Wednesday, August 14, 2013

In Cairo, a bloody, ugly ending to hope - Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)

The Egyptian military has moved with calculated violence against protesters on the streets of Cairo, killing more than 150, and perhaps many more. The accounts that I've read suggest that soldiers weren't merely attempting to break up the largely peaceful protests, they were out to inflict as much physical damage as possible.

As the New York Times reports:

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"At least one protester was burned alive in his tent. Many others were shot in the head and chest. Some of the dead appeared to be in their early teens, and young women assisting in a field hospital had stains on the hems of their abayas from the pools of blood covering the floor. The government imposed a 7 p.m. curfew across much of the country. Clashes and gunfire broke out even in well-heeled precincts of Cairo far from the sit-ins, and by afternoon streets across the capital were deserted. Outside Cairo, mobs of Islamists angry about the crackdown attacked a police station in the Giza governorate, burned down at least two churches in rural southern Egypt, and raged through the streets of Alexandria and other cities.

After a six-week standoff with the demonstrators, the scale and brutality of the attack — with armored vehicles, bulldozers, tear gas, snipers, live ammunition and birdshot — appeared to extinguish any hope of a political reconciliation that might persuade Mr. Morsi's Islamist supporters to participate in a renewed democratic process under the auspices of the military-appointed government."

It's a tragic outcome for Egypt, for the Islamic world that often looks to Egypt as its center of gravity, and for Western hopes that a moderate, somewhat democratic Egypt might have pointed the way toward moderation in that entire region. All of that is dashed, and in its stead is a grim reality of renewed repression and violence and the extremism that repression and violence legitimize.

Now comes chaos.

We'll see what the situation looks like once the smoke clears; important decisions should not be made in haste unless necessary. But at this point it's hard to see how the United States can continue to subsidize a military government that treats its own people so harshly. The risk of losing $1.3 billion a year in American aid clearly did not change the military's calculations, which means that the idea that our money bought us much influence over those running Egypt may have died on the streets of Cairo as well.


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