In the eyes of tens of millions of Egyptians, Senators John McCain's and Lindsey Graham's recent words and deeds in Egypt—which have the "blessing" of President Obama—have unequivocally proven that U.S. leadership is aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Egyptian media is awash with stories of the growing anger regarding this policy.
A top advisor to Egypt's Interim President Adly Mansour formally accused McCain of distorting facts to the benefit of the Brotherhood, dismissing the senator's remarks as "irrational"—or, more colloquially, "moronic." Ahmed al-Zind, head of the Egyptian Judge Club, called for the arrest and trial of McCain for "trying to destroy Egypt." The leader of the youth movement, Tamarod (or "Rebellion" against the Brotherhood) which played a major role in mobilizing the June 30 Revolution, said "We reject John McCain and call on the international community to let the [Egyptian] people decide their own fate." Another incensed secular political commentator, Ahmed Musa, asserted that "These two men have made more shameless demands than the Brotherhood themselves would dare," adding:
He [McCain] is not a man elected by the American people to speak on their behalf; today, he speaks on behalf of an armed terrorist organization—the Muslim Brotherhood… We had expected [better] from these two men who came to speak with the tongue of the Brotherhood's leadership, and as if they had been recruited as two new leaders of the Brotherhood, which killed, destroyed, and burned in al-Muqattam, and now in Rab'a al-Adawiya [the main Brotherhood camp]. The only thing missing is to see them [McCain and Graham] in Rab'a, surrounded by armed groups, and in their midst Muhammad Badie [supreme leader of the Brotherhood] and [U.S. ambassador] Anne Patterson. That's all that's missing! Here comes Brother McCain today saying that we must "release the [Brotherhood] prisoners"…. are you not aware that these people are accused of murder? Are you not aware that hundreds of Egyptians have been killed at the hands of the Brotherhood, Morsi, Shatter, Qatatni, Badie, Baltagi—have you forgotten? Did you not read the report on what happened? Or did you just blindly accept your ambassador's [Anne Patterson's] words that it was a coup, that 33 million people did not go out?
What did McCain do and say in Egypt to earn the ire of millions of Egyptians?
First, most offensive to Egyptians—and helpful to the Brotherhood's cause—is McCain's insistence on calling the June 30 Revolution a "military coup." In reality, the revolution consisted of perhaps thirty million Egyptians taking to the streets to oust the Brotherhood. McCain is either deliberately misconstruing the event, or believes the story as manufactured by Al Jazeera and promulgated by Ambassador Anne Patterson. In this narrative, at least an equal amount of Egyptians supported Morsi, and the military overthrew him against popular will. Al Jazeera has actually broadcast images of the millions of anti-Morsi protesters and identified them as pro-Morsi protesters, disinformation which was quickly adopted by Western media.
Several Al Jazeera correspondents have resigned due to Al Jazeera acting as the Brotherhood's international mouthpiece.
Fortunately, some American officials have formally rejected this false narrative. A new congressional resolution states:
Whereas in recent weeks, an estimated 30,000,000 Egyptians in a majority of Egypt's 27 provinces gathered to protest the widespread failures of former President Mohamed Morsi and the Government of Egypt and its violations of the most basic rights of all Egyptian citizens, including Egyptian women, minorities, and those publicly dissenting from its views and policies; Whereas the participants in the June 30, 2013, popular protests far outnumbered those involved in the protests and demonstrations of January and February 2011 …
Even the Obama administration has been sensible enough not to call the June 30 revolution a "military coup." Nevertheless, McCain rejected John Kerry's statement that "the [Egyptian] military did not take over."
McCain's designation raises other questions as well. If he considers the ouster of the Brotherhood government to be a military coup, why didn't he extend that distinction at the fall of Mubarak's more moderate government, which was also removed by the military in response to popular protests? If McCain's argument is that Morsi was democratically elected and Mubarak was not, then why was the U.S. giving Egypt billions in aid for decades—thus legitimizing Mubarak's government no less than Morsi's?
Further angering Egyptians is McCain's insistence that all arrested Brotherhood members be released from prison. As Musa said, McCain's stance does not address the fact that Brotherhood leadership is awaiting trial on serious charges: inciting terrorism, causing the murder of Egyptians, and grand treason by conspiring with foreign powers against Egypt's interests.
McCain claims he is simply interested in the human rights of the incarcerated Brotherhood members, a statement that is additionally curious. If human rights are at issue, why has McCain and the U.S. administration been indifferent to the fate of Hosni Mubarak? Morsi faces perhaps more serious charges than Mubarak does, yet McCain calls for his release.
McCain's call to release Brotherhood leadership validates the widespread belief in Egypt that America is a fellow conspirator with the Brotherhood. Egyptians believe the U.S. fears that Morsi and others, if tried, would reveal the nature of their cozy relationship with the U.S. government, leading to any number of ugly revelations—treasonous ties and conspiracies, the exchange of billions of dollars, and Sinai issues. Hence, McCain wants them freed. This belief seems all the more reasonable to Egyptians considering that in 2011, McCain said of the Muslim Brotherhood:
I think they are a radical group that first of all supports Sharia law; that in itself is anti-democratic—at least as far as women are concerned. They have been involved with other terrorist organizations and I believe that they should be specifically excluded from any transition government.
McCain also personally visited Khairat al-Shatter, the multi-millionaire deputy chief of the Brotherhood who is currently incarcerated on charges of treason and terrorism. Interestingly, Shatter was not even a member of Morsi's government. Why is McCain visiting a civilian? Shatter's status as a major figure in the largest Islamist organization in the world is leading Egyptians to connect the dots. Even Shatter himself, understanding the awful visuals, asked McCain to visit "the legitimate president" Morsi instead.
U.S. media has said little about the administration's ties to al-Shatter; however these ties are well-known among Egyptians: ambassador Anne Patterson was frequently seen going to Shatter's residence.
Egyptian media has also pointed out that McCain repeatedly dodged critical questions by Egyptian journalists at the press conference. When asked about the fact that the Brotherhood in Rab'a was armed to the teeth, and—with the aid of al-Qaeda—was killing and terrorizing innocent Egyptians, McCain ignored the question. This, of course is in keeping with the fact that McCain has also ignored the question as to why he is the staunchest supporter of the jihad in Syria, which has torn that nation apart, seen the slaughter and displacement of untold thousands of Christians and the destruction of their churches, and the beheadings and "legitimized rapes" by foreign jihadis whom McCain is in favor of arming.
Many Egyptians are also wondering why McCain—as well as the Obama administration—is pushing for elections as soon as possible. Such a rush contributed to the empowerment of the Brotherhood in the first place: once the long-entrenched Mubarak was removed from power, the only party that was organized and ready to campaign was the Brotherhood. Secular Egyptian parties wanted to postpone the 2012 elections in order to mobilize their campaigns, but the U.S. was adamant that Egypt hold elections immediately. When the military wished to perform a recount, citing irregularities in the election—including widespread allegations of voter fraud by the Brotherhood—Hillary Clinton chastised them and called for a winner to be declared as soon as possible. This turned out to be Morsi, by a tiny margin—if that.
In short, McCain's remarks and actions in Egypt have further confirmed the popular narrative—as memorably displayed by countless anti-Brotherhood and anti-Obama placards raised during the June 30 Revolution—that U.S. leadership is aligned with the Brotherhood, and thus ultimately a supporter of terrorism. Americans can no longer afford to ignore this serious accusation with broad implications.
Raymond Ibrahim, author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians (Regnery, April, 2013) is a Middle East and Islam specialist, and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.