02 Nov 2010
For decades, the Egyptian economy was managed in the same manner that a taxi driver managed his vehicle. The taxi--let’s say a vintage Nasr 128--may have been 30 years old but was kept on the road by bits of string, extra-strong duct tape and the inventiveness of mechanic and driver alike. You could never go very fast in the taxi, but that was not a priority. The essential thing was to keep...
01 Nov 2010
On 15 April, 2004, 2nd Lieutenant Ilario Pantano, a 32-year-old US marine, stopped and detained two Iraqis driving on a dirt road south of Baghdad. He instructed the two men, Hamaady Kareem and Tahah Ahmed Hanjil, to search their own car for weapons. None were found.
Then, Pantano opened fire.
Standing ten feet away, he unloaded a magazine of his M16A4 assault rifle into the two men. He stopped...
31 Oct 2010
Just two months ahead of parliamentary elections in Egypt, a foreign visitor might have reasonably concluded from a perusal of the Egyptian independent and opposition press that the elections scheduled for 28 November are not for the parliament, but for the office of president. The news of Gamal Mubarak’s campaign to stand in the presidential elections vied with contradictory...
27 Oct 2010
Egypt is marked by a profound contradiction which deserves some comment: Healthy rates of economic growth exist alongside a widespread feeling of despair which dominates broad segments of society. This despair is rooted in the declining living standards of many Egyptians, largely as a result of rapidly rising inflation. But what interests me is the other side of this equation: Those who have...
26 Oct 2010
Back in 2004, a year after the US invasion of Iraq, accounts and photographs of murder, rape and torture at Abu Ghraib prison by American forces and private contractors sent a shudder throughout the world. The scandal revealed that not only were US soldiers replicating the same kind of behavior that they were supposed to put an end to by overthrowing Saddam Hussein's regime, but that some...
25 Oct 2010
Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks (an international group that publishes anonymously submitted secret government documents), would probably be an unwelcome guest in Cairo and much of Arab world. Paradoxically, the work of his organization, which has revealed hundreds of thousands of leaked military and intelligence reports on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, suggests that Assange sympathizes...
24 Oct 2010
Ali Eddin Helal, media secretary for the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), affirmed three days ago that the NDP would nominate President Hosni Mubarak in next year’s presidential race. Helal’s statements have sparked controversy as they supposedly put an end to any uncertainty about who the NDP will field in the 2011 election.
Helal’s statement contradicts another one that...
20 Oct 2010
Newspapers reported on Monday that most of the seats in Cairo University’s student union election were won without contest as the number of candidates did not exceed the number of seats to be filled. The fact that student union membership is being increasingly determined in this fashion merits some contemplation.
The phenomenon can only be explained by one of two things: Either...
19 Oct 2010
There’s an unusually virulent strand of political surrealism surging through Egypt at the moment. I stress “unusually” because there is always some degree of surrealism to the politics of most countries, and especially those like Egypt (and pretty much everywhere else in the Middle East) whose political systems are one thing in theory and another in practice. Reconciling the two...
18 Oct 2010
The Muslim Brotherhood has the most problematic political discourse in Egypt. They insist on upholding a religious slogan, “Islam is the Solution”, and they don't comply with existing laws that govern electoral competition. They're akin to Islamic groups in Turkey, who publicly consent to a maintaining a secular state but then change its laws once they reach power.