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Nine Pictures About Egypt: Crack Down Yesterday, Today

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Yesterday’s massacre in Egypt: the military, the long standing power there, struck back against the supporters of the democratically elected despot, Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood. 525 people were killed; no doubt the toll of the dead will soon rise. Thousands were injured, many of those thousands gravely so. A replay in one day of the history of modern Egypt’s politics; democracy’s promises deferred, perhaps fatally so.

President Obama’s speech today, while on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, laid out the broad contours of democracy in Egypt and put forth the winning argument that comparative politics shows that democracy is won in fits and starts. That’s a wonderful start. However, his argument rang hollow if only because the argument didn’t fit the contours of Egypt’s story. Egypt is no longer on the path to democracy. It had transitioned from military rule to democracy and then the democrat chosen to rule, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi, decided to change the rules of the game and, very likely, forced a transition to autocracy, a move whose signal achievement was the military coup that finally deposed him.

And that’s the thing: this is a coup by any other name. Diplomacy and its costs cannot change that fact. President Obama’s speech strongly condemned the military’s crackdown. He went so far as to say that the military’s moves forced him to cancel the joint exercises the U.S. conducts with Egypt’s military– paid for by American dollars sent off by successive and the current United States government. Ironically the exercises the U.S. military conducts with the brutal Egyptian military regime is code named “Brightstar”. Ironic, because the military has very likely killed any chance Egypt might have had to run its affairs through democracy and her burdens. U.S. influence in Egypt, its leverage, failed to forestall the massacre yesterday. Where are the brights spots in this picture?

The two most organized outfits in Egypt are the military and the Muslim Brotherhood. The military is, was, and likely will remain adept at playing politics; that was a count that the Brotherhood failed. Nevertheless, it is the case that those two groups are the only actionably organized groups in the country and they now remain at loggerheads-vehemently so, murderously so. The military’s crackdown might now push the Brotherhood out of politics proper, back into guerilla oppositional tactics. If it does so, this will not bode well for democrats in Egypt, in the broader Middle East and the hidebound politicos in Washington D.C.

That there are new reports that liberals in Cairo came out to thank soldiers for helping deliver the country out of the hands of the Islamists, carnage or no, is no reprieve from the noose, it is no balm for a country’s wounds.  Democracy took flight, it was ascendant for a minute or two and then it fell back to earth like some ill-fed, starved Icarus.  And no one noticed.





Faheem Haider
Faheem Haider

Faheem Haider is a political analyst, writer and artist. He holds advanced research degrees in political economy, political theory and the political economy of development from the London School of Economics and Political Science and New York University. He also studied political psychology at Columbia University. During long stints away from his beloved Washington Square Park, he studied peace and conflict resolution and French history and European politics at the American University in Washington DC and the University of Paris, respectively.

Faheem has research expertise in democratic theory and the political economy of democracy in South Asia. In whatever time he has to spare, Faheem paints, writes, and edits his own blog on the photographic image and its relationship to the political narrative of fascist, liberal and progressivist art.

That work and associated writing can be found at the following link:

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