When I first heard this news I tweeted, “Abu Gharib anyone” because it certainly seemed to take on the genocidal nature of that infamous, barbaric place in Iraqi/American history when people were rounded up indiscriminately into one central place and tortured, raped and murdered for no apparent reason than someone said they should. That’s what military dictators do; fascism by nature quells even the aspiration to disagree with the State’s oppression, much less demonstrate against it as the people in Egypt are now doing; so killing that desire is most easily accomplished by killing the people who long for it. Whatever you think of what’s happening in Egypt today, the fact that for far too many people it’s ok to kill, murder political opponents and especially those with a reasonable grievance for their dissent, is nothing short of genocide.
The Egyptian government acknowledged that its security forces had killed 36 Islamists in its custody Sunday, as the military leaders and the country’s Islamists vowed to keep up their fight over Egypt’s future.
The news of the deaths came on a day in which there appeared to be a pause in the street battles that have claimed more than 1,000 lives in recent days, most of them Islamists and their supporters gunned down by security forces. The Islamists took measures on Sunday to avoid confrontations, including canceling several protests of the military’s ouster of a democratically elected Islamist-led government.
While confirming the killings of the detainees on Sunday, the Ministry of the Interior said the deaths were the consequence of an escape attempt by Islamist prisoners. But officials of the main Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, described the deaths as “assassinations,” and claimed that the victims, which it said numbered 52, had been shot and tear-gassed through the windows of a locked prison van.
The government offered conflicting details throughout the day, once saying the detainees had suffocated to death in the van from tear gas to suppress an escape attempt, but later insisting that the Islamists died in a prison where they were taken.
In either case, the deaths were the fourth mass killing of civilians since the military took control on July 3, but the first time those killed were in government custody at the time.
The Islamists, followers of the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood, have vowed to continue their protests, both against the military’s ouster of President Mohamed Morsi and the violence of recent days that started with the bloody crackdown on Brotherhood sit-ins that left hundreds dead.
Although it appeared that security forces were more restrained on Sunday — with no immediate reports of killings in the streets — Maj. Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, the country’s military leader, spoke out on national television in defiant and uncompromising tones, condemning the Islamists again as “terrorists,” but promising to restore democracy to the country.
The government has been pursuing a relentless campaign to paint the Islamists as pursuing violence, and has increasingly lashed out at journalists who do not echo that line, especially the foreign media.
This is what America has decided is far more important to have in power in Egypt than the Morsi government. Whatever you may think of what Morsi did or did not do, he was not accused of mass murder of his political opponents or targeting of foreign journalists. Our identification with such a regime can only forebode dire political consequences for America and Egypt in the future, near or far. We have a name for that…..blowback.