Saturday, February 23, 2013

What Should The US Do In Egypt?

Do you remember the purple finger? It was the color of the index finger of millions of Iraqis after they voted for the first time in their history. The whole world, including myself, celebrated the purple finger and considered it as sign that finally Iraq was on its path to democracy. President George W. Bush made a speech on that day to boast in front of his critics and tell them that the purple finger proved they were wrong about the war in Iraq.

What happened to the purple finger? It turned into a red finger. Iraq for the past years witnessed the death of thousands and is still mired in sectarian conflict. Why? Because democracy is far more than a ballot box. This is the truth that many analysts in the West should understand.

Elections to many in the West is considered to be the uttermost form or interpretation of democracy simply because all other facets of the democratic process are taken for granted in their respective countries. Things like independent judiciary, independent police force, fair elections laws, free press and the free operation of NGOs are de facto in old democracies such as Europe and the United States. This is the reason why these integral elements of democracy are often ignored and sidestepped, only elections, the most visible and media attention grabbing element of democracy, receives the attention of Western analysts and governments.

This leads us to the question: what should the international community and especially the US administration do in Egypt? I will concentrate on what the US should do since it has the most political clout in Egypt and over the MB. How did I know the US has a lot of political clout over the MB? Well, I just compared Morsi before and after Hillary Clinton’s praises that followed the Gaza ceasefire deal. Last October, the MB used their “representative in the presidential office”, Mohamed Morsi, to sack their nemesis former Prosecutor General Abdel Megied Mahmoud. The judges revolted against the decision and Morsi immediately backed down and invited Abdel Megied to the presidential palace. Fast forward to right after the conclusion of the Gaza cease fire deal between Israel and Hamas. It only took days after Hillary Clinton praised Morsi for his role in the deal for him to issue a dictatorial constitutional decree and sack the Mubarak-era Prosecutor General and replace him with an MB poodle. This is what the MB have been doing ever since they reached power: replace a Mubarak poodle with one of their own.

The MB know the Mubarak era rule very well. Make the US happy and then do what you want inside.

How did the US administration react towards Morsi’s assumption of sweeping powers? The Obama administration almost said nothing. The only time the US government really made a big fuss was over Morsi’s 2010 disgusting antisemitic remarks that surfaced on Basem Yousef’s satirical show. Other than that, it appears as if the MB had a carte blanche to do whatever they wanted.

Why was the US reaction almost muted to the MB’s hegemonic attempts to shape Egypt post-revolution future in a way that preserves their rule, and only their rule? There could be three reasons. First, the US might still be under the influence of the MB’s years long PR campaign in DC. May be the US is still under the false impression that somehow, sometime, the MB might be like Turkey’s Justice & Development Party. If that is the case, US policymakers need to listen to this creative chant that has been echoing in many of the recent demonstrations: shave your beard, uncover your shame, you will find your face to be the face of Mubarak.

Second, let’s face it, the MB are just too good to be true! The world’s largest Islamist organization sent a letter to Israeli president Shimon Peres calling him “my faithful friend”. Camp David is well maintained and business is as usual. Who could have imagined that? A dream come true to many US policymakers who might have had doubts regarding Egypt’s policy towards Israel after the demise of Mubarak. The MB know this very well. They know that the key to keep the US happy is to be nice to Israel; or at least to maintain the status quo that prevailed after signing the Camp David agreement.

Third, besides the army, there is no viable political alternative to the MB. The US administration might be reluctant to pressure the MB to the extent of undermining their power and risk the return of the army once again.

So what can the US do in Egypt? I believe the US should start to talk, whether in public or in private, about the other facets of democracy I’ve stated above. For example, the MB just drafted an NGO law that aims at killing NGOs and bring them under the direct control of the government. Just like Mubarak’s dictatorial regime, the MB’s dictatorial regime hates NGOs. The US could pressure the MB on that.

Another example. The current MB formulated elections law was tailored made specifically to suit the MB’s political interests. Areas that voted against the MB in previous elections are now clustered together in order to minimize any loss the MB might endure. The US could weight in on that.

Am I calling for US interference in Egypt’s internal affairs? It is already there! US taxpayers give the Egyptian army $1.3 billion in aid every year. Non-military aid amounts to a yearly $700 million. In the midst of the political unrest, the MB made sure to explain its position to the White House. They dispatched the President’s foreign affairs adviser and MB member, Essam Hadad, who met senior officials in the Obama administration. So the US clout is there. It is a reality and I’m only dealing with this reality. If the US still wants to “support democracy” in Egypt, it should not be content with merely celebrating an election here and there. The US has considerable influence in Egypt and over the MB, it would be a good idea to make good use of it. If not, then the US should cease talking about democracy in Egypt and should stop the $2 billion annual aid because no money comes free of any strings attached.

  Posted by BP at 6:08 pm Comments (4)
Saturday, February 16, 2013

90th Anniversary: Celebrating King Tutankhamen’s Burial Chamber Opening

On February 16, 1923 one of the greatest events in Egyptology history occurred. Almost three months after Howard Carter ventured into the unknown on November 22, 1922, King Tutankhamen’s burial chamber was unsealed. Today, celebrate this extraordinary discovery and the event that unlocked the secrets of King Tutankhamen’s life, revealed his treasures and uncovered his curse.

King Tutankhamen’s tomb had weathered flash floods, avoided tomb robbers and remained concealed for 3000 years. Many simply did not believe that such a tomb existed in the Valley of the Kings – historians had thought that all had been excavated.

The Excavation

However, Howard Carter thought differently after examining Theodore M. Davis’ discovery of clues that indicated the existence of Tutankhamen’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings. Carter began his search for the long lost King in 1914 and for seven long years he failed to find anything. That was until 1922, which was as Carter described it, “the day of days, the most wonderful that I have ever lived through.”

“A marvel of marvels, such as we never dreamt of” A. H. Gardiner’s account of the opening of the
burial chamber of Tutankhamen on February 16, 1923.

Almost three months were spent cataloguing and removing objects from the tomb. It wasn’t until February 16th when Carter and his team were able to unseal the door that reached to the burial chamber. The Times wrote, “ for before the spectators was the resplendent mausoleum of the king, a spacious and beautifully decorated chamber completely occupied by an immense shrine covered with gold inlaid with brilliant blue faience. This beautiful wooden construction towers nearly to the
ceiling and fills the great sepulchral hall within a short span of its four walls. Its sides are adorned with magnificent religious texts and fearful symbols of the dead.”

Inside The Chamber

The burial chamber is the tomb’s grandest room, rife with vibrant murals of the King in many representations. The four walls, divided in regions depict the Pharaoh in different stages of his death and journey to the Afterlife. The most famous of all murals is on the Northern wall that can be viewed when entering the tomb through the antechamber. The paintings are unlike any seen in tombs across the Valley of the Kings as they are a lot larger, and not as detailed as the rest, leaving many historians to believe that King Tutankhamen’s tomb was prepared in a rush.

The chamber wasn’t overloaded with treasure like the annex and treasury rooms. However, it was rich with a golden shrine and home to the greatest treasures ever discovered – Tutankhamen’s mummy, 2.24 meter long solid gold coffin and his remarkable mask.

The discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb is one of the greatest archaeological finds in history. It was and remains today the best preserved tomb ever excavated. Eight years were spent removing objects from the tomb, which can be found in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum. Carter revealed

Tutankhamen’s mummy in his tomb in February 1924 where it remained until 2007. His mummy was removed from its sarcophagus to be displayed in a museum in Luxor, but has since been returned and displayed.

This article has been written by Steve John of fancy dress retailer AFD. Steve is enthusiastic about Egyptology, is well read in Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb, and has visited the Valley of the Kings to satisfy his curiosity about the Afterlife and ancient rituals. His passion for Ancient Egypt has spread into his work and has created a dedicated collection of Egyptian inspired outfits on AFD.

  Posted by BP at 6:10 pm Comments (4)