Egypt, ancient land of the Pharaohs, Pyramids and the Sphinx, has always been part museum part madhouse. Just two years ago, the longtime oppressed and povertized but always amazingly good-natured (been down so long it looked like up to them) people of Egypt rose up in a roar of revolution.
Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians from up and down the Nile turned Tahrir Square in the center of Cairo into the Bastille. Demanding "Kefaya!"- Enough! Enough of the modern pharaoh Hosni Mubarak's 30-year reign of terror, intimidation, corruption and ruin. Enough of the big fat nothing that had so long been their lot in life.
At long last defiant in the face of official tyranny, brutality, thievery and humiliation, they quickly succeeded. Much to the surprise, shock and awe of the 82-year-old villain and his cronies, the Middle East's coterie of tinpot generals, fake monarchs and assorted presidents-for-life, the US government, Mubarak's longtime bankroller and enabler, and, indeed, the new revolutionaries themselves.
But revolutions too often are not the glorious end of big bad history. If you doubt that, ask the French, the Russians, the Iranians. Revolution sooner or later revolves into the next revolution.
After two years of political camel trading, it's seems as if what's gone around is coming around again. Say hello to the new Pharaoh same as the old Pharaoh.
Islamism, a political cabal masquerading as a "gimme that old time religion" movement, has long been an open wound in Middle Eastern countries.
The Society of Muslim Brothers (aka-The Muslim Brotherhood), is the oldest Islamist movement, founded in Egypt 85 years ago. El-Qaeda, which has morphed into a kind of Islamist franchise operation is the newest (and possibly the nuttiest if not necessarily the most troublesome). Ayatollah Khomeini inspired the most successful Islamist movement, running the Shah out of Iran. And Saudi Arabia, landlord of Mecca and Medina, and perhaps the most repressive regime on the planet, finances the most far-reaching Islamist movement, its own home-grown brand, "Wahabbism".
When Freedom's Caravan suddenly arrived in Tahrir Square in 2011 (after a successful stop in Tunisia), The Muslim Brotherhood, though the most organized Egyptian opposition group, was slow to join the parade. Long hated, hounded and jailed by Mubarak (and by his predecessor Anwar Sadat - who was ultimately assassinated by sympathizers of the Brotherhood), they stood cautiously (and calculatingly) on the sidelines. When it looked like the determined, fearless, internet-wired, mostly young non-Islamist protesters were going to win, the Brotherhood opportunistically leaped to the front of the parade. Hi-jacking the Revolution that others had made.
Experienced conspirators and community organizers, the Brotherhood leaders then outmaneuvered the powerful Egyptian Military High Command (who had actually bum-rushed Mubarak out the door in the hope they would direct the future from behind their iron curtain). In the ensuing elections, they rounded up their corps of hard-core true believers under the Brotherhood's slogan: Islam is the solution! and won a Parliament majority (which the Judiciary subsequently abolished) and in June of this year, Muhamed Morsi, a Brotherhood Capo, who had "resigned" from the party, became Egypt's first "democratically" elected President.
But now, after almost 6 months of haggling and finagling in the Egyptian political bazaar between the Brotherhood, the Military place-holders and the Revolutionary remnants, the only-recently-donned gossamer veil (so to speak) of freedom, justice and democracy appears to have fallen from the face of President Morsi and his Islamist cohorts. To be replaced by the scowl of crypto-fascism and hard-core Islamism.
Last month, Israel and Hamas, the ruling Islamist thugs of Gaza, duked it out for 8 days over that God-forsaken gravel-pit of a territory. The West instantly reverted to its old Israel vs Palestinians default position. Heavy breathing and crocodile tears all around. The newly re-elected Obama administration, always a bit behind the Middle East curve, enlisted President Morsi to nursemaid a cease fire. It worked. Morsi took a big bow on the international stage.
Within days, flush with success, Morsi sprung the counter-revolution trap. He announced a decree granting for himself virtually absolute power over all branches of the Egyptian government. No law or decision taken by him could be questioned, overturned or revoked by any other government body. Also no authority (except, of course, him) could dissolve the Shura Council (the Upper Chamber of Parliament packed with Islamist and Brotherhood supporters) or the Constituent Assembly (another full house of Brotherhood backers - the non-Islamists in the Assembly had earlier walked out in protest), which had been concocting a new post-revolution Constitution.
Their Constitution, suddenly completed within days of Morsi’s decree and scheduled for a lightning-fast referendum vote before most people could even read or discuss the thing, was loaded up with Islamist and undemocratic features:
Shariah would essentially be the law of the land. Women were given the brush-off. Human rights and civil liberties were placed in jeopardy. Freedom of expression curtailed. In a devil’s bargain between the Brotherhood and the military, the military's political and financial privileges were largely preserved, including the military trial of civilians (a Mubarak-era practice long despised by the general population). The universally loathed old Mubarak emergency laws were reworked and dressed up to achieve the same old results. Ambiguous clauses and amendments were included that seemed designed to create a "Morality Police" and finger as "enemies of the state" whoever might not go along with the new program.
Cries of "No to tyranny!!", "No to the new pharaoh!!!", "The people want to bring down the regime!" immediately resounded through the streets as thousands of angry and disillusioned Egyptians rallied again in Tahrir Square and marched on Brotherhood offices (setting fire to a few of them). In the following days thousands of anti-Islamist protesters have marched on the Presidential Palace (as the new Pharaoh Morsi reportedly scooted out a back door) and clashed continuously with the Brotherhood’s base of zealots for “Allah”.
Again, as in 2011, the huge crowds of demonstrators have been met by the same old thuggery and tear gas. But this time at the order of the new Pharaoh, who cited the same old straw men as justification: outside agitators, counter revolutionaries, terrorists, enemies of democracy and now also enemies of God.
Nobody can say for sure yet how this confrontation - the Egyptian Revolution Part II - will ultimately play out between the new power-grabbing Pharaoh (and his security apparatus and Islamist supporters) and the people once again and so soon in righteous riotous assembly.
The French Revolution went through nearly a decade of the twists and turns of the Jacobins, Robespierre and the Reign of Terror (think: the guillotine) until the "little corporal" Napoleon Bonaparte (for whom the Napoleon Complex was named) arrived on the scene to settle things down with a mixture of totalitarianism and serious civil reform (the same Napoleon, who, rumor has it, made a permanent mark on the face of Egypt in 1798 when the artillery of his invading army blew the nose off the Sphinx).
The Russian Revolution of 1917, a political earthquake that "shook the world", was ultimately captured and catastrophically misdirected by the Georgian psycho Stalin.
The Khomeini Revolution quickly devoured many of its own makers and has over the past 35 years devolved into a repressive and paranoid regime of Islamist elitists supported and protected by a thuggish ring of villains and religious zealots.
The promising and politically refreshing Arab Spring of two years ago looks at the moment like turning into the Arab Winter. Tunisians are once again rioting against the clique of Islamists who captured their revolution. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia's next door puppet princedom, has largely crushed its popular opposition. Yemen is still a mess. Iraq is a bigger mess. Libya, freed from the loony tune dictator Muammer Qaddafi, is little more than a mèlange of competing militias. Syria, whose promising uprising against 4 decades of murderous rule by the Assad family, has turned into a tragic and calamitous civil war with 40,000 dead so far.
The 2011 Tahrir Square Revolution is really still evolving in its struggling and defining infancy. The Brotherhood and the Military seem determined to retard (if not entirely crush) its development. Perhaps aided and abetted by the real "outside agitators", the international bankster community, the world's weapons peddlars, the Western status quoers, the Middle East's wider Islamist brethren and fellow travellers.
The crude and hasty power grab by the Pharaoh Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood is both cynical and obvious, yet it may carry the day. But the good guys who made the Tahrir Square Revolution are no longer afraid of their government. Their government is afraid of them. The “djinn” (genie) of freedom, equality and democracy was released from the magic lantern two years ago. It will not be forced back in…