At least 95 people were killed and 874 injured, the country’s health ministry said, but the toll looked certain to rise as unrest spread from Cairo to other parts of the country. –NBC News, August 14, 10:46 AM EDT
It’s hard to get a handle on what’s happening in Egypt, but my sense is that all of this is deeply political in nature and intent. This is more than just a massacre, it’s a strategic massacre.
By cracking down so violently and indiscriminately on the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters, the military well knows it will initiate a cycle of retaliatory violence on the part of supporters, sympathizers, and opportunistic elements in the Sinai and elsewhere, who get blamed for being the Brotherhood even though there’s absolutely no evidence that they are.
My proof is both current and preemptive. First, the military has not, as journalist @SarahCarr pointed out, tried to protect Christian churches, which historically get attacked in periods of crisis. The military surely knew there would be reprisals against Christians who’ve been perceived to be in support of the coup (which disempowered a class of people long brutalized by the army.) Either the military didn’t care what happened to Copts, which based on the Maspero massacre is quite probable, or (maybe “and”) they wanted Copts to be attacked. Which is to say, they used them as bait.
This is not to deny that there are also hateful protesters who, whether motivated by Islam or some other cause, despise Christians and attack them and their churches. But where do Egypt’s Christians go from here? What kind of country will Egyptians wake up to tomorrow?
This is the pretext for military intervention. My preemptive proof? It’s more predictive. The military will use the resulting instability that emerges from its own violent crackdowns to belay democracy, arguing there can be no handover of power until Egypt is safe from its enemies, in a kind of long-war on terror that, like our own, can never end. (Indeed, you can only kill a people you’ve demonized, and that’s exactly what the military government has pushed state media to do since the June 30th coup.) For those sadly naive protesters who thought overthrowing the only elected government in their entire history, well, no such future is visible to me. I’ve been wrong before.
I hope I am. But I doubt it.
It’s hard to say what will happen here except that things will get worse. Probably a lot worse. The onus is now on Arab and Muslim liberals and secularists to reject violence, for too often have they turned to violence (rather, and more cynically, turned to others to employ violence on their behalf) instead of sharing power with peoples whose belief systems they’re terrified by. Over and over, it seems, liberal and secular forces prefer military dictatorship to democracy, which, with an Islamist majority or plurality, would not be a reproduction, in total, of their value system. But democracy, by its nature, demands compromise. State religious leaders must also take a stand against violence and for democracy.
Now. Sooner, rather than later.
Either you have a constitution that accommodates all significant political currents, however messily, or you have dictatorship; and though dictatorships feign stability, they eventually implode, in the manner of black holes, drawing in all those around them. The latest rumors indicate the children of senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders, as well as several journalists, have been killed; it is practically impossible to imagine any meaningful reconciliation now. Where before the demand was reinstating Morsi, what possible demands could there be at this point? And what expectation of their fulfillment? When I wrote more than two years ago that Egypt’s revolution wasn’t Islamic, I could have had no idea how comprehensively anti-Islamist it would turn out to be.
You have to hand it to the military. They survived two years of political instability and have come out on top yet again. The people and the army are one hand? In that case, the hand is holding a gun to its own head. Already, local and foreign journalists have been threatened, attacked, or even killed. (These include journalists from Reuters and Washington Post.) Numerous governorships have been filled with military officers instead of civilians. Meanwhile, the situation reveals the moral calculus by which we view the world. When Tahrir opposed military and police crackdown with force, many of us lauded them as heroic defenders of democracy. When those who, rightly or wrongly, feel their vote was taken from them, and either attack or defend these same authorities, this is taken to be illegitimate violence.
Either way, it’s to be expected, and we’d be quite naive if we imagined that security forces didn’t realize how this would all turn out. Or, indeed, they have gotten high on their own p.r. supply, and think they’re saving Egypt from problems their predecessors had quite the hand in creating.
Be sure to consider, too, in America’s reaction to the violence, that every Islamist movement across the world is paying close attention, shaken in their assumptions and sense of security, while jihadi movements likely feel themselves to be vindicated. Ayman al-Zawahiri had condemned the Brotherhood for deciding to take part in elections, and you can bet he, like so many other cynical actors, greets this bloodshed with glee, for it advances his vile and immoral ends.