Back in July, an Egyptian judge confirmed the death sentence against former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi. The court characterized Morsi’s year in office as a “black night” before proclaiming that “the dawn of human conscience arrived” in the wake of the military coup that removed him.
The amusing thing about those comments is that Morsi came to power on the heels of another period which supposedly marked a new dawn (or, more accurately, a new “spring”) for the country.
Morsi, whose Muslim Brotherhood has been branded a terrorist organization by now-President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, assumed the Presidency in 2012 after Hosni Mubarak was toppled a year earlier during the Arab Spring. Morsi would himself become the target of mass protests after issuing a decree granting himself special powers — the unrest would ultimately end in the military assuming power in July of 2013 in an infamous (maybe)-coup.
In short, the US was effectively forced to abandon its support for one despot (Mubarak) after the Arab Spring ushered in a successor despot (Morsi) in what were hailed as the first democratic elections in Egypt’s history.
In the wake of the military counter-coup, Washington was again left with little choice but to support a new Egyptian President, this time in the form of former military commander and the Mubarak regime’s head of military intelligence, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who was inaugurated in June of last year. Shortly after his inauguration, al-Sisi got a visit from John Kerry, who, as WSJ noted at the time, “voiced strong U.S. support for Egypt's new president and signaled that Washington will continue the flow of military aid in an American welcome of the post-coup government.”
That military aid now amounts to some $1.3 billion per year and is aimed at - you guessed it - fighting “terrorism” which Egypt has had quite a lot of since removing Morsi (whose party, as mentioned above, is itself viewed as a terrorist organization) from power. As Reuters notes, “Egypt is battling an insurgency that gained pace after the military ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in mid-2013 after mass protests against his rule." As is the case in Turkey, the waters are decidedly muddy regarding who’s a “terrorist” and who’s merely a possibly violent political agitator, but it’s difficult to ignore the similarities between Cairo and Ankara when it comes to a Washington-backed despotic President accepting US assistance ostensibly earmarked for the fight against ISIS but which also serves to fortify the government against political opposition.
Of course when you mix US foreign policy with oppressive Middle Eastern governments and throw in a dash of ISIS there’s no limit to the absurd and very often tragic things that can happen, which is why we could do little but shake our heads when we read the following account of how the Egyptian army managed to kill 12 Mexican tourists “by accident” after mistaking them for a fleeing group of “militants”. Here’s Reuters with the story:
Egyptian security forces killed 12 Mexicans and Egyptians and injured 10 "by accident" on Monday in an attack after mistaking a tourist convoy for militants they were pursuing in the country's western desert, the ministry of interior said.
At least two Mexicans were killed, Mexico's foreign ministry said in a statement, though Egyptian security sources later said that eight Mexicans and four Egyptians were killed, and eight Mexicans and two Egyptians were wounded, judicial and security sources said.
The tourist group of 22 had parked their four four-by-four vehicles off road for a barbecue near the Bahariya oasis, a tourist site in the western desert, when army aircraft suddenly began shelling them from above, security sources said.
As members of the tourist convoy tried to flee, additional security forces on the ground fired on them.
Egypt is battling an insurgency that gained pace after the military ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in mid-2013 after mass protests against his rule.
The insurgency, mounted by Islamic State's Egyptian affiliate, has killed hundreds of soldiers and police and has started to attack Western targets.
A joint force from the Egyptian police and military had been chasing militants in the country's vast western desert when it came across the tourist convoy, which it mistook for the militants it was pursuing, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
Now, just read that again so it sinks in.
The Egyptian military was out on a routine, desert militant chase when they somehow managed to mistake 12 Mexicans having a barbecue for ISIS.
At that point, someone called in air support - which we imagine might well have involved some of the 12 F-16s the US delivered to Cairo in March - and when the vacationers tried to run, they were shot.
Here's a look at the Bahariya Oasis and a short description of what kinds of things tourists can get into while visiting (via Egypt's official travel site):
Spanning over 2000 sq. km. the Bahariya Oasis is a lush haven set in the midst of an unforgiving desert and surrounded by black hills made of quartz. The Oasis is home to amazing ruins, such as the Temple of Alexander the Great, beautifully painted Ptolemaic tombs and very old churches. The recent discovery of the golden mummies, the pride of Bawiti Museum today, turned the oasis’ main town, into a tourist magnet, and its proximity to the Black Desert have earned Bahariya a high rank on the tourist map of Egypt.
Go for a short hike up to the mountains of Bahariya for an aerial view of the oasis, dunes and great sunsets. Visit ancient Egyptian and Graeco-Roman sites, such as the Tomb of Banentiu, haggle with the locals for a scarf or a rug, enjoy a moment of solitude among wildlife, or relax in the hot waters of the Bir Sigam hot spring. Your options in Bahariya are wider than you can imagine.
Yes, "haggle with the locals for a rug, enjoy a moment of solitude among wildlife," or run screaming for your life when the Egyptian military mistakes your barbecue for a gathering of bloodthirsty militants.
"Your options in Bahariay are wider than you can imagine."
Needless to say, Enrique Pena Nieto was not pleased:
México condena estos hechos en contra de nuestros ciudadanos y ha exigido al gobierno de Egipto una exhaustiva investigación de lo ocurrido.— Enrique Peña Nieto (@EPN) September 14, 2015
Translation, Mexico wants a "full investigation into what happened." Unfortunately for Nieto, such an investigation won't yield much in the way of new information. The bottom line is that this is just one more example of the fallout from US meddling in the affairs of each and every nation in the region.
Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Israel, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and on, and on. You name the state, and the US has an agenda for how it thinks things should go and just as often as not, there's some manner of military involvement or cooperation meaning innocent people will invariably be displaced, killed, or worse, be they Syrians caught in the crossfire between Assad and those whose US-sponsored mandate is to destabilize his regime, or be they Mexican tourists at an oasis cookout in Egypt.
Before anyone thinks incidents like these are set to make al-Sisi reconsider how Egypt handles the fight against terror, think again, because not even a month ago, the President signed new legislation widening Cairo's surveillance authority. And because the US just can't help itself when it comes to missing the irony in its own proclamations, State Department spokesman John Kirby said Washington is "concerned that some measures in Egypt’s new anti-terrorism law could have a significant detrimental impact on human rights and fundamental freedoms." Much like the Patriot Act.
We'll close with the following statement from tour guide syndicate leader Hassan al-Nahla responding to Monday's "accident":
"Because of this negligence and lack of coordination between the ministry of tourism and ministry of interior, Egypt...will pay the price when this affects tourism."