Critique of Eric Walberg’s Views on Egypt

As is true about everything else, there are different views on the situation in Egypt. Some glorify and support the actions of the military that’s committing massacres on the streets, and some do the opposite: they glorify the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and absolve them of any wrongdoing, calling millions of people who oppose them conned or even treasonous. One such author is Eric Walberg who writes frequently for Counterpunch who was interviewed by LHV News about the situation in Egypt. The link for that interview is included here.

Needless to say, glorifying a current such as the MB would require a very one-sided analysis, full of half-truths and falsehoods. His comments were in fact not full of half-truths, but flat falsehoods.

He mentions: “the 2011 uprisings”, which “soft-pedaled by western media as the ‘Arab Spring’, but which is in fact overwhelmingly inspired by Islam, and harks directly to Iran’s 1979 revolution, Algeria’s 1990 revolution, and the Palestinian Intifadas (1987, 2000), where liberals and secularists played no part”. Really? Liberals and secularists played no part in Iran’s revolution? Liberals and secularists played no part in Egypt’s revolution? They played no part in Palestinian Intifadas? So all the people who were protesting in Egypt were Islamists? There were no secularists or Christians or others among them? All those tens of millions who demonstrated against Morsi in late June were former MB supporters who in the course of one year turned against them? Does that even make any logical sense? There weren’t any People’s Fedayeen or Tudehi or Nehzate Melli or others in Iranian revolution? There was no PFLP presence in Palestinian Intifadas? Even the communists and socialists of the 1960’s who were leading the struggle against colonialism throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America made no such claim that it was only they who were fighting against Western imperialists. There is no doubt, and I’ve said this in the past, as have authors such as Tareq Ali, that in the absences of the secular left which was decimated in different countries in the past few decades, the Islamists have taken up the fight against imperialism. Chris Hedges, too, alluded to this in the article he wrote two days ago which I posted on my Facebook wall. But, to say secularists played no role in these revolutions, especially in Egypt, is flatly false.

He says: “So far, the only Islamic revolution to succeed is the Iranian one, still going strong, though suffering from western intrigue, including the war with Iraq, economic crisis, subversion and sanctions”. Wow! What a glorious and perfect outcome to a people’s revolution! Makes you want to wish Islamic Republic for the entire world! The oppression against women and minorities, the executions and imprisonment of political dissidents, the vast and incredible epidemic of drug addiction and hopelessness among the youth and the plundering of the country’s wealth by a handful of big capitalists such as the former President Rafsanjani must all be Western propaganda. And I suppose the uprisings of 2009 which he makes no mention of which included large participation by women was all fabrication, too.

He calls Egypt’s secularists treasonous for coming out against the Morsi government. Over 22 million, up to 30 million, of people are treasonous? If those are the counterrevolutionaries, I guess it makes sense to claim the MB as the only revolutionaries. And why are they treasonous? Because they objected to MB’s version of the Constitution and the stifling of the opposition voices and wanted improvement in the economy? It’s one thing to call them impatient or mistaken, but treasonous? All those millions?

He goes on: “As the pressure on Morsi increased from the military and the secularists, the pro-Saudi Salafi demanded that Egypt support the rebels in Syria, and as the MB became desperate in the face of open treason by secularists, Morsi agreed to Salafi demands, a sad conclusion to an otherwise admirable record in office”. “Admirable record”? Just like the Islamic Republic of Iran, right? I, too, defend the Islamic Republic and more specifically Iran against imperialism and their and Israel’s threats, but, one doesn’t have to lie about it. In the single instance where he faults the MB, namely, aiding the rebels in Syria, he blames it on the “secularists’ treason” and pressure by pro-Saudi Salafis. With this approach, you can exonerate any regime of anything, just as US liberals do the Obama Administration when they say if he does anything wrong, it’s because of the pressure by Republicans and the treason by the progressives who refuse to support his reactionary policies.

He Compares the coup with: “1973 US-funded coup in Chile” which “was repeated in Egypt, right down to gasoline shortages and disruption of transportation.” Wrong again. In 1973 Chile, the US was actively supporting and aiding sabotage and disruptions and creating chaos. That was not the case in Egypt. In Egypt, as I’ve said before in my pieces, they hoped to work with the Muslim Brotherhood through neoliberal policies and by maintaining their influence through the military which MB left intact. Two very different times and very different situations. Not even close.

He has no explanation as to why the US and Europe are condemning the military’s actions and are even calling on them to return Morsi to presidency. Did the US take similar approach about the coup in Chile which they orchestrated? The answer should be clear to anyone familiar with that history.

He goes on to say: “The US wants to follow this tradition” (as in Indonesia and Haiti) in Egypt. That’s a very weak and unsubstantiated speculation for which he provides no basis or evidence. The US was fine with Morsi. They didn’t try to overthrow him. He turned out to be no revolutionary. He seemed to go along with neoliberal plans and peace with Israel, just as the US had hoped.

He continues: “This is clearly Washington’s new-old Middle East strategy: use accommodationist Islamists like the Saudis to con the masses into supporting the imperial agenda”. What con? Saudis are not being used to con anyone? They’re being used to directly and openly intervene in the region on behalf or in the interest of the empire which keeps them rich and in power. No conning here. It’s all in the open and obvious to everyone. He calls it that to imply that tens of millions of Egyptians were conned. By the Saudis? Really?

MB, not according to me, but, according to tens of millions of Egyptians, was not the answer to their demands and aspirations. They rejected him as they rejected Mubarak and in both cases, they had reasons.

What the military is now doing is clearly criminal and any support for their vicious crackdown is wrong and misguided. But, at least, some of the blame goes to the MB for the vast dissatisfaction with their policies and priorities. For millions of Egyptians, the end point of the revolution for which they had made sacrifices was not the MB regime. That was not what they bargained for. They wanted more. And who are we to decide for them that they should have been content with it and stayed in their homes? 


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