Uncertain Days

Uncertain days in Egypt. It’s getting very ugly. The general consensus is that Murbarak is behind the violence of the last couple of days. Here’s the lead paragraph of today’s NY Times article: “President Hosni Mubarak struck back at his opponents, unleashing waves of his supporters armed with clubs, rocks, knives and firebombs in a concerted assault on thousands of antigovernment protesters in Tahrir Square calling for an end to his authoritarian rule.”

Mubarak struck back . . . unleashing waves of his supporters . . .

I am no great Anderson Cooper fan, but I do have to tip my hat to him, and the other CNN reporters on the ground in Egypt, as they literally put themselves in harm’s way to cover this story. All sides of the story. The video footage of Cooper and his crew making their way through the pro-Mubarak crowd as they were repeatedly assaulted (Cooper estimated he was struck in the head ten times) and pelted with derisive shouts was pretty dramatic. That’s understating it, but I can’t think of another appropriate word at the moment.

Even though it is bad for my blood pressure, occasionally I turn to Fox News just to see what they are saying. At this point, I can only assume that Fox broadcasts from a reverse parallel universe because any other explanation is just too disturbing to consider. How they get away with their constant distortion of the facts is beyond me.

Tahrir Square during the "March of the Millions"

Commentators on Fox are peppering nearly every other sentence with the words “Muslim Brotherhood”, “Islamic state”, and “Caliphate.” The latter does not refer to an earthquake zone in California (besides that would be Caliplate), but to the first system of government established in Islam. Fox, as well as the conservative press in general, are taking the stance that the protests in Egypt are something darker and more sinister than a street level nationalist movement.

Conservatives are just using the Egyptian crisis as an excuse to take pot shots at Obama. They  want people to believe their  unfounded and outrageous allegations that Obama is somehow behind the effort to oust Mubarak either because he is part of a conspiracy or just soft on Islamic fundamentalists. It gets even crazier when they suggest that if Mubarak leaves it will lead to an Egyptian/Iranian alliance that will dominate the Middle East and then try to take over Europe. Their anti-demonstrator stance shows how they lack any integrity, as they now, apparently, have completely abandoned the freedom movement banner they raised so often during the Bush era.

Here’s a piece by Andrew Sullivan, not exactly a liberal guy, where he unmasks the deception of the conservative line regarding the Muslim Brotherhood.

Deceptive is the word. I keep hearing how Osama bin Laden was a ”graduate” of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is meant to intimate that there is a real connection between the two

However, Bruce Riedel (Saban Center for Middle East Policy) writing for the Brookings Institution, one of Washington’s oldest think tanks, says “Al Qaeda’s leaders, Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri, started their political lives affiliated with the Brotherhood but both have denounced it for decades as too soft and a cat’s paw of Mubarak and America.”

Some years ago, The Rand Corporation, published a paper entitled “The Muslim World After 9/11.” Here is what it had to say about the Muslim Brotherhood:

The Muslim Brotherhood (Al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun), for instance, had a record of militancy, conspiracies, and assassinations in its early incarnation; in the West Bank and Gaza it spawned Hamas. On the other hand, the Brotherhood has evolved into a largely nonviolent (but still politically radical) movement in a number of Arab countries. In its latest evolution, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood supported a Christian (Coptic) candidate for the Egyptian parliament, a hitherto unthinkable step for a Muslim fundamentalist organization. The Egyptian al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya is in a process of transition from terrorist organization to political action group.

This is not to suggest that we should be naive about the Muslim Brotherhood, but it seems like a case of jumping the gun to paint the Egyptian branch as “the enemy” at this juncture.

I am also not a big fan of Islam. Frankly, I have little regard or use for the religions that originated in the Middle East. I think they are b.s. But I have a high regard for the truth. Misleading people about the situation over there helps no one. In the United States, the Middle East and its culture is grossly misunderstood. This is a major reason why we have faltered so often in Middle Eastern affairs.

The key to understanding “Jihad” is to know that it is largely a youth movement. The people at the top, directing things, may be old, but the body and soul is young. It some ways it parallels the situation that led to the Chinese Revolution. Mao and his generation were frustrated with traditional Chinese culture, the antiquated Chinese system of education with its emphasis on Chinese classics, foreign intervention and the way the European “barbarians” had enslaved so many Chinese with the opium they brought into the country for just that purpose.

The problem with revolutions is that when they are over, things usually go downhill rather quickly. I think the United States may have had the world’s only successful revolution, in the sense that the immediate aftermath was not a bloodbath and that the new government remained stable, and democratic.

Che Guevara once said, “In a revolution, one wins or one dies.” In the coming days and weeks, we shall see who wins and how many will die in Egypt.

Photo-Tahrir Square: yamaha_gangsta; Poster: FreeStylee

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