The Real Story of Tahir Square

El Maidan (The Square)

(Arabic with English subtitles)

Johane Nohaim (2014)

Film Review

The Square, based largely on amateur and cellphone footage, presents an activist prospective of the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that has been totally omitted from western media coverage. It delineates an early split between Muslim Brotherhood and Christian and moderate Muslim activists that occurred long before Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi became president in June 2012.

The clear view of the filmmakers is that the Muslim Brotherhood, who were latecomers to the Tahrir Square protests, co-opted the uprising and used it to negotiate a secret deal with the Egyptian military. Whether US and British intelligence, long time supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, played some role in this process isn’t addressed.* Once the agreement was sealed, Muslim Brotherhood activists withdrew from the square. This left more moderate protestors to be beaten up and killed by police thugs and the Egyptian military.

Filmmakers interview original organizers of the Tahrir Square occupation who deeply regret their decision to abandon the occupation when Mubarak stepped down in February 2011. They some failed to register that he was merely a figurehead – that the Egyptian army continued to rule with totalitarian powers. As one observes wistfully, “It was a big mistake leaving the square before the power was in our hands.”

Before watching this film, I had no idea the occupation of Tahrir Square continued during the lead-up to the so-called “free and fair” elections of 2012 – as did the beatings and murder of youth activists, Christians and moderate Muslims struggling to maintain the occupation.

Although the Muslim Brotherhood only represents a minority of Egyptian society, their Peace and Justice Party won a majority of parliamentary seats in February 2012 because they were the only organized opposition party. Non-Brotherhood activists largely boycotted the June 2012 presidential elections, in which Morsi and a former Mubarak henchman were the only two choices. They continued to protest in Tahrir Square, which the Egyptian police and military staged murderous attacks on peaceful on them with weapons provided by the US and Egypt’s Persian Gulf allies.

Morsi Grants Himself Dictatorial Powers

Efforts to retake Tahrir Square continued after Morsi took power and granted himself dictatorial powers far beyond those Mubarak enjoyed. In February 2012, protestors finally succeeded in reoccupying Tahrir Square. The protests swelled, as they had in 2011, when Morsi ordered police to fire live ammunition against peaceful protestors.

The 2013 Military Coup

On June 30 2013, organizers called for an open-ended general strike with the demand that Morsi step down and new elections be called. In Cairo alone, more than two million participated, the largest global protest in history. When the Muslim Brotherhood organized a sit-in counter demonstration, Gen Abdel Fatah el-Sisi massacred scores of Brotherhood protestors, arrested Morsi and called new elections.

Released in January 2014, the film ends before the May 2014 election, in which the Muslim Brotherhood Freedom and Justice Party was forbidden to participate. Approximately half the Egyptian population participated, with el-Sisi receiving 96 percent of the votes cast. Egypt’s state of emergency continues. According to the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, more than 41,000 people have been arrested in a sweeping crackdown against Islamists, secular activists, protesters, students and journalists – while protestors shot and killed by Egyptian authorities number in the hundreds.

*Ahmed Bensaada and others have also written at length regarding the CIA/State Dept role in infiltrating and shaping what Egypt’s so-called “color revolution”: The CIA Role in the Arab Spring

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1th9vf_al-maidan-the-square-documentary_shortfilms

How the CIA Funds Jihad

The Power of Nightmares

Directed by Adam Curtis

BBC (2003)

Part 2 The Phantom Victory

Film Review

Part 2 focuses on the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989 – and how the CIA funded and trained the Islamist Mujahideen to combat the occupation.

Both Carter’s National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and the neoconservatives claim credit for the hare-brained and incredibly short sighted scheme to recruit, fund and train a jihadist army in Afghanistan. In addition to providing sophisticated weaponry, the CIA trained the Mujahideen in terror techniques, such as assassination, car bombs and improvised explosive devices (IDEs).

Abdullah Azzam, the Palestinian who led the Mujahideen, put out a call for all Muslims to join Afghanistan’s holy war. He believed that victory in Afghanistan would inspire foreign fighters to return to their homelands and overthrow corrupt secular dictators the US was propping up.

One Saudi who answered this call was a phenomenally wealthy construction contractor named Osama bin Laden. He, too, provided funding for the Mujahideen.

Arab governments, recognizing a unique opportunity to expel their own jihadist troublemakers, opened their jails and exiled their Islamic extremists to Afhanistan. Egypt released Islamic Jihad founder Dr Zawahiri and his followers.

Gorbachov Orders Soviet Withdrawal

In 1987 when Gorbachov came to power, the Soviet Union was on the brink of economic collapse. Believing he could still save it through political reform, Gorby quickly commenced Soviet troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. He also reached out to the Bush senior administration to help install a stable government in Kabul. He warned that failure to do so would allow the Mujahideen to install an Islamic dictatorship. The neoconservatives who ran the Pentagon and State Department refused. With Pakistani support, the Mujahideen (renamed the Taliban) took control of Afghanistan and installed a brutal fundamentalist regime.

Both the neoconservatives and the Taliban/Mujahideen would claim sole credit for victory over the Soviets in Afghanistan. Both groups (and Zbigniew Brzezinski) would also credit US intervention in Afghanistan for the demise of the Soviet Union. In reality the USSR collapsed due to gross economic mismanagement and internal decay.

The Split Between Azzam and Zawahiri

Following the Soviet withdrawal, a major rift occurred between Zawahiri and Azzam. As it turned out, torture also radicalized Zawahiri. Who now proclaimed that politicians who were in bed with the Americans – and their civilian supporters – were legitimate targets for assassination.

Azzam, in contrast, compelled Islamic freedom fighters to swear an oath not to kill innocent civilians. Osama Bin Laden, former deputy to Azzam, joined forces with Zawahiri shortly before the latter’s assassination in 1989.

By the early nineties, powerful movements the Islamic Jihad (and related groups) had built in Egypt and Algeria were on track to win national elections. Aided by the US and France, the Algerian military launched a coup and cancelled the Algerian elections. Egypt, in turn, banned the Muslim Brotherhood and arrested and tortured their leadership.

Islamic Jihad responded by attempting to launch violent jihad in both countries. Owing to their failure to attract a mass following, in May 1998 Zawahuri and Bin Laden would announce a new strategy: taking jihad to their real enemies: the US and Israel.

Meanwhile Back in Washington

Following the fall of the Soviet Union, the neoconservatives were more committed than ever to promoting the myth that the US was the sole force for good in a world of evil regimes. Fingering Saddam Hussein as the next satan to be overthrown, in 1990 they put immense pressure on Bush senior to overthrow the Iraqi government during the first Gulf War. Bush wisely took the sage advice of Pentagon advisers who warned that a full scale invasion of Iraq would result in a hopeless quagmire.

Mainstream Republicans Back Clinton

In 1992, mainstream Republicans, frightened by the religious fundamentalism that had overtaken the Republican Party, voted for Clinton in droves. The neocons, in turn, latched onto Clinton as the new evil. They began a vicious propaganda campaign against him, spearheaded by the conservative American Spectator. The campaign widely disseminated spurious allegations that the Clintons had committed financial fraud in Whitewater*, murdered their friend Vince Foster and participated in drug smuggling at the Mena Airport in Arkansas.**

Under immense pressure, Clinton agreed to appoint Kenneth Starr as special prosecutor to investigate these allegations. Starr couldn’t find any evidence of Clinton wrongdoing until he stumbled onto the President’s affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Following their failure to impeach Clinton, the neocons became as marginalized in the US as Bin Laden, Zawahiri and their ragtag followers in the Arab world.

All this would change with 9-11, which would propel both the Islamists and the neocons.


*The Whitewater controversy involved a questionable real estate deal Clinton engaged in while he was attorney general of Arkansas. The Whitewater investigations would result in criminal convictions for several of Clinton’s associates. Although there was insufficient evidence to file criminal charges against the President, his conduct was clearly unethical: see Whitewater Scandal

**While there’s no evidence Governor Clinton was directly involved in cocaine smuggling, he was unresponsive to strong grassroots demand that he investigate the CIA’a drug-gun smuggling operation at the Mena Airport – and to Ross Perot’s (presidential candidate in 1992 and 1996) request that Clinton back the Internal Revenue’s investigation of Menta.

Marketing Terror

The Power of Nightmares

Directed by Adam Curtis

BBC (2003)

Part 1 Baby It’s Cold Outside

Film Review

This final series of Adam Curtis documentaries is the oldest and, in my view, the best. It has special relevance given the current western crusade against evil incarnate (and CIA creation) ISIS.*

The Power of Nightmares traces the parallel movements of radical Islam and neoconservativism – how both rose to power by inventing terrifying fantasies which they promise to protect us from them.

Curtis begins by tracing the roots of radical Islam, which dates back to 1949 when Egyptian scholar Sayed Qutb attended college briefly in Greely Colorado. Qutb was instantly repelled by the pervasive decay, crassness and vulgarity stemming from America’s fanatical devotion to individualism (an ideology perpetuated by saturation pro-consumption messaging by Edward Bernays’ public relations industry – see The Science of Thought Control).*

The Americans Qutb met were unbelievably selfish and materialistic and lived lonely, sterile lives surrounded by perfectly manicured lawns.

Returning to Egypt in 1950, he was horrified to see that that western individualism, materialism and moral degradation had corrupted his own country, thanks to the invasion of American pop culture.

Believing Islam provided a moral framework to protect Egypt from this selfish individualism, in 1952 he joined the Muslim Brotherhood and supported Gamal Nasser in overthrowing British rule in Egypt.

The CIA Teaches Egypt How to Torture

As Nasser’s vice president, Anwar Sadat (who would become president in 1970) invited the CIA to set up Egypt’s security services and train them how to torture members of the growing Muslim Brotherhood.

As often happens, torture radicalized Qutb. He came to believe that individualism unleashes a barbarous violence and that Muslims infected by materialism cease to be true Muslim. This, in turn, makes them legitimate targets for assassination.

Following Qutb’s execution for treason in 1966, Dr Ayman Zawahari assumed leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood. After Sadat signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, Zawahiri founded the Islamic Jihad (IJ). The treaty was taken as evidence that Sadat was no longer a true Muslim and thus a legitimate assassination target. In 1981, IJ members of his military guard would assassinate him.

Leo Strauss: Father of Neoconservatism

Leo Strauss, German-American political philosopher and Zionist, is considered the father of neoconservatism. Refusing to give interviews or publish articles, Strauss spread his ideas by surrounding himself with a dedicated band of students at the University of Chicago.

Like Qutb, Strauss was horrified by the moral degeneration and social decay he witnessed in the fifties and sixties. He blamed it on liberalism, with its claims hat morality his relative ( i.e. that each individual is entitled to set their own standards of morality). He taught that political leaders had an obligation to set strong moral standards by creating powerful myths for the masses to live by.

In the early seventies, his students, Irving and William Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz and Francis Fukyama, would formally launch the neoconservative movement to disseminate the myth that the US is the only force for good in a world full of evil.

According to this world view, any country or individual that opposes US policies is satanic. The neoconservatives were perfectly aware they were deliberately creating a fear-inducing myth. Yet according to their Straussian belief system, this was a necessary myth and a necessary fear for the overall good of society.

The Neocons Target Henry Kissinger

Their initial target in their crusade against evil was Nixon’s National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger. In 1972, Kissinger was trying to reduce fear and instability through world cooperation, détente with the Soviets and propping up fascist dictators (he called this Realpolitik).

Recruiting Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney (Secretary of Defense and Chief of Staff under Gerald Ford) to the neoconservative cause, they blanketed the media with claims that the Russians were cheating on the nuclear test ban treaty. This directly contradicted CIA evidence that Soviet air defenses were on the verge of collapse, owing to the sorry state of the Soviet economy. So the neocons claimed the Soviets had devised methods of cheating the CIA was incapable of detecting.

When Carter assumed the presidency in 1976, they would revive the Committee on the Present Danger to promote their mythology that the Soviet Union posed a growing threat to the US. Ronald Reagan would be their most prominent recruit.

Politicizing Christianity

Simultaneously, like the Muslim Brotherhood, the neocons embraced fundamentalist Christianity as a vehicle for enforcing socially redeeming moral values. Fundamentalist pastors had always discouraged their congregations from participating in the political process. Guided by the neocons, they reversed themselves, transforming millions of fundamentalists into popular force to lobby for the neoconservative world view.

In 1980, millions of them voted for the first time for Ronald Reagan.


*See excellent article by British historian Nafeez Ahmed tracing the history of ISIS: How the West Created ISIS

** As I am. What emotionally balanced rational being wouldn’t be repulsed by the empty sterile lives Americans lead?

 

http://vimeo.com/84414208

The Back Story on Hamas

hamas

Hamas

by Beverley Milton-Edwards and Stephen Farrell

(2010 Polity Press)

Note: the corporate media is omitting important historical context in their current reporting on the recent creation of a “Unity” government uniting the West Bank and Gaza. Two of the most important omissions include the role of the Israeli government in fostering the rise of Hamas and the Hamas victory in the 2006 elections – over all of Palestine, not just Gaza. The Israel and the US refused to recognize the democratically elected Hamas government, installed a puppet government run by Mahmoud Abbas (as they have done recently in Ukraine) and launched a CIA-led 18 month military coup to install Abbas’s illegitimate Fatah government in Gaza. Hamas successfully repelled the coup.

Hamas is about the militant Palestinian group which was democratically elected to run the Palestinian Authority in 2006. The book clearly documents the role Israel played in promoting the rise of Muslim fundamentalism in Palestine.

According to Milton-Edwards and Farrell, Israel’s motives in backing the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine were identical to those of the US in Afghanistan and Anwar Sadat in Egypt. In all cases, the goal of supporting the Islamic fundamentalism was to counter the secular Arab leftists and nationalists who controlled most Middle Eastern states prior to 1967. The US and its allies had enormous concerns that that the leaders in power would form a single Arab economic or political block that would thwart US corporate and strategic interests.

Milton-Edwards and Farrell trace the origins of Hamas to the decision by the Muslim Brotherhood to open offices in Palestine in the 1940s, when it was still under the British Mandate. As a condition of their World War I defeat, the old Ottoman (Turkish) empire was divided up among European powers. In 1947 Britain surrendered control of Palestine, and the UN partitioned it into Jewish and Palestinian Arab states.

Outraged that Palestinian Jews, who represented on 32% of the population were awarded 56% of Palestine, in 1949 Syria, Egypt and Jordan joined with Palestine’s Muslim Brotherhood, in declaring war on Israel.

In the resulting settlement, Palestinian Arabs lost even more territory, forcing 726,000 refugees to flee to neighboring states. Gaza, to the west of Israel, came under Egyptian control. Jordan, to Israel’s east, assumed control of the West Bank. The king of Jordan, an autocratic totalitarian ruler, immediately closed the West Bank offices of the Muslim Brotherhood and placed their members under close police surveillance.

In the 1967 six day war, Egypt, Jordan and Syria attacked Israel and were once again defeated. The West Bank and Gaza came under Israeli military occupation, while Israel banned the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and forced Yasar Arafat and other PLO leaders to flee into exile.

Israel Turns a Blind Eye to Mijamma Violence

Prior to 1973, the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood saw their primary role as performing charitable works and speaking out against the liberal Westernized culture Palestinian youth brought back when they went to university in Egypt. In 1973 they formed a new organization Al-Mijamma ‘al-Islami (The Islamic Center), under the leadership of a charismatic wheelchair bound cleric named Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Mijamma’s ultimate goal was to reclaim Palestinian land and homes Israel had seized in 1947 and 1967. However they felt the first step in building a militant resistance organization was to re-establish Palestine as an Islamic society. Thus their main focus was on islamization, which they approached by teaching, preaching and setting up community institutions to provide food and other social services to impoverished Palestinian families.

Assuming control of the Islamic University of Gaza in 1973, they began harassing and expelling female students who refused to wear Islamic dress, as well as beating up men who spoke out against these activities.

Israel, which governed both the West Bank and Gaza after 1967, turned a blind eye to this lawless violence, as well as providing direct financial to the Islamic Academy in Hebron, where many of Hamas’s military leaders would receive their training. In 1978 Israel went so far as to grant official recognition to Mijamma, allowing it to meet openly and publicly, at a time when all other Palestinian parties were banned as illegal terrorist organizations.

The Birth of Hamas

During the 1987 insurrection or Intifada, Mujamma renamed itself Hamas. Despite their full participation alongside the PLO in the Intifada, Israel continued to allow foreign money to flow freely to Hamas, while they continued to freeze PLO assets. Likewise Israel allowed Hamas to keep their schools open in Gaza, while they force West Bank Palestinian schools to close.

It wasn’t until 1990 that Israel finally cracked down on Hamas, following the murder of two Israeli soldiers. Their leader Sheikh Hassan was arrested, tried and imprisoned. Three years later, Israel illegally (under international law) deported 400 Hamas members, following the kidnapping of an Israeli border guard.

The PLO Endorses Sadam Hussein

Meanwhile the PLO, Hamas’s rival, made the tragic mistake of endorsing Sadam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1991. This resulted in the suspension of all aid the PLO previously received from wealthy Gulf oil states. Because they were nearly bankrupt with the loss of their Gulf donors, in 1993 the PLO abandoned their pledge to liberate Palestine through armed struggle. This decision to negotiate a peace with Israel made them enormously unpopular with one million Gazan refugees. Still intent on returning to the lands they had lost in Israel, they had no interest whatsoever in creating a Palestinian state.

The response from Hamas was to issue a fatwa (death sentence issued by Islamic religious leaders) against the Fatah-led PLO. Determined to derail the negotiations, they also launched a massive campaign of violence, incorporating or the first time a new tactic known as “martyrdom” (i.e. suicide) bombings. Each martyrdom bombing resulted in a payment of approximately $25,000 to the suicide bomber’s family, financed mainly by Saddam Hussein and Saudi Arabia.

The Creation of the Palestinian Authority

The 1993 negotiated settlement, known as the Oslo Accords, granted the West Bank and Gaza limited autonomy under Israeli military control. It also created the Palestinian Authority (PA), a shrewd move the US and Israel employed to split and crush the Palestinian resistance. By making the Palestinian leadership the civil authority, they shifted much popular anger away from Israel and towards the PLO.

Arafat and the PLO leadership returned from exile to run the Palestinian Authority (PA). Owing to a continuing embargo by Gulf donors, Arafat had to lay off hundreds of public sector workers and slash social services to prevent a total meltdown of the Palestinian economy. Israel, meanwhile, made Arafat responsible for controlling Hamas militants. His solution was to put thousands of them in prison and torture them. There were numerous reports of prisoners being beaten, forced to shave their beards and sodomized with coke bottles.

Meanwhile PA security services routinely blackmailed families, with offers to release prisoners in return for bribes of $10,000 or more. All this occurred as Israel was continuing to destroy Palestinian homes and olive trees to build more Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.

The Second Intifada

In 2000, Palestinian anger at their extreme poverty and repression boiled over in armed insurrection, the second Intifada. In 2002, the Saudis put forward a peace proposal which would have normalized Israel’s relations with the Arab world in return for their withdrawal from the occupied territories. As before Hamas, which still demanded the right of return (to their Israeli homelands) for all exiled Palestinians, tried to derail peace negotiations with a wave of sniper attacks and car and suicide bombings. These were directed against the PLO security services, Jewish settlers in Palestine and civilians inside Israel. Instead of retaliating against Hamas, Israel punished Arafat by sending tanks into the West Bank to bombard his headquarters, commencing a military siege that kept him prisoner until he died in 2004.

Hamas Enters Electoral Politics

Hamas boycotted the January 2005 presidential elections, giving the Fatah candidate Mahmoud Abbas an easy victory. In May 2005, the Hamas leadership made a controversial decision to pursue direct political power by standing candidates in Gaza and West Bank local body elections. They did so in parallel with militant attacks on Israel. Following Ariel Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal of Israeli settlers and soldiers from Gaza in August 2005, this included Qassam rocket attacks on Israeli border towns.

Hamas never expected to win the parliamentary elections in January 2006, a success Milton-Edwards and Farrell attribute to widespread disgust, both in the West Bank and Gaza, with Fatah/PLO corruption and inefficiency. Refusing to recognize the Hamas victory, Mahmood Abbas installed his own non-elected parliament in the West Bank. He also refused to relinquish Fatah-controlled security posts to the new Hamas government. Israel, meanwhile, froze funds needed to pay PA officials in Gaza. When Europe and the US also froze Palestinian developmental assistance, Hamas had no choice but to turn to Iran for training, weapons and financial aid.

The Failed CIA Coup

After a brief experiment with a “unity” government, in which Fatah and Hamas ruled jointly, the CIA and Abbas launched an 18 month military coup, determined to dislodge Hamas from power in Gaza. In June 2006, Hamas came out the victor, employing 16,000 fighters to force 70,000 CIA-backed members of Abbas’ Preventive Security Organization to flee Gaza.

Hamas Drops in the Opinion Polls

By June 2008, their popularity waning owning to brutal sanctions and shortages of food, medicine and other necessities, Hamas was in the exact same situation as Fatah in 1993. In desperation they agreed to a temporary ceasefire (ending suicide bombings and Qassam rocket attacks), on condition Israel end their embargo. Hamas honored the ceasefire for six months, despite Israel’s failure to end their economic blockade. In December 2008, Hamas broke the ceasefire by firing rockets into Israel. The book ends with a description of Operation Castlead, which Israel launched against Gaza in retaliation. Castlead destroyed or damaged nearly every Palestinian security installation, killed 1,300 Palestinians (including 900 civilians) and destroyed hundreds of homes and business institutions.

***

Beverly Milton-Edwards is Professor in the School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy at Queen’s University Belfast. Steven Farrell, who has dual British-Irish citizenship, is Middle East Correspondent for The New York Times.