I've made a mistake about the Muslim Brotherhood, thinking they are one and the same with Gemaat Islamiya. They are not. My reference to the Muslim Brotherhood was based on my knowledge about Gemaat Islamiya. I used the names interchangeably and that was an error. My concern that parties which do not represent the people of Egypt could take control still stands, but I am far less concerned about the Muslim Brotherhood than the article below states. I left the words because it would be confusing to read the comments otherwise. My apologies to the Muslim Brotherhood and thanks to those who brought my attention to my error.
After 30 years of dictatorship, the idea of an Egypt free from the reign of Hosni Mubarak is attractive to many. But removing Mubarak may not bring freedom, democracy or a better situation.
Image: screen shot from therealnews youtube video
We can learn from the bungled disaster of the Iraq invasion by George W. Bush and his neocon morons club. Instead of democracy and freedom, that invasion brought a thugocracy disrupting the fragile balance that had held Iranian and Shia fundamentalist power in check. Saddam was bad news but he also held many worse problems in check. What did it cost to get rid of him? Over a million Iraqi lives have been lost, millions have been displaced. The final outcome of the invasion will probably hand most of Iraq's resources over to China, Russia and transnational corporations. The net gain for the US is hard to say, even harder to see any benefits for America's middle class.
Egypt's bottom-up youth revolution is, of course, very different. But there could be some similarities. Taking down Mubarak's police state could produce an even worse situation.
Outside of Mubarak's power base, the largest, most organized power in Egypt is the Muslim Brotherhood, known as Gamaat Islamiya , described by Wikipedia as a group considered to be a terrorist organization by the US. There is some evidence that they were actually behind the assassination in 1981 of popular Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, which led to the installation of Hosni Mubarak. Gamaat Islamiya has called for Egypt to become an Islamic state with Sharia law. Operating underground, the Muslim Brotherhood has systematically attacked Coptic Christian Egyptians, stabbing, running them over with automobiles, raping the women, threatening families in efforts to force them to convert to Islam. This has been reported repeatedly by Christian Egyptians seeking asylum in the US.
Another factor emerging is there are hundreds and possibly thousands of prisoners being released. Hundreds of them are Muslim Brotherhood prisoners. Others may be members of crime groups or gangs.
Most of the protesters are young people, what with 60 percent of Egypt's population under 20. They know they want change and jobs and better opportunities. But one has to ask what kind of power net or base or system or organization is lying waiting, or has been built, waiting for Mubarak's regime to fall.
Chaos will surely ensue and then power will begin to aggregate. The Muslim Brotherhood is one nationally organized power base. The military is another. Perhaps there will be some gangs that hold some power. They could even kidnap family members of the heads of the military to grab power. The police seem to have disappeared at the time of this writing.
My point in writing this article is to raise the concern that the Egyptian people may need some help from the rest of the world if they depose Mubarak. One solution that has clear liabilities is for the Egyptian military to help the nation go through a legitimate process of democratically electing leaders. But we saw in Iran how fundamentalist Sunni forces, mainly powerful mullahs, used secular figureheads to gain power for their forces. Then the Mullahs killed or eliminated the secular people, once the Shah was gone.
Most of the world wants to see the youth revolution in Egypt bear democratic fruit. It is likely that it will be necessary to provide some gentle international help to achieve that outcome. Otherwise we may see a situation in Egypt like what we see in Lebanon, where Iran's fundamentalist Shia Hezbollah has taken over. Is that a democratic situation. It's hard to consider that when Democratically elected leaders have been repeatedly assassinated.
I'm no expert on the Middle East, but I've seen enough to know that things are never simple there and there are always lurking groups waiting to grab power. I'm sure that's a big part of the conversations going on at the White House and the State Department.
I'm very excited to see the bottom-up power of the masses standing up to and potentially toppling Mubarak the dictator, with all of his ensconced power. But the masses need their own leadership and bottom-up infrastructure. They need leaders. If the Egyptian people are lucky, the military leaders will give the people the space and time they need to find the leadership personnel and infrastructure to create a true democracy. That kind of luck may be amenable to external help. This is where the USA and the United Nations may be able to lend a benign hand. But providing that kind of help could be dicey since the help may be used by other parties to be spun into adverse framing. Imagine Islamic fundamentalist forces framing US help as anti-Islamic, "American Devils" talk. On the other hand, we know that the US has an ugly history of supporting dictators, so the Egyptian people would be wise to carefully scrutinize any helping "hand" the US offers.
The media of the world will have a role to play here. Al Jazeera has already played an important role, just showing the massive demonstrations, forcing the rest of the world's media to also cover them. This article raises some questions which I hope are reflected in the conversations the mainstream media explore.
All across the US and the world, people are gathering to demonstrate to support the Egyptian people. This is good. But we need to also come up with ways to help the Egyptian people so their revolution fulfills their hopes and dreams, so it is not stolen from them by another totalitarian regime, possibly one that is worse than the existing one.
I'm thinking that people like Jimmy Carter, people who have a track record of monitoring elections, of helping shepherd democracy, should be heading to Egypt.