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.
Is Egypt cooling off or heating up? More US envoys are visiting Egypt to help negotiate a way out of the coup-less mess. Good luck!
Among the envoys are Paul Burns from the State Department and Senator John McCain. Burns seems to be camping out in Egypt and spending his time shuttling between the Egyptian military and the imprisoned leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. What McCain will do in Egypt is unclear but where else could he go? McCain’s bellicose solidarity with the rebels in Syria seems to have run its course. The rebels, like the American people, probably became tired of him and sent him on his way.
McCain’s failed Presidential seems to have energized his global reach. Since another Presidential failure, John Kerry, is also on the move it must be the “failed Presidential water” phenomenon at play. Once their Presidential bid is over failed candidates have to find something else to do with their political life. Belonging to an imperial power, the world becomes their playground.
I wish that failed Presidential candidates would retire from political life. If they don’t retire voluntarily, perhaps there should be a law placing political junket term limits on failed Presidential candidates.
It would be nice if ex-Presidents would also take a hike. Excepting President Carter, of course, who many think was a failed President but a successful ex. I’ve certainly heard enough from another former, Bill Clinton, but if Hillary runs there’s sure to be more of him. Of course, we remember that Bill became a failed former President spouse in Hillary’s first run for the Oval Office. Can a failed former President spouse make a comeback?
Speaking of failures, term limits and comebacks, today’s news about military coups is mixed. On the same page that the American envoys in Egypt are being touted, the New York Times reports on the prison sentences handed down for the failed military coup in Turkey a few years ago. Unlike Egypt, in Turkey the scenario was reversed. In Turkey an Islamist president foiled a coup and then jailed its military leaders. Though the international press reported on the event, it didn’t captivate or mobilize world attention like Egypt’s has.
Nonetheless, repressed coups, successful coups and failed coups have long and winding roads that seem endless. Here’s how the Times parses how it is playing out in Turkey:
The case was initially seen by many as an important move by Mr. Erdogan’s government to engineer democratic reforms by taming the military, which has carried out three coups in modern Turkey’s history and had been regarded as the guardian of the secular system laid down by Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Many democracy advocates in the country have grown weary of military interventions in politics, and hailed the trial, at its start in 2008, as a major step toward civilian rule.
But as the case grew and ensnared journalists, academics and prominent government critics, it came to be seen as a politically motivated attempt at silencing dissent. It also carried the notion of revenge and class resentment, analysts said, because Mr. Erdogan and his religious followers represent a class that was marginalized under the old military-dominated order. Mr. Erdogan himself was once imprisoned for reciting a religiously inspired poem in public.
“In these cases, they tried to create a thornless rose garden by silencing opposition and intimidating patriotic people with secular principles,” said Celal Ulgen, a lawyer representing 16 defendants, including a journalist, Tuncay Ozkan.
Now, he said, “it’s impossible to talk about a justice system free of politics, or public trust in justice.”
Coups have consequences way beyond the coup itself. The intrigue it introduces into the political system takes politics to a new level. Once there, it’s difficult if not impossible to unravel the intrigue. Was there really a coup threat in Turkey and, if so, how serious was it? Are the Islamists in Turkey carrying out a coup themselves, changing Turkey’s democracy into something that only resembles democracy? Was Turkey, in its more secular formation, a democracy?
So goes intrigue in Egypt. And the clock is ticking. The squares are still full. Muslim Brotherhood officials remain in jail or on the run. The 15 day charging period for former President Morsi is coming to an end.
This raises another issue about formers. What to do with ex-Presidents who have been ousted by military coups?
Trying them in a court of law is obvious political grandstanding by the coup leaders. Releasing them among the general population is impossible. Exiling them to Napoleon’s Elba is out of the question with the advanced transportation systems and omnipresent social media of modern times.
How about David Bowie’s take on space flight: Ground control to former President Morsi?
I can see it now, Morsi floating round in his tin can. Far above the moon planet earth is blue. And there’s nothing he can do – except wave to other formers who have also – God willing – have been launched in their own tin cans.