The latest leaked recording of Egypt’s generals conferring in Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s office is the most damaging one yet. Earlier leaks were interesting, but not exactly shocking. The generals scrambled to legalize Mohamed Morsi’s detention after July 3 2013; dictated talking points to their media shills; and gave the Prosecutor-General instructions about high-profile cases. This surprised neither the coup’s friends nor foes, since everyone knows that the generals control every government official and micro-manage propaganda.
The recent leaks, however, take things to a new level. The generals don’t just rubbish their Gulf backers; scorn Egyptians as a starving, miserable mass; and generally ooze contempt for anyone outside their ranks. The recordings reveal how, in private, Egypt’s peak military officers see themselves. In frank, relaxed banter, they discuss how to milk the Gulf monarchs for more billions; rue the Nasser military’s non-profiteering mindset; and generally come off as money-grubbing hirelings ready to deploy military force anywhere in exchange for cash.
Thus in a five-minute conversation, the generals unmask their own elaborate self-mythologizing as nationalist, selfless public servants who have rescued Egypt and the region from an Islamist cabal. They reinforce critics’ longstanding claims that the Mubarakist Egyptian military defends not the national interest but its own sectional concerns.