To really know what goes on in the Middle East, you always have to look beyond the mainstream media. For example, when reporting on Egypt, American media has been all too happy to write off those protesting what is now obviously a repressive dictatorship as “Islamists”, even though not all Brotherhood supporters are Islamists and not all those protesting are even Brotherhood supporters.
The media’s narrative has been that the protests are a power struggle between Islamists (bad!) and the Military (slightly less bad!). But what’s really going on is people standing up to a dictatorship. And it deeply upsets me that so many Americans seem to be actively rooting against democracy, particularly as our government shows no signs that it will stop giving Egypt’s military over one billion dollars in aid a year.
Part of the problem is certainly that Egypt’s western-educated military leaders are really good at putting together a narrative for western eyes. The Egyptian military has spent the days since their massacre emphasizing how good they are at protecting minorities. Egypt’s defense minister has promised to rebuild all the churches that were damaged during last month’s protests, which inspired Fox News to run an article that is such blatant pro-military propaganda that it makes my head spin.
As Haroon Moghul and Sarah Carr pointed out, Egypt’s military doubtlessly knew their crackdown on protestors would lead to reprisals against Copts. Sadly, this has occurred in Egypt before and will again. Despite his knowledge, the military made absolutely no effort to protect Coptic Churches – they simply created an anarchic environment that would lead to violence, then denounced said violence as a product of their opposition. By the way, anti-Coptic violence has often been directly carried out by the military in the past. And yet despite all these things, the military’s claim to protect minorities has been uncritically picked up by many Western media outlets.
So that’s why I’m glad that a few outlets are actually interested in reporting what happened in Egypt instead of reiterating information from the AP.
Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Lina Attalah reported for Democracy Now!, and managed to actually gave us some facts on the ground. Here are just a few:
- The attack on protestors came without warning, as Egypt’s military bulldozed the barricades that the protestors had set up.
- Three journalists are dead at the hands of the military.
- The only member of the interim President’s cabinet generally thought to not be in the pocket of the military has resigned in protest.
- A medical facility was set on fire, and the military may have tear-gassed a hospital.
- Perhaps what is the most harrowing fact of all: Kouddous counted 230 corpses being kept in a mosque. To keep them for rotting on what was a hot day, people had set up fans and put ice on the corpses. It was not working well and the mosque smelled like “death.”
Meanwhile, the always-insightful Haroon Moghul wrote two long articles for Religion Dispatches, both of which are worth a read. In them he refers to the military’s massacre of more than 600 civilians as “a strategic massacre“, one that is intended to create more instability and thus justify further military intervention. He also slammed the media for their sympathetic coverage of the military, writing,
It’s as if we cannot bring ourselves to believe that people who wear suits and ties, go to beaches for vacation, put religion on the backburner, and otherwise say and do the “right things,” can be brutal, venal, narrow-minded and authoritarian.
Moghul’s article, “Why Egypt is America’s Enemy” also implores our government to immediately end all aid to Egypt’s military.
I’d say that would be a good starting point, but it’s unlikely to ever happen. The money we give Egypt’s military is effectively a pay-off : we give you cash, don’t bother Israel. The problem is, this cash, which came from our tax dollars, is being used to engineer a bloody coup.