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Busted flush.

CAIRO: Was it wanton, inept, vindictive or malice aforethought? The Parliament Street Massacre was inane. A picture's worth a thousand words - ad-man Fred Barnard's phrase culled from Bonaparte adventuring in Egypt.

Contemptible was the follow up: Troops charging into Tahrir Square preventing protesters who'd been pulped mercilessly from being treated by doctors. Medicines ignited sacrilegiously; bandages burned; martyrs' funerals invaded.

Soldiers running amuck pillaging tents - TV images beamed around the world. Uniformed baton-wielders laying into prostrate protesters with zeal flabbergasted even those immunized to bloodshed. Mothers' sons shellacking a grandmother.

The cameras didn't lie. One seemed to. Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzoury said the militia exercised self-control. He accused foreigners of stirring it up. Xenophobia. Absurd, absent absolute attestation.

Others see it differently. The US Congress authorization of $1.3 Egyptian military aid and $250 million economic assistance was put on hold. Congress requires assurance from Secretary of State Clinton the transition to democracy is on track. Surely she can't succumb in the face of such blatant brutality?

The pips are squeaking. So strapped for cash is the government, they dispatch the electricity meter readers every few days now to pick up a bob or two.

In a week, Egypt descended into the void of 20 years of Argentinian dictatorship; the morass of Algeria that lasted 30 years when the people's will was ignored; the junta-land of Burma; the murderous mayhem of Northern Ireland where fear still stalks 50 years after the British army went to Belfast to build a Berlin wall.

Let's be clear. The remnants of Tahrir Square have the right to protest. It's their tactics exercising that right as Egypt expresses its will through the ballot box that are muddleheaded

The sit-in on the cabinet's doorstep addles understanding. It absorbed the energy of those whose naivety presented the generals with a non-violent backdoor. They declined. Until now, compared to protests from Russia across Africa and Asia, Egypt's dignity surpassed most. Not any more. Bullying betrays enfeebled frailty.

Mystery surrounds the military's motives. They seized on a commonplace experience in a crowded city - a man bantering with a traffic cop. - to launch their attack. The troops' tirade began as the polls closed. It escalated, cloaked in darkness. Nothing was heard about ballot counting. Did it stop?

Between now and the next round, expect calls for the elections to be postponed until 'order' is restored.

Results that eked out on Thursday reveal the poker player's nightmare: a busted flush. The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) hold the best hand. But to win power they gambled on help from a few moderate, vaguely liberal parties.

Initially they believed their own propaganda: the Salafis' Al-Nour party would get about 10 percent. Whether by mass management or guile the Salafis are nipping at the FJP's ankles. The Brothers face a quandary. Remaining in coalition, they'll look like ninnies. The Salafis will eviscerate them in debate.

Come June a Salafi could be emboldened to take on all-comers in the Presidential election. Splitting the Islamists in a first-past-the post election is uncertain territory.

SCAF crunch the numbers better than most. Worst case the Salafis and the Brothers run against each other in the presidential poll. That would be ugly.

Worse still the Salafis and the Brothers gang up behind an agreed candidate, their stalking horse, and set off an exodus out of Egypt. SCAF will do its damnedest to interfere with either scenario.

Mission Improbable? Mission Impossible? Or Mission Imperative?

Let's review. The revolution erupted when young people, devoid of hope mobilized. Nobody expresses the rage better than 24-year-old Mayy el-Sheikh who recently joined The New York Times' Cairo Bureau.

Over the weekend Mayy wrote: I wear a veil and jeans. I have a fiance and a job- I pursue whatever dreams I have without worrying about traditions or social restrictions.

I'm concerned with what would happen if, as in Saudi Arabia, a law were passed to ban women from traveling without a male guardian-

I'm concerned with what would happen if an Islamic ascendance were to stir an ideological shift that led ordinary people in the street to believe that my jeans were impious-

I'm concerned about living in a society ruled by a government that gives itself the right to restrict my freedom in the name of my own religion.

Note no intolerance. Missing is the invective, the obloquy that characterizes the bigotry of the internecine conflict running roughshod over centuries of comity.

Anyone with their head screwed on, knows the protagonists' words are mumbo-jumbo and the cards are being dealt off the bottom of the deck.

An army of Mayys needs to regain the streets. The teenage lad who absorbed Aristotle's wisdom, Alexander the Great said: There's nothing impossible to him who will try. Nearer our times, Nelson Mandela said: It always seems impossible until it's done.

Egypt is in danger of lackadaisical lassitude. This is educated youth's time to blossom. They are admired for their courageous stand against dictatorship, corruption and evil inflicted on thousands who dare to defy decrepitude.

The lessons learned so far are invaluable so long as youth has the fortitude to follow Mandela's example and stick to the high ground. They've won the admiration of the world by holding fast. Popular protests have swept the Arab world, Europe and North America and more recently in Russia.

The hopes and dreams of these people rest on the ultimate success of the pro-democracy non-violent movement in Egypt. Can it end in disbelief, skepticism, or worse, unbelief and rejection? Yes, if youth slumps into non-belief.

Gandhi counseled not to lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty, he said.

Another great pacifier, Benjamin Franklin, pen in hand approached the signing of America's Declaration of Independence in 1776.

We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately, he counseled wisely.

All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent - Thomas Jefferson, the founding father of democracy.

Philip Whitfield is a Cairo commentator.

Daily NewsEgypt 2011

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Publication:Daily News Egypt (Egypt)
Date:Dec 18, 2011
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