Since July 3rd, Egypt has been in a state of upheaval. The Muslim Brotherhood, which has been the ruling party for a year and a half, was forced out of power by the Egyptian military. This military coup happened during mass demonstrations of millions of Egyptians, fed up with the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood. But since the coup, the military has used the opportunity to wage a bloody war against the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters. All through the violence and repression, the United States government has made sounds of disapproval, but in no way has the Obama Administration moved to end its support for the Egyptian military’s murderous crackdown.
The Muslim Brothers came to power after the mass movement of 2011. The movement forced the regime of Hosni Mubarak out of power. Mubarak’s regime, based on the military, was one of the United States’ key allies in the Middle East. Since Mubarak’s rule began in 1981 the U.S. had supported his 30-year rule, with $1.3 billion a year in military aid. In exchange, Mubarak supported U.S. interests in the region, and opened Egypt’s economy up for investment by wealthy corporations. Mubarak and his friends in the military grew extremely rich at the expense of the population. While almost half of all Egyptians live on less than two dollars a day, Mubarak’s family’s wealth topped $70 billion. It is this regime that people rose up against in 2011 during the Arab Spring.
The Muslim Brotherhood is a widespread organized political grouping in Egypt whose official identity is based on religion – Islam. The leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood are businessmen and professionals who feel shut out of power by the military. Without family ties or connections to the military they are unable to benefit from the system of military rule. For decades they demanded a place in the Egyptian power structure, protesting and building their organization. They maintained a network of clinics and welfare organizations which made them popular with the poor.
After the fall of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, the Muslim Brotherhood used its extensive organization, and its image as an opposition to Mubarak to win the support of the people. And in 2012 their candidate Muhammad Morsi won the presidency. But, once in power, the Muslim Brotherhood did not want to change the system – they just wanted to run it!
For over one year the Muslim Brotherhood has ruled Egypt. They maintained the relationship with the United States and they continued to open the economy for exploitation. Life for ordinary Egyptians did not get any better, it got worse.
The people of Egypt did not accept this and began a movement to throw out the Muslim Brotherhood. On July 3rd, millions of Egyptians demonstrated against the Muslim Brotherhood, demanding that they step down. It seemed that there would be another major revolt and a change of government.
This is when the army chose to step in. They moved immediately to arrest the Muslim Brotherhood leaders and took over the administration of Egypt. This move was welcomed by many of the people, who were demanding change.
The military immediately outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood, shut down its newspapers, TV stations and websites, and began arresting its members. In addition, the Military installed 17 generals and two former Mubarak regime officials into the governorships of Egypt’s 25 provinces. Mass demonstrations of the Brotherhood and its supporters have been met with extreme violence. Nearly 1,000 people have been killed by the military.
Why did the military do this? Because the latest mass demonstrations might have put in place a government which could begin to represent the real interests of the Egyptian people. Instead the military has taken control. Today their guns are turned against the Brotherhood, but tomorrow they will deal just as harshly with any movement against military rule.
The Obama administration has condemned the violence in words but it has maintained support for the military, using our tax dollars to pay for the weapons to carry out the repression. This isn’t a mistake, it is a policy. The best weapon against the interests of the people of Egypt is the military. But the people of Egypt have shown where possibility of real and needed change can come from – themselves.