Monday, December 17, 2012

Egypt’s New Pharaoh

By Chris Hedges

"When Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned to Iran after 14 years in exile on Feb. 1, 1979, he set out to destroy the secular opposition forces, including the Communist Party of Iran, which had been instrumental in bringing down the shah. Khomeini’s declaration of an Islamic government, supported by referendum, saw him rewrite the constitution, close opposition newspapers and ban opposition groups including the National Democratic Front and the Muslim People’s Republican Party. Dissidents who had spent years inside Iran’s notoriously brutal prison system under the shah were incarcerated once again by the new regime. Some returned to their cells to be greeted by their old jailers, who had offered their services to the new regime.

This is what is under way in Egypt. It is the story of most revolutions. The moderates, who are crucial to winning the support of the masses and many outside the country, become an impediment to the consolidation of autocratic power. Liberal democrats, intellectuals, the middle class, secularists and religious minorities including Coptic Christians were always seen by President Mohamed Morsi and his Freedom and Justice Party—Egypt’s de facto political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood—as “useful idiots.” These forces were essential to building a broad movement to topple the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. They permitted Western journalists to paint the opposition in their own image. But now they are a hindrance to single-party rule and are being crushed.....

This revolution, like all revolutions, has called poor believers into the streets to battle the party’s opponents. The opposition is branded the enemy of the revolution and, more ominously, the enemy of Islam; the anti-government protesters, in the words of Morsi, are the stooges of foreign embassies and Israel. And the poor—the Lumpenproletariat—are only too happy to lend their services as shock troops in defense of sacred beliefs and the promised future of glory and bread. They already detested those they are now being rallied against. Once released by the state from traditional forms of restraint, the mob willingly becomes vicious.

The last three weeks of street violence presage a period of blood and repression. The opposition, which at first wanted to boycott the referendum, is mounting a beleaguered effort to defeat it. The lines are drawn. Morsi and the Brotherhood have been exposed as the heirs of the old dictatorship in new garb. The struggle for an open society is being waged by the betrayed on the streets of Egyptian cities. It will be a fight to the death. Brotherhood posters put up throughout Egypt in support of the pending constitution urge people to vote yes to “Supporting Legitimacy and Shariah [Islamic law].” Those who oppose legitimacy and Islamic law, it goes without saying, are heretics."

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