Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Rhetoric of Egyptian Reaction

June 16, 2015. AP Photo

This upsetting photo of Ikhwan members sentenced to death by hanging dredged up a memory of another courtroom cage many years ago. In December 1999, on the Haikstep military base, 20 Ikhwan professionals were being tried in a military tribunal on charges of “infiltrating professional associations.” It was the first courtroom I’d ever been in, and what a strange one it was. A cage took up the entire left length of the room; all 20 men in it were dressed in spotless white gallabiyas. I remember Khaled Badawi, a loquacious lawyer and bar association activist, now a member of Dr. Mohamed Morsi’s legal team. Next to him was Mokhtar Nouh, a big personality who loved the limelight, now a rabid anti-Ikhwan propagandist. Mohamed Ali Bishr was there, the engineer who later became a governor then a minister during Morsi’s presidency and is now in prison. And usually sitting quietly deep inside the cage was Mohamed Badie, the veterinarian who became the Brothers’ General Guide in 2010 and who is now among those sentenced to death.

Monday, February 09, 2015

The Tasreebat

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.