Where al-Sisi went wrong: An opera buffa in 10 acts
When I wrote this column on a fine spring day last year, I did not know I had created a boring template which I could use 16 months later (“Where al-Assad went wrong: An opera buffa in 10 acts,” Apr. 18, 2012). This is an Egyptionized version of the Syrian template which I hope I shall not use again:
“As the Egyptian death toll clicks up every day, the dictator in Cairo is making more foes than friends on a global scale. But where, really, did Abdel Fattah al-Sisi make his existentialist mistake? He has behaved like a real dictator while he could have behaved like a dictator disguised as a shrewd politician.
“Dictators kill; politicians do not. Dictators are not programmed to silence opponents by stealth; politicians are. Dictators opt for ‘direct oppression;’ politicians opt for ‘smart oppression.’ Dictators brutally intimidate; politicians use democratic means to intimidate.
“Mr. al-Sisi should not have ordered the killing of ‘terrorists.’ Instead, Mr. al-Sisi should have expected the ‘independent Egyptian judges to go after the terrorists; ah, the Egyptian judiciary is totally independent and Mr. al-Sisi is not in a position to intervene in any ongoing investigation. Sounds familiar? Here we go:
“Act 1: Egyptian police arrest dozens of people on charges of being members of a clandestine gang with the name of Amenemhat IV. Prosecutors claim that Amenemhat IV aimed to violently topple the democratic regime in Egypt. Among the evidence seized at the suspects’ homes are cartoon film DVDs, PCs, mobile phones, cutlery, detergents, bulbs and pillows.
“Act 2: The investigation deepens. In new waves of detentions thousands of Egyptians believed to be members of the Amenemhat IV gang are now in jail waiting for the first court hearing. Prosecutors say the investigation is in progress and the draft indictment is already 365,000 pages long.
“Act 3: There are now over 100,000 Amenemhat IV suspects in Egyptian jails. Mr. al-Sisi says he has no powers to intervene in the judiciary, but urges the judges to act quicker and to assure that the defendants’ rights are not violated.
“Act 4: In the fifth year of the investigation Egypt’s independent prosecutors discover new evidence. The indictment has now reached over 600,000 pages.
“Act 5: There are more detentions and Mr. al-Sisi’s (interim) government promises to construct new blocks of prisons to accommodate potential waves of arrests which will cleanse the Egyptian regime of from undemocratic forces.
“Act 6: The democratic-minded Egyptians cheer for the investigation and are relieved that their evil compatriots would not be able to terrorize the country. They begin to view anyone skeptical of the investigation as yet another member of Amenemhat IV.
“Act 7: Egyptian prosecutors discover that Amenemhat IV’s leader is a 112-year-old farmer from Alexandria. Egyptian police arrest the leader. The Egyptian people are relieved. Meanwhile, nearly 10,000 elderly suspects have died during their pre-trial detention. The Egyptians are happy. They view the prison deaths as ‘casualties necessary to step up democracy in Egypt.’
“Act 8: Yet some Egyptians still protest the arrests and claim that the Amenemhat IV trial is a plot by the government to silence its opponents. The police arrest the protestors on charges that they too belong to the terrorist organization.
“Act 9: The U.S. and some European governments say they are concerned about possible violation of defendants’ rights. But they also encourage the Egyptian government to go ahead with the Amenemhat IV case to improve Egypt’s democratic standards. The Egyptian government admits some mistakes during the investigation but says it views the case as a golden opportunity to finish off terrorism in the country.
“Act 10: There are no killings and no riots, since there is no one left to riot. Egyptians are happy. Egypt’s friends are happy... The final verdict may come in about a few decades, but at least the terrorists are locked up in solitary cells. Western diplomats need not waste their time, energy and resources on the ‘Egyptian crisis.’ There is no Egyptian crisis!”