There was a horrible predictability about yesterday’s terrible events in Egypt for which many different protagonists are responsible. Primary responsibility, of course, lies with the army, for launching a brutal all-out assault on the Muslim Brotherhood, which deserves nothing but universal condemnation.
From the moment the army took advantage of the anti-Morsi mobilisations to seize power through a coup, a violent confrontation with the Brotherhood became likely. When the military then proceeded to lock up Morsi and other Ikhwan members on totally spurious charges, it became inevitable.
It was true that Morsi might have avoided this outcome had he resigned earlier, as he should have done in the national interest and in the interest of his own party. No leader, whether democratically elected or not, could legitimately remain in office, considering the scale of the demonstrations that preceded his downfall.
Had Morsi recognized that, and called for immediate elections, he might have held off the army, at least temporarily, or at least made it impossible for the army to present itself as the neutral defender of the national interest and the expression of popular will. Stubborn, cloth-eared, and politically inept, he refused and gave the army its opportunity, not only to destroy the Brotherhood, but to restore the old system of emergency rule which kept Mubarak in power for three decades.
The anti-Morsi movement also made a fatal mistake in supporting both the coup and the repression of the Brotherhood that followed – a repression that has no justification and which could only strengthen the military at the expense of Egypt’s delicate democratic transition.
Then there is the West, whose governments effectively supported the military, for reasons which reflect its usual predatory and self-interested motivations, dressed up by pious rhetoric about ensuring stability and a restoration of democracy. By refusing to call the army’s seizure of power a coup, which would have cut off military aid to Egypt, the Obama administration effectively gave the military a carte blanche to behave in the way that it has done.
This situation is not likely to be changed by insipid and hypocritical calls for both sides to ‘show restraint’ – as the Egyptian military is well aware. US support for the military was largely echoed by Saudi Arabia, the European Union, and of course by the utterly malignant figure of Tony Blair, and such support was reflected yesterday in the same headshaking condemnation of the military’s actions by Blair’s creature Baroness Ashton and the dismal drone William Hague.
All these governments supported Mubarak and the military for three decades, and would have supported him now, had the Arab uprisings not brought him down. Now they want a technocratic government, with the military pulling the strings, with the power to put the Egyptian economy through the IMF/austerity wringer and ensure Egypt’s continued collaboration with the American/European/Saudi agenda in the Middle East.
Instead they have a horrific and tragic massacre, which might just signal the Algerianisation of Egypt, and the descent of yet another Middle Eastern state into violent political chaos. Whether the Brotherhood has the will or the resources to mount a FIS-style insurrection and take on the military, it certainly has no incentive to take part in the democratic process, and that is not good for Egypt or anywhere else.
Now it remains to be seen whether the political and social forces that so magnificently brought down the tinpot tyrant Mubarak can find a way to avoid civil war, dictatorship, sectarian violence and the bloody unravelling of the Egyptian revolution and carry Egypt – and the Arab world – to a better future.
We better hope that they can. Otherwise yesterday’s slaughter may just be a foretaste of even more catastrophic events to come.