Egypt: a tissue of lies


It’s dangerous to be a friend of the United States in the Middle East. A fact the US government knows better than any political player in the Arab world, starting with America’s best friends! The strategy is simple: cover your tracks, forget history, don’t let cold hard facts get in the way. For the last sixty years, the United States has supported the Egyptian army and the successive dictatorial regimes (Nasser, despite tense relations, then Sadat and Mubarak) that protected their geostrategic interests, promoted “regional security” and, of course, defended Israel. Nothing has changed: the American administration was squarely behind the June 30 military coup, which was planned well in advance by the army high command and its civilian allies, including Mohammed el-Baradei. As early as 2008-2009 el-Baradei, one of the US’s key Egyptian strategic assets, had been advancing by stealth. In my Islam and the Arab Awakening I published comments by American officials about him and his involvement in the April 6 Movement (1). On the day of the coup, the US refused to describe it as such in order not to interrupt support for its military allies and the new political power structure. Secretary of State John Kerry could only confirm what serious analysts already knew when he stated a few days later that on June 30 the army had “restored the democratic process.” There can be no doubt that the US government fully supports the Egyptian armed forces. Its regional allies quickly swung into action: billions of dollars poured in from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait.

Covering tracks is the strategy of choice. Domestically, the propaganda machine is in high gear: the United States had been meddling in Egyptian affairs by supporting the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). The new political authorities (the interim president, prime minister and, of course, el-Baradei) are playing their parts to perfection: they claim to be “disappointed” by the lack of American backing. In the Washington Post and not in an Egyptian newspaper, General al-Sisi even—astonishingly—accused the US government of abandoning him: “You turned your back on the Egyptians, and they won’t forget that.” (2)Washington Post, August 3, 2013 It was a clever gambit, one that managed to fool a section of the Egyptian population. That would make the armed forces and the civilian transitional government out to be courageous and independent patriots, while American agents and foreign powers had all along propped up the MB. The Americans know well the power of such propaganda, and the symbolic gestures needed to make it convincing. But it was a lie from start to finish.

The facts and figures produced are a bigger lie: 30 million Egyptians took to the streets, they tell us, and 16 million signed an anti-government petition. Where do these figure, intoned like a mantra in the media, come from? By comparing images from the pilgrimage to Mecca with those produced on June 30 (by the Egyptian military, which transmitted them to press agencies around the world: Google claims not to have broadcast them), experts estimate the total turnout at no more than four or five million. In fact, the figure of 30 million is preposterous, as are the 16 million signatures, especially for anyone familiar with social conditions on the ground in Egypt. New propaganda; new lies.

It is clear that many Egyptians were frustrated by the situation, exacerbated by power outages and gasoline shortages prior to June 30, which suddenly ended the day after the coup. But the breadth of the protest movement was blown up out of all proportion. Almost unanimously the Egyptian people—so the story goes—proclaimed its support for its liberator, general al-Sisi, that great democrat totally unconnected with the United States. This while the International Herald Tribune revealed only a few days later, his close relations with the US and with Israel (3).

In the distorting mirror of such propaganda, it is essential to present today’s demonstrators only as followers of deposed president Mohammed Morsi, or as members of the Muslim Brotherhood. But the Egyptian population is not made up entirely of imbeciles, “democrats” who support the armed forces or “Islamists” on the side of the Brotherhood. This lie, stuffed down our throats by Egyptian and Western media outlets, is designed to obscure the ideological dimension of demonstrations opposing the coup d’État. In all the cities and towns of Egypt, the people in the streets are by no means all members or supporters of the MB. They include women and men, secularists alongside Islamists, Copts as well as Muslims, youth and older people who reject manipulation and a return to military rule in the guise of “democracy.” Many young people were and remain critical of Mr. Morsi and of the MB and their policies, but there is nothing naïve about their understanding of what is at stake politically. In fact, the ongoing mass protests appear to be the unexpected spanner in the strategic works of the Egyptian army, the interim government and their American allies. A mass outpouring of non-violent citizens against the “democratic” military coup carried out in the name of the selfsame people has left many faces spattered with egg.

But wait! Add another lie, and claim that the people in the street are not only members of the MB, but potential extremists working hand-in-glove with the “terrorists” of Hamas (a propaganda trick that never fails in the West) who would not hesitate to use violence. Foreign Minister, Nabil Fahmy, lent public credence to the fabrication when he claimed that Amnesty International had noted that the demonstrators were armed or were concealing weapons. Amnesty immediately published a communiqué sharply denying his allegations (4). The new Egyptian authorities are now attempting to demonize the non-violent demonstrators in the streets; in the wake of the July 8 massacre, when the police fired on the unarmed crowd in the name of legitimate defense. A new media campaign is now being deployed: if the government wishes to clear the streets of demonstrators—as it claims—the demonstrators must be portrayed as dangerous and violent, as “terrorists.” Western media are unfortunately quite happy to play along with the Egyptian military and civilian authorities. Anything can happen in the coming days. Violent actions by tiny, unidentified “extremist” or “terrorist” groups (the Egyptian secret services are past masters at concocting perfectly synchronized “clashes” or “attacks”) may be used to justify massive police and military action (while trying to surround and isolate the protesters) . The next big lie: the armed forces are simply defending themselves.

As I continue to emphasize, the Islamists cannot be exempt from criticism. The situation in the Middle East is grave; the future is murky. It is as if the project to bring democracy to the region proclaimed by US President George W. Bush in 2003 provided, in fact, an immense immense template for regional destabilization modeled on the “liberation” of Iraq. Political systems and regimes would be undermined, oil and mineral resources secured, and the State of Israel, silently and to the accompaniment of yet another episode in the “peace process,” would continue its deliberate strategy of colonization. Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen (and even Sudan) are caught up in the maelstrom; the Gulf States are operating on a short leash.

Hopes were high that Barack Obama would be a president of renewal and openness. He has been nothing of the kind. What a pathetic record! As Noam Chomsky has stated, Mr. Obama has done even less than his predecessors to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict. In fact, he has accomplished nothing. His image was that of the appealing African-American president, the gifted orator who has proved just as cynical as his immediate precursor. Meanwhile, the lies go on; the citizens of Egypt, like the Iraqis, the Syrians and the Palestinians, should bear in mind that the US government speaks the truth when it affirms that it loves nothing quite so much as democracy.

In the face of this tissue of lies, the non-violent demonstrators—women and men, secularists and Islamists, Copts and Muslims, agnostics and atheists—are the true expression of the Egyptian awakening. They must stand upright, unarmed; reject lies, propaganda and manipulation; they must become masters of their destiny.

(1) Relations between El-Baradei and the United States had not always been cordial. The Egyptian diplomat had sharply criticized American reluctance to call for reform of the regime as a “farce.” But closer analysis points to relations of an entirely different kind. Those between Barack Obama and Mohamed El-Baradei are excellent; the latter has not stinted in his praise for George W. Bush’s successor. In the run-up to Mubarak’s replacement, the Obama administration calculated that El-Baradei’s notoriously poor relations with the Bush administration and with the United States might well prove to be an advantage. As former State Department advisor Philip D. Zelikow noted: “Ironically, the fact that El-Baradei cross swords with the Bush administration on Iraq and Iran helps him in Egypt, and God forbid we should do anything to make it seem like we like him.” A near-identical analysis appeared in Foreign Affairs magazine one year before the uprisings. Pointing out that being seen as friendly with the Americans or being supported by them was a negative factor for any political figure in search of credibility with Egyptians, Steven A. Cook, the article’s author, added: “If ElBaradei actually has a reasonable chance of fostering political reform in Egypt, then U.S. policymakers would best serve his cause by not acting strongly. Somewhat paradoxically, ElBaradei’s chilly relationship with the United States as IAEA chief only advances U.S. interests now.” Islam and the Arab Awakening, Oxford 2012, p. 30

(2)Washington Post, August 3, 2013

(3) International Herald Tribune, read my article Egypt, Coup d’Etat, Act II


12 Commentaires

  1. Sorry but I am Egyptian and neither Morsi or Army supporter but there are many many errors in this article.
    I will give you 2 as an example

    April 6th did NOT join the 30th Protests

    It was 23 million signatures on Tamarods petition not 14 as you claim

  2. Please name me a single Copt living in Egypt today opposing the June 30th demonstrations and current administration and/or the military actions taken. Copts have been under a horrific campaign of terror by Islamic extremists and supporters of Morsi and the Brotherhood. And the West has remained silent. I’m afraid your conspiracy theory is based on inaccuracies and assumptions that simply don’t hold water.

    • Look at the bigger picture and the trajectory of forthcoming events…to prove or discount the argument presented. I support Tariq’s perspective. The power of the people’s courage not guns can win the current strategic game of chess played by masters of global enslavement.

  3. Sir, either you have bad information which in all probability you received from the MB since you are close to them. or you yourself are spinning a web of lies, the most egregious being that the Brotherhood is non-violent. Well, for your information, they are now kidnapping destitute urchins from the street promising them food & money so that they can be used as human shields. If you don’t believe this just go to Youtube & see for yourself the pictures of the children.

    You really have to go back and refresh your mind about the bloody history of this clan before making such ludicrous statements.

    Oh, by the way, I’m an Egyptian & I live right next to Al Nahda Sq. where the MB has one of its sit-ins.

  4. The present senator of Minnesota Al Franken wrote early in 2003 a book titled : ” Lies And The Lying Liars Who Tell Them : A Fair and Balanced Look at The Right “ .
    Allow M. Ramadan to apply this title to your excellent piece – with a little change meanwhile .We then have this : ” Lies And The Lying Liars Who Tell Them : A Fair And Balanced Look at the…USA Foreign Policy ”
    Thank you again Tareq for enlightening us , as usual .

  5. I am really sorry because I love Tareq Ramadan, but this article is really full of mistakes. As somebody pointed out already the figures are wrong. 30 june pretends they had 22 milions signatures and they brought them to the ONU in order to be offically recognised. But the main thing is that: 1) in Egypt there are no atheist and if there are a few, definitely they are NOT in Raba or Nahda Sq. 2) On the total of the Coptic minority NONE is in favour of Mursi and MB 3) same thing for secularists: the more neutral are in the so called “third field” (“al midan al thelith”) with the most advanced revolutonaries groups and their slogan is “NO MB, NO Army ” (6 April is with them and didn’t partecipate in the 30 june). Today, someone can be happy, someone can be sad, in Raba e Nahda there are only MB supporters (and not all), and salafists (and not all). It might be sad, but the Egyptian population today is nearly totally aside Al Sisi and the Army (for many reasons, among them the need of the Egyptians of the “iron man”, especially after 2 really hard years.

  6. Rather than lies, the sad reality is that American foreign policy is out of its depth. My heart weeps at what is going on in Egypt, and if anything the propaganda is being played out to the advantage of the extremes. Morsi and the MB managed to alienate a large part of the Egyptian population, the army is doing the same. Positions are being entrenched.

    The reason American foreign policy is out of its depth is that they could foresee this as being the only possible consequence of the coup, and hence they were slow to react. The could see in the run up to the coup that a large part of the population was disenfranchised, they could see the leadership was not budging, but they also knew the way the army chose to act was going to bring instability. Added to that, any support for a coup would be illegal under their own laws and be seen as inconsistent as wanting to be known as supporters of democracy everywhere.

    John Kerry is now doing his best to show his support for the MB. This is not because they want to undermine the MB in the middle-east, but rather because they know that if the MB stays in opposition it will only lead to violence, and they need a stable Egypt to protect Israel.

    The sad reality is that there is a clash of world views taking place, and it saddens me that in articles like this, through the twisting of truth and by creating conspiracy theories you encourage people to hold views even further to the extreme. I am no lover of American Foreign policy, but before calling others liars we best look at our own first.

  7. The military coup, and the underhanded, distorted reporting, is unfortunately a repeat of history. Sadly, the group known as Tammarod, and its 20 – 30 million supposed signators, have been duped. Not only have they caused the deaths of their innocent fellow country men and women they have now provided General Sisi and his military outlaws to plant fellow military comrads to the governate posts. If you weren’t sure which side to stand behind a few weeks ago, there should be no doubt that the Egyptian people must stand together with the pro-Morsi supporters before their countryland is completely lost once again to corrupt non-believers, aka, military. This will surely be the beginning of the end for Egyptians if a US backed Egyptian military is allowed to continue its ill-willed mission. Just remember that “power absolutely corrupts, but ABSOLUTE POWER ABSOULUTELY CORRUPTS.


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