After two-and-a-half years of multiple massive popular demonstrations, millions of Egyptians taking to the streets, alternating paths of revolution and counter-revolution, and thousands of dead and wounded, the only real change Egypt has witnessed is the switch from a Qatari sponsor to a Saudi patron. And, whenever the name of either of these two reactionary oil-rich Sheikhdoms is mentioned, it surely isn't to associate it with anything good. Will this be the final legacy of Tahrir Square? The great January 25th revolution was reduced to nothing more than a mere foreign policy dossier passed around from one tyrannical GCC handler to the next. The result was to nail the coffin tightly closed on a fleeting promise of real change, popular will, and freedom.
Yet, the crowds continue to roar against each other. The Egyptian uprising has dissolved into a series of intermittent, feuding mini-uprisings (or mini-civil wars, as is the case nowadays) on the streets of Cairo, each with the aim of eliminating the other. Importantly, none has the aim of ridding Egypt of the Camp David agreement--and therein lies the rub. The Israelis must be rubbing their hands with ecstatic glee right about now--and why shouldn't they? Egypt is on fire, but the flames are nowhere even near their precious peace treaty. Let the country burn to the ground and they'll set on top of its ashes.
To recall those early images of Tahrir square has become arduous. This was the beautiful revolution: the one we all saddled with overblown hopes and expectations; the one everyone tore apart, claiming to speak in its name and under its (confiscated) authority; the one that was weighed down with misplaced judgments and dogmatic assumptions; and the one we watched, despondently, wither away beyond recognition under our microscopic analysis and relentless scrutiny.
It was the purest revolution of them all, unblemished by UN Security Council resolutions or NATO's humanitarian interventions--a sectarianism-free revolution. But that was only until the Muslim Brotherhood rode on its back to power for a while. This development took everyone by surprise, as it required a slipping away from the razor-edged noose of foreign agendas--or so we theorized; and, later, it perished twice, once under the weight of political Islam (funded by Qatar) and again under the boots of the Military Generals (backed by Saudi Arabia). Now we know that in order to preserve a revolution you need to align yourself squarely and completely against deep-pocketed regressive Gulf monarchies. A tall order, it seems.
At first, we believed Egypt had experienced the perfect revolution. We thought it would get the country away from the stranglehold of the International Monetary Fund and the clutches of western imperialism; that it would end the Israeli-imposed blockade on Gaza; and that it would redeem the tragic loss of Iraq for the Arab World. But these proved to be overblown hopes
In time, we saw the revolution as not perfect "enough," and we reveled in exposing its inadequacies and shortcomings. It became a revolution that was not destined to live long past its symbolic victory of toppling Mubarak. We made sure it would suffer a slow, writhing death, rather than an honorable, quick one, and we began to curse it the moment the Arab Spring went ugly in Libya and horrific in Syria.
Then there was the June 30th revolution, the "reset" for developments in Egypt. The uprising to end all uprisings, the Muslim Brotherhood's fragile claim on power, couldn't hold the weight of its own acrid policies and ineptitude at home and abroad. Its errors were many: nurturing sectarianism; surrendering the entire country and its political will to the whims and deviant fancies of a tiny gulf oligarchy and its fanatical TV preacher; joining the West's coalition of the willing against Syria; and a bizarre attempt to transform Egypt into a potential springboard for Jihadi fighters looking to join in the fight against Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.
The Brotherhood's fall was inevitable, and, with its popularity at its lowest, massive demonstrations erupted demanding the downfall of President Mohammad Morsi. When the Egyptian military intervened, however, it unwittingly made a hero of an otherwise lackluster Morsi by detaining him, holding him incommunicado, and overthrowing his government with a prima facie military coup. The crowds at Tahrir Square cheered one last time, celebrated with an overkill of green laser beams, and then simply went home, giving credence to, and tacit popular approval of, the military's fast ascension to fill in the power vacuum.
In one fell swoop of half-revolution/half-coup-d'
The coup was akin to a much needed adrenaline shot through a political movement that was under a cardiac arrest. Energized and probably feeling like the jilted bride at the altar after the promise of future riches was blown away, the Muslim Brotherhood decided to fight back to regain its "legitimacy." A battle of sit-ins and counter sit-ins ensued between pro and anti-Morsi rival camps, and Mubarakites and remnants of the old regime went after the Brotherhood with a vengeance, spearheading a vicious witch-hunting campaign against the movement's members and supporters. In the blink of an eye, Mubarak's old draconian and militaristic measures against civilians were alive and well under the captaincy of General Abdel Fattah Al Sissi (the current de facto leader of the country), albeit this time neatly packaged with some sort of a "revolutionary" caveat. Denied due process, people were rounded up and incarcerated en mass, and torture reigned supreme as in the old days. Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers responded in turn by torching police stations, attacking security forces, and targeting the military's installations. At this point no one is talking about a revolution. The situation has quickly veered more toward a civil conflict in which one side is fighting to martyrdom for a lost "legitimacy," and the other--more ominously--is fighting "terrorism."
This is how you force a genuine revolution to self-destruct. All it takes is for one gulf despot to start throwing petrodollars around and, voila! a civil war erupts. It is a very familiar tale. We've had Libya, Syria, and post-Occupation Iraq. Now, as a sea of innocent blood flows in Cairo, the Saudis must be wearing a happily contented smile.
So, who's actually running Egypt now? The answer is glaringly obvious: It's Mubarak's security men...on steroids. You might call the ghastly massacres of Rabaa Al Adawiah and Al Nahda squares "Exhibit A," and days ago Mubarak himself was acquitted, walking out of Tora prison--and, perhaps soon again into the presidential palace?
The Egyptian revolution is coming full circle. Of course the Americans don't give two hoots whether the new ruler of Egypt is elected or not, whether he wears a suit or a military uniform, or whether or not he prays five times a day. It all comes down to his willingness to fulfill his role as the omnipotent master and guardian of the Camp David agreement. Other than that, it's all just smoke and double-talk--although it would be nice for them too to get a Mubarakite (or Mubarak himself) to rule the country, if only on the grounds that he's already been tried and tested.
Egyptians call their country "the Mother of the World." Well, this mother could have left her children all squabbling over power and slashed her wrists, and no-one would have cared--or even noticed when she decided to bleed herself out on her own pavements.
And she knows, because that's exactly what happened.