Thursday, August 1, 2013

Morayef, Morsi, and alliances in Egypt

Sounding quite put-upon, Heba Morayef (Human Rights Watch's Egypt director, Middle East and North Africa division) announces on twitter that she is
Getting v tired of all this “return of the police state” narrative. Police state was alive and kicking with Morsy’s blessing throughout.
...not just with Morsi's blessing, it seems.  Morsi was an ally:
In conclusion: Morsy chose to ally himself with the police as opposed to "pro-rev" forces calling for accountability & police reform.
Between the announcement and the 'conclusion' comes what I take to be the evidence.  It's odd.  An ally is normally one who helps you do things.  But Morsi is accused almost entirely of verbal crimes, if that:  some incidents are reported where no connection between Morsi and the incident is even alleged.  This apart, there is a failure to publicize a report on abuses, which of course hardly facilitated the abuses - nor has any report by anyone even slowed them down.  Mostly it's about 'endorsement'.  Morsi said this nice thing about the police! he said that nice thing! Well, I endorse the FSA in Syria; that hardly makes me an ally.  Not once is it even alleged that Morsi, as an ally might, made any substantive contribution to police abuse.

Sure, when a president endorses something, that's supposed to be different.  It puts the might of the state behind the thing endorsed.  Oh wait.  It was the might of the state that Morsi was supposed to be endorsing.  What could this mean?

For one thing, it means that Morsi stood at some distance from the power of the state.  The army and police were doing - and not doing - what they pleased.  It's quite a feat of self-deception, in the face of this virtually uncontested fact, to suppose that Morsi could have had any substantial responsibility for the conduct of the security forces, merely through statements and reports.

For another, to hold up Morsi's verbal activities with great indignation is at best posturing, at worst childish.  Adults know that when people say nice things, they sometimes don't mean it.  They realize this applies to politics as well.  Morsi had no power.  He was hoping to acquire some.  Meanwhile, he paid a high price to avoid confrontation with the police and army.  Why?  Because, to repeat what his critics studiously ignore, he had no power.*  He would have lost.

Has anyone in the know confirmed this diagnosis? Yes, very much so - the army and the police.  Not being children, they did not actually believe that Morsi thought them heroes of the revolution.  They did not believe he was sincere in his professed desire to get along with them.  They did not think that he bottled up criticism of them because he was on their side.  In fact, that's why they overthrew him.  They knew him for what he was, a man just out of their prisons, who was unlikely to look on them with deepest love.  They knew he belonged to a movement long dedicated to destroying their privileges and their sovereignty.  Though it is the security forces who most obviously qualify for the epithet Orwellian, Orwellian too is the cynical corruption of mind that manages to blind itself to such glaring realities.

One wonders what political effect Morayef can possibly expect her diatribe to have.

The army and police, after all, are genuine allies.  No doubt diligent research could discover nice things they had said about one another, but here there are more than verbal ties.  The police benefit the army by murdering and torturing people the army dislikes.   The army does some of the same for the police, but also lends its immense domestic prestige to their activities - not to mention the ever-present menace of massive armed force should anyone seriously challenge the alliance.  The army and police now enjoy almost hysterical popular support.  Foreign powers are spineless in their reaction to the coup.  Yet human rights advocacy didn't give SCAF so much as a flea-bite even before they reached this pinnacle of power.  So Morayef would have to be an almost pathological fantasist if she expected her words to help SCAF's victims.  It would be almost as crazy to suppose Morsi's words could have made any difference.

But words do, of course, at times matter.  Morayef is almost venerated in the West. (In 2013 she was nominated for Time's 100 most influential people in the world.)  Her words may be pointlessly ineffectual, but if they're not, they can only discredit Morsi in Western eyes.  So if the West ever does contemplate acquiring a spine, Morayef may play some small part in weakening international support for Morsi.  Weakening Morsi strengthens SCAF.  So the likeliest political effect of Morayef's words is to support the very murderers and torturers she contrives to smear Morsi with.

Words which help SCAF do not, of course, make for an alliance.  But if Morayef wanted to wax indignant about SCAF's allies, she might have let loose against real allies of SCAF, Respected Sirs such as El Baradei and Egypt's coup-sanctioned prime minister, Hazem Al Beblawi.  He played a major role in bringing hundreds of thousands to the army and police sponsored love-in that - again predictably - resulted in the army coup and the murder of many innocent people.   But El Baradei and Beblawi, who bring with them substantial support for the regime, don't attract Morayef's ire as much as a jailed president and his bloodied movement.


*  This is why it's so wrong-headed to speak of police abuse persisting 'under' Morsi.   It's a bit like saying that British police continued to abuse suspects 'under' Queen Elizabeth.

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