The latest news out of Egypt is troubling and creating conflict in the minds of Americans and others around the world. Egypt was part of the so-called "Arab Spring" in 2011 where the people rose up in country after country along the north African coast and Middle East, deposing their despotic governments in the hopes of creating a new dawn of democracy and freedom. Egypt seemed to be the model of success. After weeks of largely peaceful protests, the military ousted Mubarek and took over the country. They helped provide stability while a new constitution was forged and elections held.
The problem is that the majority of voters selected Morsi, a member of the infamous Muslim Brotherhood (an organization about which most Americans believe many things which are mostly untrue). Despite misgivings, Egypt forged ahead...
... for 1 year. During that time, Morsi behaved like a kid in a candy store, imposing rather harsh rule and putting his religious buddies in charge of key positions within the government. The people revolted once again, and once again the military ousted the president. This time, however, they removed a democratically-elected president favored by a slim majority of the people, most of whom tend towards the angry and emotional, some of whom are al-Qaeda operatives, ready for a fight. This could rationally be called a "military coup", although the U.S. is loathe to call it that.
This time too, the mostly peaceful pre-coup protests of those wanting more freedoms have been replaced by violent clashes. There is plenty of blame to go around. As mentioned, the protesters include some al-Qaeda fighters with military weapons. The military is being overly reactive and creating large swaths of death and destruction (they are apparently not fond of the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda).
The death toll has shot up dramatically, with over 500 dead in the last few days
Egyptian authorities on Thursday significantly raised the death toll from clashes the previous day between police and supporters of the ousted Islamist president, saying more than 500 people died and laying bare the extent of the violence that swept much of the country and prompted the government to declare a nationwide state of emergency and a nighttime curfew.
The death toll, which stood at 525, according to the latest Health Ministry figures, makes Wednesday by far the deadliest day since the 2011 popular uprising that toppled longtime ruler and autocrat Hosni Mubarak — a grim milestone that does not bode well for the future of a nation roiled in turmoil and divisions for the past 2 1/2 years.
Health Ministry spokesman Khaled el-Khateeb put the number of the injured on Wednesday at 3,717.
Although president Morsi was Muslim Brotherhood, vice-president El Baradei was not. Although liked and respected, he could not abide the violence, and resigned his office in protest
Mohamed ElBaradei, who resigned from his post as vice president in Egypt’s military-backed interim government in protest at Wednesday’s bloodshed, is a respected former UN nuclear watchdog chief.
The ex-diplomat, UN executive and Nobel laureate turned liberal political leader stepped down after scores were killed in a crackdown by security forces on loyalists of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
"It has become too difficult to continue bearing responsibility for decisions I do not agree with and whose consequences I fear," ElBaradei said.
He said his conscience was troubled over the loss of life "particularly as I believe it could have been avoided."
Both the White House
and Secretary of State John Kerry
have spoken out against the violence:
Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday denounced the violent crackdown by the Egyptian military as a “deplorable” and unnecessary escalation that represents a “serious blow” to peace and democracy.
Kerry said Egypt faced a “pivotal moment” and warned the military-appointed interim government that the “world is closely watching” how it responds.
The Executive branch is suspending military aid for now, and mulling over what to do:
Washington has suspended a recent shipment of F16 jets and said it was re-assessing whether to restart its $1.3bn of military aid, but its fears that a permanent severing of aid risks removing the only leverage it has in restraining the generals.
Americans meanwhile have come to grips with a dichotomy in their minds as to how to react. There is the knee-jerk anti-Muslim Brotherhood reaction that supports the ouster of Morsi and the crackdown on the protesters. There is also the realization that this is the military taking over and ejecting a democratically elected president favored by a majority of the citizens. How can anyone who supports the democratic process be in favor of that?
Meanwhile, the rest of the world holds its collective breath and waits for an outcome that hopefully brings peace and freedom to that country as an example to the rest of the region.