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Egyptian coup reveals the ‘deep state’ in all our lives

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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.

Kuwait is in.  Yesterday Kuwait pledged four billion dollars to Egypt – the Egyptian revolution – or the Egyptian military.  Take your pick.

With Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the United States in line, the rogues’ gallery is almost complete.  The IMF can’t be far behind.

The Guardian reports reports that U. S. military aid, the latest being F-16 fighter jets, continues to flow to Egypt.  Lockheed Martin – yet another member of the rogues’ gallery as the premier supplier to the Pentagon – is happy as a lark.

With so many political and strategic strings attached what do these handouts mean?  In an economy the size of Egypt’s these billions don’t last long.   The money keeps the economy from collapsing rather than moving society in a new direction.  It also helps to stabilize and consolidate the power of all concerned – except progressive forces.   Progressive change isn’t part of these aid packages.

Power continues to be the status quo coin of the realm.Should we expect more?

Meanwhile Egypt’s military government is broadening its crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamists in general.  Allegations of inciting violence before and after President Morsi’s ouster are circulating.  That’s a mouthful for a military that’s been conducting coups for decades and dominating the streets whenever it sees fit.  Nonetheless, such statements are made without a hint of irony.

Arrest warrants for Muslim Brotherhood leadership multiply.  Reports are that a (re)banning of the party might be imminent. Since Egypt is (re)turning to Mubarak’s time (re)banning the Muslim Brotherhood makes sense.

This follows the New York Times report report this morning that there may have been a concerted effort to weaken Morsi’s government by the police, judiciary and private sector elites aligned with the old Mubarak regime.  This theory is buttressed by the sudden change in society’s functioning.  With Morsi’s ouster, for example, the police have reappeared on the streets and restored order.  Gas and electric shortages have disappeared.  The Times also suggests that Tamarod, the movement that sought the recall of President Morsi, was funded by a business titan aligned with Mubarak’s regime. 

In short, the opposition to Morsi was coordinated and calculated.  Morsi wasn’t going to be given a chance to finish his term.  Here’s how the Times frames it: 

“Despite coming to power through the freest elections in Egyptian history, Mr. Morsi was unable to extend his authority over the sprawling state apparatus, and his allies complained that what they called the ‘deep state’ was undermining their efforts at governing.”

It will be interesting to see how Tamarod responds to the claim against it.  Is it true that the more progressive forces in Egypt were co-opted by Mubarak era oligarchs?  Since progressive forces aligned with the military, perhaps other alliances were necessary, too.

How you accomplish political change without using and being used by the powerful and often regressive forces isn’t found in a simple formula. 

Politics makes strange bedfellows but the issue remains how truly progressive change can come to Egypt with such known and unknown alliances. Using and being used is another way of defining politics. In the end, though, who comes out on top is important. 

In Egypt, I doubt progressive forces will win the day.  The most progressive forces can hope for is to hold their own.  What “holding their own” means in Egypt today is another story.

The “deep state” is everywhere you look.  You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to recognize that power doesn’t just give itself over because a dictator has been banished, an election is held and a new ideology is ascendant.  Morsi and his allies may have been ineffectual.  They may have been unable to negotiate a bridge between the old and the new order.  However, their major failure might have been their inability to convince the Mubarak elite that the future they wanted to create included them in their elite roles. 

Were the Mubarak elite wrong?  Did Morsi and his allies want to create a new elite, an elite that would one day become the deep state?

Mubarak was in power for almost thirty years.  An entire world of influence, money, power and corruption was created.  Did anyone think that this world – Mubarak’s world – would go silently into the night?

Egypt’s current struggles have been framed around the secular/religion divide.  In this case, at least for now, secular deep state is defeating Islamic deep religion.   Or is it really a struggle between Mubarak’s old deep state and Morsi’s ascendant deep state?

Trying to find a place within the conflict between deep states, progressive change can only be incremental and ancillary.  This means that alignment with the lesser of evils is the name of the game. 

The lesser of evils.  Another global phenomena.  Can this strategy succeed anywhere?

Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is Professor of History and Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of the Global Prophetic. His latest book is Finding Our Voice: Embodying the Prophetic and Other Misadventures.

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20 Responses

  1. American on July 11, 2013, 12:39 pm

    Up to 9 billion so far….not counting US aid.
    Reuters / Lee Jae-Won….

    UAE will provide Cairo with $1 billion and lend it a further $2 billion.
    Saudi Arabia will give Egypt a $5 billion aid package.
    Abu Dhabi will also to give Egypt $1 billion.
    The IMF wont be far behind now.

    “The White House has refused to label Morsi’s ouster as an army coup, which distances the Obama administration from the Muslim Brotherhood’s former leadership.
    Under a 1980’s law, the US would be forced to cut off the $1.55 billion it sends to Egypt annually if Morsi’s ousting was deemed to be a coup. If this were to happen, Washington would largely lose its ability to shape events in Egypt, which it regards as an important ally in the region.
    Although some in congress are calling a coup and for aid to Egypt be suspended according to US law.

    Poor Egyptians….Revolt I and free elections were always going to be reversed from the beginning by US Israel Saudi
    US must own Egypt for Israel…..and for their Saud ally in this case.
    Israel must own Egypt thru US for I/P and Hamas…..
    Saudi and other ME kingdoms must own Egypt to kill the Arab Springs in their cradle before one deposes them.

  2. piotr on July 11, 2013, 1:10 pm

    I was one explained why the sales of complicated military hardware has key strategic importance.

    It means that officers of the buyers have to be trained by the seller, and there is no better way of recruiting intelligence collaborators. In the case of a country that is dominated by the military politically, this means that key political decision may be perform by people on the payroll of the seller country. It explains a bit why it can be in the interest of the seller to actually offer stuff for free.

    On a totally different note, so-called “secular authoritarians” in Muslim world have very checkered history in respect to religious freedoms and so on. Saddam Hussein was promoting “supervised Islamicisation”, in Pakistan Sharia was introduced to the legal system by a military dictator, in Egypt under Mubarak there was quite a bit of legal harassment of religious un-orthodox thinkers. If I recall, one writer was decreed to be an apostate by the court, and as a result, his wife was forced to divorce him — because a Muslim women should not be married to a non-Muslim. And thugs had relatively free reign in attacking Copts and “free thinkers”.

    The third aspect of the situation is that deeply religious people (conservatively religious?) do think differently that most of liberals, progressives and kleptocrats. For example, I think that in USA the proponents of school prayers really think that the country would be fundamentally better if all school children would start school days by loudly praying in chorus. This is not the only case when different ways of thinking clash and arguments marshalled by one side totally miss the other, and each presents a challenge. Egyptian progressives and Islamists hate each other while objectively they should eliminate kleptocratic elite by working together. With all differences, American politics has aspects of the same.

  3. Citizen on July 11, 2013, 1:24 pm

    The lesser of evils, how can this come to be for the Egyptian masses when the old regime and any new regime still must depend on US dollars and diplomatic cover? Egypt is captive to Israel, via US aid & diplomatic cover, The only free state in the ME is Israel because of AIPAC et al.

  4. Keith on July 11, 2013, 2:16 pm

    MARC ELLIS- “Did anyone think that this world – Mubarak’s world – would go silently into the night?”

    Are you kidding? Go back and read the articles and comments on Mondoweiss during the so-called “revolution.” Pure wishful thinking. Some folks are unable to deal with the reality that in a revolution, the institutions of social power are fundamentally realigned. This did not occur in Egypt, nor was/is it likely to occur. Egypt is part of the global economy, locked within a matrix of elite financial control, and lacks the wherewithal to break free. The American empire has morphed into a global financial empire. Few nation-states are even remotely capable of refusing Wall Street’s diktats. The nature and extent of elite global control is an order of magnitude greater than even 50 years ago.

    I conclude with a quote folled by a link: “For two years now I have often been asked why I have not visited Egypt, where I had been forbidden entry for 18 years. Just as often I repeated that on the basis of the information I was able to obtain-confirmed by Swiss and European officials-the Egyptian army remained firmly in control and had never left the political arena….Nearly three years ago, in a book and then in a series of articles, I alerted my readers to a body of troubling evidences, and to the underlying geopolitical and economic considerations that were often missing from mainstream political and media analyses, and that insisted on submitting the euphoria that accompanied the “Arab spring” to critical analysis.” (Tariq Ramadan)

  5. seafoid on July 11, 2013, 3:48 pm

    “but the issue remains how truly progressive change can come to Egypt”

    Probably in the same way as truly progressive change can come to Mexico
    ie never under the current global system.

    Egypt is on the periphery of first world Europe. It has no chance. Look at Ukraine.

  6. MHughes976 on July 11, 2013, 4:22 pm

    Egypt seems to me to be running a game with three players, military, secularist and Islamic, with endlessly shifting alliances of two against one. Currently the military-industrial complex and the secularist liberals are holding hands but they will split up. I would think that as the game goes on one of the three blocs will split and then we will have some progress. Meanwhile I can feel only the most intense sorrow. I feared for the Egyptian Christians with Morsi in power, but I can’t believe that there’s a problem for which a military coup is the answer.

  7. radii on July 11, 2013, 4:50 pm

    the “deep state” (i.e.; the moneyed-elite) was revealed in the CIA coup of Guatemala’s leadership in 1954 … 4 U.S. Cabinet officers had direct ties to United Fruit – Guatemala’s largest company (U.S.-owned which controlled 42% of the arable land) … as always, follow the money

  8. goldmarx on July 11, 2013, 4:53 pm

    Any outrage over US aid to Egypt?

    Sure, $1.55 billion is not $3 billion to Israel, but still, it’s worth some oppositional stirring from my fellow BDSers, eh?

  9. Joek on July 11, 2013, 6:32 pm

    The sad fact is the lessor evil paradigm remains the only valid approach going forward. Progressives and secularists throughout the Arab world – not to mention the Christian minorities – have no choice but to align themselves with the junta regimes – whether in Egypt or Syria – because no matter how you break it down, radical Islamist groups are beyond any hope of redeeming. Morsi failed the test in a big way when it came to representing all Egyptians – instead he chose to represent the Muslim Brotherhood. He showed little to no sensitivity towards secularists and minority Christians and as a result such groups became targets of Islamic extremists.

    Unfortunately, the only right path is to allow the Islamists and secularists to fight it out. I’m usually against intervention by the US and would like to see the Egyptian people sort it out on their own but that would be wishful thinking. The US will continue to play a major role in shaping Egypt’s future. I just hope the secularists will be as vigilant of American sponsored military rule as they were of Muslim Brotherhood rule. First, they need to defeat the radical Islamists and insist on creating truly democratic institutions. Defeating the radical Islamists will not be easy and this process will be a bloody affair that could take a decade or more to resolve itself. When both sides get tired of fighting and in the process create a new consensus based on a new majority, and accept the principle mosque and state should be separate that is when genuine democracy is able to take root.

    I have to agree with the administration Morsi didn’t rule in a democratic fashion. Democracy is more than election, where was the protection of the minority Christians under the law? Where was the constitution that provided protection for religious minorities and women?

    Therefore, it seems to me the coup was a valid response – even though I have serious misgiving of this military – not sure I can see an alternative path towards creating a true democracy than starting over again.

    In the US, our constitution took a few rewrites and revamping – from the Article of Confederation to what we have now.

    So I don’t see starting all over again as bad as some seem to think. I understand the Muslim Brotherhood will have a different take on thinks but so be it. I look at Hamas rule in Gaza and honestly, regret ever expressing support for their election win. Another perfect example, in Gaza, Islamic fundamentalism is no less oppressive than the Israeli occupation. In Egypt, Islamic fundamentalism will be just as oppressive as Mubarak dictatorial rule.

    I don’t have any answers but will argue the lessor of two evil approach has become necessary because it is the only option for those seeking protection from the extremist elements of Islamic societies. When churches are under attack, who are you going to call? Hamas? Muslim Brotherhood?

    • gamal on July 11, 2013, 11:38 pm

      Its true the Egyptians just voted the wrong way, thank God there’s an alternative to democracy, the Egyptian army is concerned mainly with two activities the commission of crimes against humanity against the beloved Egyptian people and committing and aiding others in the commission of economic crimes against those self same Egyptian people.

      For all its short comings, the MB was the only broadly based political grouping, having now subjected Egypt to a short sharp farhud, we can all relax as the benevolent army has inaugurated the new era with mass arrests and a massacre, of Islamists apparently, who are the very definition of collateral, its probably not a bad sign or anything.

      The army now faces a variety of narrowly based political groupings all of whom will exceed even the MB obsequiousness as regards America, I love the 48hrs ultimatum, i have an ailing Aunt in the village and a cousin in Cairo hospital both of their situations are dire,
      the Egyptian Army, from whom I was exempted conscription as a lone son, and the State over which it presides are shockingly cruel and sadistic, Morsi was essentially trapped and the Army from day one had his number, facing the entire “Mubarak” era state apparatus and a whole host of aspiring corrupt carpet baggers, first amongst whom is Elbaradei, he tried to seize some of the levers of power like a village mukhtar, in Egypt everyone i know and speak to is terrified most of my family are loosely MB sympathetic though very critical of Morsi’s blunders, especially his inability to address any of the issues of concern to the people, for fear of offending the powers with whom any elected Egyptian Government is going to have to contend, this wont be the first short lived administration. Emergency regulations are an Egyptian political tradition.

      domination of the Egyptian economy is a vital requirement of the American Empire, someone whispered the ( i mean fuck salvador) Algerian option, all with 12 billion of Arabian money, pledged within hours by the lovers of Egyptian democracy in Saudi, Bahrain, Dubai, Kuwait and Qatar, let freedom ring. The Egyptian people will continue fighting as they always have, no doubt, but the deposition of Morsi was no victory, plenty of people in Egypt live with less than 2 days food in their place of residence at any one time sometimes nothing at all, shortages in Egypt can kill, the architects of this situation are still firmly in control of the state.

    • bilal a on July 12, 2013, 5:16 am

      What is the Third Force in Syria, Thailand, and now in Egypt ? ie who organized and deployed the Cairo snipers?

      counterpunch: Fomenting Civil War in Egypt by ERIC DRAITSER

      Snipers next for Turkey?

  10. miriam6 on July 11, 2013, 7:45 pm

    [email protected];

    The lesser of evils, how can this come to be for the Egyptian masses when the old regime and any new regime still must depend on US dollars and diplomatic cover? Egypt is captive to Israel, via US aid & diplomatic cover, The only free state in the ME is Israel because of AIPAC et al.

    Ah glad to see you agree that compared to many Arab countries Israelis enjoy a greater degree of freedom, than their Arab counterparts.

    Also, If that’s the case shouldn’t you be applauding AIPAC and Israel too?

    I have suspected that part of the reason washed up so- called radical lefties BDS bandwagon-jumpers have cheered the so-called Arab Spring on is because they hoped it would cause chaos in Israel.

    Instead, unfortunately, it is causing chaos in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt..

    Egypt: the end of the Arab Spring

    The coup is a disaster. The Arab peoples must now go back to square one.

    by Brendan O’Neill.

    What has happened in Egypt is an unmitigated disaster. On two levels. It’s disastrous that an elected government, voted for by 52 per cent of Egyptians last year, has been ousted by a military voted for by no one, ever. And it’s disastrous that this violent sweeping aside of a democratic government by armed men, which was swiftly followed by massacres of those who dared to express support for the ousted government, has been hailed as a positive development by many Western observers. From the right to the left, from war-lovin’ Tony Blair to self-styled radicals, the coup has been embraced as not a coup at all, but as a glorious people’s sweep to power.

    Many in the West are tying themselves in linguistic knots to try to avoid calling a coup a coup. The White House is refusing to use the c-word to describe the removal of Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood Egyptian president up to 3 July, when he was deposed by his defence minister. Using that word has ‘significant consequences’, it said. ‘A coup, or something else?’, asked a headline in the New York Times. I know that paper is facing financial travails, but I didn’t know things were so bad it couldn’t afford a dictionary. The ridiculousness of some observers’ allergy to using the c-word was summed up in the opening paragraph of that NYT piece: ‘[T]he generals removed the democratically elected president, put him in detention, arrested his allies and suspended the constitution. But was it a military coup d’etat?’ Ladies and gentleman, the world’s most prestigious newspaper.

    The shamelessness of the coup cheerers disguised as devotees of democracy is extraordinary. So Mona Eltahawy, the American-Egyptian journalist who was turned by fawning Westerners into the poster girl of Egyptians’ uprising against dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011, says baldly of recent events: ‘This is not a coup.’ It seems unaccountable military power is only a problem when it runs counter to Ms Eltahawy’s own interests, not when it’s wielded in the name of her and other Egyptians’ desire to force aside elected Morsi. Laurie Penny, darling of Britain’s collapsed middle-class Occupy movement, said on the day of the coup: ‘The Egyptian people have brought down Morsi.’This is a commentator who thinks students being kettled by cops in Trafalgar Square for half an hour is a crime against humanity, yet apparently military men using fighter jets and tanks to yank the reins of power from an elected president and his supporters is perfectly okay…cont.

    • Shingo on July 11, 2013, 9:01 pm

      Ah glad to see you agree that compared to many Arab countries Israelis enjoy a greater degree of freedom, than their Arab counterparts.

      Of course they do, seeing as their Arab counterparts are beng subjugated and oppressed for Israel’s sake.

      Also, If that’s the case shouldn’t you be applauding AIPAC and Israel too?

      On the contrary, AIPAC and Israrl should be condemned seeing as this coup was finded and orchestrated by Washington for Israel. The testimony of former Egyptian generals, who admit Morsi was removed for being too sympathetic to Hamas, proves yet again what a destructive, undemocratic and destabilizing elememt Israel is. It proves that Israel’s existence is incumbent upon keeping the Arab world in servitude.

      Let’s remember that it is Israel that is lobbying hardest for this coup, as they as lobbying for aid to continue flowing to Egypt, even though it violated US law to do so.

      Are you really going to stand by your insane argument that we should’ve grateful to Israel and AIPAC for trying to legitimize and anti- democratic coup?

      You must be out of your (non?) Zionist mind!!

      I have suspected that part of the reason washed up so- called radical lefties BDS bandwagon-jumpers have cheered the so-called Arab Spring on is because they hoped it would cause chaos in Israel.

      That’s because you view any disruption to Iarael’s crimes and human rights abuses as chaotic.

      It just goes to prove Miriam that you are another garden variety sadist and imperialist.

    • Shingo on July 11, 2013, 9:22 pm

      Instead, unfortunately, it is causing chaos in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt..

      BDS is causing chaos in Syria and Lebanon? What on earth so either have to do with BDS?

      Seriously Miriam, sometimes you make the most mindless statements.

    • Shingo on July 11, 2013, 9:48 pm

      What also amusing, and what Brendan O’Neill fails to mention, is that when Mubarak was being overthrown, the Israeli firsters crowd were insisting that the overthrow of Mubarak proved Israel was the only reliable US ally and democracy in the region. Now that a democratically elected leaders have been overthrown in a coup for Israel’s benefit, they are making the same argument again.

      Only is Zio land do two opposite events prove the same outcome.

    • bilal a on July 12, 2013, 5:00 am

      I worked in several large multinational corporations and consulted to others, and in every one of them, there were few republicans or so called conservatives in higher staff positions, and it would be a total career killer to be a social conservative.

      Liberal secularism is the ideology of transnational neo liberal globalism, which is why its not surprising to see the same funding NGOs here and abroad. And it doesn’t just stop at politics, look at the faculty awards in any arts or mfa writing program. Tons of dreck emanate from these programs funded by big foundations whose directors come from the same transnational corporate elite.

      And of course the police military surveillance apparatus backs this civil society-military unification if push comes to shove.

      We didn’t lose the Iraq Afghan or Vietnam wars, we won them, if one thinks of “we” as this same global deep state. Trillions of dollars just transferred from working people to the global one percent.

      War, conflict, sectarianism, it can never end. Think of the financial losses.

    • Citizen on July 13, 2013, 8:30 am

      The masses in the Arab states are not free. The Jewish Israelis are free, but the Arab Israelis (Palestinians) and those Arabs (Palestinians) under Israeli belligerent occupation are not free. American strategy has been to maintain this status quo in the Middle East.

  11. RoHa on July 11, 2013, 11:00 pm

    “Ah glad to see you agree that compared to many Arab countries Israelis enjoy a greater degree of freedom, than their Arab counterparts.”

    Also, If that’s the case shouldn’t you be applauding AIPAC and Israel too?”

    The fact that Israelis have a greater level of freedom than the people of most Arab countries does not excuse Israel’s odious ideology or evil behaviour.

    So no, we shouldn’t.

    (And there should not be a comma after “freedom”.)

  12. Kathleen on July 12, 2013, 9:45 am

    “That’s a mouthful for a military that’s been conducting coups for decades and dominating the streets whenever it sees fit.”

    Just amazing to listen and watch MSM outlets and talking heads being unwilling to call the Egyptian military coup a “coup”

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