Assassinating Dreams in Egypt: Amr

Ahmed Amr writes in a guest op-ed for Informed Comment:

Nostalgia for more innocent times is a comforting refuge when hope is scarce. last week, as we inhaled a toxic dose of tear gas in Tahrir Square, we were all gasping for a resurrection of the spirit of the January uprising that led to the spectacular fall of the House of Mubarak. Many Egyptians would give their right arm to relive the spirit of the 18 glorious days that dazzled our collective imagination and filled our hearts with hopes and dreams of a new dawn for young and old.

The holding of parliamentary elections this week, under flawed circumstances, cannot assuage this longing.

Our spring dreams have been assassinated and we know the identity of the assassin.  

For nine long months, we have witnessed an undeclared but unrelenting war of attrition against the Egyptian revolution. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces led by Field Marshall Tantawi has executed one of the most brilliant counter-revolutions in modern history.  Even if Tantawi were to step aside today, history would have to accord him credit for accomplishing his mission and breaking the spirit of the revolution.  

Like any war of attrition, the desired outcome is to vanquish your opponent by exhausting him to the point where you break his will to resist. The day Mubarak fell, it was hard to imagine that the collective will of the Egyptian people could be broken. But in hindsight, it’s clear that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) put together and executed a brilliant blue print for wearing down the exuberance of the Egyptian masses.

On taking command of the ship of state, the SCAF promised to hold power for six months – just enough time to allow for free and fair elections. By that timeline, which passed unnoticed on August 11, Egypt was supposed to have a new president, a national assembly and a new constitution. That done – the army was to return to the barracks.

To say that the SCAF broke its promise would be a charitable understatement.   The hated emergency laws that were used to enforce the dictates of Mubarak’s regime were briefly rescinded, then reinstated and zealously enforced. Fifteen thousand civilians have since been tried and sentenced before military tribunals. The judges who looked the other way and sanctioned Mubarak’s rigged elections continue to infest the court system.  The vast media resources at the disposable of the state remain in the safe hands of the old guard.

Censorship is back and every journalist knows that the freshly painted red lines are wider than the old red lines. And, once again, the unrestrained hands of a vengeful police force have been unleashed on peaceful protestors.

At every junction of this nine month odyssey, the military junta has defied the public will. The SCAF insisted on keeping Mubarak’s appointed Prime Minister, Ahmed Sahfiq. Only a show of force by millions of demonstrators managed to convince them to appoint ministers untainted by links to the former dictator. And there was one minister who insisted on keeping his position – Field Marshall Tantawi – the 76 year old Minister of Defense, a stalwart Mubarak ally for two decades.

It took concerted public pressure to convince SCAF that Mubarak’s criminal file deserved the attention of law enforcement. When the generals finally conceded to put their old boss and a few of his cronies on trial, they also promised to televise the proceedings. But for unexplained reasons, the cameras were turned off and the trials have been postponed for months at a time on the flimsiest of legal grounds.

At first, it seemed that the generals were simply out of touch with public sentiment and clueless in the art of governing. But with the passage of time, it became evident that they had a deliberate policy of wearing down the revolutionary spirit. Their tactic was to grant concessions only under the duress of mass demonstrations and the predictable result was that the public gradually tired of disruptive million man marches. Simultaneously, the public airwaves, owned and operated by the SCAF, were deployed in a calculated campaign to erode the revolutionary spirit. The talk shows and news programs delivered a not so subtle message that the only fruit of the revolution was economic stagnation and a breakdown in law and order. As part of the effort to undermine the public’s embrace of the uprising, the government media stopped airing the popular video clip music that hailed the sacrifices of the hundreds of young men and women who gave their lives for the revolution.

As if the SCAF needed any reinforcement in their war of attrition against the popular uprising, the political class entered the fray and splintered into sixty odd factions, the largest one being the divisive Muslim Brotherhood which was happy to make back room deals with the generals. A week before the elections, you would be hard pressed to find a single Egyptian who can name ten of the five dozen parties vying for a share of the political spoils.

One of the few tangible gains of the revolution was the public’s right to peacefully assemble and protest. Even that hard won concession has gone with the wind – first with the slaughter of Coptic demonstrators in Maspiro and now with the lethal show of force in Tahrir.    

Today, Egyptians look to Tunisia’s recently elected government with envy. Brutal repression and the loss of thousands of lives have not eroded the spirit of the Arab Spring in Syria and Yemen. The Libyan revolution ended a few weeks ago and Tripoli already has a fully empowered civilian government in place. In both Libya and Tunisia, the military will answer to civilian masters. But in Egypt, under the skillful hands of a military dictatorship that has six decades of experience under its belt, the uprising has been contained, the old guard remains in charge and the revolutionary spirit has floundered.

As an eyewitness to both uprisings, I can testify that there is little of the euphoria or the universal public support that marked the overthrow of Mubarak. Once you exhaust a nation and cheat a people out of dreams as vibrant as the ones Egyptians shared on January 25, it’s hard to revive that revolutionary spirit again. That spirit was the essential fuel that could have propelled a democratic political renaissance, clean government and economic progress.  Whether Tantawi stays or goes, he has to take full credit for assassinating Egyptian dreams.    

Ahmed Amr is the editor of and the author of “The Sheep and the Guardians – Diary of a SEC sanctioned swindle.”

10 Responses

  1. I read that the Egyptian military controls something like 40% of the Egyptian economy. To think they are going to agree to give that up without a struggle is naive.
    In Iran, the Shah had lavished funds on the military and pampered them for decades, yet, within a short time after the Revolution, the military was thoroughly purged. How did they manage to do that? Can the same thing be done in Egypt?
    At the time Mubarak was overthrown it was stated in the media that the Army, unlike the police, was adored by the population, partly because they were perceived as having won a gigantic victory over Israel in 1973. Wouldn’t that have earned them credit and the trust of the population? So how can it be said that they “hijacked” the revolution if they were one of the most trusted insitutions in the state?

    • In any country some people might join the military officer ranks to serve the people. Those who advance through the the ranks are those who learn to serve the Generals. The Generals are also be serving the intrests of the people.
      Shezaam, such a system really works for the people and those in the military understand this otherwise they would not be in the military now would they?

  2. Can someone explain why the elections are being conducted in 12-rounds, over a period of four-month

    Egypt isn’t that big, 80M people, the vast majority of whom live along one river valley. Compare that with India’s 1,200M or Indonesia’s 235M over thousands of islands.

    Makes me very pessimistic and suspicious

  3. Just analyzing the dramatics around setting election dates would be interesting for readers to see. SCAF reneged on the 6 month time frame for elections but the military made it a non-issue by knowingly scheduling them too soon for the secular groups less organized than the Brotherhood, at least as I’ve read about it. That, the Israeli embassy take-over and running over Copts, indeed, were orchestrated brilliantly to divide domestically and scare internationally at a distance, with ‘clean hands’.

    One unexamined event was the taking of the Iraeli Embassy which seems about as credible as the Iranian Used Car Salesman Plot. What was te Administration’s role? DId the US really ‘wake up’ the Egyptian generals that the embassy was under attack from soccer thugs?

  4. Important lesson for OWS.

    It may well take years to make a change in the power structure.

    Some thought that OWS would be a short lived action, but it looks like it will persist because it is the only wide spread effort to challenge the power structure. The 99% is only exceeded by the 99.9%.

    It will be a long struggle. Here is a report today of the front lines of thought control here in the USA. Government employees speaking out against government actions are acted upon while crimes of finance and torture are ignored. The first part of this is by long term activist, and friend of Juan, Tom. Then an article by an ongoing action against the truth.

    link to

  5. In an English-speaking blog based in the United States, it is important not to let the United States and its president Barack Obama off the hook for Tantawi’s and the SCAF’s betrayal of the revolution and betrayal of the ideals of democracy and popular sovereignty over government and government policy.

    Tantawi was part of the Mubarak apparatus. There is no reason to think he was ever more independent or immune to US pressure than Mubarak was.

    But directly, the US successfully applied enough pressure on Egypt to ensure that Egypt continues the siege on Gaza and to ensure that the gas pipeline to Israel is repaired as quickly as humanly possible the many times Egyptians destroy it. Egypt, certainly at US urging, has also continued the Mubarak policy of keeping the terms of the pipeline trade secret.

    The US, Barack Obama, has substantial leverage over Tantawi’s government and chooses to use its leverage to support Israel while, at the very best, deliberately turning a blind eye to Tantawi’s anti-democratic policies.

    A blog based in the United States should be careful not to present Tantawi as an independent monster. If there is an independent monster, it is the one most of the readers of this blog are able to vote for.

  6. @Don Utter – exactly my comment. The OWS forces are trying hard, but if and when the repressive power of the federal government is turned upon them – perhaps utilizing the military as well as “civilian” security forces – the prospects are grim. Arnold Evans is correct – there is a force behind this counter-revolution, and it’s not Egyptian.

    Ray McGovern’s latest piece points out that long ago, the architect of containment, George Kennan, wrote that “We have about 50 per cent of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3 per cent of its population. … Our real task in the coming period is to maintain this position of disparity. … To do so we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming. … We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford the luxury of altruism. … We should cease to talk about vague, unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we will have to deal in straight power concepts.” See link to

    It’s pretty clear that the USG is determined to hang on to that disproportionate share of the wealth, at least for the 1%…and to protect Israel from the consequences of its policies, regardless of what it takes to do that. As Kennan said, forget those “unreal objectives” such as human rights.

  7. Looks like Americans are facing a similar impossible task just as the Egyptians are losing hope and massing strength for democracy to the strangle hold on elections and manipulation by Field Marshall Tantawi and his military.

    America is facing both the militarizing of the police forces and the strangle hold on election by the Republicans and Democrats.

    Is there any chance that Americans can vote out the corrupt Republicans and Democrates, that is vote in both third party candidates and a third party President?

    Or, do Americans urgently need to speak loudly and in mass to force Obama to change the election laws and processes so that third candidates can run, be on the ballots including the presidential ballot and win? Is it only possible if money is taken out of campaigning and elections?

    I’m political ignorant. I would appreciate answers.

    Most people I know have either given up or think that by voting Democrat they can help. I don’t believe there are any honest and true Demoacrat candidates that would represent and govern for 99% of Americans. Almost half of Congress are millionaires that don’t relate and/or are corrupt.


    • Does the US admin want the MB to rule Egyptians?? Another Islamic Republic of Egypt?? Is that the plan?? Why prefer religious radicals over seculars??

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