Whatever we might have thought of former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi’s politics, he was an elected leader. True, as critics pointed out, he wasn’t exactly solicitous of the losing side, but that’s not exactly an unprecedented development in a majoritarian system. He took it a bit farther, egged on by hard-liners, and made efforts to shut down oppositional politics, quickly becoming his own worst enemy and infuriating the faction-plagued liberal contingent which had been central to the popular revolution which brought Morsi to power.
But his overthrow came not in an election, nor through a popular rising that clearly represented the majority of Egyptians. Instead, it came in the form of a military coup, in which military institutions handed “moderates” the now-poisoned and tarnished chalice of government. To their great shame, there were politicians on hand who were prepared to be the beneficiaries of a coup which made a mockery of democracy in Egypt. They took up the task of governing knowing that they govern only on sufferance from an undemocratic military cabal which could turn on them as quickly as it did on Morsi.
Morsi’s supporters did not take his dethronement lying down, and took to the streets in scenes visually reminiscent of the original protests at Tahrir Square. There, last week, they were gunned down brutally, the military killing hundreds as it sought to break up their encampments. Protesters have been called “terrorists” by members of the interim government, installed by the terroristic military apparatus.
And what is the U.S. role in all of this?
Some would suggest that Obama’s myopic disinterest is a smart policy...that the U.S. should avoid taking sides, and keep its nose out of what is an internal affair.
But Obama’s anaemic response, in which he called for all sides to exercise “restraint” (when only one side was gunning down the other in its hundreds), is in itself a form of taking sides. Because in refusing to call the coup a “coup” (and Obama is brilliant when it comes to the legal fudge, whether it’s in his murder memos or in saying that a drone war isn’t really a war), the President is leaving the door open for arms sales and military aid to the country, ensuring that those who call the shots—the armed forces—can remain well-equipped with weaponry and the official imprimatur of the United States.
Obama’s position translates into a tacit endorsement of a vicious military which thinks it has only to snap its fingers for the country’s political classes of whatever ideology or religion to come a-crawling, on pain of being overthrown.
The “situation” in Egypt, which looks to verge on a civil war, is a classic example of how the United States become so hated in the world, and will undoubtedly serve as an example of how the supposedly-essential maintenance of our strategic links with murderers and thugs ensures that we will reap the violence that our military-industrial complex sows on other people’s soils.
The President backed Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak for far too long, earning the fury of Egyptian revolutionaries—liberal, conservative, and leftist alike. Now he has betrayed Egyptians again by sitting on the fence—his administration is adept at “watching” and “observing”, but abysmal when it comes to actually doing anything—in the face of military brutality which is shored up by U.S. aid funds and armaments.
Once again, the President—who has defined his administration by a commitment to waging a widening terroristic war—is turning himself into an accessory to murder. It is difficult to know if his de facto backing of the murderous military is part of a calculated policy, or simply representative of the aimlessness and absence of a moral core that some commentators see.
In any case, the President is reaffirming the hollow and uneven character of the U.S.’ supposed commitment to democratic process, the disregard for people in other parts of the world which so characterises our foreign policy, and the strength of military commitments which ultimately pose a great threat to the safety of our public.