Al Ahram Weekly 3/11/2016 by Hany Ghoraba
Useful idiots” is a political paragon used to describe propagandists for causes whose goals they are not fully aware. It was used to describe those in Western press and writing circles who supported the rise of fascism in Germany before the eruption of the World War II, as well as those who supported communism in Russia. A new brand of academic “useful idiots” have been rampant in the international press in the wake of the Arab Spring revolutions, mostly supporting the rise of Islamists to power in the name of pseudo-democracy.
Unfortunately, political analyst Steven Cook, who in celebratory Halloween spirit just wrote the article “Egypt’s Nightmare,” published in Foreign Affairs magazine, falls in the same category of these“useful idiots” in the Western press. The article could have been just another op-ed piece in a reputable periodical that contained a lot of personal opinions and very little authenticated information. Instead, Cook, in a typical American leftist academia manner, used the space provided him to attempt to water down the extreme dangers of a terrorist group and propagate its ideals through quoting some of its key leaders.
Cook started his article with a presumably pro-freedom and pro-revolution quote from none other than Gamal Heshmat, a veteran Muslim Brotherhood member and former member of the Egyptian parliament who was elected twice during Mubarak’s era. Heshmat had memorable battles in the Egyptian parliament, which includes a 2001 petition to ban three novels from publication, claiming they contained sexual innuendos. Heshmat alsofought the government-sponsored ballet school, claiming girls dancing is against Sharia and is un-Islamic. In 2008, Heshmat fought vehemently against a law empowering women and another on child rights. He explained his stance by saying, “It is in the West’s best interest to export its corrupt values against our righteous Islamic values by exploiting the weakness of Muslim leadership.”
It is astonishing that similar articles with refuted theories on a possible Islamist democracy are still published in reputable periodicals. Even the most delusional of political analysts worldwide have realised by now that the Muslim Brotherhood initiated the global jihad movement since its inception in 1928.The terrorist group that was the preparatory school of Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahri and Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghadadi cannot be treated as a catalyst for democracy except within twisted minds.
“Many Egyptians have good reason to be angry with the (Muslim) Brothers, who, in their brief time in power, proved themselves to be alternately incompetent, authoritarian, and sectarian. Yet the Brotherhood has deep roots in Egyptian society.”
Another statement by Cook mingled with generic rhetoric that is more befitting of an orientalist rather than an academic political researcher. To say Egyptians are “angry” with the Muslim Brotherhood is similar to saying Americans are “angry” with Al-Qaeda and IS. “Angry” is the understatement of the century. Thousands of Egyptians were killed due to violence almost solely orchestrated by the group since 2011, and even during their single year of terror reigning Egypt.
The rant continues in Cook’s wild article as he asserts that it is President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s obsession with fighting terrorists over the Egyptian-Libyan border that is destroying Libya. Therefore, according to Cook, it wasn’t the NATO intervention, the arming of jihadists and the endless support forthcoming to the Muslim Brotherhood militia Fajr Libya (Libya’s Dawn) from countries such as Turkey and Qatar, with the blessings of the EU and US. It was Al-Sisi’s obsession with ending the Muslim Brotherhood. Indeed, denial and delusion seem to be reaching epic proportions in Cook’s article.
Cook keeps referring to President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi as a dictator who took power by force while neglecting the 33 million Egyptians — three times the number of people participating in the January 2011 Revolution — who revolted against Muslim Brotherhood rule in June 2013. Those 33 million demanded that Morsi step down and the army had to comply or risk civil war, especially after the Brotherhood militias were activated and threatened violence.
Elected in June 2014, Al-Sisi has already stated that no president will ever again surpass the two four-year terms limit, set in an ironclad clause in the new Egyptian constitution. Accordingly, Al-Sisi has about one and half years —or five and a half years, maximum — to go, depending on whether he is reelected in 2018.
Moreover, Cook in his endless wisdom decides that the United States should not consider Egypt as a force of stability in the Middle East. It’s a notion that Cook has been promoting for years, ever since his book Ruling but not Governing, and again in 2011 with his book The Struggle for Egypt. Coincidently, this notion of breaking the US alliance with Egypt took a hiatus and completely dropped from Cook’s theories when the Muslim Brotherhood was in power. Luckily enough, there are more quick-witted humans in the US administration that realise that downsizing cooperation with the biggest nation in the Middle East (and with the strongest army) is simply a catastrophic mistake. Despite political tensions stirred by the likes of Cook and his political equivalents, Egyptian-American relations remain strong for the benefit of both nations.
Cook’s assessments of the Egyptian politics and the Middle East in general are biased and clouded by his political ideology and personal ties with Muslim Brotherhood members. If Cook is actually an Arabic speaker, or reader, as he claims he would have probably have come across Muslim Brotherhood militia leader Ahmed Al-Moughir’s full confession on Facebook on 15 August 2016 about the “Tiba Mall Militia” stationed in Al-Rabaa Al-Adawiya encampment in August 2013. He confessed that they were in possession of enough guns and armament to fight any police or army attempt to disperse the Rabaa encampment. His admission came as a shock to even some members of the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood group, and they accused them of working against their cause. In an attempt to accuse the Egyptian government of cracking down against all opposition, Cook added the arrested terrorist cell members and dead terrorists tally in a cooked up statistic (no pun intended).
Cook’s recipe for Egypt is as appalling as his analysis and advice. His passion to indulge the most notorious terrorist group in history and the forefathers of IS and Al-Qaeda in Egypt’s political life — even after Egyptians unanimously shunned them in June 2013 — is even more appalling. The recipe of Mr Cook is poisonous, and hypothetically if part of democracy is to include fascists, racists, criminals and terrorists in the political spectrum then he should be calling upon his president, Barack Obama, to indulge the Ku Klux Klan’s political agenda along with other white supremacist groups. Maybe he will also ask Germans to embrace the Neo-Nazis and Italians to give a chance to Cosa Nostra and Mafia leaders to be part of their political game. After all the KKK, Nazis, Mafia, etc, are all part of their societies, just as he claims the Muslim Brotherhood are for Egyptians.
All of these democratic societies — and the newborn democratic one in Egypt — are treating these radicals and extremists the only way they should be treated, which is as enemies of civilisation and society that must be fought vehemently.
Regardless of how inefficient any Egyptian government can be, it still owes no explanation to the likes of Cook but only answers to its own people, whom it is sworn to protect. Unfortunately, Cook’s words are being heard in the White House as the United States drifts further from the problems in the Middle East. And the Obama administration is still under the delusion of leading the world from behind. Hardly anyone in Egypt or the Middle East who witnessed years of dismay is interested in such analysis as Cook’s, marred by extreme naiveté that is equally destructive — with the exception, of course, of Muslim Brotherhood members who treasure and propagate such pieces.
So thanks for the recipe Mr Cook, but there is hardly any interest in your dish.
Original Post in Al Ahram Weekly