Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Death of Democracy in Egypt — and Silence in Washington

by Arnold Ahlert

Just over a week ago, Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi effectively precipitated a palace coup. He sacked his top intelligence chief, the country’s military leadership, and other key members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) in the space of five days. A constitutional document limiting his powers was largely scrapped. Meanwhile, the Obama administration deliberately ignores the unfolding debacle, a monster of its own creation, and forges ahead with a policy completely contrary to American security interests. “We had expected President Morsi at some point to co-ordinate changes in the military leadership, to name a new team,” said George Little, the Pentagon press secretary. “The United States…look[s] forward to continuing a very close relationship with the SCAF.”

The ostensible basis of that very close relationship was initially illuminated by the Washington’s Post’s David Igantius, who contended that one of the reasons Obama administration officials “appear to have confidence” in what has occurred is because Egypt’s newly appointed defense minister, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, had “extensive contact with United States in his previous post as head of military intelligence,” and because “he spent a year of professional training in the United States.”

National Review’s Andrew McCarthy reveals the nonsense behind such an assessment, noting that even the Wall Street Journal, which he describes as “stuck on the democracy project dogma,” was forced to admit that al-Sissi “has a broad reputation within military circles as a Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer.” The same WSJ article encapsulates the administration’s dogmatic thinking as well, noting that “U.S. officials expressed confidence that Gen. Sissi will maintain close ties with the U.S., which provides Egypt with $1.3 billion a year in military aid, and uphold Egypt’s peace deal with Israel.”

Al-Sissi is hardly an anomaly. As the New York Times discovered (no doubt, much to their chagrin), the Egyptian military’s new chief of staff, Gen. Sedky Sobhi, wrote a paper seven years ago, while attending the United States Army War College in Pennsylvania as a student. In it he argued that the United States’s presence in the Middle East, along with its “one sided” support of Israel, was fueling hatred and miring the U.S. in an “unwinnable global war” with Islamist militants. Sobhi further contended that it was wrong to characterize Al Qaeda and other militant groups as merely “irrational terrorist organizations.” “I recommend that the permanent withdrawal of United States military forces from the Middle East and the Gulf should be a goal of U.S. strategy in this region,” he wrote, adding that the United States should pursue its objectives through “socioeconomic means and the impartial application of international law.”

An unnamed Obama administration official, speaking anonymously so as not to upset American/Egyptian relations, blithely dismissed Sobhi’s writings. “A lot of academic theses offer up interesting ideas that don’t go very far, and often end up as shelf ware,” he said. “This isn’t exactly causing concern. We believe we will work well with the new Egyptian military leaders.”

The Times reiterated the administration’s contention that “American officials said their confidence in Egypt was unshaken”–even as they noted that Samer Shehata, a professor of Arab politics at Georgetown University, considers it “naive” for American officials to think that positions held by Mr. Morsi and the Brotherhood represent “fringe thinking.” Shehata further insisted that the Brotherhood’s ideology is tantamount to “the Egyptian Kansas,” in that its foreign policy positions “reflect rather than oppose what the Egyptian center is thinking.”

The cold reality of that so-called centrist thinking was revealed late last week by Jewish newspaper Algemeiner, which reported that Muslim Brotherhood supporters terrorized secular media members, including several Arabic websites, such as Arab News, Al Khabar News, Dostor Watany, and Egypt Now, because they all reported that people opposed to the Morsi regime were being “crucified.” A translated excerpt of the violence reads as follows:

A Sky News Arabic correspondent in Cairo confirmed that protestors belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood crucified those opposing Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi naked on trees in front of the presidential palace while abusing others. Likewise, Muslim Brotherhood supporters locked the doors of the media production facilities of 6-October [a major media region in Cairo], where they proceeded to attack several popular journalists.

Muslim cleric Hashem Islam Ali Islam, one of Egypt’s top religious leaders, not only refused to apologize for these atrocities, he endorsed them. Characterizing a protest against the regime scheduled to take place on August 24th as an “apostasy against democracy and freedom,” he issued a fatwa urging the Egyptian people to confront these people, and “if they fight you fight them.” He continued: “If some of you are killed by them, you will go to Paradise, and if you kill them, no ‘blood money’ will be warranted, because their killing is permissible.” Hashem Islam’s advocation of violence is nothing new. In a statement virtually ignored by Western media, he also called Islamic martyrdom against Jews “a religious duty.”

Also ignored by Western media was a meeting of the Egyptian parliament’s People’s Assembly Proposals and Complaints Committee back in March. During that gathering, MP Adel Azzazy, a member of the hard-line Islamist Nour Party, proposed a bill aimed at using Sharia Law to determine the punishment for certain crimes. It called for the application of “Heraba,” whose penalties include execution for murder, and the amputation of an arm and a leg from opposite sides of body for robbery and property theft. If murder occurs during the property theft, the penalty, determined by a judge, would be death or crucifixion. “This is God’s law and is not optional,” Azzazy said, commenting on his proposal. “The current penalties are not deterrent enough.” The assembly’s committee asked Azzazy to reformulate the bill after the Justice Ministry’s representative, Haytham al-Baqly, criticized its lack of accuracy–because many of its stipulations are already part of existing law.

Center for Security Policy Senior Fellow Clare Lopez explains the genesis of such jurisprudence. “Crucifixion is a hadd punishment, stipulated in the Quran, Sura 5:33, and therefore an obligatory part of Shariah,” said Lopez, who further noted that the Muslim Brotherhood “haven’t the option to not include crucifixion within their legal code.” She also issued a stark warning to Egypt’s Christian Copt community. “The Copts must get out of Egypt as soon as possible–for the many millions who will not be able to get out, I expect things will continue to deteriorate–just as they did for Germany’s and Europe’s Jews from the 1930s onward,” she predicted.

Yet the most ominous part of the equation is why Lopez believes Morsi can get away with it. “He knows he’s got the USG [U.S. government] and president in his corner no matter what he does,” she contended. “He doesn’t have to pretend, no need for ‘plausible deniability.’ He also knows he’s got the majority of the Egyptian people behind him.” Yet it may even be worse than that. “This is exactly what many of us expected [Morsi] to do and I think the White House knew, too, and not only expected but wanted Morsi and the Brotherhood to take over Egypt,” Lopez added.

A Washington Post story published August 13th seemingly confirms that assessment, noting that the Pentagon, the State Department and the White House issued a statement assuring the public that they had “anticipated” such changes. “We knew that a transition was coming. But we didn’t know the precise timing,” said a senior Defense Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity at the time. Yet another administration official, also wishing to remain anonymous, revealed exactly how prepared the Obama administration truly is. “The bottom line, the big picture, is that these guys are going through this momentous transition,” the official said. “There are going to be surprises and bumps in the road.”

Andrew McCarthy sums up those surprises and bumps. “Meanwhile, dissenters and journalists are already being imprisoned and beaten–if not worse…Terrorist leaders have been sprung from the prisons. The Sinai has become a jihadist haven. Women are attacked in the street if they fail to don the veil. A fatwa that prohibited eating during Ramadan was issued. Christians are fleeing in droves, their churches torched behind them. And the emirs of Hamas are warmly received as brotherly dignitaries.”

American Enterprise Institute Middle East analyst Michael Rubin explains where this is eventually leading. “Morsi certainly wants absolute control. The Egyptian army have never been saints, but Morsi will broker no checks to his power as the Muslim Brotherhood writes a constitution and imposes its dream of an Islamic state on Egypt.”

These developments represent the true nature of what is occurring in Egypt. And despite Secretary of State Clinton’s airy pronouncement a month ago that America’s engagement with these would-be jihadists will be based on ”their commitment to universal democratic principles,” president Morsi has long indicated his preference for Sharia law, which, despite all leftist-inspired protestations to the contrary, is antithetical to democratic principles. Furthermore, Morsi is still scheduled to visit the White House next month, adding to his legitimacy, even as Obama administration officials have yet to offer an ounce of criticism for his efforts to transform Egypt into an Islamic state. As such, it is they who will ultimately bear the full consequences of their fecklessness — crucifixions, suppression of the media, church burnings, and the murder of infidels included.

Arnold Ahlert


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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