Friday, January 10, 2014

A Military Constitution

 
Now that the Egyptian military has ousted the first elected president, installed a government of civilian executors, massacred the former president’s supporters and sympathizers, and declared his organization a terrorist group, it is set to produce a document it calls a constitution that codifies military superiority over state and society.
 
Not content to delegate the task of selling the document to the 50 people it appointed to write it, the military is doing its own sales pitch. It has issued this video laying out how all three branches of the armed forces, as well as special forces, border guards and military police, will deploy 160,000 men to assist the Interior Ministry in “securing” the referendum on the document.
 
The video is an endless parade of military prowess: rolling tanks and armored personnel carriers; formations of ramrod-straight troops bearing huge rifles; and of course the military’s treasured helicopters, this time not to draw hearts in the sky but “to monitor any obstructions to the electoral operation.” At the end of the video the voice-over narrator avers, “This comes at a time when the armed forces are undertaking vigilance and preparedness procedures to execute their principal duties on all the strategic fronts of the state.”
 
One could be forgiven for thinking that Egypt is on the cusp of war, not an impending plebiscite. But war is what militaries do, and when countries are blighted by politicized militaries that control their politics, the guns are turned inward. This isn’t a figure of speech. Since July 3rd, the military and its junior partner the police have repeatedly killed opponents of the coup, not content with “just” arrests and jail terms.
 
The once unfathomable is now routine, with at least one killing at every protest, and a stunning 17 people killed just last Friday. The general public’s manufactured indifference and silence is the biggest kick in the gut, a testament to the military’s lethal power to mold reality and cow citizens.
 
In frighteningly methodical fashion, every hard-won gain of the January 25th revolution is reversed and trampled upon. The collective emancipation of the revolutionary crowds is turned into fear and conformist state worship. The once-revolutionary act of burning police cars, a time-honored Egyptian resistance tactic, is now rubbished because only the Muslim Brothers are daring it. The greatest and most brittle achievement of the revolution, the possibility and practice of ruling ourselves, is defeated by the armed enforcers of elite rule.
 

In these times of daily state violence, a law criminalizing protest, a government decree declaring the largest political group in Egypt a “terrorist organization,” and a state-sponsored silencing and fear-mongering campaign, Egyptians are being badgered to go out and endorse a document that spells out the terms of their subjugation. Such is the military’s constitution.

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