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Ground control to former President Morsi

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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.

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.

Marc H. Ellis
About 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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8 Responses

  1. HarryLaw
    August 6, 2013, 12:21 pm

    McCain the so called straight shooter wants to arm the “good” terrorists in Syria, he knows who they are because he was photographed with one recently, it just so happens that the person he was introduced to was a known kidnapper, see here.. when the clown was captured in Vietnam, the so called war hero, according to some fellow prisoners, sang like a canary, don’t get me wrong maybe I would have done the same thing, but then I don’t put myself about as a war hero.

  2. Citizen
    August 6, 2013, 3:48 pm

    Lindsey Grahm is over there with McCain in Cairo. That cannot be a good thing. I surmise they are trying hard to determine who will best support Israel’s whims, and then they will send message to the Egyptian Military to back the picked faction to retain US Military aid lifeline, lifestyle the top brass (with good filter down to the troops, considering the meagre material life of most outside the military in Egypt) is accustomed to.

  3. bilal a
    bilal a
    August 6, 2013, 5:16 pm

    Ellis should research the methods employed by the ‘Religion Police’ in Egypt during the Mubarak days. It seems everyone knows of a friend or relative picked up at dawn prayers at the Masjid, disappeared into a dungeon, to be interupted only for interrogations involving electricity and bicycle pumps. No trialthen often released with an understanding not to appear too religious. Others were just beaten to death.
    A different division dealt with the revolutionaries vut utilizing the same MO.

    Not many in Egypt welcome the secularism of the Faluul’s return to Egypt. Its no laughing matter.

  4. Taxi
    August 7, 2013, 12:56 am

    People, ask yourselves why McCaine and Graham specifically were sent all the way to faraway Egypt in person when a phonecall would have done the job. As most of you here on mw have been raving on about the (non-existant) close relationship between the Egyptian army and Obama, how do you explain Obama sending over a guy known for using the F word in your face every two seconds (McCain) to talk to Sisi? Why would Obama send a couple of known warmongers playing good cop/bad cop with the Egyptian army leaders and the Tahriris if the WH had everything under their control?

    It doesn’t take an Einstein here to see that America has NO CONTROL over Egypt – they’re still second-guessing the intentions of the Tahriris and the army, especially with regards to Egypt’s foreign policy towards the Camp David agreement.

    Yes dear folks, empire is on the decline and they’re doing their best at the WH to hide it from us Americans and from the mideasterners.

    Freakiest of all to the WH is that Putin two days ago announced his intentions to personally visit Egypt in the next few days.

    And israel? Like I said before, they’re crapping in their pants over safe Morsi’s ouster, well actually in their adult diapers so no one can see the embarrassing stains.

    The picture is changing before your eyes and America and israel are trying to hoodwink the world into believing that they still run the whole of the mideast, when in fact, they’ve been given the runaround by the Egyptians, the Syrians, the Lebanese and the Iraqis – combined, that’s practically half the population of the mideast. And what do these Arab rebel countries have in common? Their open and declared hostility towards israel.

    Of course, McCaine and his girlfriend Lindsey’s mission to bust the balls of the Egyptian army will not work. Egyptians are insisting-insisting-insisting that they control their own foreign policy from here on and no stick or baseball bat will change their resolve.

    Welcome to the new middle east, being born out of rebellion against the American Empire and them freakaziod culty ziontologists in occupied Palestine.

    • Shingo
      August 8, 2013, 7:02 pm

      BTW Taxi,

      I typed out a response to your long post a few days ago and the thread got closed before I had time to post it, so here is my response.

      1. The army is struggling with pockets of violent armed MB civilians intent on igniting a sectarian civil war

      That is to be expected when you have a military coup, which itself was an act of violence.

      oh wait, it’s not just an ‘intention’, they’ve already been killing shias and copts and threatening secular wars and bloodbaths.

      That is to be expected when you have a military coup.

      It’s amazing to watch you, of all people, using the Israeli propaganda tactic of justifying violence to quell the violence the military initially incited.

      The interim government is already fast at work prepping for the next election and taking care of the running of civic institutions in the meantime. They’re already sitting behind their desks working away, dear.

      No they are not dear. The military is nothing more than a corporation preoccupied with the size of it’s profits. They have never had any interest in the day to day running of Egypt and nor do they now.

      There are no frigging Mubarakites in the building and the army is doing what it thinks it needs to do to insure national security and civic stability during intensely turbulent times.

      The military are Mubarakites. Morsi never had any control on the police, judiciary, let alone the military and never had a chance to clean out the dead wood he inherited. So yes, the building is wall to walk Mubarakites.

      2. The several billions that Saudi gave was to buy prestige for their Egyptian Al Nour party, and also to give the middle finger to Qatar and its ousted puppet, Morsi.

      Several, meaning 12 billion pledged in total. No one gives that kind of money away without some serious payback in return.
      One has to wonder why the Al Nour party needs to buy it’s prestige if this was popular revolution?

      it is considered in the middle east that whoever ‘owns’ Egypt, owns the manpower of the middle east – a most desirable commodity for empires and KINGDOMS, this manpower thing.

      Sure I get that. So what you’re telling me, without a hints of irony mind you, is that Egypt has just become Saudi Arabia’s bitch. Wow, those Egyptians in the streets can really hold their heads up high.

      You have to laugh at the supreme irony of this. Some of the more outlandish attacks on Morsi by the media was that the MB we’re going to rent the pyramids to the Saudis. It turns out that this is pretty much what the coup has brought about the Saudis owning the whole country.

      And the IMF HAVE NOT “approved massive amounts of money for Egypt”

      You’re right, the new puppets in Cairo have told the IMF their money won’t be needed now that the Saudi’s have bought off the new faces of Egypt’s dictatorship.

      It must be a source of great comfort to know that Egypt’s new democracy is going to mid wived by the House of Saud. I bet women’s and gay rights are right up there in their list of priorities.

      3. Yeah right and you think bibi is not grinning and spinning?

      Kinda. Why wouldn’t he be over the moon about Hamas’ greatest ally being taken out?

      Man, Bibi was only just getting used to having Morsi around.

      Yeah right, just like he got used to Ahmadinejad.

      Consider this: the Egyptian army is better armed and outnumber Morsi’s army of zealots. Whom do you think israel would prefer to confront?

      Who do you think you’re kidding Taxi? How can you possibly deny that the Egyptian military is nothing more than an arm of the Pentagon with the sole mandate of keeping Egyptians in check? The Egyptian military ceased to be an Egyptian defense force the day Egypt signed the peace treaty with Israel. From that day, it became to Egypt what the PA is to Palestine – Israel’s security force on the Nile.

      There be your answer to why israel prefers Morsi to the Egyptian army.

      Well, that makes even less sense, because the military were right where they are now under Morsi, so even if your bizzare claim (that the Egyptian military would ever pose a threat to Israel) , the Bibbi has still has less to worry about today than he did a month ago.

      Bahshar is still around despite their vigorous covert and overt operations to oust him – oh yeah, and so are those crusty hizbollah).

      Actually, as the Syrian civil, war has raged, it’s far from clear what Washington’s and Israel’s policy has been. While they are making it yo as they along, they’ve both realized that a Syria run by head chopping suicide bombers was not such a great idea. So rather than eat crow and back Assad, they’ve decided to simply keep the civil war going so that Syria, Hezbollah and Iran are drained of blood and treasure.

      You know, like they did with the Iran/Iraq war.

      Sorry to say Taxi, but you clearly have not kept up with that clusterfuck.

      4. Hamas is Morsi’s armed buddies. There’s a historic antagonism between the Egyptian army and all things ‘brotherhood’, including Hamas.

      Yes, they are Morsi’s buddies, but Morsi was a lifeline to them. They might be ruthless but they are not insane. They knew all along what the score was in Egypt and that Morsi would not dare take in the military. What could they possibly hope to gain by picking fights with the Egyptian army?

      That’s right, nothing. The attacks on the Egyptian army in the Sinai took place as soon as Morsi opened the Rafah crossing. The perpetrators were never identified even though Hamas were blamed by army intelligence (who would have thunk it?) and lo and behold Morsi was forced to order the crossing closed.

      This sticks to high heaven Taxi and if you can’t ask the simple question of who stood to gain (hint it wasn’t Hamas) , then you’ve drunk then it is you who’ve swallowed the Zionist BS.

      In a state of political crisis, and where national security is at stake, what do you recommend the Egyptian army do?

      What are you talking about ? The was the policy under Mubarak as soon as Hamas win the elections of 2006. This is not an emergency measure, it’s a return to Mubarak era policy.

      I cannot believe that you have been so completely duped that you are starting to sound like someone from the CFR.

      I’m especially distressed to see how hamas abandoned the cause of Palestine for a suitcase full of qatari money – in case you havent’ heard.

      It’s a,axing how in one hand, you excuse Egypt’s military for taking what you believe necessary measures, while being harshly judging Hamas for accepting money for Gaza – who is under siege and who’s economy is a disaster.

      Had hamas put their patriotism above their religiosity, had they resisted the silk and gold qatari temptation, their relationship with the Egyptian army, as well as with the Egyptian masses who demonstrated against Morsi and his Qatari master, would have been on much better footing and the tunnels would still be open.

      BS. The tunnels were closed before there was any Qatari money or Arab Spring. Again, you’ve bought the Zionist hasbara.

      BTW. It’s amazing how you are quick to overlook Al Nour accepting Saudi money ( never question their patriotism), while accusing Hamas of selling out to Qatar. That’s the kind of hypocrisy and double standards that would make Likud proud.

      I fear hamas’s devastated credibility will not recover from their misguided alignment with qatar and Morsi.

      Egypt’s devastated credibility will not recover from their misguided alignment with Saudi Arabia and Washington. Of course, you will put that down to ignorance of the world and their inability to embrace the pure motives of the military junta.

      But Gaza and Gaza relief is always on the agenda of the Egyptian foreign office and I have no doubt that once a new elected democratic government is in place in Cairo, a new chapter of cooperation between them and the Gazaens will be configured and implemented.

      How is it that it has always been in the agenda and yet, we’ve never sign one scrap of evidence of it? A new chapter of cooperation between them and the Gazaens? Are you for real?

      Jesus Taxi, now you’re sounding like that insufferable press secretary from the State Department. Maybe Al Nour should give you the job of spokesperson. With that Washington lingo, you’d fit right in with the Beltway crowd.

      6. After Mubarak was overthrown, the army stated that it will rule until elections. And it did exactly that – it lived by its word.

      The army remained neutral on that occasion. Mubarak was forced to step down when the army told him they would not fire on Egyptians.

      This time they overthrew Mubarak. They wrested him and have disappeared him. They are digging up BS charges of planning a jail break in 2011 – how bizarre that it didn’t seem to matter for 2years. They have rounded up senior MB leaders.

      The 2 events are completely different.

      They have appealed to the mob to demonstrate support for their crack down on the MB. That speech by El Sisi was pure megalomania.

      I cannot believe you cannot see that this is text book fascist military coup.

      If the army really wanted a “mandate for dictatorship”, why did they hand over power to Morsi, their historic enemy?

      A number of reasons come to mind
      1. Tahrir 2011 had unanimous consensus.
      2. The military don’t want to be involved in day to day running if the country – there’s no money in it.
      3. They did not hand over power to Morsi. Had they blocked elections, Egypt would have risen up against them. Morsi was elected, though the judiciary made damn sure to disqualify any credible candidate. Have you forgotten the farce about parliament being dissolved and that sing and dance? And when Morsi reinstated parliament, the military stepped in and devolved it.

      They handcuffed him every step of the way.

      Why didn’t they just say: fuck it we’re here now and we’re staying for right now and for forever – why didn’t they SAY and DO this?

      They rely on maintaining popular support among the public. That would have destroyed it. If there is ever a revolt against the military (which is what Egypt will need if they are ever to become a real democracy) it will come with enormous turmoil and bloodshed.

      ! Shouldn’t you at least wait till after the new elections to see what the army ends up doing, or you prefer wasting your energy and wigging out prematurely?

      We have no choice but to wait, but need I remind you that:

      1. The two previous military coups resulted in military dictatorships
      2. Mubarak also promised free and fair elections

      Fool me once….


      Loonies attaching themselves to a good idea doesn’t make the idea a bad one. It may make it unpopular in certain pretentious circles, but it doesn’t make it a bad one.

      When you lie down with dogs you get flees. When these criminals are enthusiastic about a development, it usually a sign that it’s a poisoned chalice and contaminated.

      Let me ask you. When you see Netenyahu saying he wants peace, does your skin crawl? Does it mean peace is not a good idea? Of course not, but the scary part is we know what Bibbi’s idea of peace looks like.

  5. Shingo
    August 8, 2013, 6:44 pm

    how do you explain Obama sending over a guy known for using the F word in your face every two seconds (McCain) to talk to Sisi?

    Who said Obama sent McCain to talk to Sisi? Did he send McCain to talk to the FSA?

    Why would Obama send a couple of known warmongers playing good cop/bad cop with the Egyptian army leaders and the Tahriris if the WH had everything under their control?

    Because the Egyptian military doesn’t have everything under their control. There is no evidence that they are second-guessing the intentions of the Tahriris and the army. The army relied ENTIRELY on US aid to keep it’s corrupt generals in luxury, and they are not going to give up their lifestyle.

    Freakiest of all to the WH is that Putin two days ago announced his intentions to personally visit Egypt in the next few days.

    Hardly freaky. The Saudis are dangling carrots in front of Putin to agree to their policies, both in Egypt and Syria. They have offered a massive arms purchase if Putin gives up on Assad. Now that Egypt has become Saudi Arabia’s bitch, the Saudis are likely offering Putin a piece of the Egyptian pie.

    The picture is changing before your eyes and America and israel are trying to hoodwink the world into believing that they still run the whole of the mideast, when in fact, they’ve been given the runaround by the Egyptians, the Syrians, the Lebanese and the Iraqis

    You are right about the Iraqis and Lebanese, but they and Saudi Arabia still have Egypt by the balls. Iraqis and Lebanon don’t rely entirely on the US for military and food aid – Egypt does.

    McCaine and Graham are not there to bust the balls of the Egyptian army, they are probably doing that they did in Syria and undermining Obama. Knowing McCain, he’s probably telling Sisi that if he were president, he’d be giving Sisi F35s, and doubling the military aid to Egypt.

    Welcome to the new middle east indeed, or should we say, welcome to Saudi Arabia’s empire.

    • Taxi
      August 9, 2013, 1:57 am

      Why waste my time on someone who has decided that they are smarter than all the smartest Arab political analysts combined? Congratulations, you are living proof that westerners are smarter than Arabs about Arab political affairs. You should be oh ever so proud that ALL your points are correct, and all their points are rubbish hallucinations.

      • Shingo
        August 11, 2013, 1:20 am

        Why waste my time on someone who has decided that they are smarter than all the smartest Arab political analysts combined?

        What Arab political analysts and conducted by whom? John Kerry, Obama, Netenyahu and the leaders of Saudi Arabia?

        Congratulations, you are living proof that westerners are smarter than Arabs about Arab political affairs.

        Congratulations, Egyptians just proved how gullible and easily manipulated they are and how willingly they have stepped into the role of Saudi Arabia’s bitch.

        You should be oh ever so proud that ALL your points are correct, and all their points are rubbish hallucinations.

        Whatever you say Taxi. Remember that you are the one who forgot that the difference between 2011 and 2013 is that the army and police were on the side the of the demonstrators and that there was a big fat 8 billion dollar cheque from Saudi Arabia involved.

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