Thursday, July 21, 2011

Egypt: The Mistakes Of The Military Council

By Husam Itani
Like other soldiers who found themselves in a position of power, it is difficult for the members of the Egyptian military council to recognize the temporary and transitory nature of their role, and they are doggedly planning to extend their rule until after September.
All the military men in the Third World have a “natural” inclination to hang on to power and its prerogatives, while falsely believing they can salvage their populations from miserable fates that will engulf the entire creation unless the army interferes. But in the case of the Egyptian council in particular, there is another reality: for the first time since 1952, there is a real chance of distancing the army from politics and turning it into an institution led by a democratically-elected and civilian high command. This is true, unless a force majeure were to surface in the form of the army’s tanks to prevent the anticipated move.
There are many signs pointing to the narrow angle through which Egypt’s military men perceive power and the management of the country, namely their acceptance of Issam Sharaf’s appointment as prime minister under the pressures of the street, while burdening his first government with a number of figures who are only loyal to the one in power, regardless of his name. At this level, the positions of the secretary general of the Arab League toward the protests in Syria constitute a sample of what we tackled. This is due to the fact that the man could only speak with a conservative voice, going against the interests of the Syrian people and translating the wishes of the ones who appointed him in his position.
On the other hand, those who abstained from accepting any governmental posts, expressed fears over their possible fall in the same trap as Nabil al-Arabi, and announced they could not take the popular criticisms toward policies that are practically drawn up by the military council, while they are merely supervising their implementation.
It is at this level that the seriousness of the council’s behavior emerges. It is trying to manage the state like a puppeteer, by allowing the senior officers to move the puppets, remain away from legal accountability and enjoy – at the same time – the prerogatives that come with power. This is the game that is on the minds of all the military men in the backward states of the world.
The time has come for this masquerade to end in Egypt and in all the Arab countries.
It has become urgent for the Arab military officials to realize that the revolutions breaking out throughout the Arab world did not erupt and did not witness the fall of thousands of dead and wounded to replace one dictator who came to power from the military institution with another from the same background. Moreover, the complication of the situation following the fall of the former tyrannical regime, does not give the army or any other apparatus of force and coercion the right to sneak into the rule and climb on the suffering of millions of Egyptians, Tunisians and Yemenis (until now) to sit on the chair of an authoritarian and arbitrary rule.
This was the reason behind the demonstrations staged on Friday in Cairo. But it does not seem that the army has completely understood the message, and is still insisting on repeating the same plan each and every time. This is seen with confused ministerial appointments, stalling at the level of the transfer of President Hosni Mubarak to the Torra Prison Hospital, the elusion of the issue of the military trials, and in general the elusion of the demarcation of the border between the authorities of the military council and the prerogatives of the prime minister, which is – in any case – permitted by the current constitutional declaration.
The Egyptian military men might not have noticed the overwhelming popular rejection of the attempts to maneuver around the revolution, and became reassured by the presence of a major political power by their side, i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood. However, one might believe that the army and the MB are committing a grave mistake by wagering on the patience of the Egyptians.
This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 20/07/2011

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