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Split second

By Philip Whitfield Was it a coup d’etat, half a coup, coup-lite or just plain old martial law? The top brass gave Morsi just enough rope to hang himself to execute their mission: divide and rule. Not so fast, say some. It’s our revolution, not theirs. If you want to pray the worldwide court of …

Philip Whitfield
Philip Whitfield

By Philip Whitfield

Was it a coup d’etat, half a coup, coup-lite or just plain old martial law? The top brass gave Morsi just enough rope to hang himself to execute their mission: divide and rule. Not so fast, say some. It’s our revolution, not theirs. If you want to pray the worldwide court of public opinion plead extreme duress: the Morsi gang’s psychological torture.

It’s the way revolutions go, the Irish playwright Brendan Behan mused. The first item on the agenda is the split. Salafis proved the Muslim Brotherhood’s most potent opponents. The military would still be square bashing without their acquiescence.

Why not call it temporary martial law as in Canada in 1970? The nationalist Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ) kidnapped government officials amid a bombing campaign. The federal government granted special powers to the police and put the army on the streets. It didn’t seem to upset anyone outside Canada.

Prove duress and president Obama will likely wave aid through. The EU and the International Monetary Fund? They’re more sceptical. They need proof of a borrower’s trustworthiness and stability. Wait to see how the recently activated National Security Council (NSC) works out. It’s a cut-and-paste from Turkey circa 1960; parallel civilian and military systems – with the military on top. Article 193 of the constitution established Egypt’s NSC. Commander-in-Chief Abdul Fatah Al-Sisi got the fig leaf he needed to dictate events.

When the dust settles, societies are apt to grant amnesties. The Athenians did after battle. Julius Caesar doled them out to Cicero and his buddies. Charles II regained his throne promising pardons all round. Napoleon ruled after a general amnesty. President Andrew Johnson did likewise after the American civil war. Balkan states routinely release baddies to roam free.

The pot calls the kettle black. The Brotherhood observes holy dominion then hires hatchet men to harry the heedless. Their opponents embrace democracy then spout poppycock to duck elections. Tahrir Square’s hoarse hailers see rape flourishing then whimper.

Compromise is tough to swallow. Fessing up is anathema. Egypt needs to make a clean breast of things, a moratorium on violence for elections to take place and a proficient government to bed in. Here’s the rub. That’s what the UK government did when they prorogued the Northern Ireland parliament in 1972 and abolished it in 1973. Look what happened. Civil war raged. And still Catholics and Protestants kill themselves.

Egypt can’t weather fury every few months. Antagonists need a forum to air their grievances without risking dying. The vehemence of fervour needs a safe place to boil, simmer and settle. The damaged, distraught and distressed deserve due process after their lives have been turned upside down.

Egypt needs a truth and reconciliation commission to consider granting amnesties. Nigglers stand in the way from Peru to East Timor. It took ‘til March for Nepal’s president Ram Baran to create a truth and reconciliation commission mandated in 2006.

When South Africans made up, they were blessed with the then Archbishop Desmond Tutu to chair a truth and reconciliation commission. A Tutu or a Nelson Mandela doesn’t spring to mind in Egypt. ‘Cometh the hour cometh the man’ so to speak.

Visiting South Africa the other day Obama said that Mandela understood government must be bigger than one person, even one of history’s greatest. Isn’t Obama saying self-aggrandizement is the elephant in the room? Humility is the harbinger of hope, not bombast backed by bullyboy bestiality.

For the past couple of years, foreign governments have given the Brotherhood the nod that they’re open for business, providing the street-cred Morsi needed. It’s a sordid episode in four decades of poltroon in the Middle East.

Doing penance for being the Brotherhood’s apologists, foreign governments should repatriate every nickel of Mubarak money stashed in their banks. Mubarak lawyer-clacking makes tedious copy. We know the ending. They walk Scott free. Cut to the chase. Sell their assets. Give the family a one-way ticket to Hell-and-Gone. Same deal for the Morsi gang. You don’t rub liniment on a cancer. You cut it out.

Egypt catches the world’s common ailments. Intolerance is the root of evil. Ignorance is endemic. Creativity, innovation and critical thinking are absent. Islamic bigots try rolling the clock back. Military rule is merciless. The return of the feloul doesn’t warrant flag waving.

The contradiction between the lives we crave and the reality we live is frustrating. When I forecast ‘Morsi’s end’ in this space on 7 April an email complained I was too cynical. As it turns out I was too timid. Nobody foresaw the amplitude of anger swelling into defenestration.

Where’s the goddess preaching common sense? Is Judge Tahani Al-Gebali too far out? Her acumen would shake things up.

What’s freedom? It’s not shouting so loud the palace walls crumple. That’s Joshua at Jericho. Nor is it dependent on soldiers on the street. That’s the plumber’s solution: fix every leak with duct tape. Nor is it cutting corners – wealth by stealth.

What’s justice? It’s not playing musical chairs with jailbirds. Neither is locking up people whose face doesn’t fit.

What are human rights? Shielding women from rapists. Giving every child an opportunity to excel. Protecting children from exploitation.

What’s equality? Neither men lording it over women nor feigning piety. God did not intend religion to be an exercise club, Naguib Mahfouz wrote on the same table I’m writing this at Fishawy’s in Khan El Khalili.

Neither would Mahfouz challenge evolution. He’d accept science’s discovery: humans and chimpanzees have 99.9% of the same DNA.

The 0.1%? Humans share when they depend on each other.

Chimps and chumps don’t.

Philip Whitfield is a Cairo commentator

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