The Eye of the Fish

August 20, 2013

Egypt, Libya, Egypt again

History, never repeats, sang the Split Enz, except that it does repeat, all the time. Time after time after time, humankind ends up doing exactly the same things that our grandfathers did, and follow exactly in their footsteps, only to crash and burn, just like their fathers did.

The world seemed to sing out in agreement with the removal of Hosni Mubarak, and then the toppling of Gaddafi, allowing the people of Egypt and Libya to have a chance to rule themselves. Nobody likes a mad power-crazed dictator, and Gaddafi at least certainly filled that bill. But Mugabe, the maddest, most ancient, and most power crazy of all, still somehow manages to hoodwink the public back into voting him in again. And when the craze for deleting dictators spread to Syria, it all turned to custard. And now in Egypt, it’s custard all over again.

I don’t personally know anyone in those countries, although friends of friends do. I have no way of telling what in truth is really going on, and whether all those nice young men on the telly really are as nice as they seem. Certainly, I doubt that the Muslim Brotherhood being swept to power would be a good thing for the sizable numbers of Christians remaining in Egypt or Syria. Already we hear reports of churches being torched by one group of protestors, and then mosques being shot up by other groups. All the time it’s young men – too much testosterone, too hot summer, and massive unemployment never bode well for political stability.

What I care most about though, is the architecture. I held my breathe during the uprising in Libya, as it is home to some of the best-preserved Roman ruins in the world, like Leptis Magna, in the desert of Libya. Tripoli itself is founded by the Romans, but has become (or, had become) a modern city, although now I think it is bombed to hell. Syria has architectural treasures as well, with Damascus being, apparently, an absolute jewel in the crown. And Egypt, of course, has priceless treasures of antiquity, the architecture of the ancients, that could all be obliterated at the pull of a trigger. We haven’t yet got the situation of Afghanistan, where the religious fanaticism of the Taliban destroyed the giant Buddhas, that had remained undisturbed for thousands of years, but it only takes one step, and the Nile could lose its allure.

Actually, it already has – tourism used to be Egypt’s highest earner, but with the civil war there raging on, it will take years for tourists to show their heads again, and so, right now, all those ancient treasures are worthless, at the same time as being priceless. And the international market looks on, and cares not, and plans for the day that anarchy rules, and thieves can break in and steal to order.

It’s what happened in Iraq, when Saddam Hussein, mad power crazy dictator got cornered, invaded, and ultimately killed. So called looters ran amok in the streets, broke into the Baghdad museum, and stole ancient treasure to order, spiriting it out to wealthy foreign buyers in Europe, Asia, America, while the American GI troops stood by and watched, doing nothing to secure the doors. All gone now, ransacked to order. History, destroyed.

What better place to burgle than the Egyptian Museum, full of priceless artifacts from the past? I’ve been there once before: cabinet after dusty cabinet of gold trinkets of the god-kings, the wealth of the Pharoahs, tempting on display. The architecture too, 3500 BC and yet it can be destroyed in a second by an angry mob or a non-caring mortar round. The world’s media is focused on the plight of the humans involved, the meat and bone of the young foolish men that throw themselves at the barricades. Humans are temporary – we live, we die, the world moves on. Architecture, however, can live forever.

20 - 08 - 13

Happening already:

21 - 08 - 13

today from DomPost :
“Editorial: Democracy shot in Egypt
Last updated 05:00 21/08/2013

“In the days immediately after the military seized control of Egypt it was almost possible to discern a coherent thread in the justifications offered for its actions.

Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first democratically-elected president, had lost the confidence of the people, his Muslim Brotherhood was acting in an undemocratic fashion and religious freedoms were under threat. In expelling Mr Morsi from office, military commander General Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi was simply implementing the will of the people.

However, anyone who thought that has surely been disabused of the notion by events of the past few days.

No amount of honeyed words from the military or its apologists in the diplomatic service and the state-controlled media can disguise the truth.

When Egyptian soldiers confronted protesters at two Cairo sit-ins last week hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members were needlessly slaughtered. General Sisi heads a murderous regime that is attempting to quell political opposition by shooting those who dare to challenge its actions.

The Muslim Brotherhood is not the West’s cup of tea. It is a repressive, medieval organisation that advocates Islamic law and seeks to proscribe what women can wear, what roles they can play and where they can go. It, too, would take Egypt backwards.

But unpalatable though it may be to Western eyes, there is no avoiding the fact Mr Morsi was elected president last year. In a democracy, the way to overturn an unpopular government is not to march the president out of office at the point of a gun, murder his supporters or shut down dissenting newspapers and radio and television stations. It is to stand for election and defeat him, or her, at the ballot box.

Last month’s military takeover was not an attempt to defend democracy as General Sisi has laughably claimed. It was an old-fashioned grab for power.

After a brief interregnum the military has once again taken control of Egypt. The hopes engendered by the Arab Spring have been dashed. But worse, old enmities have been given new life. The killings and arrests have widened the divisions between the Western-influenced Egyptian establishment and the religious fundamentalists who believe Egypt should be governed in accordance with Islamic principles. The bitterness will fester for generations.

The question for the West is whether to turn a blind eye to the excesses of a military regime with which it has long done business, or whether to stand up for principle. It should do the latter.

Until Egypt has a legitimate government it will never be a stable force in an unstable region.

United States President Barack Obama has attempted to hedge his bets by cancelling a planned joint military exercise but refraining from calling the ousting of Mr Morsi what it is – a military coup. If he did, the US$1.3 billion (NZ$1.6b) in military aid the US provides to Egypt each year would automatically cease.

He should get off the fence. Western equivocation is only emboldening an embryonic dictator.

– © Fairfax NZ News

23 - 08 - 13

But for an alternative viewpoint, Gordon Campbell writes on Scoop:
“….Egypt is struggling to meet a financing gap of perhaps $20 billion a year, made worse by the collapse of its major cash earner — the tourist industry. Malnutrition is epidemic in the form of extreme protein deficiency in a country where 40% of the adult population is already “stunted” by poor diet, according to the World Food Program. It is not that hard to get 14 million people into the streets if there is nothing to eat at home.

Nearly half of Egyptians are illiterate. Seventy percent of them live on the land, yet the country imports half its food. Its only cash-earning industry, namely tourism, is in ruins. Sixty years of military dictatorship have left it with college graduates unfit for the world market, and a few t-shirt factories turning Asian polyester into cut-rate exports. It cannot feed itself and it cannot earn enough to feed itself….Someone has to subsidize them, or a lot of them will starve. Unlike Mexico, Egypt can’t ship its rural poor to industrial nations in the north.

Egypt’s people embraced the military because they remember that the military used to feed them. In fact, the military probably can alleviate the food crisis, because — unlike the Muslim Brotherhood– Egypt’s generals should be able to count on the support of Saudi Arabia.

So much then, for Egypt’s brief shot at democracy-without-bread. So much for hopes of Egypt regaining its former status in the Arab world. The Army intervention – and the over-arching economic crisis – has plunged the country back into Mubarak era military repression, and into a client state role with respect to its paymasters in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Washington. The Muslim Brotherhood is not its biggest problem, and never was.”

26 - 08 - 13

Curiously, virtually no comments on here yet. It can’t be that no one cares about what is going on over there – surely – daily atrocities in the Middle East, with last week’s mass gas poisoning of hundreds of small children – totally appalling, and I’m just so glad that I live nowhere near that part of the world. However, burying my head under the sand isn’t going to make it go away. There’s still the basic problem of too many people, too many religions, and too many stupid young men. Castrate the lot of them! (surely that would get some cvomments…?)

Seamonkey Madness
27 - 08 - 13

Carry On Cairo!
Put Yakkity Sax over sped-up news footage of the fighting and you can almost ignore the horror of it.

And yes, it’s certainly gone tits-up in Syria. The US and military action – will they/won’t they?

Seamonkey Madness
29 - 08 - 13