Egypt's Faux Revolution: Bait and Switch on the Nile
by Eric Margolis
by Eric Margolis: Eruption
on the Nile/Confusion on the Potomac
ça change," say the cynical French, "plus c’est la même chose."
Egyptians will be recalling this "bon mot" as the watch
one ruler, the ousted Husni Mubarak, replaced by a military junta
led by Field Marshall Mohammed Tantawi.
getting more Mubarakism, sans Mubarak, at least for now. This is
not what most Egyptians want or deserve.
The new military
junta just proclaimed it would support the hated Israeli-Egyptian
peace deal signed by Anwar Sadat, thus assuaging fears in the US
and Israel. In an example of typical post-coup talk, the junta says
elections will be held sometime in the future.
are still euphoric over the ouster of Gen. Mubarak, known to one
and all as "pharaoh."
Most of them
do not yet seem to have realized that the people who have taken
over the regime are the very same generals, policemen and tycoons
who ran it under Mubarak.
secret police, or "Mukhabarat," is commanded by Gen. Omar
Suleiman, who is widely viewed as America’s and Israel’s man in
Cairo. Alongside him are Marshall Tantawi, chief of staff Lieutenant
General Enan and Ahmed Shafik, also seen as America’s men on the
Nile. The US usually had a backup for its favorite dictators; this
writer noted last April that Gen. Omer Suleiman was Mubarak’s US-anointed
successor. After Anwar Sadat’s assassination, Gen. Mubarak was quickly
engineered into power.
two generals attended the Pentagon’s updated version of the US military’s
School of the America’s in Panama that recruited Latin American
officers for the CIA. Senior ranks of Egypt’s 465,000-man armed
forces and the secret police are believed to receive sizable secret
stipends from CIA and the Pentagon.
generals are part of the ruling establishment. Many spend more time
managing their business affairs than military matters. Such is also
the case in many other Arab one-party states.
As in Pakistan,
Egypt’s army is up to its helmets in big business: shopping centers,
tourism, property, hotels, steel, telecom. Few among Egypt’s top
brass want to end their gravy train by changing the status quo.
They are ready to fight to the last mall or stock split.
The US has
paid Egypt’s military $1.4 billion annually since 1979 not to confront
Israel, one of the biggest bribes in history. On top of this, Egypt
receives some $600 million more annually in economic aid, subsidized
US wheat, and a host of other goodies – all to make nice to Israel
and keep Egypt from supporting the Palestinians.
armed forces were reconfigured after the Camp David accords, turning
it under US supervision from a force designed to defend Egypt’s
borders and regional interests to one whose primary function was
to control the population and protect the US-backed regime. The
military’s stocks of munitions and spare parts for its US arms were
kept to a bare minimum to ensure Egypt could not go to war with
As I watch
Egypt’s slow-motion revolution, I wonder if somewhere among the
armed forces is another young colonel who loves his people even
more than he loves real estate. The Muslim Brotherhood, an object
of ill-informed hysteria in the US, wants to reallocate arms spending
to social needs.
officers must be thinking about the example of Gamal Abdel Nasser,
who seized power in 1952 after Egypt’s disastrous war with Israel
in 1947–8. Perhaps there is a young colonel or even major who may
try to seize power and emulate Nasser, who is still adored by many
Egyptians in spite of his disastrous mistakes. People have forgotten
many of them. What they do remember was that when Nasser died of
a heart attack in 1970, his family had little money, and they recall
that Nasser spoke for Egypt, not foreign powers.
So far, the
so-called Egyptian Revolution has only been a game of musical chairs.
The United States still dominates Egypt’s military, policy, and
economy. Washington provides wheat without which Egypt cannot feed
exercises powerful influence over Egypt thanks to its supporters
in the US Congress. An angry word from Jerusalem, and Egypt’s wheat
could be cut off. Egyptian and Israeli intelligence are as entwined
as was Israel’s Mossad with the Iranian Savak secret police.
massive pyramid of Egypt’s police state – to use a fine metaphor
from the brilliant Albanian writer Ismail Kadere – will not be easily
lifted, perhaps without a full scale, violent revolution. To date,
the revolt on the Nile has not even produced a Kerensky, never mind
feel cheated by the change of power in Cairo, as many will, and
violent demonstrations begin, what will happen if the junta orders
a battalion commanded by a colonel to open fire on protesters?
The first young
officer who refuses and orders his men to join the demonstrators
could become Egypt’s new hero. Nasser’s ghost haunts Cairo.
him mail] is the author of War
at the Top of the World and the new book, American
Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the
West and the Muslim World. See his
© 2011 Eric Margolis
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