November 24, 2012

A year ago, I was mixing with demonstrators in Cairo’s Tahrir Square calling for an end to Mubarak’s dictatorship and democracy for Egypt’s 84 million people.

Being a natural-born firebrand,  I find most revolutions intoxicating – if almost inevitably disappointing or even ghastly.

What a difference a year makes. Tahrir Square is now packed with Egyptians protesting against the new revolutionary government led by the elected president, Mohamed Morsi.  Egypt is in political turmoil.

Morsi was fresh from brokering a cease-fire in Gaza that earned fulsome praise for him from Washington which had until then been cool to Egypt’s first ever democratically-elected president.   Islamist Morsi then turned around and staged a bombshell auto-coup.

Morsi issued a decree granting him extensive – critics charge dictatorial – powers that exempts all of Morsi’s decisions and those of the elected constituent assembly from challenge by Egypt’s courts and other high government institutions.  The decree is valid until  a new parliament is elected.

Howls of “dictatorship” came from Egypt and from many nations abroad – the very same nations that warmly collaborated with Mubarak’s ugly dictatorship for 30 years.  Foes of the Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood cried, “you see, you can’t trust those Islamists.”

All this is very curious.  So far, Morsi has moved with extreme prudence to implement free elections, reassure Christians and secular liberals, and deftly break the iron grip of Egypt’s  bloated armed forces.  Few believed that the colorless, low-key Morsi,  a former political prisoner, would be able to out-manoeuver Egypt’s powerful,  US-backed generals.  But he did, with deftness and remarkable skill, getting younger senior officers to gently oust the pharaonic old guard.

Morsi managed to reign in the armed forces and return Egypt to civilian control. But, until this week, Morsi and his allies in the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party were unable to oust an entrenched cadre of Mubarak-appointed officials and henchmen in the judiciary, security police, academia, media and the diplomatic corps.

They constitute what is known as Egypt’s “deep government,” the real power in the nation that reported directly to Mubarak’s entourage.

This parallel regime had thwarted many of Morsi’s efforts to reform the corrupt ruling system, construct a truly democratic republic, and break the hold of Egypt’s pampered, westernized  urban elite who enjoyed almost total political and economic power under Mubarak.

Egypt’s “deep government” very closely resembles a similar Kemalist secular ruling structure in Turkey that controlled the powerful military, security services, courts, universities, media, big business cartels, and Islamic religious institutions. – and was closely allied to the US and Israel.

Breaking the grip of the Turkey’s “deep government” took now PM Recep Erdogan and his AK Party ten years of patient siege – longer than Sultan Mehmet to capture Constantinople.   Erdogan finally managed to put the military and security forces under civilian control, free much of the economy from the Kemalist elite, and turn Turkey into a impressive if not perfect modern democracy –  generating a 7%growth rate.

President Morsi us now trying this same shock therapy for Egypt, which desperately needs to be shaken up and modernized.  His biggest problem: Egypt can’t feed itself nor generate funds to import food.  So Cairo is forced to rely on the United States and, now, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, for a financial lifeline.

Spare parts and munitions for Egypt’s US-equipped military are kept scarce by Washington, meaning it can maintain internal security but not fight Israel or any other power.

Now, however, the formerly cautious, plodding Morsi has staged a coup of sorts to purge what he calls the Mubarakist “weeviles’ thwarting reform.  Could the cure be worse than the disease?

Morsi’s coup has scared a lot of Egyptians and done nothing to burnish the reputation of political Islamists.   While his thunderous action is in good part understandable, he should  have taken a slower, more patient Turkish approach.  His abrupt action causes his many domestic and foreign foes to unite against him.

Maybe Mohamed Morsi will indeed renounce his newly assumed powers once a democratic parliament opens and a new constitution enacted.  If he does, he will be hailed as a second Pericles or George Washington.

Alas, as Lord Acton so famously and wisely warned, “all power corrupts; ultimate power corrupts absolutely.”


For German translation of above column, please go to :

copyright  Eric S. Margolis 2012






This post is in: Africa, Egypt, World Leaders

7 Responses to “CAIRO BOMBSHELL”

  1. Morsi wants a democratic dictatorship by decree, just like Bush

  2. George Rizk says:

    Morsi and his thugs are obsessed with religion. How do you think the Republicans lost the presidency? Obsession with religion!

  3. He has created an interesting knot… one does not know if this is to ‘clean house’ of some of the evils left behind by the previous ruler or if it’s to consolidate a new despotic government.
    There are a few issues that cloud the issue…
    First, his meeting with Clinton, the wicked one of the west. The Americans seem to be getting cosy with him and one can only wonder at the reason.
    Secondly, the latest spat between Israel and Hamas…
    Third, cementing his power or legitimacy with the Muslim Brotherhood. It is this group that I can see Egypt falling in with, much to the chagrin of the west…

  4. The struggle for “who is going to be king of the hill” is getting closer to the top, and truth is obscured. US troops are on their way to Sinai. Did the Emperor dictate the riot act to Pharaoh?
    Well, the best news I’ve heard lately is that the NHL players have cashed their last pay cheque, so they should be back to entertain us in January, hopefully before the bank fails…again

  5. solum temptare possumus says:

    I suspect President Morsi is walking on a tightrope he had never envisioned for himself; political power.
    His party has, I am sure, firebrands that want the the power to shift “now”.
    All that oppose such drastic change include the International community, who watch with intrepidation.
    Sometimes the unassuming leader startles the electorate with true regard for the people and their country.
    President Morsi might be considered a neophyte in this heady broth of political machinations.
    I for one will give him time and hope he can negotiate the shoals among these vastly unpredictable currents and undertows.
    ad iudicium

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