Robert Fisk: Mubarak's 300,000-strong army of thugs remains in business despite elections

The Long View: The military has played a shrewd game – insisting Mubarak go on trial while realigning supporters to preserve their privileges

Share
Related Topics

As millions of Egyptians turn their backs on the brave young revolutionaries of Tahrir Square, today is the day to remember old General Mohammed Neguib, who kicked off Egypt's first post-war revolution by plotting the overthrow of King Farouk almost exactly 60 years ago. He and his fellow Egyptian army officers had been debating whether to execute the obese Farouk or send him into exile. Nasser opted to shoot the monarch. Neguib asked for a vote. In the early hours, Nasser wrote a note to Neguib: "The Liberation Movement should get rid of Faruk [sic] as quickly as possible in order to deal with what is more important – namely, the need to purge the country of the corruption that Faruk will leave behind him. We must pave the way towards a new era in which the people will enjoy their sovereign rights and live in dignity. Justice is one of our objectives. We cannot execute Faruk without a trial. Neither can we afford to keep him in jail and preoccupy ourselves with the rights and wrongs of his case at the risk of neglecting the other purposes of the revolution. Let us spare Faruk and send him into exile. History will sentence him to death."

The association of corruption with the ancien regime has been a staple of all revolutions. Justice sounds good. And today's Egyptians still demand dignity. But surely Nasser got it right; better to chuck the old boy out of the country than to stage a distracting and time-consuming trial when the future of Egypt, the "other purposes of the revolution", should be debated. Today's military played an equally shrewd but different game: they insisted Mubarak go on trial – bread and circuses for the masses, dramatic sentences to keep their minds off the future – while realigning the old Mubarakites to preserve their own privileges.

The ex-elected head of the judges' club in Egypt, Zakaria Abdul-Aziz, has rightly pointed out that even if Mubarak was put on trial, the January-February 2011 killing went on for days, "and they [the generals] did not order anyone to stop it. The Ministry of Interior is not the only place that should be cleansed. The judiciary needs that."

It was Mubarak's senior judges who permitted the deposed dictator's last Prime Minister, Ahmed Shafik, to stand in this weekend's run-off for President. As Omar Ashour, an academic in both Exeter and Doha, has observed, "when protesters stormed the State Security Investigations [SSI] headquarters and other governorates in March 2011, torture rooms and equipment were found in every building".

And what happened to the lads who ran these vicious institutions for Mubarak, clad alternatively in French-designed suits or uniforms dripping with epaulettes? They got off scot-free. Here are some names for The Independent's readers to stick in their files: Hassan Abdul-Rahman, head of the SSI; Ahmed Ramzi, head of Central Security Forces (CSF); Adly Fayyed, head of "Public Security"; Ossama Youssef, head of the Giza Security Directorate; Ismail al-Shaer, boss of the Cairo Security Directorate – "shaer", by the way, means "poet" – and Omar Faramawy, who ran the 6 October Security Directorate.

I will not use the words "culture of impunity" – as Omar Ashour does without irony – but the acquittal of the above gentlemen means that Mubarak's 300,000-strong SSI and CSF thugs are still in business. It is impossible to believe the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces – still running Egypt and commanded by Mubarak's old mate Field Marshal Tantawi – was unaware of the implications of this extraordinary state of affairs. If Mubarak represented Faruk, and his sons Gamal and Alaa the future leaders of the royal family, then the 2011 Egyptian revolution represented 1952 without the king's exile and with a shadow monarchy still in power.

The belief among journalists and academics that Tahrir Square would fill once again with the young of last year's rebellion, that a new protest movement in its millions would end this state of affairs, has – so far – proved unrealistic. Over the weekend, Egyptians wanted to vote rather than demonstrate – even if the country's security apparatus would end up running the show as usual – and if this is democracy, then it's going to be of the Algerian rather than the Tunisian variety. Maybe I just don't like armies, while Egyptians do.

But let's go back to Neguib. He went aboard the royal yacht in July 1952 to say goodbye to the king he was deposing. "I hope you'll take good care of the army," Farouk told him. "My grandfather, you know, created it." Neguib replied: "The Egyptian army is in good hands." And Farouk's last words to the general? "Your task will be difficult. It isn't easy, you know, to govern Egypt..."

Neguib concluded that governing would be easier for the military because "we were at one with the Egyptian people". Indeed. Then Nasser kicked out Neguib, prisons reopened and torturers were installed. Then came General Sadat and General Mubarak. And now?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Should parents be allowed to take pictures at nativity plays?  

Ghosts of Christmas past: What effect could posting pictures of nativity plays have on the next generation?

Ellen E Jones
The first Christmas card: in 1843 the inventor Sir Henry Cole commissioned the artist John Callcott Horsley to draw a card for him to send to family and friends  

Hold your temperance: New life for the first Christmas card

Simmy Richman
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick