One of the biggest casualties of yesterday’s events in Egypt is US Ambassador, Anne Patterson. For months now, she has been insisting on a slanted reading of the political scene in Egypt, constantly letting the Muslim Brotherhood off the hook (in a bizarre move last week, she even visited Khayrat El-Shater, the strong man of the MB in his personal office), and giving erroneous accounts to John Kerry about the opposition to President Morsi.
The biggest casualty, however, has to be Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood, who have insisted on a disastrous reading of the political map after the revolution and succeeded in fooling Patterson (and many other western diplomats and journalists) of their delusional views.
The Muslim Brotherhood and their backers, domestically and abroad, stand accused of committing the following seven deadly sins:
1. The idea thatrunning and winning free and fair elections was what the revolution was all about. When Morsi won with52% of the vote, he was convinced that this is a sufficient source of legitimacy and that the revolution, now that it has fulfilled its main objective, is over. People should now go back home and mind their business. This was a disastrous reading of the political situation. People did not take to the streets in Jan-Feb 2011 and risk their lives only to have free and fair elections. And they were not willing to go back home because someone won the presidential elections (no matter who), until they made sure that this individual appeared to be answering their main demands.
2. The second fatal mistake is not to proceed to tackle the security sector, i.e. the police, the intelligence services and the many paramilitary forces lying around. From day one, we (who is ‘we’, the protestors?) insisted the revolution erupted on the 25th of January, Police Day, was not an accident. We (protestors?) insisted that people were frustrated withpolice brutality and abuse, most seriously the endemic use of torture as a means of state policy. We realized how difficult reforming the police would be, but we providedmany concrete proposals of how to do so in a gradual, but serious way. However,the Muslim Brotherhood was adamant on not taking on this important and crucial portfolio. Instead, both the President and the Prime Minister repeatedly praised the police and went as far as to say that the police were to be thanked for their role in the January 25 revolution. As a result, no serious actions were taken to put any of the officers accused of torture on trial. In addition, not a single officer accused of killing more than 800 demonstrators during Jan-Feb 2011 has been found guilty.
3. The third fatal mistake of the MB and Morsi was to go after the press and the judiciary rather than the police. This, most famously, culminated in the catastrophic November Constitutional Decree whereby Morsi thought he could forestall a coup by the constitutional Court by staging his own constitutional coup. According to the interview with Patrick Kingsley in yesterday’s Guardian, Morsi now admits that this move was taken against his own wish and that it had been a mistake. According to an analysis of many opinion polls taken over the past year and published in Magued Othman’s article in yesterday’s al-Shorouk, this was the moment that saw the President’s popularitydiminishing. It has not recovered since.
4. Fourth, , the President and his group constantly accused the opposition of all the problems that had befallen the country since Morsi was elected. Repeatedly, the MB has accused the opposition of being unprincipled and of doing everything possible to thwart the sincere efforts of the president and the cabinet to solve the country’s problems. Blaming the opposition for the disastrous measures taken by the government belies a woeful lack of common sense. The opposition’s role is, well, to oppose. They are not supposed to make things easier for the government. Whereas the government’s job, is to govern. Part of governing is to reach out to the opposition and to try and meet them midway. Conversely,the MB insisted on a winner-takes-all approach and failed to give the opposition credible and meaningful concessions. Invitations to reform dialogs are a farce and are in no way a serious alternative to what the opposition has been calling for: a more inclusive approach to writing the constitution, an even handed electoral law, a staunch defence against all calls to curtail freedom of association and free speech, etc.
5. Fifth, the MB opted to see all opposition as a result of felool machinations. Althoughthere are definitely some businessmen, journalists, judges and many police and army officers who are feloul and who are still lurking around, millions of people who have been taking to the streets could not all be said to be in the pay of these corrupt members of the ancient regime. The political map is not simply divided between the new inexperienced regime and the old one still bent on preserving its power and prestige. This is the situation of many countries that have witnessed the birth pangs of transitional democracy. In Egypt, however, things are more complex. In addition to the new regime and the old regime, there is the revolution. The new regime, i.e. the MB and the Salafis (the other winners of the parliamentary elections), were not the ones who had called for this revolution, and many of them joined only in the eleventh hour and only very reluctantly. Yet, they were the ones who ended up winning the elections. This is warranted given the MB’s formidable electoral machine. Nevertheless, insisting to see the people who constantly take to the streets and those who have joined political parties, those who write in newspapers and those who dance in the streets, as felool proved to be a grave error.
6. Sixth, the MB has also shown their true undemocratic colors when they decided to go after the constitutional court, the judiciary, the free press, the NGOs, and to draft a deeply flawed electoral law slanted to their favor. Theoretically, the MB seems to be relying on an ancient and outdated political philosophy whereby the people’s participation in the political system appears to start and finish with the ballot boxes, what Amr Ezzat coined as ‘ballotocracy’. According to this view, arguably based on medieval precedents, the leader, once elected should command total respect and obedience from his (and of course there is no ‘”or her” in this political vision) followers. He is constantly compared to a captain of a ship or a leader of a caravan. If you don’t follow his commands, you run the risk of drowning or perishing in the barren desert. The MB, and strangely Anne Patterson, do not seem to believe that the president’s role is more akin to the CEO of a company or the president of a university who is accountable to a board of directors or to stockholders/board of trustees; who is subject to laws and procedures; and who can be fired and sacked if he does not do his job properly. If this view imbuing total obedience seems generally outdated, it is particularly unsuitable for a revolutionary moment. Not realizing the people cannot be expected to go home and mind their business after casting their votes in the presidential elections is the gravest mistake the Brotherhood/Patterson coalition has committed.
7. Finally, the Muslim Brotherhood has failed to realize that its time is over. This is a secret organization founded in the 1920 to fight the British in Egypt. During their long history, they have suffered draconian measures under Egypt’s many rulers, most seriously under Nasser. Their ideology and their tactics, their rhetoric and their philosophy have all reflected this siege mentality. One would have expected that having come to power as a result of free and fair elections that have, in turn, been the result of an amazing popular revolution, that they adopt a more relaxed, open, inclusive and tolerant attitude. Personally, I think the Brotherhood should have disbanded itself and morphed into political party. Instead, they did form a party but in an avaricious, greedy attitude they not only kept their organization, but also kept its secretive, clandestine structure and mentality. Famously, the president showed his true preference when he addressed the MB cadres and members as “my family and folk”, raising doubts in the minds of millions of Egyptians about his true allegiance. And in a drooling hunger for control, the MB unleashed their cadres onto the institutions of the state in a rabid race to control them, what we have called ‘Ikhwanization’. What is more, this ‘Ikhwanization’ has been going on with no vision, philosophy or aim except to control the hinges of the state. Furthermore, with their old literature making it abundantly clear that this “tamkeen” tactic aims at nothing less that imprinting their vision on the totality of Egyptian society, it is no surprisethat people got scared and rebelled.
I believe the Muslim Brotherhood is dead. It is a very tragic death as it happens paradoxically just when they thought that the future is theirs. Their best days are already behind them. And what makes it even more difficult for them to accept this tragic end is that it was brought about not because of the clever tactics or the insightful leadership of the opposition, as much as it was the result of their own bull-headed, stubborn leadership. That, as my dear friend Sherif Younis said, caused them to win all the battles, but lose the war. This, and the friendly advice that Ms. Patterson has been giving Mr. El-Shater.
Khaled Fahmy is a Professor in and Chair of the History Department at the American University in Cairo. He Tweets at khaledfahmy11
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