Egypt's Bloodshed Dampens Optimism For the Future

Twenty Christians were killed in the latest crackdown, and doubts are growing

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The Egyptian military's shift to the side of protesters helped swing the momentum in that country this spring, and bring down former President Hosni Mubarak. But as the military consolidates power, and wields it, the liberal movement that once celebrated their partnership is growing wary.

The worries grew after the military crushed a protest one week ago, killing 20 Christian demonstrators and adding to doubts about one of the seemingly stable pillars of Egyptian society.

From the Associated Press:

A broader sector of the public has been thrown into shocked confusion. Many Egyptians view the military as the last bastion of stability — a force “made up of our own sons,” as many often say — and tend to trust it to handle the transition toward a democratic system. So images of army troops wildly running over protesters with armored vehicles have jolted them.

Some try to find excuses for the ruling junta or nervously defend it. Intertwined in the reaction are the religious tensions between Egypt’s Muslim majority and Christian minority. The fact that victims were Christians has made some less sympathetic or more willing to forgive the army’s actions.

Others have been so shocked they have joined the criticism.

“This was an awful failure,” said Mohammed Othman, a former army officer who now works as a pharmacist. “I think the (generals) lost credit and now we are in the countdown for them to leave.”

They aren't the only ones gone skeptical. The strong-man-like tactics are losing faith of Western commentators. See, for example, The Wall Street Journal.

The blame for this and most of the recent upheavals rests with the military—not the Muslim Brotherhood or the small group of liberals. The council of generals appointed by Mr. Mubarak has ruled Egypt with little accountability or transparency since his fall. The leaderless revolution in Cairo's Tahrir Square left Egypt without an opposition figure with national stature, like a Mandela or Walesa, to lead the transition to democracy. The generals are a poor substitute.

Will change come, again, for Egypt? And at what potentially bloody cost?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.