Monday, November 21, 2011

Egyptian Military Power Grab

Egyptian Military Power Grab - by Stephen Lendman


Last February, euphoric celebrations followed Mubarak's ouster. Across the Middle East and North Africa, people rejoiced.


Activist Saed Karazon told AFP:


"What happened in Egypt is not only for the Egyptian people, it is for all Arabs. The whole Arab world is going to change."


A month earlier, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled Tunisia for Saudi Arabia following weeks of violent protests. A Tunis student said, "It's wonderful. Two dictators have fallen in less than a month."


In Cairo, Egyptians waved flags, held banners, and chanted, "Yesterday Tunisia. Today Egypt, and tomorrow Yemenis will break their chains."


In fact, Yemeni and Bahraini "chains" brutalize street protesters daily - arresting, detaining, torturing and shooting them.


Through mid-November, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights said 1,500 are imprisoned, 40 killed, 180 lawlessly sentenced by military tribunals, and 90 journalists targeted for doing their job.


On November 7, Yemen Examiner.com's Jane Novak headlined, "Yemen: one thousand protesters in prison, many tortured," saying:


The Yemeni Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms (HOOD) said over 1,000 protesters "disappeared" incommunicado in prison.


HOOD Executive Director Abdul Rahman Barman said:


"(T)he number of imprisoned youths is on the rise, and the world must stand against the government for the sake of humanity. These youths are being tortured and attacked fiercely. Some leave government custody with their minds lost from the torture."


Washington and key NATO partners say nothing about daily Yemeni and Bahrini atrocities, as well as others committed regularly by despotic Arab League allies.


At the same time, they rail against Syria and Iran. Wanting regime change, they replicated Libya's model in Syrian cities. Perhaps Iran's next. The road to Tehran runs through Damascus.


They also support Egypt's military junta stranglehold on power, enforcing it by brute force. More on that below.


Since last winter, uprisings occurred in a dozen or more Middle East/North African countries. So far, Arab Spring hasn't arrived. Sustained struggle continues.


At issue is jobs, decent pay, better social services, ending corruption and repression, as well as liberating democratic change in a part of the world where poverty, unemployment and despotism reflect daily life for tens of millions.


Since military junta power replaced Mubarak, thousands were arrested, imprisoned, tortured, disappeared, and/or denied due process and judicial fairness in military tribunal trials.


Mubarak's gone but nothing changed. In fact, things got worse, including extreme brutality against protesters demanding change.


Despite upcoming November parliamentary elections, democracy's nowhere in sight. Military junta power's entrenched under the hated emergency law, making political opposition illegal.


Thousands renewed efforts to replace it. In recent weeks, new Tahrir Square demonstrations "reclaim(ed) the revolution." Anger rages against General Mohammed Tantawi's led Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).


People want power handed over to civilian rule. "Down with the rule of the military," some chanted. Others said, "We are the people. We are the red line."


Railroad worker Mohamed Abdel Azeem said, "We don't need a guardian to tell us how to write our constitution. The army is the people's institution, and (we) have the right to supervise it." Still others shouted, "Down, down with military rule."


On November 18, tens of thousands rallied on the "Friday of One Demand." Egyptians responded to SCAF's "supraconstitutional" principles, declaring junta power the guardian of "constitutional legitimacy."


They give military officials final say on policy, even after civilian parliamentarians (including a junta appointed prime minister) and president are elected under a process many fear will be rigged to include only SCAF favorites, or at least a strong majority.


Liberal and conservative political groups alike, including the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), expressed outrage, describing what they call a power grab. MB's Yasir Hamida said:


"My demand is that the document be cancelled. Enough. We are tired now. We thank the army, but it's time to transfer power and let parliament start organizing a constitution and get ready for a civilian state."


On November 18, New York Times writer David Kirkpatrick headlined, "Egypt Islamists Demand the End of Military Rule," saying:


Anger followed "the military council spell(ing) out for the first time its intention to preserve a decisive role for itself in Egyptian politics far into the future, elevating itself above civilian control and imposing rules," giving itself final say on policy.


According to Notre Dame Professor Emad Shahin:


"Each side is drawing a line in the sand over its future role in the political process." Egypt's military wants to retain power. Islamists and secularists want it checked.


Religious school teacher Mohamed Ibrahim said, "The people didn't sacrifice hundreds of lives in the revolution so that the military would jump over their will. If they can do that, what is the point of parliamentary elections?"


On November 28, parliamentary elections will begin. First, lower house People's Assembly members will be chosen in three phases. The upper house Shura Council will follow.


The manipulated process will last six months. A constitution will then be drafted, followed in 2013 by presidential elections.


The junta's 22-article "charter of principles" preempts civilian rule. It lets newly elected parliamentarians select only 20 of the 100-member panel appointed to draft Egypt's new constitution.


Others will be chosen by generals, junta connected judges and academic officials, and business representatives. In other words, everything will change but stay the same.


Notably, SCAF will retain power to propose and veto legislation, convene and adjourn parliament, appoint and replace the prime minister and cabinet members, keep its military budget secret, and have exclusive say on all military-related matters.


Last May, the London Guardian examined "The new Egypt: 100 days on." One article featured Human Rights Watch researcher Heba Morayef, saying "Torture and imprisonment of Egypt protesters still rife." At a time, people want change, they're getting more of the same.


On November 18, Guardian writer Jack Shenker headlined, "Egyptians return to Tahrir Square to protest against military junta," saying:


Rage was visible in Cairo, Alexandria, "as well as other towns in the Nile delta and upper Egypt." Ten months after Mubarak's ouster, people remain at square one, and nothing's planned to fix things.


Providing billions of dollars in military aid, Washington says nothing about generals retaining power nor SCAF atrocities to grave to ignore.


Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.


Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.


http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.