The new Mubaraks: Egypt’s military rulers try to strangle the revolution

The New York Times reports:

The military council governing Egypt is moving to lay down ground rules for a new constitution that would protect and potentially expand its own authority indefinitely, possibly circumscribing the power of future elected officials.

The military announced Tuesday that it planned to adopt a “declaration of basic principles” to govern the drafting of a constitution, and liberals here initially welcomed the move as a concession to their demand for a Bill of Rights-style guarantee of civil liberties that would limit the potential repercussions of an Islamist victory at the polls.

But legal experts enlisted by the military to write the declaration say that it will spell out the armed forces’ role in the civilian government, potentially shielding the defense budget from public or parliamentary scrutiny and protecting the military’s vast economic interests. Proposals under consideration would give the military a broad mandate to intercede in Egyptian politics to protect national unity or the secular character of the state. A top general publicly suggested such a role, according to a report last month in the Egyptian newspaper Al- Masry Al- Youm. The military plans to adopt the document on its own, before any election, referendum or constitution sets up a civilian authority, said Mohamed Nour Farahat, a law professor working on the declaration. That would represent an about-face for a force that, after helping to oust President Hosni Mubarak five months ago, consistently pledged to turn over power to elected officials who would draft a constitution. Though the proposed declaration might protect liberals from an Islamist-dominated constitution, it could also limit democracy by shielding the military from full civilian control.

The Associated Press reports:

The military, which was greeted with cheers when it pushed out longtime president Hosni Mubarak in February, has proclaimed its embrace of the revolution and democratic elections later this year. But protesters have returned to Tahrir Square, holding a sit-in since July 8, to complain that the military has hijacked the transition and has been reluctant to purge members of the old regime.

Reported abuses add a darker undertone to those complaints. There have been multiple reports of torture of detainees. To an unprecedented extent, the army has also been bringing civilians before military courts, notorious for their swift rulings with little chance for defense. In five months, more than 10,000 civilians have been put on military trial, including protesters, activists and at least one journalist who wrote an article critical of the army, according to rights groups tracking the detentions.

“The revolution has been stolen by the military council,” said Issam, the long-haired “Singer of the Revolution” who is known for rousing the crowd in Tahrir Square with political tunes on his Spanish guitar. “We made the revolution and we gave it to the military council on a silver platter. But everyone must know that we have learned how to say ‘No.'”

Issam seemed close to tears as he visited the Egyptian Museum in early July for the first time since his detention and recounted his ordeal to an Associated Press reporter.

He was among dozens grabbed by soldiers who broke up a March 9 sit-in in Tahrir protesting the generals’ slowness in implementing the revolution’s post-Mubarak demands.

Issam and the others were dragged to the nearby museum, the treasure trove of pharaonic antiquities that the military used as an impromptu base at times during the uprising. There, Issam says, he was beaten by wooden sticks and iron rods and given electric shocks. His hair was cut off with broken glass.

After a public outcry over that day’s crackdown, the council promised to review reports of torture, but no results of a review have been made public. It also admitted that some detained women were forced to take humiliating “virginity tests,” and it said the practice would not be repeated.

Amid the beatings, Issam recalled the warning shouted at him by one of the officers:

“We will make you know who are the real masters of this country.”

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3 thoughts on “The new Mubaraks: Egypt’s military rulers try to strangle the revolution

  1. Colm O' Toole

    A piece linked here the other day quoted the situation well from an Egyptian on the ground:

    “As many have been saying on Facebook, the relationship between the people and SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) is the same as the relationship between a wife and a husband who she knows is being unfaithful,” said Shady Alaa El Din, a demonstrator in Tahrir.

    “She tolerated it at first in an effort not to destroy the family and hurt the children, but eventually she realised the husband doesn’t really care about the family at all, so now she has dropped her act and is taking him on directly,” he added.

    “At first we lied to ourselves, we wanted to believe they were with us. But now the street has woken up and it is saying to SCAF ‘we are the rulers, and you follow our orders – not the other way round. We are the fucking red line, you do not cross us.”

    I thought that part summed up where things stand in Egypt regarding The People/The Military balance.

  2. Nemo

    Many of the Egyptian senior officers trained in the US; rest assured that throughout the upheavals they were receiving phone calls from their former training officers in the US.
    When it became clear to them (and the US) that Mubarak had to go, the plan then became how to limit the revolution.
    The Egyptian Army is a counter revolutionary force. If the people of Egypt are to be truly free, they must break the power of the army. It will have to be done one conscript at a time – separate the soldiers from the officer corp. Otherwise, it will be a bloody mess.

  3. Dieter Heymann

    Egypt, like the Prussia of times past, has long been an army with a country. I think that the principal worry of Egypt’s armed forces is its (once?) lucrative sources of income which it is unwillingto share with civilians. Meanwhile most MSM reporters which once gushed over “Democracy at Tahrir Square” have been told by their employers to cool it and cooling it they do. No more around-the-clock “latest news from Cairo!” The armed forces of Egypt which know the US press better than our nation knew that this was eventually going to happen. Moreover, Hillary is now too busy with Syria, Turkey, Libya, and Gaza to have any time for shaking her finger at the government on the Nile river.

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