(July 4, 2013)
A: When it is democracy.
Q: And when is democracy not democracy?
A: When you don’t like who won.A coup is a coup is a coup. The Egyptian people–that is, the half of the Egyptian people who are the anti-Morsi opposition–could have waited till the next election. That’s how democracy works. It doesn’t work with tanks rolling and jets screaming and soldiers arresting hundreds of people whose names are on carefully prepared lists. Arresting them on political charges, that is, what they did legally under the constitution is suddenly illegal because the military says so. Nor does democracy work when the military seizes television stations and pulls their news coverage off the air, or when it prevents a newspaper from printing. It can’t work with any of these things happening. Let’s not get carried away calling a military coup a victory for the people. It is a coup d’etat, pure and simple. A government is elected. The military removes the government, arrests the leaders, shuts down any media that opposes it. If you can explain how this is not a coup I’d love to hear it.And what if the Muslim Brotherhood wins the next election? Another coup? Or will they be banned from running? Democracy is such a messy business. Thank god for generals.
OK, I misspoke. I said another coup. I meant another not-a-coup. The UnCoup. This was the 7-Up to Pinochet’s cola. The difference is that Pinochet was a vicious fascist of the worse sort while this thing yesterday in Egypt was, I’m told, one of these coup-like things that is actually democracy, but without all that voting nonsense. Think Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution, and the new President is Egyptian Vaclav Havel. Except that the Czechs overthrew a communist dictatorship forced upon them by Stalin in 1947 (and again by his Stalin’s successors in 1968). And Vaclav Havel was elected, in accordance with a brand new constitution. Much like Morsi was. Not that I’m comparing the two men. But they were both elected democratically, within the respective system.
I’m told I’m confused, it’s not a coup, and you can’t believe the western media sources who keep insisting it was a coup. That it was democracy. in action. But what if I believe Al Jazeera, who are not a western media source.They called it a coup. And the Egyptian military yanked them right off the air. So am I supposed to believe the social media, or Al Jazeera? Was it good that Al Jazeera was taken off the air, along with several other Egyptian television news programs and a newspaper? Though to be honest, Al Jazeera wasn’t pulled off the air for calling a coup a coup. They weren’t given the chance. They were on the military’s list of media outlets to pull off the air. The military knew that Al Jazeera, being honest journalists, would call a coup a coup. And a free press is a dangerous thing when double think is called for. War is peace, you remember from your high school Orwell, and freedom is slavery. Well this was nothing that scary and far-fetched, but still, calling a coup democracy is doublespeak if I ever heard it. And Al Jazeera was not going to say a coup is democracy.
I read all the commentary on Facebook and Twitter and I’ve seen some amazing and spontaneous websites on Egypt that have popped up like mushrooms after a spring shower. They are all so passionate and excited. Yet none can explain away how the military overthrowing a democratically elected government is not a coup. I read their complaints about the Morsi government–which really was proving itself utterly incompetent and even repressive in some ways–but I keep thinking that they should have tried to defeat Morsi in the upcoming election. As planned. Following the processes laid out in their brand new constitution. That’s how democracy works. Cheering on the military as it arrests the current government is not how democracy works. Ever.
And you know, there is nothing that prevents the same Muslim Brotherhood from winning the next presidential election. What then? The Muslim Brotherhood was the only cohesive political organization in the country. They’ve been around for nearly a century. The opposition has virtually no organization. Just some barely organized parties, most of whom seem to spend all their time fighting with one another. If they can’t somehow get organized they will keep losing elections. That’s a basic rule of politics. A fact of life. You can talk all you want but if all you do is talk you’ll lose elections. And keep relying on the military to undo the results for you.
This is close to the same situation as in Turkey….a conservative electorate voted in an Islamic government. The military stepped in and kept them from power. After a spell new elections were scheduled. The muslim party won again, and the military is itching to remove them. We’ll see how the protests run in Istanbul. If they undermine the government, it’ll be a military dictatorship again. Facebook won’t know which way to turn. It doesn’t do tragic irony well. There’s no Like-but-I-don’t-Like button.
Democracy in the Islamic world means Islamic parties can win elections. This is why American conservatives are so down on the Arab Spring. They prefer military governments remain in control. Which, ironically, means that they and the Occupy people finally agree on something. It’s also ironic hearing people professing their love of the Fourth Amendment in this country while defending a military coup in another. Please like my I Love Military Rule page.
I’m not saying deposing the Muslim Brotherhood was not necessarily a good thing. But let’s cut the doublespeak crap and call it what it is….a military coup. This is pure realpolitik here, and it shouldn’t be dolled up in pseudo-democratic finery to make us all feel better. As for the Egyptians, they’ll regret it when the army moves in and takes out the next government it doesn’t like. That same army will begin shooting down pro-Morsi protesters soon. What then?