Despite the crucial role played by the military in Egypt’s upheaval, little is ever heard from those at the heart of the armed forces: the ordinary, mid-ranking personnel whose loyalty to the military, or lack of it, could yet determine the outcome of the revolution.
Now, one insider has penned a unique account of life in the Egyptian army. A reserve officer for several years, he was in active service throughout the anti-Mubarak uprising and worked through this year’s unrest before completing his duty in late 2011. The officer’s name and identity has been concealed; the text below has been edited for clarity and to preserve the writer’s anonymity.
"Officer training was intense. Our days started at 5am, and conditions were terrible. It was an attempt to ‘break us’ and transform us from civilians to military men. The hours were filled with pointless assemblies and formations where we’d stand for hours in the sun, the recital of army songs, singing the national anthem daily and following orders from the sergeants and warrant officers who would treat us terribly. But even those who gave us lessons would complain about the army and tell us how surprised and shocked they were at how different it had been from their expectations, and how frustrated they were at being unable to leave.
Regulation food was awful and served most of the time with dirty plates and spoons; it was partly bad management but I also believe they arranged things like that deliberately as it was possible to buy your own food instead from the well-stocked cafeteria and this was a way for the army to make money.
Punishment for misdemeanours included being forced to stay at the training academy on your days off, being made to lie down with your hands behind your back and then crawl on the ground, and being told to stand under the sun for an hour in full uniform and equipment, or getting thrown into military jail. It was all designed to humiliate you, but often we preferred being sent to jail; it was better than the normal daily schedule because at least it meant we were out of the sun.
Sometimes we’d rebel until the prison was full, at which point they’d have to try and be nicer to us. At the beginning we weren’t even allowed phones, but over time everyone found ways around the rules and we managed to get anything we wanted into the barracks: mobiles, laptops, beer, hashish, chess, cards and kettles.
The main challenge was staying sane and keeping your chin up, remembering that they were trying to crack your spirit. The senior officers are all still living in 1973 [the year of Egypt's last major military conflict, the Yom Kippur war with Israel] and spent all their time reminding us of the imminent threat posed by Israel and how the Israelis are scared of the huge numbers of educated young officers drafted annually into the Egyptian army. It was different in the old days; back then they had a cause to fight for – now it’s all just bullshit and corruption, just another job for most of the personnel.
Most of the mid-ranking officers are completely uninterested in all the patriotic rhetoric. For them it’s just stable employment with decent benefits; the majority are pretty naive and not very politically conscious, and the revolution took them by surprise. When 25 January [the outbreak of the revolution] began these officers were instinctively against the protests but once the regime began to crack they were appalled at the stories that emerged of corruption surrounding Mubarak and his cronies. Most became relatively pro-revolution but I think there was some bitterness over the fact that things had clearly been so rotten for so long and yet their generation had done so little about it. Now it was the younger kids who were forcing political change; the older guys felt confused and weren’t sure what to believe.
After Mubarak fell and the rule of Scaf (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) began, the top brass moved quickly to secure the loyalty of all mid-level and junior officers. Whenever a big Friday street demonstration or rally in Tahrir Square took place we would all receive a bonus of between 250 and 500 Egyptian pounds (£26-52), whether or not we had anything to do with policing the protests.
It’s ridiculous; at the height of the unrest reserve officer salaries doubled and everyone was getting huge bonuses all the time (an average of 2,400 pounds – £254 – for me in January and February). Most full-time officers didn’t really care what was happening politically on the streets, they were just happy with the extra money. Occasionally though you’d hear guilty jokes about how we were the only people who were benefiting from the revolution and the Egyptian people had been screwed over.
It was clear that the army desperately wanted to avoid any form of protest in the country once Mubarak was gone. The aim was to win over more of the Islamist population who might have traditionally been more hostile to the armed forces, as well as scaring the shit out of anyone else who might be thinking of holding a demonstration. Each confrontation with protesters was a test to measure the reaction of the general public and see what level of brutality and violence they could get away with.
That was especially obvious during the Maspero events [a protest by Coptic Christians and their supporters on 9 October which was attacked by the armed forces, leaving 27 dead]. The media, army and interior ministry have always worked hand in hand for their personal goals, and in this instance they worked to escalate the fitna [an Arabic word denoting chaos and division] between Muslims and Christians, and there was a great deal of ignorance and confusion within the ranks. The Christian minority are seen by many – inside the army and outside – as less important, so they were an easy target. You have to bear in mind that for the most part, officers only watch mainstream Egyptian television and so they never see the YouTube videos showing the darker side of Scaf. They’re in denial.
But as the months went on, despite this ignorance and the generous bonus system, dissent against [Egypt’s commander-in-chief and current head of Scaf, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein] Tantawi has grown. Most of the mid-level officers now think of him as Mubarak’s right-hand man, and they hate the fact that Scaf’s violence has tarnished the army’s image in the eyes of the public. Many still disapprove of the current protests because they feel it’s not the right time, and also because they’re resentful that others can go and demonstrate on the streets when they themselves do not have such freedom. But that attitude is beginning to change, especially as independent TV channels have been airing video clips of the recent violence and the brutality of the security forces is being openly discussed by people like [prominent media personalities] Yosri Fouda and Ibrahim Eissa. More and more mid-level officers are turning against Scaf, and against Tantawi.”
I won’t get into too much detail since people get really weird on this site lol but spiritually Medinah is blessed twice more than Mecca, it was the sanctuary for the Prophet when he was rejected from Mecca, those in Medinah welcomed him with open arms, it was his place of death, his grave resides therein. Also from those that’ve visited they’ll tell that the ambiance and tranquility in Madinah is like no other. etc etc.
As a US marine who lost close friends in the siege of Fallujah in Iraq seven years ago, I understand that we were the aggressors.
It has been seven years since the end of the second siege of Fallujah – the US assault that left the city in ruins, killed thousands of civilians, and displaced hundreds of thousands more; the assault that poisoned a generation, plaguing the people who live there with cancers and their children with birth defects.
It has been seven years and the lies that justified the assault still perpetuate false beliefs about what we did.
The US veterans who fought there still do not understand who they fought against, or what they were fighting for.
I know, because I am one of those American veterans. In the eyes of many of the people I “served” with, the people of Fallujah remain dehumanised and their resistance fighters are still believed to be terrorists. But unlike most of my counterparts, I understand that I was the aggressor, and that the resistance fighters in Fallujah were defending their city.
It is also the seventh anniversary of the deaths of two close friends of mine, Travis Desiato and Bradley Faircloth, who were killed in the siege. Their deaths were not heroic or glorious. Their deaths were tragic, but not unjust.
How can I begrudge the resistance in Fallujah for killing my friends, when I know that I would have done the same thing if I were in their place? How can I blame them when we were the aggressors?
It could have been me instead of Travis or Brad. I carried a radio on my back that dropped the bombs that killed civilians and reduced Fallujah to rubble. If I were a Fallujan, I would have killed anyone like me. I would have had no choice. The fate of my city and my family would have depended on it. I would have killed the foreign invaders.
Travis and Brad are both victims and perpetrators. They were killed and they killed others because of a political agenda in which they were just pawns. They were the iron fist of American empire, and an expendable loss in the eyes of their leaders.
I do not see any contradiction in feeling sympathy for the dead US Marines and soldiers and at the same time feeling sympathy for the Fallujans who fell to their guns. The contradiction lies in believing that we were liberators, when in fact we oppressed the freedoms and wishes of Fallujans. The contradiction lies in believing that we were heroes, when the definition of “hero” bares no relation to our actions in Fallujah.
What we did to Fallujah cannot be undone, and I see no point in attacking the people in my former unit. What I want to attack are the lies and false beliefs. I want to destroy the prejudices that prevented us from putting ourselves in the other’s shoes and asking ourselves what we would have done if a foreign army invaded our country and laid siege to our city.
I understand the psychology that causes the aggressors to blame their victims. I understand the justifications and defence mechanisms. I understand the emotional urge to want to hate the people who killed someone dear to you. But to describe the psychology that preserves such false beliefs is not to ignore the objective moral truth that no attacker can ever justly blame their victims for defending themselves.
The same distorted morality has been used to justify attacks against the native Americans, the Vietnamese, El Salvadorans, and the Afghans. It is the same story over and over again. These people have been dehumanised, their God-given right to self-defence has been delegitimised, their resistance has been reframed as terrorism, and US soldiers have been sent to kill them.
History has preserved these lies, normalised them, and socialised them into our culture: so much so that legitimate resistance against US aggression is incomprehensible to most, and to even raise this question is seen as un-American.
History has defined the US veteran as a hero, and in doing so it has automatically defined anyone who fights against him as the bad guy. It has reversed the roles of aggressor and defender, moralised the immoral, and shaped our societies’ present understanding of war.
I cannot imagine a more necessary step towards justice than to put an end to these lies, and achieve some moral clarity on this issue. I see no issue more important than to clearly understand the difference between aggression and self-defence, and to support legitimate struggles. I cannot hate, blame, begrudge, or resent Fallujans for fighting back against us. I am sincerely sorry for the role I played in the second siege of Fallujah, and I hope that some day not just Fallujans but all Iraqis will win their struggle.
"Mention in the scripture the story of Mary. She withdrew from her family to a place east and secluded herself away; We sent Our Spirit to appear before her in the form of a normal human. She said, "I seek the Lord of Mercy’s protection against you: if you have any fear of Him [do not approach]! but he said, "I am but a Messenger from your Lord, [come] to announce to you the gift of a pure son." She said, "How can I have a son when no man has touched me? I have not been unchaste," and he said, "This is what your Lord said, ‘It is easy for Me - We shall make him a sign to all people, a blessing from Us." (Qur’an 19: 16-21)
“To all those suffering from sadness or depression, know that it isn’t your fault. It isn’t because you’re weak. It isn’t because you’re just not grateful enough. It isn’t because you’re just not religious enough. It isn’t because you don’t have enough faith. It isn’t because God is angry with you. To all the well-meaning people who tell you this, just smile. And know deep in your heart that the tests of God come in different forms to different people. And know that, by the help of God, every test can become a tool to get closer to Him. And that, verily, with hardship come ease—and like all things of this world—this too shall pass.”—Sr. Yasmin Mogahed.
Indeed, if Manning had merely murdered the nameless, faceless “other”, as his Army colleagues on the notorious Afghan “Kill Team” did, he would not have had his right to a speedy trial blatantly violated. If Manning had intentionally killed unarmed civilians, posed for pictures with their dead bodies and slashed their fingers off as souvenirs, he would not have had his guilt publicly pronounced by his own commander-in-chief, President Barack Obama, months before he so much as saw the inside of a military court. If he had killed poor foreigners instead of exposing their deaths, he might even stand a chance of getting out of prison while still a young man.
This isn’t really a head-scratching development. While killing unarmed civilians for sport may not be officially sanctioned policy, it doesn’t threaten the functioning of the war machine as much as a soldier standing up and refusing to be complicit in mass murder. From the perspective of a Washington establishment much more concerned with maintaining hegemony than its humanity, the former - murder - is much less troubling a precedent than the latter.
And so the US government is making an example of Manning, lest any other cogs in the machine start thinking about listening to their consciences instead of their commanders.
Other young soldiers thinking of telling the truth about America’s wars must by now have surely gotten the message: if you see something, don’t say something.
When you dehumanize a person, you can justify any crime you carry out upon them. This serves to justify, encourage what is essentially an abhorrent foreign policy. And in the wider scheme it serves to exonerate any blame.
So when you hear these words like ‘A million Iraqi people dead’ you are desensitized to the words ‘Iraqis dead’, you are desensitized to these words because it’s almost part of everyday life. On wednesday the 24th of June 80 Iraqi people died. On thursday the 25th of June one very very very talented American musician died. Okay? We are seeing a much bigger outpour of grief for this *one* human being than for 80 human beings in *one day*. In ONE DAY!
So basically that’s pretty much it the point I want to make most importantly is you must realize that a life is a life. A life is a life! And a human being is a human being! And the same value must be attached to all human life and once that happens then equality can become reality and we can all live in Peace and harmony; how we should.
Matt Damon, one of Barack Obama’s earliest supporters and once one of his most staunch advocates, slammed the President in the new issue of Elle Magazine.
"I’ve talked to a lot of people who worked for Obama at the grassroots level. One of them said to me, ‘Never again. I will never be fooled again by a politician,’" Damon tells the magazine. “You know, a one-term president with some balls who actually got stuff done would have been, in the long run of the country, much better.”
Referring to the Occupy Wall Street movement, Damon continued: “If the Democrats think that they didn’t have a mandate — people are literally without any focus or leadership, just wandering out into the streets to yell right now because they are so pissed off … Imagine if they had a leader.”
That echoes the President’s own words to Diane Sawyer in March of 2010 when he said, “I’d rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president… There’s a tendency in Washington to think that our job description, of elected officials, is to get reelected. That’s not our job description. Our job description is to solve problems and to help people.”
In August, the star ripped a cameraman and reporter from a conservative publication who challenged his stance on education at a Save Our Schools event in Washington, DC. He then moved on to economic policy criticism.
"The wealthy are paying less than they paid at any time else, certainly in my lifetime, and probably in the last century," Damon told a reporter at the same event. “I don’t know what we were paying in the Roaring ’20s; it’s criminal that so little is asked of people who are getting so much. I don’t mind paying more. I really don’t mind paying more taxes. I’d rather pay for taxes than cut ‘Reading is Fundamental’ or Head Start or some of these programs that are really helping kids. This is the greatest country in the world; is it really that much worse if you pay 6% more in taxes? Give me a break. Look at what you get for it: you get to be American.”
Speaking of the then-protracted negotiations over the debt ceiling, he did show some sympathy for Obama.
"I’m so disgusted," he said. "I mean, no, I don’t know what you do in the face of that kind of intransigence. So, my heart does go out to the President. He is dealing with a lot."
i remember in primary school one of my classmates bumped into my dad and i at the post office we were on our way to the masjid so my dad was dressed in a thobe and kufi. the next day at school Robert told everybody my dad was Santa Claus. 9/11 hadn’t occurred then otherwise he would have been deemed the generic Osama.
I don’t get it, why are people so unnecessarily mean here? Attacking each other simply because we disagree or see that their opinions don’t align with ours. You don’t like what a Tumblr participant is saying? CUT THEM DOWN and shortly after your loyal circle of followers incessantly attack them too, and it’s a vicious, relentless cycle.
You’re being a bully, a cyber bully, stop it. Your harsh comments are real and they hurt, just as real and hurtful as the attacks anyone would receive in real life.
If you cannot be nice or civil about an issue without tearing others down and subjecting them to demeaning comments, remedy that with the wise words of Prophet Mohammed “Let him say something good or keep quiet.”
I’m tired of seeing this on my dash, please end it.
“On the announcement of his death, I think it’s fair to allow Christopher Hitchens to do the things he loved to do most: speak for himself,” and then assembled two representative passages from Hitchens’ post-9/11 writings. In the first, Hitchens celebrated the ability of cluster bombs to penetrate through a Koran that a Muslim may be carrying in his coat pocket (“those steel pellets will go straight through somebody and out the other side and through somebody else. So they won’t be able to say, ‘Ah, I was bearing a Koran over my heart and guess what, the missile stopped halfway through.’ No way, ’cause it’ll go straight through that as well. They’ll be dead, in other words”), and in the second, Hitchens explained that his reaction to the 9/11 attack was “exhilaration” because it would unleash an exciting, sustained war against what he came addictively to call “Islamofascism”: “I realized that if the battle went on until the last day of my life, I would never get bored in prosecuting it to the utmost.”—
One of the only writers with the courage to provide the full picture of Hitchens upon his death was Gawker‘s John Cook, who — in an extremely well-written and poignant obituary – detailed Hitchens’ vehement, unapologetic passion for the attack on Iraq and his dismissive indifference to the mass human suffering it caused, accompanied by petty contempt for those who objected (he denounced the Dixie Chicks as being “sluts” and “fucking fat slags” for the crime of mildly disparaging the Commander-in-Chief). As Cook put it: “it must not be forgotten in mourning him that he got the single most consequential decision in his life horrifically, petulantly wrong”; indeed: “People make mistakes. What’s horrible about Hitchens’ ardor for the invasion of Iraq is that he clung to it long after it became clear that a grotesque error had been made.”
“Islam honors the female and values femininity. It is up to us to translate teachings in that regard into a beautiful reality that helps to elevate the status of women in all societies. Honor killings, domestic violence, female sexual slavery and trafficking, pornography, are all crimes against humanity that we should oppose in the strongest terms and work strenuously to eliminate. If our women are not safe, physically, emotionally, spiritually, or psychologically we are all at risk, for without women men are incomplete, and without men women are incomplete. “Women are the complimenting halves of men;” let us all work harder to make our societies whole.”—Imam Zaid Shakir.
“For you and I, I wish the sight that sees the signs and the lights in our darkness.
And ears that hears sounds in our unconsciousness.
For you and I, I wish a soul that absorbs everything and accepts them.
And a tongue that with honesty drags us out of our silence and makes us speak of that which has caged our being.”—Ahmad Shamlou (via philphys)