August 2012 archive

Internal Memo 21581-2012

Dear (Redacted),

 

Oh man, things went insane after you left your post a few days ago, but thankfully we got the situation under control, and we removed the old bag of bones and his henchman. I can’t believe he wanted to stay as minister of defense after the decades he spent in his post and the insane things he made us go through the past year and a half. I mean it’s bad enough that all the lower ranks couldn’t get promoted for all of these years because those two stayed in their posts, but to want to continue, after the damage your actions did to the army and its image? Tantawy had to go with his boy, and thankfully the rest of the group chose me as the next Minister of Defense and we made the deal with Morsy to appoint me, in exchange of giving him all the powers we had, to end this circus we have been living in for the past 18 months.

I mean can you imagine us continuing to go through what we went through the past year and a half? For all of those meetings, and media appearances, and the journalists, and the friends and family members who all want to be assured one way or another, to continue? Why? We didn’t sign up for this. All that we wanted in all of this is not to have our mode of operations messed with and to keep our business empire. That’s it. And we haven’t been doing that. The Army is one of the country’s largest and richest business empires and it is too integral to our economic interests to have it ran this way. We have veered off course with our revenue targets because of this whole ruling the revolution business, that I can’t fathom how much we lost when I review our balance sheets. Do you know how much we spent on buying gas for those whiney under-paying gas guzzlers the last year and a half alone so that they wouldn’t complain? Unless we forgot what we are doing here in the first place, we are here to make money and to keep our guns and prisons to mess with anyone who threatens that. Can you say that we have been doing this efficiently lately? I can honestly say that the environment at work lately has been as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.

And that supplementary constitutional declaration business; don’t even get me started at that. The country now has a president from the Muslim Brotherhood, which means they will get off our backs, and we have completely managed to defame all the political parties and annihilate all of those Tahrir creatures that wanted to review our books. Why would we continue this ruling business? We don’t want to be Turkey. We have seen how this film ends. It’s better not to be in the public eye when you are running the kind of racket we have been, especially that this close scrutiny is causing us great embarrassments. It’s bad enough that we had to excuse what happened at Maspiro by stating that our soldiers freaked out and ran over those copts, but Sinai? They were surprise attacked while eating? Those kinds of fiascos are bad for our image, and they might encourage people to start asking to review what we are doing here, and we can’t have that. I mean we have the occasional good apples, but those kids in recruitment today are not the caliber of yore. Plus, we don’t want to get involved in this securing Sinai business. That’s, as Mubarak used to say, “Israel’s problem”. Why would we want to assume responsibility for that? I will end up having one those incidents once a week. I think us stepping away from the spot light is for the best, and that we should focus on repairing the damage done to our image in the mean time. That’s why I earmarked 1 billion EGP from our budget for Sinai as this year’s CSR campaign. We are hearing good buzz about it already, and less on the news that we are not really hunting the rafah killers and that we are bombing sand dunes to make it look like we are fighting them. And honestly I expect our revenue projections to rise dramatically when we raise the prices of our products because of “inflation”, like we actually pay wages or taxes or anything. That’s what’s so great: Nobody is paying attention to us anymore, and everyone is focused on Morsy and “the Ikhwanization of the state”. Oh how I love journalists and political analysts. They really do believe anything we tell them.

Unfortunately we will have to sustain some damage for a while, with people continuing their tradition of making legends about us and believing them to be true. Like how we are getting infiltrated by the Brotherhood for example, which completely ignores that 75% of all armed forces men come from outside of Cairo and Alex, and many of them have some seriously conservative religious point of view. Or how they believe that we will be affected by them, completely ignoring that we are with whomever is in charge. We were socialists under Nasser, capitalists under Sadat and Mubarak and we have no problem becoming islamists under Morsy, just as long as he doesn’t actually think that we will fight in any wars any time soon. But I am expecting people to continue making theories about how “SCAF” is doing this or the “Deep State” is doing that, like there is an entity that actually plans and really works in Egypt. Like we don’t have Egyptians running this Institution. Oh well, let them entertain themselves. The best analysis I’ve heard lately was that us going back to the shadows is to have morsy be totally responsible for the sad state of this country; like, Idiot, isn’t that what you wanted in the first place? To end military rule? Why are you complaining? Freakin political analysts. They are the worst.

Either way, I hope all is well with you and your kids, and please don’t forget to call every now and then. And don’t worry about Tantawy and Anan, they are ok with this: they get to keep all of their money, and enjoy it, and not go to prison. It’s an excellent deal, really. Why would they be mad?

Oh, and before I forget: regarding that thing you asked me about, we did investigate your suspicions regarding Mohamed Abu Hamed, and you were right: he is an alien. From Mars, we think. We are checking it out. Will keep you informed.

Sincerely Yours,

Abdel-Fatah El-Sissi

Minister of Defense of Egypt

Reconciliation

Right now, we have an Egyptian President who holds the executive powers, the legislative powers, power over the military, and the power to veto the drafted constitution or create another constitutional committee if he wishes. If this alone wasn’t disconcerting enough, let’s add to it the fact that there is no organized opposition to him, he seems intent on continuing the time-honored tradition of hiring loyalist unqualified hacks and lackeys for important government positions, he doesn’t seem to have any intentions of being democratic or even create a government out of the coalition that he created, with his supporters viscously attacking anyone who criticizes him, sometimes with religious overtones.

One would think that such a president must have a huge mandate to be able to pull this kind of crap on all of us, but surprisingly enough, he doesn’t. He won with 51% , with almost half of his votes coming from secular revolutionary voters who simply didn’t want Shafiq to win. In reality, if someone did the math, one would realize that at least 17 million of the 25 million voters who voted in the presidential elections did not vote to have the Muslim Brotherhood take over the shaping of the Egyptian post-revolution state, and actually belong on the secular side. The Problem is, this secular majority is so divided amongst revolutionaries and Shafiqistas, that a reconciliation, despite its utterly logical necessity at the moment, is completely out of the question. Why? Only two reasons: perspective and political symbols.

Let’s start with the perspectives problem, and outline the 3 major points of contention: 1) The Mubarak state, 2) presidential elections and 3) character, and tackle them one by one. Shafiqistas believe that a corrupt and possibly murderous state is better than having no state, since they believe correctly that millions would suffer at the absence of state institutions, and incorrectly that such a state can be reformed with time, while Revolutionaries believe that no state is better than having a corrupt and murderous state, and that such a state would need to be brought down and rebuilt correctly for the sake of our long-term benefit, even if in the meantime millions end up suffering the absence of what little state they had. Shafiqistas will not forgive that revolutionaries have chosen to invalidate their votes or vote for Morsy in the second round of the presidential elections instead of voting for Shafiq, while revolutionaries will not forgive Shafiqistas for voting for Shafiq in the first round of elections instead of Sabahy, or Amr Moussa or even Abulfotouh. Shafiqstas believe that it should be apparent for anyone by now that the revolution was a mistake, and that the revolutionaries are too cowardly to admit this, while revolutionaries believe that the revolution was right and had to happen regardless of the consequences, and that the Shafiqistas are too cowardly to face our problems, hence why they always supported security forces oppression as a solution to our countries ills, instead of fixing them, which brought on the revolution. In conclusion, Shafiqistas are pragmatist realists to a point that is unacceptable to revolutionaries, and revolutionaries are Utopian idealists to the point of naïveté to Shafiqistas, and both sides believe that the other side owes them an apology and should uncompromisingly adopt their point of view immediately. Did I also mention that both sides are silly? No? Well, they are. Ridiculously so.

Both sides are silly because their point of contention doesn’t matter anymore, and what unites them is so much more than what divides them. The argument over the state is moot, because we live in a Mirage state and in reality no longer have one, so, the focus should be how to build it right this time around and not over who dropped the ball. The argument over the presidential elections is stupid because they are over, and if we are truly democratic, we should be able to respect each other’s choices and not hold it against them now. As for the Character debate, well, besides the ridiculous notions that each side has about the other, if you are serious about loving this country and rebuilding it, you need both. You need utopian idealists and pragmatic realists if we hope to make something of this mess we call a country. We don’t live in Switzerland. We have so many problems one doesn’t even know where to begin, and we are stuck in this country together. And here is where we agree: We want a state that respects all of our rights, one where government services function, one where corruption doesn’t rule supreme and where the arts are not considered satanic distractions. We want a country that we can be proud of and that has a future. But If this is the case, why can’t we reconcile?

Well, we can’t reconcile primarily for the second reason: Our symbols. Both sides are not only silly mirrors of each other when it comes to organization or personal beliefs so strong they border on demagoguery, but also when it comes to our political symbols and leaders: They all suck. Reconciliation is a process that requires both sides to have mature respectable political leadership, which is lacking for the revolutionaries and the Shafiqistas. The revolutionaries symbols are big on platitudes, but have no real experience or solutions beyond theoretical ones and are too cowardly to take risky stands, and Shafiqistas symbols are so nonexistent, that they have to pretend that people like Okasha, Abu Hamed and Mostafa Bakry are respectable representations of them, which they are not, but it’s all they have. It should go without saying that those symbols and leaders, on both sides, should be retired by their respective audience due to their utter failure to do something productive, but for some odd reason this is not happening, and hence our current state of limbo.

But here is a thought: maybe we shouldn’t push for reconciliation just yet, but support things that are in our common benefit, like pushing for the next elections law to have a nation-wide closed-list voting system. Under this system all of Egypt would be considerd one district, with each party offering a list of 500 names, and based on the total votes nation-wide a party receives, they are allocated a proportional amount of seats in the parliament. This would ensure that every vote everywhere counts, and give people the freedom to vote for whomever they truly support, instead of having to compromise and vote for the least evil in their district, like the current system demands it. Think about the voting results for the presidential elections in the first round, and imagine if each candidate represented a party, and got allocated seats in parliament based on their total votes, and then ask yourself this: how appealing would such a parliament be, compared to the alternative? The first round showed that Islamists have 35% maximum of the vote, but due to superior organization and districting, they manage to beat everyone else. Let’s put an end to this, and have a voting system that leaves no vote behind, no matter if you are a revolutionary or a Shafiqista or anyone else for that matter. Let every faction get equal representation to its side first, and then we can worry all we want about reconciliation.

 

Entropy

Take flight, and bid your little kids farewell. Travel to mystical, magical , dry lands of Sinai, where good and evil greet you with the same face and the same smile. Stand where the rivers of life have gone dry and rivers of blood now flow. Twenty Egyptian officers and soldiers, gone, on the hands of idiots who strive to make a point with death. Pass by the tanks stolen by Jihady salafis, and the apache birds piloted by jews that shot them down, all the while the ruling heads of Cairo still live in denial, not able or willing to confront the reality of their situation, while an old dog sits, looking sad, pensive and alone, reflecting the mood of an entire nation.

Explore our magical skies, and try to avoid getting shot down by stray bullets that are being shot by neighbor to kill neighbor, all over this blessed land. Two families in Alex engage in street warfare, with the news of the apartments getting burned raises more eyebrows than those of human casualties. A smug and cursed cornice that hasn’t seen its share of blood in a while, sits back and enjoys the Dickensian scenes of the attack by the Ramlet Boulaq denizens on the Fairmont Hotel , with the police showing up with their uniforms off, wearing wife-beaters and double strapped guns, mimicking Hollywood action fantasies, with tear gas canisters and cars on fire give the whole thing an apocalyptic flair. A village in upper Egypt turns against itself over a burned shirt and conflicting prophets, enacting a scenario that repeats over and over, while what must be a case of collective amnesia causes people to act shocked and wonder what went wrong. Never stop your flight to look, because soon enough, you will see something similar, and if you have seen one you have seen them all.

Pass by the city of the sun, where the President who hails from a secretive and old Islamic order is fumbling on cameras, offering no sense of comfort, confidence or inspiration to a nation in worry, who have sat there and watched him pardon friends & holy warriors not much different than those who have caused the carnage in Sinai, while leaving other innocents in jails to rot. His day started with communiqués from brownnosing governors who were congratulating him over the anniversary of the Badr battle, and plans to grace us on TV for the last ten days of Ramadan, to talk to us about religion instead of actually doing his job. This piece of news wrinkles the jittery nerves of his opponents, who are convinced that the country is heading towards Iran due to such shenanigans, all the while totally ignoring that the country is heading in a completely different direction that is entirely Godless.

Land on the branches of a tree and watch the streets getting filled with drug dealers operating in impunity, and lost boys believing their weapons make them men. Observe while an entire street culture comes out of nowhere, with its own language, music, dance and rituals, like a rising tide that will flood the country and flush it from years of synthetic and borrowed overproduced trash. Say a prayer to those young street warriors who no vice Police can control, and for the souls of those well-meaning bearded ones who will try and find it their end. Recognize that you are living the greatest days of history, and that you are witnessing something greatly remarkable, if you can accept the horror that comes with it.

The Americans always said that an armed society is a polite society, but that idiom is getting challenged by the sons of pharaohs, who are now armed to the teeth and not intending to be polite any time soon. While intellectuals sit back and argue that they are smarter and know better than to bear arms themselves, you recognize that in any battle between ten astronauts and ten cavemen, the cavemen will always win. That’s the history of civilization, where the barbarians were always at the gate, on both sides. You sit back and think: Screw you Marquez, you could never write anything as insane as what we are going through as a country right now. We are making history, again, despite our deepest and most sincere wishes not to, or at least not like this.

Oh well…

I am getting a gun. I suggest you get one too.

January vs. July

On the 60th anniversary to the 23 of July revolution, I like to think about the man who actually made it happen: Officer Yusef Sediq. Yusef was a communist member of the Free Officers movement who actually went and took over the Egyptian army’s headquarters, shooting tow soldiers in the process and imprisoning the army’s leadership, a full hour before Nasser and the rest of the movement started. If you are not familiar with this man and his story, don’t blame yourself: Nasser and his compatriots made sure to erase his contribution from the official history books, partly because it would tell people how to actually stage a similar revolution, and partly because they threw Sediq in the Gulag in 1954 for demanding the return of democracy to Egypt, and then kept him in house arrest until he died in 1975, the same fate that has befallen the other believer in democracy in the 1952 revolution, General and ex-President Mohamed Naguib.

The fact that the average Egyptian doesn’t know about Sediq’s story is due to the fact that it’s completely absent from the history books they thought us in school on purpose. Actually, there isn’t much that they thought us about the 1952 revolution in our history classes, apart from that it took place, and that everyone was seemingly happy about it and its achievements, from free education to land reform to the High dam. However, the 1952 revolution and its leaders had a huge effect on all of our lives, in ways most people don’t even imagine, and all of them were negative. So today, I will name my main issues with that revolution, and hopefully it will shed some lights on way the participants of the January 25 revolution believe their revolution was brought to end the 23rd of July one, and the concept of military rule.

The 23rd of July revolution ended democracy: One of the revolution’s first and longest-lasting achievements was the destruction of the concept of democracy in Egypt. It cancelled Parliament, dissolved parties, threw anyone whom they viewed as a political threat into prison, established the notion of strong-man rule that shouldn’t be opposed, questioned or challenged, a tradition that was carried by Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak. Even after Sadat brought back parties, they were not allowed to be anything other than the approved cartoonish opposition, a tradition that Mubarak carried through throughout his 30 years in power. This is why most parties , whether created before or after the January 25 revolution, are limping and unable to establish themselves in the Egyptian political scene today.

The 23rd of July revolution ended diversity: The 23rd of July revolution dealt with everyone in Egypt with the paranoid and xenophobic eyes of the military, viewing everyone who isn’t their definition of a pure-blood Egyptian as a spy/traitor at worst or an unwelcome intruder at best, a mindset we still suffer from to this day. Before the 1952 revolution Egypt was a hotbed of diversity, where people from various points of origin and religious backgrounds came here and co-existed peacefully. Once Nasser took power he first vilified the foreigners (Italians, Greeks, whatever) who lived here and forced them to leave, then vilified the Egyptian jewish population and also forced them to leave, a tradition that got carried through by his predecessors as well: Sadat was the first President to utilize a sectarian tone in Egypt, by stating that he is a Muslim President and that Egypt is officially a muslim country, and acting upon it, which started the process of Coptic migration out of Egypt, and Mubarak continued the sectarian tone with the Christian copts and added to it the vilifying of the Egyptian Shiites as agents of Iran. In a country where people of many faiths and origins were always welcome, the 23rd of July revolution and its aftermath had one message: Sunni Muslim Egyptians are the only true Egyptians, and everyone else is a second class citizen at best.

The 23rd of July revolution destroyed the arts: The 1952 revolution nationalized all film studios, music companies, recording studios, basically any means of production or distribution of music and cinema. It made all the actors into government employees (our Movie stars used to get monthly paychecks), and instructed them to make movies that were not political, offensive or dangerous to society (i.e. in opposition to their rule), which led to two decades of Egyptian cinema essentially creating the same love-story plot movie over and over again, sometimes adding a few bits of comedy, others heightening up the drama, but no one was allowed to create anything else until 1974, when the first private movie production company was allowed to be created, and even then the egyptian censorship board was there to prevent any movie whose idea was considered to be too daring or provocative to our military overlords. And despite of how bad this all is, it is nothing compared to what they did to the music industry.

Ever wonder why the pre-Jan 25 revolution music scene was populated only by pop musicians who only sang about patriotic songs or love songs? Or why you have very little information about the Egyptian music pre the 23rd of July revolution? Or why the stars of that era were AbdelHalim and Om Kalthoum? Or why very very few Egyptians know about Nadra, which was the queen of Arabic music before the revolution and the star of Ansohdet el Fouad, the first ever Arabic musical film, and whose talents so eclipsed Om Kalthoum’s that it was said that Om Kalthoum wouldn’t dare sit down in a room if Nadra was sitting? Well, mainly its due the fact that the officers decided that there is the right kind of art and the wrong kind of art, and the right kind was either patriotic or love-themed, and that they needed to create their own music stars – who were loyal to them- who would carry their messages in their songs, and completely sidelined or destroyed anyone who didn’t fit that bill. When Om Kalthoum went and reported to the officers that Nadra was against the revolution and pro the monarchy- for recording an old historic Othmani song that’s written for the Othman ruler-Nadra ‘s songs were immediately banned from playing on the radio and on TV and was not allowed to record another song after that. Also, her film reel was somehow lost and in the official music history books, it is now noted that ElWarda elBaydah was the first Arabic musical film, because it starred the regime-approved Mohammed Abdel Wehab. For at least twenty years no one other than regime-approved musicians could record anything other than regime-approved love or patriotic songs, which would then be broadcast in the regime-owned Radio (The only person who managed to escape this was Sheikh Imam, but mainly due to the fact that he was adopted by leftists activists, who made sure that his music survived those years). Even after the invention of the cassette tape and the private recording companies, the government still controlled the radio waves and wouldn’t allow the broadcasting of anything other the set criteria, and any other form of music was relegated to either Nighclubs or private recordings, but never the radio. The insanity that someone like Mohamed Adaweya would spend years unable to broadcast his songs on the radio, even though millions of Egyptians listened to him and bought his tapes, was never questioned, and still isn’t. Until this day, a year and a half after the revolution, we are still unable to listen to any kind of Arabic music on our radios except love songs or patriotic songs. The moment you hear DJ Amr Haha instead of Cairokee on the radio, that’s when you know that the radio waves got liberated.

The 23rd of July revolution ended government transparency: In the Egyptian state, there is an institution that got created in the days of Mohamed Aly that’s called the Hall of records, where every piece of government issued decision or paper was archived and accessible to the public, well, up to the 23rd of July revolution. Since that day, not a single piece of government paper was submitted or archived there, because the military regime believed that its affairs should be kept secret and away from public access. This not only ended government transparency, it also ended government accountability, and has kept the Egyptian people in the dark, till this day, as to how the affairs of their state are being run or how historic decisions- that are no longer secret- were even made. The importance of having those documents as part of the public record could not be overstated, not only for purposes of transperancy, accountability, or even academic history, but also to learn from historically bad decisions and to know our people. How insane is it that until this day we are not allowed to know the census information of Egypt, or how many Christians are there in the country? While the rest of the world was introducing freedom of information acts, some even going for open-meeting legislation that allow access to government meetings and not only records of them, our military-run government until this day resists the very notion of opening its books or archiving its documents.

The aim of the 23rd of July revolutionaries was to create a strong Egyptian state, and given that they were all military men who witnessed the armies of might super powers, they believed that military strength is the only way to make their country into a world power, and acted accordingly. They didn’t comprehend that the world powers were world powers not because they had advanced armies, but because their state had other foundations (social, political, cultural, economical) that made them strong and contributed to the strength of their military, and that without those foundations any state would be doomed to fail, the way theirs did over and over again.

This is why the 25th of January revolutionaries believe in their heart of hearts that their revolution came to end the 23rd of July revolution, because their values are in complete contradiction with each other. 23rd of July ended democracy and political life while the 25th of January demanded it; 23rd of July ended diversity and was xenophobic, while the 25th of January revolutionaries celebrates diversity and constantly battles the xenophobia; 23rd of July destroyed and controlled the arts, while the 25th of January has produced more inventive music and film in the past year and a half than the last 30 years combined; 23rd of July ended government transparency and accountability, the 25th of January happened as call for accountability and still demands transparency from the government in every decision it makes; And finally the 23rd of July revolution propped up and supported many regimes just like it (Assad’s Syria and Ghaddafi’s Libya for example), while the 25th of January revolution inspired the citizens of those countries to topple those regimes. To say that the 25th of January revolution is an extension to the 23rd of July revolution is an outright lie propagated by a military whose rule has ruined this country in every way and tries desperately to save its legacy. The only connection that the 25th of January revolution has with the 23rd of July one is that the latter drove the country so off-course, that the former had to happen to stop it.