This post is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.
With Egypt on the brink we continue to learn a lot about Egypt and ourselves. Yesterday the Obama administration decided to call it a day on whether the ouster of the democratically elected president of Egypt was a coup or not. The Obama administration decided not to decide.
Why did the administration decide not decide? The New York Times puts it this way through the words of a senior official:
“The law does not require us to make a formal determination as to whether a coup took place, and it is not in our national interest to make such a determination.”
“We will not say it was a coup, we will not say it was not a coup, we will just not say.”
The Times also cites a State Department official tying the administration’s decision to US national security:
“Egypt serves as a stabilizing pillar of regional peace and security and the United States has a national security interest in a stable and successful democratic transition in Egypt,” the official said. “We believe that the continued provision of assistance to Egypt, consistent with our law, is important to our goal of advancing a responsible transition to democratic governance and is consistent with our national security interests.”
Among the potential dangers in the cut-off of aid is a reduction in the ability of the Egyptian military to halt smuggling of weapons to Hamas, which could use them against Israel. The aid program is also a pillar of the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, and Israeli officials have urged the United States not to suspend it.
Meanwhile the AP reports that ousted President Morsi has been remanded for custody for his flight to freedom from jail in 2011:
The case against Morsi is rooted in the mass jailbreak of more than 30 Muslim Brotherhood leaders from a prison northwest of Cairo during the 2011 popular uprising that toppled Morsi’s predecessor, autocrat Hosni Mubarak. There have been many reports in the Egyptian media that the Brotherhood collaborated with Hamas, its Palestinian wing, and Hezbollah militants in Lebanon to arrange the breakout.
Muslim Brotherhood officials have said they were aided by local residents in breaking out of prison, not foreigners. However, a court in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia has heard testimonies from prison officials and intelligence officers strongly indicating that Morsi and his Brotherhood colleagues were freed when gunmen led by Hamas operatives stormed the Wadi el-Natroun prison.
What a bizarre news day! First we have the US deciding not to decide about whether or not there was a coup – a decision based not on the definition of military takeovers but one based on perceived US national security interests.
Then on the same day the logic becomes even weirder. We have the already detained ousted Egyptian President Morsi formally detained on charges that he broke out of prison with help from others – after being imprisoned by a soon-to-be ousted President Mubarak – who himself was detained for trial on charges he illegally used Presidential powers to imprison dissidents like Morsi – who was then elected President.
All of this by the military that placed Mubarak in power, then ousted him, and accepted Morsi’s election, then ousted him and have now called the (loyal and patriotic) Egyptian people out on the streets to confront a good proportion of the (disloyal and treasonous) Egyptian people who elected the illegally imprisoned, jail breaking, now formally charged ex-President.
If you’re illegally imprisoned – even defined as such by the Egyptian military that held the power then and now – how does breaking out of prison become a crime?
Now I get it. When a coup isn’t a coup – either with Mubarak or Morsi – then being in jail or breaking out of jail, be ousted and held incommunicado, then being formally charged – is all relative. To national security.
If national security interest makes the rules in the United States why shouldn’t make the rules in Egypt, too?