For many Americans, the criminally negligent death of Egypt’s first freely elected president last month will go mostly unnoticed, despite their government’s responsibility.
In 2012, in the wake of the uprisings dubbed the “Arab Spring” and the ouster of longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Muhammad Morsi narrowly defeated a former air force chief supported by top military brass.
In office for barely a year, Morsi was never actually allowed to rule. At every turn, the deep state plotted to undermine his authority. From prearranged fuel shortages to state media coverage intended to undermine a civilian presidency, the generals, led by Abdulfattah al-Sisi, orchestrated opposition to Morsi’s rule.
In July 2013, their machinations paid off. Capitalizing on instigated and inflated public opposition, an American-enabled coup overthrew Morsi, suspended the constitution, dissolved the government, and silenced dissenting voices. The Muslim Brotherhood was violently crushed, its membership imprisoned, and al-Sisi’s most critical opponents, including secularists, were forced into exile.
American culpability in Egypt’s failed democratic experiment was the culmination of decades of foreign policy. For more than half a century, the US government has squandered some $70 billion in mostly military aid to Egypt. The largesse ramped up after the signing of the Camp David accords in 1979 to ensure a compliant Egyptian partner in a peace treaty with Israel.
Washington was not about to jeopardize its investment in Israel’s regional hegemony and its continued occupation of the Palestinians.
More than six decades of CIA meddling in Egypt is undisputed, and al-Sisi himself received military training in the US. The result has been an increasingly repressive military regime that has suppressed aspirations for democratic self-determination for nearly 100 million Egyptians.
Some may view Muslim Brotherhood rule, and Egypt’s first democratically elected president, as hostile to Americans’ secular way of life, democratic values and interests in the Middle East. Americans may be enamored by their government’s military might and insatiable penchant for intervention around the globe. But this is a shortsighted view.
Neither Muslim religious involvement in governance nor Morsi’s presidency were necessarily bad for Egypt’s national interests, or America’s best interests for that matter. Islamic governance is widely misunderstood. We may disagree with the mixing of religion and state. However, those of us in the West should not force our way of life on others.
The main criticisms of President Morsi were that he amassed power, alienated Egypt’s politicized public, sidelined secular parties and forced adoption of an Islamic-dominated constitution that allowed the government to undermine individual rights.
While these may be valid criticisms, they are applied unfairly when it comes to post-Mubarak Egypt, which was in the throes of a revolution.
As hindsight now reveals, Morsi’s attempts to consolidate power were too little, too late to prevent his overthrow by counterrevolutionary forces. A large swath of the Egyptian public was manipulated by the oligarchy-controlled media into anti-Morsi demonstrations, which were in turn used as a pretext for military intervention.
The Muslim Brotherhood, long-repressed and forced to work clandestinely, was distrustful of its political rivals and feared intrigue on the part of its opponents. It could have done more to build an anti-military alliance. However, its instincts were valid to a degree.
The Muslim Brotherhood was voted into office with a clear mandate to rule. The Freedom and Justice Party, and other Islamic factions, made up a supermajority in parliament and it was a foregone conclusion that a constitution based on Islamic principles would be adopted.
Violence and arrests during Morsi’s tenure were linked to government forces loyal to the generals. For his part, he promised freedom of expression. Unfettered, Egyptian media multiplied their attacks on him and the Brotherhood.
This is not to say that he and the Brotherhood did not make key mistakes or could have handled matters differently. President Morsi wanted Egypt to be independent politically, militarily and economically. He promoted an Egypt-first platform. His government opened the Rafah crossing with Gaza, closed for years during Mubarak’s rule, rattling Israel, some in the West, and the military.
The US cannot claim to be the greatest nation in the world without the moral credentials to back it up. Why is it that America, second only to Israel, is perceived by the peoples of the Middle East as one of the greatest threats to peace in the region?
The millions of Egyptians who voted for Morsi know that if the US allowed the Egyptian experiment with democracy to endure, military dictator al-Sisi would not be in power today and the elected president would still be alive.
Ashraf W. Nubani is an attorney and a Palestinian American and Muslim community leader in the Washington, DC metro area.