment.”

Note how they again cover their mistakes. First, the revolution is based on “secular ideals” but then it is “non-ideological.” The Facebook kids are out but perhaps only for the “moment,” meaning they might be back on top next week. But we warned from the start that this was ridiculous because there are no more than 100,000 Facebook kids and tens of millions of Brotherhood kids.

Last month the Brotherhood was weak and disorganized, now it is “the best organized and most extensive opposition movement in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood was expected to have an edge in the contest for influence.”

“We are all worried,” said Amr Koura, 55, a television producer, reflecting the opinions of the secular minority. “The young people have no control of the revolution anymore. It was evident in the last few weeks when you saw a lot of bearded people taking charge. The youth are gone.”

Funny, I didn’t have any trouble finding plenty of people in Egypt worried during the revolution. Yet the Times and the other newspapers only wanted to quote people who said how great everything was, even as Christians sent out desperate messages about how scared they were.

Incidentally, the only person quoted as an expert in the article comes from the left-wing International Crisis Group, headed by an anti-American who hangs out with U.S. policymakers. The analyst tells us that the Muslim Brotherhood didn’t want the revolution, despite the fact that every action and statement of the group said the exact opposite.

Whether or not the Times reporters are “useful idiots,” they are certainly idiots. It isn’t just political slant but the violation of the most basic concepts of politics and logic. Consider this passage:

“This is not to say that the Brotherhood is intent on establishing an Islamic state. From the first days of the protests, Brotherhood leaders proclaimed their dedication to religious tolerance and a democratic and pluralist form of government. They said they would not offer a candidate
for president, that they would contest only a bit more than a third of the total seats in Parliament, and that Coptic Christians and women would be welcomed into the political party affiliated with the movement.

“None of that has changed, Mr. Erian, the spokesman, said in an interview. `We are keen to spread our ideas and our values,’ he said. `We are not keen for power.’”

Now, why is this nonsense? Simple:

First, political groups – especially revolutionary groups that want to impose ideological dictatorships – do not always speak the truth. They say what will benefit them. And the Brotherhood benefits by pretending to be moderate.

So statements about tolerance don’t show us where a movement is going: its ideology, record, and longer-term goals show us where it is going.

Second, seeking to create an Islamist state next Thursday does not have to be the Brotherhood’s aim. What all this material shows is merely that they see the process as longer-term and that the basis must be prepared.

It’s sort of like saying: The Communists aren’t intent on creating a Communist state. Oh no, they only want to spread their ideas and values! They say they are happy to work with capitalists and would be happy with thirty-three percent of the seats in parliament. And anyone who wants can join their party. So there isn’t any threat.

Reporters who write things like “Israeli authorities claim that the killing of its civilians are ‘terrorist attacks’” are quite willing to take the Muslim Brotherhood at its word. They never recount the fact that this was a Nazi ally whose words for decades have stressed virulent hatred of America, democracy, Christians, and Jews. They never explain that it is a pro-terrorist group that endorsed killing Americans in Iraq and only last October called for Jihad against the United States.

Why go on? It’s as if the most prized institutions of the Western world – universities and media – have forgotten their mission, lost track of their values, thrown away their principles, and dropped one hundred points in IQ. And when they are proven to be terribly wrong, they merely shift to a slightly different position.

This farce has gone beyond embarrassing through disgraceful and has ended up being both deadly and ridiculous.

References in the article above:

www.nytimes.com/2011/03/25/world/middleeast/25egypt.html?_r=1&hp

http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/egypt/index.html?inline=nyt-geo,

http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/m/muslim_brotherhood_egypt/index.html?inline=nyt-org,

http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/s/essam_a_sharaf/index.html?inline=nyt-per

www.youm7.com/News.asp?NewsID=362933


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.