Saturday, January 29, 2011


My knowledge of what is going on in Egypt at the moment is pretty much non-existent, so I'm not expressing any opinions right now. The hitcounter shows me that my regular readers from Egypt haven't been around recently. I know the Internet has been cut off in Egypt, which is really horrible. It is also dangerous, as people now have no way of letting the world know what's going on. 

If there are people reading this who can share their insights into the situation in Egypt, please do so in the comments. Also, if / when the Egyptian readers manage to get their Internet connection back, do let me know you are OK, because I'm worried here. Stay strong, people!


Canukistani said...

Egypt – the story you won’t read. One of the themes which I’ve presented in my comments is the nature of modern American journalism: consensus positions, discourse boundaries and narrative compartmentalization. One has to search multiples sources for hermeneutical inconsistencies and one which I noticed in the current news is the looting of the Cairo museum with respect to the looting of the Iraq museum in 2003.

On Friday, the news reported the burning of the headquarters of the National Democratic Party of President Muhammad Hosni Mubarak. As anyone who is interested in archaeology and travelled to Egypt (like myself) knows the Cairo Museum is next door to the headquarters so my internal radar switched on and I explored the Internet for more information. Looters had managed to break into the museum in downtown Cairo, destroy two pharaonic mummies and loot the gift shop before the Army was able to secure the building. The museum houses the majority of the collection of King Tutankhamen including the famous gold mask, as well as tens of thousands of other artefacts from ancient Egypt.

The inconsistency is the parallel drawn to the Iraq museum looting 8 years ago. The previous looting is currently being presented by the American media as a spontaneous act of looting by poor Iraqis driven by rage for the Saddam Hussein regime and the need for objects to sell for personal gain when in fact most of the really valuable artefacts were taken by insiders in contact with professional thieves acting on the orders of a shopping list given by wealthy collectors who had been waiting for years for an opportune moment. The attitude of the American government at the time was expressed by the secretary of state, Donald Rumsfeld, when he dismissed the complaints saying, “Stuff happens.”

One of the unexpected consequences of the concentration of wealth into the top 1% is the fact that plutocrats have kleptomania for ancient artefacts. William Randolph Hearst, a wealthy early twentieth century publisher used to collect ancient Egyptian artifacts for his mansion in California. I’ve attached a picture of one. With the current plethora of billionaires in the world, I suspect a vast market for these items and if the current Egyptian regime is overthrown I expect news headlines about the subsequent looting of the Cairo Museum with the same narrative as in Iraq.

The plutocracy has certainly had advance notice of the events in Egypt. According to the Daily Telegraph “The American government secretly backed leading figures behind the Egyptian uprising who have been planning “regime change” for the past three years.” The article goes on to state that in leaked Wiki leak cables” The US government has previously been a supporter of Mr. Mubarak’s regime. But the leaked documents show the extent to which America was offering support to pro-democracy activists in Egypt while publicly praising Mr. Mubarak as an important ally in the Middle East. In a secret diplomatic dispatch, sent on December 30 2008, Margaret Scobey, the US Ambassador to Cairo, recorded that opposition groups had allegedly drawn up secret plans for “regime change” to take place before elections, scheduled for September this year.” So the plutocracy in contact with the oligarchy in Washington could expect chaos before the autumn of this year and prepare its shopping lists. (continued)

Canukistani said...


Don’t expect any noble sentiments for the protection of Egypt’s heritage from the standard bearers of the government institutions if they can get away with it. The country ranks 79th on the world corruption index (Canada ranks 6th and America 17th). “As Secretary-General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, Dr Zahi Hawass is seated only one rung below the Egyptian cabinet, and his power over the investigation of antiquities in Egypt - some of the oldest on the planet, and by any measure, the repository of reams of knowledge still ungleaned - is absolute. His supporters say he has ushered in a golden age of Egyptian archaeology, and his skill at courting the media has been extremely useful in raising funds for research.” In 1993, Hawass left his position as Chief Inspector of the Giza Pyramid Plateau. According to Hawass, he resigned,] others claim, however, that he was fired because a valuable ancient "statue" under the custody of Hawass was stolen from Giza. He was reinstated as Chief Inspector early 1994.

Clarissa said...

Thank you, Canukistani, for sharing your knowledge. I find it very difficult to figure out what's going on precisely because, as you note, the media coverage is pretty shoddy and confusing.

It's not surprising that the US has been playing a double-crossing game with both Mubarak and the people preparing the change of regime.

My question, though, is whether this change of regime is a positive thing. And what might be its repercussions in the region.

fairykarma said...

"consensus positions, discourse boundaries and narrative compartmentalization. One has to search multiples sources for hermeneutical inconsistencies"

I read this, scratched my head, then took a bite of pizza and continued reading to the end, then I went back to the beginning, read the first paragraph, scratched my head, then pondered if I'm reading enough these days.

Canukistani said...

Sorry Fairykarma for the first paragraph. I used short hand phrases for concepts on which I elaborated in previous comments. For example see my comment on stereotypes by the New York Times post. I thought that the comment was long enough without detailed explanations but perhaps I erred.

David said...

No need to apologize. I think it was some light poking fun at an otherwise good post.

Canukistani said...

“My question, though, is whether this change of regime is a positive thing. And what might be its repercussions in the region.”

The real question is whether it is a positive thing for the Egyptian people. A lot of the current news is a conflation of America’s view of a positive outcome with Egypt’s needs. Today the Huffington Post had an article titled “Why Egypt matters: Implications of the Protests.” Its concerns were 1) strong US ally, 2) Israel Palestine peace treaty, 3) Islamist influence, 4) business concerns and 5) regional implications. The important thing is that probably everything you know about Egypt is wrong.

The quaintly named Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (or Capmas) was established by presidential decree in 1964 as Egypt's "official source for the collection of data and statistical information, and its preparation, processing and dissemination". Capmas is in charge of "providing all the state bodies, organizations, universities, research centres and in development [sic] and evaluation processes with the information that can help them to make informed decisions". In effect, this gives the Egyptian state a monopoly on statistics, and for 30 years (at least) Capmas has been headed not by professional statisticians but by a succession of major-generals from the military. (Guardian newspaper)

Brian Whitaker in an article in the Guardian on Oct.25, 2010 stated, “Imagine trying to govern a country that lacks adequate statistics about economic activity, healthcare, crime, education, urban development and environmental pollution. Imagine a country that relies heavily on agriculture, and yet has produced no data on the quality of cultivable land since the 1970s.” The information gap in Egypt runs very deep. According to the report "Information Gaps in Egyptian Statistics and the Quality of Basic Data," released by the Egyptian Cabinet Information and Decision Support Center, no reliable data exist on Egypt's population; with some government studies claiming there are as few as 80 million and others estimating it at 85 million. The World Bank, for instance, claims that Egypt's population is 83 million, while the United Nations World Health Organization puts it at just under 77 million. When I was travelling in the Nile delta, I saw obscene variations in wealth between people living by the side of the road in hovels and palatial estates of the rich while the official UN statistics stated that the wealth inequality in Egypt was much less then in America.

In the end, the regime was screwed by its own lack of data. On Nov.1,2010 Walid Kazziha, a political scientist at the American University in Cairo said that” not all sectors in Egypt suffered from information deficiency ... The security apparatus seems to be very aware and alert. I don't think we're going to have a 9/11 in Egypt.” No. Just a regime change.

Canukistani said...

This is raw info from Arab websites so I can’t vouch for the authenticity but it sounds right. Nothing on Western websites but what do you expect? America is rushing military assets to the Egyptian area including the US aircraft carrier Enterprise. The following is commentary from a civilian website interested in military and geopolitical areas.

“US military and intelligence agencies would lose vital air, land and sea assets if Egypt falls into the hands of radical Islamists, as Iran did in 1979, foreign policy analysts say. The US armed forces are entwined with Egypt’s military more than any other Arab countries. But if Islamists seize Cairo, as the mullahs captured Tehran, this complex relationship unravels. “Let me count the ways,” said Ken Allard, a retired Army colonel and military analyst, “They are our biggest strategic partner in the Middle East. At that point, you’ve lost your biggest Arab partner. Geostrategically the mind boggles.”

Best source for info on Egypt is the English language Al Jazeera website but homeland security automatically logs anyone who accesses it. Ok for me but probably not good for someone from a university town in the states.

Shedding Khawatir said...

Some links to read on Egypt and the amazing and courageous Egyptian people. Egyptians from all walks of life and all beliefs are standing up for this beautiful country. A member of the antiquities council (not Hawass) compared Mubarak to Nero.

Al-Jazeera's English blog:

Background and updates from one of the protest organizers:

A blogger's view (he has now been released)

Now, thankfully, there is media coverage. Egypt has internet again. Follow #Egypt, #Tahrir, #Jan25 on twitter. You will find many more links.

Canukistani said...


Since the resignation of Mubarak and the fall of his government, many archaeological sites around Egypt have been looted and priceless antiquities stolen.

Zahi Hawass, antiquities chief of Egypt has resigned. This has not been widely reported in the International press.

Clarissa said...

This is a very important update. If this is not being widely covered, this means there are people who are paying to keep it under wraps.