The official media in Egypt have celebrated what they called the “glorious 1952 revolution” despite the fact that those who carried out the “revolution”, the military, called it a military movement, not a revolution, when they issued their first statement on the radio. In fact, it was a military coup against Farouk I, the King of Egypt and Sudan. It was carried out with America’s blessing and British approval for the handing over of the Middle East — which was more or less part of the British Empire at the time — to a new world leadership in the world, the United States.
This handover started with military coups in Syria and continued in Egypt. The US initiated coups in the Arab countries as well as Latin America. In his book The Game of Nations, former CIA officer Miles Copeland said that the Agency provided secret aid to Gamal Abdel Nasser — with whom Copeland had a close relationship — and made him a giant. He also said that the CIA met with Nasser and his group three times just four months before the 1952 coup, and agreed with him that the message to the people of Egypt should be that the coup was not imposed by the English, Americans or French. The CIA even allowed Nasser to attack these countries in his speeches following the coup in order for the cooperation with the Agency to remain secret.
The military coup in 1952 was basically a transition from British occupation to American occupation; it simply replaced one coloniser with another. In order for it to be acceptable to the population, it had Egyptian faces to cover the Americans behind it. Hence, we can say that 23 July 1952 can be called a US revolution and the CIA helped to get Gamal Abdel Nasser into power. Kermit Roosevelt, the head of the Middle East department in the CIA, repaid the coup leaders.
According to John Ranelagh in his book The Agency: The rise and decline of the CIA, after the Americans gave up on King Farouk, they tried to contact the army by means of the US military attaché in Cairo and held a number of meetings with Nasser in the attaché’s house in Al-Zamalek. They discussed matters related to weapons, training, the international position and the communist threat. They also discussed how the US would help any renaissance taking place in Egypt. This contact occurred between 1950 and 1952.
Sixty-six years have passed since this military coup which ended the Kingdom of Egypt and Sudan, which included parts of Libya, Chad and the Gaza Strip. In 1950, Uganda asked King Farouk to be part of the Egyptian kingdom under his rule. Following the coup, Egypt lost all of this extra territory and Sinai was threatened, until it was lost in the 1967 war with Israel; Egypt only regained control of the Sinai Peninsula in 1973.
It was known in Europe, particularly in Britain, that “Egypt produces and the world consumes”, and Egypt was the top cotton producer and exporter of the finest quality cotton until the early 1950s. The most famous cotton exchange in the world was in Minet El-Bassal. Furthermore, the Cairo and Alexandria stock exchanges ranked fourth in the world in the 1940s. Indeed, Egypt had the highest global monetary cap and the value of the Egyptian pound was higher than sterling; 1 Egyptian pound was worth £8 pounds sterling, 50 French francs or 4 US dollars. England was indebted to Egypt to the tune of £350 million.
Egypt was the first country in the world to operate a large solar power plant, which opened in Maadi in 1911. In 1862, Japan sent a mission to Egypt to study the causes of the Egyptian renaissance and the country’s advancement in order to benefit from its experience; the Japanese were astonished by what they saw. The unemployment rate was less than 2 per cent and Europeans came to Egypt to work in modest occupations such as barbers and ranchers.
When an English doctor wanted to work at Kasr Al-Aini Hospital, he was not allowed to practice until he obtained an Egyptian equivalence certificate. Health care was provided by the state and free for everyone. Cairo was the most beautiful city in the world and the streets were washed with soap and water and sprinkled with rose water daily.
However, when the first military officer took over the great Kingdom of Egypt, he turned it into the beggar Egyptian Arab Republic, leaving the country burdened with debts exceeding $3 billion. He voluntarily gave up all of Sudan and Israel took over the Gaza Strip and one third of Egyptian territory represented by the Sinai Peninsula. The country was left devastated and exhausted on all levels; citizens couldn’t even raise their heads any more.
The military train was moving towards the abyss at an alarming speed until we reached the state we are in now, with complete deterioration on every level and the collapse of state institutions across the economic, education, cultural and heath sectors. The Egyptian personality has also declined, which is arguably the most dangerous decline to happen under abhorrent military rule.
When will Egypt get rid of its military rulers? We thought that the 25 January Revolution in 2011, and the election of President Mohamed Morsi as Egypt’s first civilian president, had done the job. However, all of the deep state forces hostile to the revolution and the Islamic trend in the world combined and conspired against the will of the people, resulting in the military coup of July 2013, sixty-one years after the army’s first coup against the King. Egypt fell back under military rule.
The great Egyptian historian Dr Gamal Hamdan said in his book The Character of Egypt that the country has always been divided into two groups: a small group that owns and governs, and a big group that neither owns nor governs. How true he was; there was certainly nothing “glorious” about the 1952 coup d’état, and the 2013 version was no better.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.