The Banality of Mohammed Abu al-Ghar’s Evil
The New Yorker has a brief piece on the views of Mohammed Abu al-Ghar, whom it describes as a lynchpin of Egypt’s liberals and emblematic of their support for the military. In it, he admits that he and other decision-makers contemplated the possibility of a substantial number of deaths from the very moment the decision was made to move against the protesters. But what kind of justification is given for this? He absurdly claims that Morsi was much worse than Nixon, and Americans refused to let Nixon complete his term.
The comparison is laughable for many reasons. First, Nixon’s own party had agreed to impeach him, while we knew in Egypt that Morsi’s party was behind him. The idea that Democrats would take to the street, and enlist the military in an attempt to remove an unpopular Republican president and risk lasting civil strife, is preposterous. Moreover, Egypt’s constitution allowed for impeachment of Morsi at the hands of the parliament. The fact that there was not a parliament to impeach Morsi, however, was largely the result of the stubbornness of Abu al-Ghar and his allies, who steadfastly refused to support conducting parliamentary elections, a stance that no doubt emboldened the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court to strike down parliamentary election laws twice.
Second, Nixon committed crimes against the political rights of his opponents by spying on them and breaking into their party headquarters, among other things (to say nothing of the thousands of people he killed in Vietnam and Cambodia, but given Abu al-Ghar’s casual attitude to the deaths of Morsi supporters, I suppose this was not a reason to be opposed to Nixon.) Perhaps he meant that Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood had illegally monopolized political life, banned other parties and shut down their newspapers, making democratic politics impossible. That, however, was not the case.
Unlike Mubarak and his military colleagues, who had made political life impossible by effectively prohibiting the formation of new political parties without the prior approval of the government, and had made elections a joke by widespread fraud and intimidation, Egypt had conducted five honest and fair elections since Mubarak resigned, elections which the Muslim Brotherhood won every single time, fair and square. There is no credible evidence that the Muslim Brotherhood intended, or had the ability even if it did so intend, to conduct fraudulent elections in the fashion of the old regime.
Abu al-Ghar’s party, the Social Democratic Party of Egpyt, had plenty of time to develop its own base of support, either alone or in coalition with other parties, and compete effectively in such elections. Parliamentary elections were around the corner, and had the opposition done well, they could have checked any of the alleged horrific plans that Morsi and his evil Muslim Brotherhood co-conspirators were said to be devising. Nonetheless, he and his colleagues, instead of availing themselves of the democratic means available to them to further the common good, conspired with the military, knowing full well that it could result in extreme social strife, death on a massive scale and quite possibly an end to Egypt’s brief experiment with democracy.
The important thing in all this, however, is that Abu al-Ghar probably has a more expensive art collection than Mohammad Morsi. We should no doubt keep that in mind and not judge him so harshly when we consider that he also has much more blood on his hands.
In any case, well played Mr. Ghar! You have taught narrow-minded Muslims an excellent lesson in liberal tolerance and respect for democratic norms.
And as for the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, it must first be democratic before it can be social. Until it does, it is just a fig leaf for the fascism now ascendant in Egypt. Yet again you and your colleagues have shown the world how banal your evil really is.