Egypt: Blood In The Streets
By Stephen Lendman
Junta power runs Egypt. Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) generals decide policy. Interim officials serve at their pleasure.
On July 3, President Mohamed Morsi was ousted. Coup authority replaced him. It did illegitimately. His supporters want him reinstated. They've been camped out in Cairo for weeks. SCAF threatened to roust them.
Tensions remained high. Morsi supporters have been repeatedly attacked. Hundreds died earlier. Many others were injured. Scores are imprisoned. Arrests follow regularly.
Ahead of Wednesday's action, Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said:
"Law and order has to be in place, and people need to have access to their homes and work and so on."
"Ultimately, this situation has to be resolved very soon." He claimed efforts to end sit-ins would be "consistent with the law." He lied saying so. More on that below.
Interim President Adly Mansour convened an emergency National Security Council meeting. Top SCAF and civilian officials attended.
Crackdowns were planned. Muslim Brotherhood officials urged Morsi supporters to join sit-ins. They called on Egyptian security forces to remain nonviolent, saying:
"We remind our sons and brothers from the great Egyptian army and the men of the Interior Ministry to not attack their peaceful brothers or besiege them or shed their blood."
Morsi's under house arrest. He's at an unknown location. State agency Mena said he's charged with conspiring with Hamas, killing prisoners and officers "deliberately with prior intent," kidnapping officers and soldiers, spying, attacking public buildings, and setting fire to Wadi el-Natroun prison.
It claimed doing so helped him escape. During 2011 anti-Mubarak protests, he and other Muslim Brotherhood members were arrested and detained. Morsi said local residents freed them.
Ahead of Wednesday's crackdown, SCAF threatened to "turn its guns" on pro-Morsi supporters, saying:
"We will not initiate any move, but will definitely react harshly against any calls for violence or black terrorism from Brotherhood leaders or their supporters."
Its officials warned of civil war. What follows Wednesday's crackdown remains to be seen.
On August 14, AP headlined "Egypt police storm 2 Pro-Morsi Camps in Cairo," saying:
"Egyptian security forces, backed by armored cars and bulldozers, swept in Wednesday to clear two sit-in camps of supporters of the country's ousted President Mohammed Morsi, showering protesters with tear gas as the sound of gunfire rang out at both sites."
Numbers killed and injured aren't confirmed. Muslim Brotherhood (MB) spokesman Walid Al-Haddad said 600. Another 9,000 were wounded, he added. Scores were arrested.
Another MB spokesman, Gehad El-Haddad claimed up to 2,000 killed and 10,000 injured. Intensive gunfire was heard. Official reports downplay numbers. Bodies were taken to makeshift morgues.
Senior MB leader Mohammed el-Beltagy estimated 300 deaths. He called on police and military forces to rebel. He urged Egyptians to protest publicly, saying:
"Oh, Egyptian people, your brothers are in the square. Are you going to remain silent until the genocide is completed?"
Hours later he was arrested. Witnesses said security forces used live fire on Morsi supporters. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton's spokesman, Michael Mann, said:
"The reports of deaths and injuries are extremely worrying. We reiterate that violence won't lead to any solution, and we urge the Egyptian authorities to proceed with utmost restraint."
Most EU countries are NATO members. Belligerence and other forms of violence are official policy. Ashton's concern for Egyptian lives lacks credibility.
She, other EU leaders and Washington don't give a damn about SCAF ruthlessness. They care plenty about it making world headlines.
They want reports of state-sponsored violence suppressed. They want business as usual continued. They want it out of sight and mind abroad.
They want Israeli interests addressed. They include destroying Gaza's tunnel economy, keeping Rafah crossing closed, and joint IDF/SCAF attacks on Sinai-based pro-Morsi Islamists.
Days earlier, SCAF promised to roust Morsi supporters. Around 7AM, they acted. Clashes occurred in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, Aswan, Assiut, Minya, and other cities nationwide.
By mid-morning, state television said security forces finished breaking up Cairo sit-ins. Bulldozers began clearing makeshift camps.
Major roads into Cairo are blocked. Railway authority officials said trains in and out of the city were stopped. So are others serving major cities nationwide. It's "for security reasons to prevent people from mobilizing," they said.
Egypt's Interior Ministry said security forces have "total control" over Nahda Square. "Police forces removed most tents."
Access to the area was blocked. Egypt's major state daily Al Ahram said the interim government warned "it would react sternly to acts of sabotage and attacks against state institutions."
An official statement said:
"In accordance with government instructions to take necessary measures towards the sit-ins at Rabaa Al-Adawiya and Nahda, and for the safety of the country, security forces started taking measures to disperse the sit-ins early Wednesday."
"The government insists on moving forward with the future roadmap in a way that guarantees that no faction will be excluded from participating in the political process which will achieve a democratic transition."
It bears repeating. Egypt's no democracy. Junta power rules. Appointed President Adly Mansour and other interim officials serve at its pleasure.
Events are fast moving. Egypt's central bank ordered commercial banks to close branches in conflict areas. Some had power shut off.
The Ministry of Antiquities ordered Giza Pyramids closed to visitors. Cairo's Egyptian museum was closed. MB officials are charged with inciting violence and/or conspiring to kill protesters.
MB's London office said:
"The world cannot sit back and watch while innocent men, women and children are being indiscriminately slaughtered. The world must stand up to the military junta's crime before it is too late."
Egypt's a tinderbox. Cairo's a virtual war zone. Ousting Morsi along with unaddressed major grievances has millions nationwide enraged.
Blaming victims is policy. Egypt's government made baseless accusations, saying:
"The government holds (MB) leaders fully responsible for any spilt blood, and for all the rioting and violence going on."
Egypt's Interior Ministry claimed it intercepted phone calls calling on supporters to attack police stations. Planned assaults were foiled, it added.
MB officials were arrested. Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayeb urged restraint. He did so on state television. He opposed Morsi. He backed his ouster. He comments lack credibility.
Clashes erupted across Egypt. Minya, Assiut and Sohag Christian Coptic Churches were torched.
In Bani Suef south of Cairo, police cars were set ablaze. Clashes threaten to continue.
Interim President Mansour said diplomacy ended. SCAF gloves are off. Egyptian security forces are notoriously hardline.
Ahead of Wednesday's crackdown, Robert Fisk asked:
"Why does the Egyptian crisis appear so simple to our political leaders yet so complicated when you actually turn up in Cairo?"
State media create "fantasies." They claim SCAF "follow(ed) the will of the people" ousting Morsi. They exaggerated opposition crowds. They called them "the largest political demonstration(s) in history."
Numbers reported suggested over half the adult working age population turned out. Unlike early 2011, "the country kept running."
John Kerry claimed SCAF intervened to restore democracy. "Thank God for the Egyptian army," Fisk added. He did so with tongue in cheek.
Le Monde's Alain Gresh headlined his latest article "Shadow of the army over Egypt's revolution," saying:
The Muslim Brotherhood "faced a destabilisation campaign by the former regime, with the dissolution of the elected parliament, the police refusing to maintain public order and protect its premises (significantly the interior minister was reinstated in office after 30 June), and the courts acquitting former Mubarak officials."
Media pluralism didn't follow Morsi's ouster, said Gresh. Some TV stations were banned. Journalists were arrested.
Ruling officials are hostile to critical foreign media. Interim leaders maintain "a ministry of information." Doing so's not a good sign.
State media ignore pro-Morsi demonstrations. Hundreds of thousands participate nationwide.
"A textbook example is the coverage of the repression of a sit-in organised by the Brotherhood on 8 July outside the headquarters of the Republican Guard, during which at least 50 people were killed," said Gresh.
"Army spokesman Colonel Ahmed Mohammed Ali told the Associated Press: 'What excessive force? It would have been excessive if we killed 300.' "
"The English-language website Madamasr has posted damning witness statements, especially one by a cameraman working for an opposition television station, which showed images of soldiers shooting at the crowd, for no reason."
Interim President Mansour has links to the Mubarak regime and Saudi Arabia. He worked there for over a decade.
He published a constitutional declaration. It gives him full executive and legislative powers for six months. It does so ahead of elections.
Egypt's government is dominated by neoliberal hardliners. They force-feed austerity on millions of poor people. They have added pain in mind. Doing so risks turning a tinderbox into a raging inferno.
Observers wonder "whether Egypt will ever see pluralist elections again, now that its first democratically elected president has been overthrown," said Gresh.
Mansour and other interim officials remain silent about MB repression. Ignoring it means support.
Mohamed ElBaradei's an apparent exception. He resigned saying:
"(T)he beneficiaries of what happened today are those who call for violence, terrorism and the most extreme groups."
"It has become difficult for me to continue bearing responsibility for decisions that I do not agree with and whose consequences I fear. I cannot bear the responsibility for one drop of blood."
ElBaradei wants to be Egypt's president. Perhaps he believes resigning now makes it possible later. Allying with state-sponsored repression assures rejection.
Gresh wonders what's next for Egypt. "How long will it be before people are put on trial for having demanded Mubarak's resignation in 2011," he asked?
"Perhaps the aim is to provoke the Brotherhood into resorting to violence, so as to allow a reinstatement of the state of emergency in the name of the war on terror."
"Or the excuse may be the instability of the Sinai region, which predates Morsi."
All sides vying for power and influence must "learn from their failures." They must "abandon their secretive culture."
Shutting MB and other Islamists out risks "pushing them on to a radical path that could cost Egypt dear(ly)," Gresh concluded.
On Wednesday, a state of emergency was declared. Martial law's in effect. Major city 7:00PM - 6:00AM curfews were imposed. It's effective until further notice.
MB supporters won't back down. They pledged to die rather than quit. One Morsi protester perhaps spoke for others, saying:
"We don't care about death. We believe in one thing. When your time to die comes, you will die."
"So will you die as a courageous martyr, or as a coward? That's the point: we want to die as martyrs."
They want Morsi reinstitated. Civil war's possible follow. MB spokesman Gehad El-Haddad twittered:
"8 hours of mass killings & not a single sane person in Egypt or in world 2 stop this!! Over 2,000 killed and & over 10,000 injured & world watches."
Egypt's a virtual war zone. Anything ahead is possible.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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