Here’s what Egyptian Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi said in June, right before Mohamed Morsi was sworn in as his country’s president:
Egypt will never fall. It belongs to all Egyptians and not to a certain group … the armed forces will not allow it … The armed forces will not allow anyone, especially those pushed from the outside, to distract it from its role as the protector of Egypt.
By “a certain group,” the defense minister meant the Muslim Brotherhood, whose candidate Morsi was. By “pushed from the outside,” he meant that Morsi was the Brotherhood’s puppet: hyper-religious, ideologically strong, personally ambitious but essentially weak.
Within less than two months, Tantawi was removed from his job and a constitutional declaration limiting presidential powers cancelled. Morsi, “pushed from the outside” though he may have been, had won that round.
This past week he won round two.
His strategy in the face of worldwide manufactured outrage? A disappearing act. With its populace rioting against some fool in California who shot footage almost nobody had ever seen until the protests began—with four American diplomats dead in Libya, including the US ambassador—Morsi’s strategy was to say … nothing. Then, after one full day of nothing, Morsi apparently had a change of mouth. He opened it to urge the Egyptian Embassy in Washington to take “all legal measures” against the person—whose name, after much searching, turned out to be Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a 55-year-old former felon—responsible for the YouTube video.
President Morsi perhaps isn’t overly familiar with the First Amendment rights accorded by the US Constitution, which prevents embassies in Washington from prosecuting people for speaking their minds.
But the real issue in all of this is not offensive footage or dumb film producers or how many countries can summon either real or artificial rage—no bread, in other words, but a lot of circus—in order to distract their own oppressed populations. The real question is: What exactly is going on in Morsi’s Egypt?
He runs a nation that gets $1.3 billion a year from the very country whose embassy, ringed by do-nothing Egyptian guards, was the target last week of 2,000 demonstrators, many flinging Molotov cocktails. It takes him a very long time to suggest that perhaps “The Egyptian state is responsible for protecting embassies and consulates.” But even this much delayed and feeble concession is uttered not from Cairo, but from Brussels, where European Union imperatives clearly trumped those of targeted embassies. After all, as EU executive commission chief José Manuel Barroso told the world, he’s prepared to give Egypt 500 million euros in financial assistance to “support democracy.”
Perhaps it’s time—past time, really—for the US, and even the EU, to snap their purses shut.
Photo Credit: Forcalgeria