Egypt, America, supporters of democracy everywhere, we've been played.
For more than a year, we believed that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) would turn over at least an appropriate amount of power to civilian authority when the new Egyptian president was elected. We believed that SCAF was the protector of the Egyptian people, and that it would restore order in the short term to ensure stability in the long run. We believed that the parliamentary elections were a big deal.
Well, we've been exposed as the foolish suckers we've always been. We heard a good story about the promise of democracy and jumped at it without ever checking the source.
Turns out, General Mohamed Hussein Tantawi and SCAF were setting us up the whole time. They've offered minor concessions strung out over the course of the past year that were just enticing enough for us to keep the faith, but never robust enough to challenge their rule or commit to a true democracy. Marshall law was temporarily halted (it's back on), parliamentary elections were held, and presidential elections were scheduled. But all of this was part of the plan. While many believed these steps were progress, in reality each ruling or decree was an another carefully crafted exercise meant to sap the hope, energy, and emotional confidence from Egyptian activists. The plan worked. As the summer and then fall drew on, the crowds were fewer, the energy lower and the unease higher. Activists grew too tired and weary to muster a challenge.
However what the military didn't count on, was the extent of their unpopularity. With an economy in shambles, tourism almost non-existent and crime and instability on the rise, the military figured that the Egyptian people would be longing for their law and order. SCAF thought that the people would surely turn to the military backed candidate Ahmed Shafik. And when they did, the military's strategy would be complete. Shafik they could claim, was the choice of the people.
As the likely victory by the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi has shown, the Egyptian people aren't so keen on continued military rule. They are ready for true democracy.
So the military resorted it's trump card and revealed it's ace in the hole. Last week the Egyptian supreme court, one packed with SCAF sympathizers, ruled that the Egyptian parliament was invalid. Less than a day later, the military crushed all hopes of the presidential elections having any meaning by grabbing all remaining power and giving themselves the sole authority in writing the country's constitution and laws.
In the process, they officially duped us all. And while the Egyptian people may have been played, the tens of thousands who flooded Tahrir Square again on Tuesday to challenge what many are calling a military coup, have shown that it is not over yet. Once again SCAF overlooked the same critical factor in completing the power grab as they have time and again: the Egyptian people want democracy, and this time with a taste of freedom still fresh in their memories, they are willing to fight for it.