“If all Egyptians unite, it can happen,” said Mina, the weary-eyed young man with whom I spoke in Cairo in late May. Those same eyes witnessed his friends crushed beneath armored personnel carriers at Maspero a year and a half before; they saw his fellow Christians killed at the St. Mark’s siege only a month before, as hundreds were trapped inside the Middle East’s largest church during an attack that lasted more than 18 hours. “At that moment, I felt we were facing genocide.”
Still, he insists, “it can happen.” Mina was speaking about the protests planned for June 30, 2013 (the anniversary of Mohammed Morsi’s rise to power), then one month away.
How unlikely it seemed that these idealistic youth — Christians and Muslims, liberals and secularists — would stand a chance to topple the Muslim Brothers and their armed thugs. How improbable that the Tamarod (“rebel”) movement could mobilize the demoralized Egyptian people. Yet even modest estimates of the protest turnout dwarf the protests of 2011.
Like many of his countrymen, Mina believes that America supports the Muslim Brotherhood, a “new fascism” in Egypt. Those whom he saw killed, he says, were killed with weapons “from the U.S.” As we reflected on the meeting later that night, I told documentary filmmaker Jordan Allott that I was ashamed of my government — not my country, but my government, a distinction the late Bob Novak would often draw.
George, a Coptic Christian, is asked what Americans can do to help. “The first thing I want is for them to pray a lot. Prayer can [work] miracles.” This wish is echoed by Mina. As the June 30 Revolution (as it will be known to posterity) begins, Mina e-mails me: “Pray for us, my friend. We expect a bloody clash tomorrow.” Thankfully, the violence has been minimal.
Some will say that toppling Morsi would undermine Egypt’s democratic evolution. To this it must be said that many, if not most, Egyptians reject the legitimacy of Morsi’s 2012 election. Many also question why the Obama administration and the U.S. ambassador have shown unwavering loyalty to Morsi and the Muslim Brothers — to whom the U.S. has given more than one billion dollars of direct aid this year alone. And if Obama believes he can start distancing himself from Morsi now, he is mistaken.
Amid the protests, the talk of democracy, and even the Obama administration’s deeply disconcerting comfort with Islamic extremism, it may be that the greatest story, the one that history will record if the rebels succeed, has been lost: This would be the first Islamist regime to have been toppled by a popular revolt in the Middle East.
That the triumph of secular democratic liberalism in Egypt should constitute a black eye for American foreign policy is an outrage — an offense to the blood that Americans have shed for the cause of liberty at home and abroad. If the rebels succeed, they will do so in defiance not only of the Muslim Brothers but also the Obama administration — which once again finds itself on the wrong side of history in the Middle East. If they can do so peacefully, George’s miracle will have happened.
— Andrew Doran served on the executive secretariat of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO at the U.S. Department of State, where he has since worked as a consultant. His views are his own.