Saturday, August 29, 2009

Response to the defender of the "Iron Hand"


In my last two columns, I tried to unearth the top hidden agenda of the Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak's visit to Washington, and argued that the visit was mainly used by the Egyptians to introduce Mubarak's son, Gamal, to the White House and to the Washington elite, an angle that almost no other news outlet has dwelt upon. Unsurprisingly, these two columns annoyed some. Reading the letter to the editor of Mr. Tamer Abdelaal, (Hürriyet Daily News, Aug. 22) I saw no other option but to respond. Before I discuss the contents of the reader's letter, some house-keeping items need to be addressed:

First of all, it needs to be established that the reader's letter is an interesting mixture of confessions and personal insults. Certainly, these insults have no bearing on what I have said in my column. But let’s leave these personal attacks aside. Unfortunately, in the Orient, discussions of opinions tend to turn into personal insults, especially when the idea one is defending is grossly erroneous and out-dated.

Yet, I still do not understand why the reader is so angry, as it seems he doesn't have any qualms with the principal premise of my columns, which stated that Gamal Mubarak is on sale in Washington.

Another point the reader raises is why I used, “for almost 30 years,” to describe the length of Hosni Mubarak's regime, since it has been only 28 years to be precise! Anyhow, I thank Mr. Abdelaal for the correction.

The reader also tries to inject doubt on my sources, pointing out that he has never heard of Fahema Newton. I repeat, Ms. Newton is a very prominent Egyptian-American journalist who has been working in Washington for more than a decade and covers the news for several Arabic networks, as I mentioned in my previous columns. She had to opt for an alias for certain reasons, reasons which I believe Mr. Abdelaal would know very well as an Egyptian-American who follows news and columns about his native country's and its leader so closely.

Though I would like to apologize for misspelling Deena Rashwan, it was supposed to be Diaa Rashwan, a leading Egyptian analyst, and thank you for his help to spotting my mistake.

When it comes to the substance of his letter, I cannot however, be as polite as I have been so far. Since writing for these pages for some time, I have learned to overlook personal insults. However, defending a tyranny and arguing for more of it with a western-oriented fancy language package, is something that I cannot pass without rebuking every bit.

As we all know, the military dictatorship in Egypt starts with the 1952 coup of Colonel Nasser and his military cohorts and continues with Sadat and now with Mubarak. Both came from the army like Nasser. As the Mr. Abdelaal states, “… all were military officers. Questioning authority is not permitted. And this is exactly the way they have governed.” This is the reader’s first confession. I had used the word “tyrant.” Mr. Abdelaal objects. According to Webster’s Dictionary, tyrant = absolute ruler. Mubarak, unlike Sadat and Nasser, has persistently refused to appoint a vice president, which further signals his absolute authority. In the end, all three did not permit any questioning of authority, hence they ruled, without transparency, without accountability, as they saw fit. What other word describes their rule? The reader says the same things as I have said, but re-packaging it and making it look little more palatable. Perhaps, indirectly, he confesses that the rule in Egypt is tyrannical, or a dictatorship. Let’s not quibble over a word.

Then comes another confession. “A true and free election, at this point of time, after 50+ years of military rule would be an enormous risk by giving … votes to a mass of illiterate and easily coerced voters.” Well…well…well! Who else but a dictator or a tyrant says, “I know better than you do”? I cannot help but ask: Why 50+ years after dethroning King Farouk, and 50+ years of revolutionary fervor, the mass is still illiterate? Is this not a confession of failure? The reader seems to argue that the biggest problems of today's Egypt are illiteracy and corruption, yet he fails to recognize that those illnesses have been on the rise with the Mubarak regime.

Mr. Abdelaal also argues that the passage from a military rule to democracy requires the elimination of corruption in Egypt. That is another confession. This simply means that those who govern, run, and administer Egypt are misusing political power for personal gain. But may I ask him: Who is going to eliminate corruption? Is it Gamal Mubarak, who will be merely an extension of his father, and who is going to inherit the presidency? He argues that Gamal is the best choice; I wonder what magical powers Gamal has that make him different from his father and that the majority of the Egyptian people fail to see.

To redress many ills “an iron hand [read it as iron hand = dictatorship = tyranny] is needed,” says the reader, and adds “the population is growing by one million every 11 months.” First of all, it is despicably sad to see a fellow Egyptian, who lives with freedom of America, wish more oppression for his fellow countrymen back home so openly. Secondly, I also fail to see the relationship between “iron hand” and population growth. According to this twisted equation, India must go back to find its own dictator as soon as possible and give up on democracy, since it has added more than 100 million people to its population in the last 8 years. Moreover, after almost 30 years, if the reader still expects Mr. Mubarak is the solution for these problems, and that the current and future iron hand of the Mubarak’s is needed, as he argues frantically, I leave his distorted argument up to my readers' judgment. All in all, a poor justification indeed for iron hand.

This polemic ends here. Mr. Abdelaal’s letter speaks for itself.

New times will bring more democracy, human rights and freedom for all. Whoever opposes the realities of the coming age will leave nothing but a bad name for future generations. They will be remembered as the ones who tried to stop the evolution of life.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am fed up with the pretext of stability to justify dictatorship. There is no acceptable reason for ruling a country for 30 years. (And I say 30 as Mubarak's tern ends in 2011, 30 years since 1981. Please cut the crap). Whoever objects should look at Malaysia in 22 years under Mahatir Mohammed. How can we promote the same people who promise to solve problems they created? Just listening to that is unacceptable. It's so cheap to sell the idea of Gamal Mubarak being the only hope. Let who says so answer the simple question: why? Is it because the Moslem Brotherhood would be the alternative? And who created their popularity? Isn't it pushing the people to the edge of hopelessness that they will ever enjoy humane living conditions and that they must seek the after life as the only option available? Or is it because no viable political runner up is available? If so, isn't it due to the political monopoly which has been played for the last three decades?
Let those who claim that Gamal Mubarak is the only hope go to hell. Egypt is not Mubarak. Mubarak will be forgotten for good. To be more precise, he will be remembered for the time it will take to wipe off the mess he caused for 30 out of 7000 years. No matter what they say, Egypt will stand tall.