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 over one hundred dead and hundreds more gravely wounded during yesterday’s protests, the questions about Egypt’s future is front and center.
Whatever revolution is or isn’t, there hasn’t been a revolution in Egypt. Whatever democracy is or isn’t, Egypt isn’t a democracy. There’s been a regime change in Egypt. Egypt is on the verge of becoming a failed state.
How are failed states defined? Usually, the definition entails a combination of a dire political and economic situation with the addition of layers of corruption. The state is omnipresent, authoritarian and unable to control itself or the streets. The economy is in ruins. Outside aid is essential for societal functioning. People in power take what they can take.
At this point, Egypt fits all these categories and increasingly so. The next logical step is civil war, somewhat along the lines of Syria, where everyone outside Egypt who is anyone will be inside Egypt. After the ever-elusive Geneva talks on negotiating Syria’s civil war, will the parties reconvene for talks on Egypt?
The situation in Egypt continues to worsen. The press around the world is filled with stories about the latest round of protests and the assault on protestors by the military and police. There are stories of civilians joining in on the beatings and killings as well. Many of those who died were targeted – they were shot in the chest or the head. So crowd dispersal was only one item on the mind of those who carried out the assaults. Murder was another.
The New York Times provides a moving commentary on the day’s events:
The killings occurred a day after hundreds of thousands of Egyptians marched in support of the military, responding to a call by its commander for a “mandate” to fight terrorism. The appeal by Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, who has emerged as Egypt’s de facto leader since the military removed Mr. Morsi from power, was widely seen as a green light to the security forces to increase their repression of the Islamists.
One doctor sat by himself, crying as he whispered verses from the Koran. Nearby, medics tried to revive a man on a gurney. When they failed, he was quickly lifted away to make room for the many others.
In the attack on Saturday, civilians joined riot police officers in firing live ammunition at the protesters as they marched toward a bridge over the Nile. By early morning, the numbers of wounded people had overwhelmed doctors at a nearby field hospital.
The Times also reports on Secretary of State John Kerry’s statement urging restraint. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was on the phone as well urging the same. Yet urging restraint after greenlighting the coup – and approving the continuing of US aid – is tantamount to a slap on the wrist. Such slaps mean: “Get the job done. Hurry up.”
The AP reports that Egyptian authorities are continuing to build their case against deposed President Morsi. They have been interrogating Morsi since the beginning of his detention, presenting him with secretly-recorded conversations and accusing him of crossing the lines of state interest through the sharing of secretive information with members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Qatar and Turkey.
Morsi is alternately refusing to answer questions and responding to them. When not being questioned, he spends his time reading the Koran and complaining about the “deep state” that thwarted his Presidency and ultimately toppled him. Some of the interrogations last five hours or more. So wherever Morsi is, his days are full. However, since he is prevented from watching television or reading newspapers he may have little idea of what is going on outside the walls that confine him.
Morsi needs another jailbreak. Would this one, like his previous one, be retroactively defined as illegal?
How misguided a Morsi trial is seems to elude the military leaders. They think that proving their case against Morsi legitimates their coup. In their eyes it would legitimate the banning – once again – of the Muslim Brotherhood. Would it also legitimate the massacres of those who protest against their rule?
When those in power build a case to legitimate the power they have already exercised you can be sure they’re building a case for their continuance in power.
Egypt is only one example among many where power justifies itself. Nonetheless, for a nation that prides itself on its ancient history and contemporary relevance, Egypt is setting the military power justification bar high. It is also digging itself into a deeper and deeper hole.
If Egypt is a failed state who is to blame? No doubt the military and the Muslim Brotherhood are among the culprits. If so, it is doubtful that the Egyptian people can trust them to set Egypt back on a path toward sanity and progress.