John Kerry Doesn't Understand That What Happened in Egypt Was a Coup


Secretary of State John Kerry and the U.S. have adamantly refused to dub the military overthrow of Egypt's democratically-elected President Morsi as a coup. As explained in a previous PolicyMic article, using that term would force the administration to suspend the yearly $1.5 billion in military aid U.S. sends to Egypt. Yesterday in a speech, Kerry chose to reaffirm and further the U.S. position stating that the Egyptian military was "in effect, restoring democracy." By publicly supporting the actions of the Egyptian military, the administration has sent a message to the rest of the world that it supports these kinds of military depositions. Only in time will we be able to tell if the coup restored democracy, but as of now, Kerry's message is misguided and incorrect.

President Morsi was forcefully removed from power after growing displeasure with his government culminated into thousands of protesters who called for him to be deposed. The ousted leader has been accused of murdering prisoners and soldiers, in addition to supporting the militant group Hamas. Experiencing its second upheaval of government structures in the past several years, Egypt has plummeted into social and financial unrest. Pro-Morsi supporters and anti-Morsi protesters have clashed in the recent months. Violent acts have been carried out by both sides, including many instances where military forces fired on peaceful pro-Morsi protesters.

According to Kerry's statement, he maintains that the people desired the overthrow. "The military was asked to intervene by millions and millions of people, all of whom were afraid of a descent into chaos," Kerry said. While a vast number of anti-Muslim Brotherhood supporters did call for this, a great deal of Egyptians did not. Nonetheless, military leaders took action.

During the speech, Kerry's most startling comments encompassed the administration's failure to identify this a coup — "The military did not take over, to the best of our judgment … to run the country. There's a civilian government." 

Once again it must be reiterated that this was a coup—military force was used to topple the democratically-elected leader. When the Egyptian military took power, presidential authority was given to the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, Adly Mansour, but substantial influence remained with Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, the Egyptian defense minister. This is not indicative of a military that intends to "restore democracy."

The one promising comment by Kerry, directed directly at General Sisi, asserted that the U.S. believes the violent crackdown is "absolutely unacceptable." "As you know, these situations can be very confusing and very difficult." Kerry said. In discussions with European Union officials and other foreign ministers, Kerry hopes that nations will help Egypt  "resolve this peacefully."

The U.S. must be firm in supporting democracy but it can't run away from the fact that this event was a coup. By not suspending our foreign military aid to the Egyptians and furthering the capabilities of their army, we are supporting violent operations and the ensuing political instability. Kerry's remarks accentuate this administration's inability to depict what the actions of the Egyptian military truly represent.