The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

July 10, 2013

Geoff Caldwell, guest columnist: Egyptian military did not act in vacuum

JOPLIN, Mo. — This time last week Americans were reflecting upon the sesquicentennial of the bloodiest battle in our history and the battles that birthed a nation eight decades before that. 

This time last week millions of Egyptians were cheering in the streets as their military stepped in and removed Egypt’s first democratically elected president in its thousands of years of history.

In the seven days since, there has been a growing sentiment among some in the media to paint ousted President Mohammed Morsi and his terrorism-tainted Muslim Brotherhood party as innocent victims of a military coup d’etat. 

While there is a more than solid case that the United States and other nations are playing word kabuki with the meaning of “coup,” there is also much evidence that Morsi’s rule was anything but democratic.

Egypt’s ambassador to the United States, Mohamed Tawfik, summed it up this past Sunday in an interview with Jonathan Karl on ABC’s “This Week”: “Morsi was elected democratically, I agree. I supported him. I did my best to help him to succeed. Like millions of other Egyptians, I really wished he had acted like a president to all Egyptians. But then, in the past two months, you have had a massive reaction from the Egyptian people. Fifteen million people in the streets saying ‘This cannot go on.’ President Morsi did not act in the interests of the vast majority of Egyptians. He only looked at his own clique. You can’t be a democratically elected president and act that way.”

What those now decrying the “downfall of democracy” in Egypt are not talking about are the abuses of power that Morsi had made the norm rather than the exception.

He scrapped an interim constitutional structure, attempted to give himself uncontested powers, shoved through an Islamist constitution, dismantled the judiciary and oversaw a year of human rights abuses that left an untold number of Egyptians dead.

Any objective review of Morsi shows a man far more concerned with amassing his own power and installing a Muslim Brotherhood Islamist regime than allowing the Egyptian people to live in a peaceful, secular, democratic state.

The outcry to restore Morsi is to be expected from his Islamist allies, but the rest need to have their heads examined if they’re joining that chorus.

The idea that Morsi should have been removed at the ballot box is all well and good for us folks in established democracies, but it’s absolute fantasy to expect such in Egypt today. In but one year in power, Morsi had already so rigged the system in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood that if he was not removed now, there would be no return. After all the bloodshed, after all the sacrifice, the only thing the Egyptian people would have gotten out of their Arab Spring was trading one dictatorial government for another.

In all Egypt’s thousands of years, only the last one had anything approaching democracy. Did anyone believe it would not have growing pains? Didn’t we, the United States of America, undergo our own civil war before we fully worked it out?

The only truism of a democracy is that it is not one vote for one man for one party for all time. There is no perfect formula to establish it, and each nation must find its own way. 

The Egyptian military did not act in a vacuum. Rather it was responding to those millions upon millions who stood up and said, “No more.”

Those so eager to denounce the Egyptian military today should ponder a time not that long ago when another democracy was trying to find its way — it was just 80 years ago this spring that one Adolf Hitler saw the Reichstag dissolved and his reign of terror begun. 

Is there anyone who does not wish now that the German military had acted then?

Geoff Caldwell lives in Joplin.

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