Egypt will celebrated the 67th anniversary of the 23 July 1952 revolution tomorrow, which changed the way of life, not only for the regime in Egypt but for the entire Arab world, as it marked the beginning of successful military coups in the Arab region. This is with the exception of Husni Al-Za’im’s coup in Syria in 1949, who was overthrown four months later by another coup staged by Sami Al-Henawi, who was executed, and this was followed by a third coup in the same year.
After the coup in July, there were several military coups in the region, backed by the US, as it is the mastermind for the military coups in the world and the exclusive supporter of them. It is credited with changing the regimes and leaders to create a new world loyal to it and to its liking. The US inherited the British Empire after WWII and wanted to control the Middle East with its men, appointed in Arab countries to protect its personal interests and achieve its colonial ambitions.
In his book “The Game Player”, CIA officer Miles Copeland said that the American intelligence provided secret assistance to Abdel Nasser and met with him three times, agreeing to spread the feeling amongst the Egyptians that their coup is not imposed by the English, Americans or the French. They allowed him to attack these countries in his speeches after the coup, in order for the cooperation between the US intelligence and the coup to remain silent.
One of the most famous military coups of the Cold War between America and Russia in the 1950s and 1960s, after the coup in Egypt, was the coup staged by Iraqi Defence Minister Abdul Karim Kassem in 1958, which ended the monarchy in Iraq. He was then overthrown and executed by the Baathists in 1963, and was succeeded by his close friend Abdul Salam Aref, who died after his plane crashed. His brother, Abdul Rahman Aref, took over, but was then ousted in another coup in 1968, known as the “White Revolution” in Iraq led by Ahmed Hassan Al-Bakr and his deputy, Saddam Hussein, who later turned on his uncle and ruled Iraq.
The train of military coups travelled to Yemen on 26 September 1962 when a group of army officers led by Abdullah Al-Saloul overthrew the royal imam of the country.
The train continued to Libya on 1 September 1969 when Muammar Gaddafi and a group of military officers overthrew King Idriss Al-Sinousi and forced him to abdicate. Gaddafi then crowned himself president of Libya.
Thus, we see that the change of regimes in the Arab world, the fall of the monarchies in it and their replacement with republican systems occurred by means of military coups staged by a handful of junior army officers seduced by foreign forces attracted to the countries’ wealth. The change did not come about through popular revolutions, as was the case in Europe and Latin America. Despite this, the coup leaders insist on considering them popular revolutions and celebrate their coups every year.
The military coup in Egypt was the greatest disaster that plagued the entire nation, as it was the beginning of the military’s interference in the countries’ policies. They also seized control of the country and completely ended political life, drying out all of its sources and turning the governments into police (intelligence) states in which the intelligence plays a major role in governing the state and the army manages military security instead of the security and safety of the citizens.
Immediately after taking control of the state, a system to spy and monitor communications, known as the general intelligence, was established by one of the coup’s main men, Zakaria Mohieddin. He managed to turn Egypt into a suffocating state by all standards, especially with the constant monitoring. Modern intelligence agencies and technologies were not enough for this mission, as they also used individuals to report anything disloyal to the coup-led regime. Fathers reported their sons, neighbours and colleagues, and sons reported their fathers. Therefore, they managed to tear the social fabric of the society and create a sense of paranoia, which reached its climax when the army was directly involved in the arrest process, detaining people in military prisons.
The detainees in this prison suffered the worst forms of torture and abuse, including killing, rape (men and women), and brutal torture (physical and mental), the likes of which was unprecedented, even during the English occupation. Meanwhile, their leader, Abdel Nasser, would reiterate in his speeches his famous saying, “Raise your head fellow brother, the end of colonialism has come,” and the absentminded masses, dreaming of freedom, dignity and justice across the Arab world applauded him.
The disease of the police system in Egypt spread across the Arab world, which witnessed military coups, and they used the Egyptian model as a guide or approach for them to follow in order to maintain their coup-led rule. These authoritarian regimes followed the policy of “divide and conquer” which was followed by the occupation, but they were more vigorous in implementing it. They created a (parasitic) class of opportunists, known as the “centres of power” that controlled the country and the people. It is ironic that rulers used these centres of power as scapegoats, blaming all of their mistakes and defeats on them, as Abdel Nasser did after the crushing defeat in the 1967 war, even though they were his men!
The army’s first statement did not mention the word revolution at all, but instead referred to it as the “blessed military operation”. The statement used shiny and attractive words that most of the Arab masses longed to hear, such as “eliminating feudalism and the control of capital”, “establishing social justice”, and “establishing peaceful democratic life”. Forty days after seizing control of the country, the Agrarian Reform Law was passed, which prevents individuals from owning more than 200 feddans (0.84 square kilometres) of agricultural land, after thousands of Egyptians had owned thousands of feddans. This land was distributed among farmers and renters became landowners. Farmers rejoiced and applauded the blessed military operation. Abdel Nasser and his men took advantage of this to promote their movement, especially since there is a large part of the nation that was still hesitant towards him. They boarded a train – the revolution train – that went through the various municipalities and saluted the people who gathered to welcome the train.
Some may believe that the Agrarian Reform Law is fair in distributing the wealth, despite the fact that the Al-Azhar sheikh at the time objected to it because it violated the teachings of Islam. This law certainly negatively affected agriculture in Egypt because it eliminated the unity and continuity of the agricultural land and fragmented them. A lot of agricultural land was razed and homes and factories were built on the land. It is ironic that he later went to the desert to improve the land, develop the area and farm the land, such as establishing the New Valley area, which Abdel Nasser announced in 1958 as the parallel to the Nile Valley, where groundwater wells are developed.
As for the matter of eliminating the control of capital over the government, after the decision to nationalise companies and factories, everything became under the control of the state, or this is what they claimed, when in reality everything was under the control of the army. Therefore, instead of a small number of capitalists controlling the government, the army controlled it, resulting in a state within a state.
Regarding the other matters mentioned in Abdel Nasser’s speech, none of them were achieved. Peaceful democratic life that he promised was not established. Instead, all of the parties were dissolved and the individual and his party ruled. The regime was a prime example of dictatorship and ruling with an iron fist.
As for establishing a strong national army, the reason Syria separated from Egypt in 1961 was the deviation of its leaders and defeat in 1956. It also caused the Arab nation’s biggest disaster with its defeat in 1967 and the occupation of Jerusalem, the West Bank, Sinai and the Golan Heights.
Israel is no longer the historical enemy of the nation, but instead the compass is now pointing at the movements resisting Israel, making them the new enemy. Now the Israeli leaders consider the Egyptian leaders a strategic treasure.
Abdel Nasser built his tyrannical popularity in the Arab world on his great hostility towards Israel, claiming he would throw it into the sea, but instead all of his slogans and claims were swallowed by the sea.
O how oppressed you are, beloved Palestine, by those closest to you? You were sold by evil liars and the leaders of the military coups in the Arab world took advantage of you to promote themselves and trick their people at your expense.
The January 25th revolution in 2011 was meant to be a true popular revolution to correct the mistakes and calamities that have afflicted the nation and to put the army back into their trenches, leaving the political and economic affair to the civilians. However, they fought it and aborted it with the 3 July coup that overthrew the first elected civilian president in more than 7,000 years, the martyr, President Mohamed Morsi. Military rule continues and it has a grip on all aspects of the state, making Egypt an army with a nation.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.