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ElBaradei: Tear Up Egypt’s Constitution

From the opinion pages of the New York Times:

The Next Step for Egypt’s Opposition

By MOHAMED ELBARADEI
February 10, 2011

CAIRO – WHEN I was a young man in Cairo, we voiced our political views in whispers, if at all, and only to friends we could trust. We lived in an atmosphere of fear and repression. As far back as I can remember, I felt outrage as I witnessed the misery of Egyptians struggling to put food on the table, keep a roof over their heads and get medical care. I saw firsthand how poverty and repression can destroy values and crush dignity, self-worth and hope.

Half a century later, the freedoms of the Egyptian people remain largely denied. Egypt, the land of the Library of Alexandria, of a culture that contributed groundbreaking advances in mathematics, medicine and science, has fallen far behind. More than 40 percent of our people live on less than $2 per day. Nearly 30 percent are illiterate, and Egypt is on the list of failed states.

Under the three decades of Hosni Mubarak’s rule, Egyptian society has lived under a draconian “emergency law” that strips people of their most basic rights, including freedom of association and of assembly, and has imprisoned tens of thousands of political dissidents.

Which is almost word for word what was said about the Shah of Iran. Who eventually released most of the 3,000 political prisoners he held. Whereas once the Ayatollah Khomeini seized power, he killed roughly 3,000 political prisoners in his first year. And many thousands more in the subsequent years.

While this Orwellian regime has been valued by some of Egypt’s Western allies as “stable,” providing, among other assets, a convenient location for rendition, it has been in reality a ticking bomb and a vehicle for radicalism.

This is meant as a slap at the US, of course. Which, starting with President Clinton, got Egypt to help us with the interrogation of captured terrorists. It is also meant to be a knock on Vice President Suleiman who is now being accused of being Egypt’s point man on renditions.

But it is a good indication of Mr. ElBaradei’s views of the war on terror.

But one aspect of Egyptian society has changed in recent years. Young Egyptians, gazing through the windows of the Internet, have gained a keener sense than many of their elders of the freedoms and opportunities they lack. They have found in social media a way to interact and share ideas, bypassing, in virtual space, the restrictions placed on physical freedom of assembly.

The world has witnessed their courage and determination in recent weeks, but democracy is not a cause that first occurred to them on Jan. 25. Propelled by a passionate belief in democratic ideals and the yearning for a better future, they have long been mobilizing and laying the groundwork for change that they view as inevitable.

The tipping point came with the Tunisian revolution, which sent a powerful psychological message: “Yes, we can.”

He’s awfully subtle, isn’t he?

These young leaders are the future of Egypt. They are too intelligent, too aware of what is at stake, too weary of promises long unfulfilled, to settle for anything less than the departure of the old regime. I am humbled by their bravery and resolve.

Many, particularly in the West, have bought the Mubarak regime’s fiction that a democratic Egypt will turn into chaos or a religious state, abrogate the fragile peace with Israel and become hostile to the West.

Maybe because people like Mr. ElBaradei have said that Mubarak made the peace treaty with Israel. Not the Egyptian people.

But the people of Egypt — the grandmothers in veils who have dared to share Tahrir Square with army tanks, the jubilant young people who have risked their lives for their first taste of these new freedoms — are not so easily fooled.

Weren’t they easily fooled just yesterday? It seems to me the ‘Arab Street’ – which also believes, for instance, that 9/11 was an inside job instigated by the Jews — is very easily fooled.

The United States and its allies have spent the better part of the last decade, at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars and countless lives, fighting wars to establish democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr. ElBaradei opposed the war in Iraq, claiming that "regime change" is against international law. He also questioned whether it was worth the cost to get  rid of the dictator Saddam.

Indeed, Mr. ElBaradei has pronounced the US policy in Iraq and Afghanistan to be "a total failure."

Now that the youth of Cairo, armed with nothing but Facebook and the power of their convictions, have drawn millions into the street to demand a true Egyptian democracy, it would be absurd to continue to tacitly endorse the rule of a regime that has lost its own people’s trust.

Hosni Mubarak was actually elected back in 2005, in the first presidential elections in Egypt’s 7,000 year history. In fact he got 88% of the votes. Sure the elections might not have been as open and honest as some, but he was elected.

Whereas Mr. ElBaradei has never been elected to anything by the Egyptian people. Not even dog catcher.

Claiming that the people who have shown up in Tahrir Square represent the entire nation of Egypt a little like saying Green Bay Packer fans represent America. Would we let Packer fans install Aaron Rogers as President of the United States?

Egypt will not wait forever on this caricature of a leader we witnessed on television yesterday evening, deaf to the voice of the people, hanging on obsessively to power that is no longer his to keep.

Mr. ElBaradei has spoken.

What needs to happen instead is a peaceful and orderly transition of power, to channel the revolutionary fervor into concrete steps for a new Egypt based on freedom and social justice. The new leaders will have to guarantee the rights of all Egyptians. They will need to dissolve the current Parliament, no longer remotely representative of the people. They will also need to abolish the Constitution, which has become an instrument of repression, and replace it with a provisional Constitution, a three-person presidential council and a transitional government of national unity.

As we have mentioned previously, the formation of political parties based on religion is prohibited by the Egyptian constitution. Which would keep the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamists from attaining positions of power. Which could be why Mr. ElBaradei is so eager to rip up the constitution and write a new one.

The presidential council should include a representative of the military, embodying the sharing of power needed to ensure continuity and stability during this critical transition. The job of the presidential council and the interim government during this period should be to set in motion the process that will turn Egypt into a free and democratic society. This includes drafting a democratic Constitution to be put to a referendum, and preparing for free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections within one year.

There are already elections scheduled for September. Why isn’t that soon enough? Is it that Mr. ElBaradei doesn’t believe that the Muslim Brotherhood could win in fair and open elections? They have to grab power now?

We are at the dawn of a new Egypt. A free and democratic society, at peace with itself and with its neighbors, will be a bulwark of stability in the Middle East and a worthy partner in the international community. The rebirth of Egypt represents the hope of a new era in which Arab society, Muslim culture and the Middle East are no longer viewed through the lens of war and radicalism, but as contributors to the forward march of humanity, modernized by advanced science and technology, enriched by our diversity of art and culture and united by shared universal values.

We have nothing to fear but the shadow of a repressive past.

Mohamed ElBaradei, as the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. He is the author of the forthcoming book “The Age of Deception: Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times.”

Why should we think that Mr. ElBaradei would be right about the future of Egypt anymore than he was right about Iran’s nuclear program? Whether by ignorance or intention, he has been proved wrong every step of the way.

But notice that he ‘wrote the book’ on deception.

This article was posted by Steve on Friday, February 11th, 2011. Comments are currently closed.

6 Responses to “ElBaradei: Tear Up Egypt’s Constitution”

  1. untrainable says:

    ElBaradai or others of his ilk could draft a new constitution and then totally ignore it, the way Obama ignores ours. And if anyone believes that the Egyptian constitution and it’s prohibition of religious political parties is going to stop the muslim brotherhood is even more self deluded than the youth of Egypt who think they can tweet their way to real western style freedom.

  2. JohnMG says:

    …..”Would we let Packer fans install Aaron Rogers as President of the United States?”………

    I’d let the Packer fans install ANYBODY as president of the United States if it meant getting rid of the buffoon currently sitting in the Oval Office.

    And as for this; ….”They are too intelligent, too aware of what is at stake, too weary of promises long unfulfilled, to settle for anything less than the departure of the old regime.”……look what that attitude got for us in ’08.

    Lastly, how does a population that makes less than $2 a day and who are mostly illiterate have the means of being so well informed via the internet that they “have found in social media a way to interact and share ideas, bypassing, in virtual space, the restrictions placed on physical freedom of assembly.”?

  3. EnDash says:

    “Maybe because people like Mr. ElBaradei have said that Mubarak made the peace treaty with Israel. Not the Egyptian people.”

    Er, it was Anwar Sadat who signed the peace treaty with Israel, not Mubarak. As with any head of government, he did so as a representative of the Egyptian people, just as Menachem Begin did so as the representative of the Israeli people.

    At the time, neither the people of Egypt nor the Egyptian army seemed to have any big problem with the treaty, which benefitted that country as well as Israel.

    The Egyptian Army will now either install another “strong man” dictatorship or arrange for a transitional period for political factions and parties to develop and organize, followed by an open and fair election (with a new constitution, of course).

    My son, who just got out of Cairo after living and working there for some 2 1/2 years feels very strongly that the classes of people who led the revolution will not allow the former to occur, nor will they allow an Islamist power grab. We’ll have to wait and see.

  4. tranquil.night says:

    I can’t distinguish Islamists from enviro-Marxists anymore. I’m coming to believe more and more that latter is supporting and enabling the former.

    The politics, the deranged and backwards ideology advanced by a tyranny of moral collectivism and community agitating, the utopian fanaticism. I think they might even be worshipping variants of the same god.

    • proreason says:

      great quote from another blog:

      “to stand with green revolutionary forces”

      but I can one-up it.

      “to stand with queer green revolutionary forces”. I don’t think we will see that one unless it is pastel green, but if I do find it, S&L will be the first to know !!!

  5. Rusty Shackleford says:

    (surprised nobody’s used this cliche’)

    “Why don’t we just give Egypt our constitution. After all, we don’t seem to be using anymore.”


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