Three U.S. lawmakers who have generated controversy for their statements about Islam and Muslim Americans released a video Saturday praising the Egyptian military and thanking it for staging the July 3 and subsequent crackdowns against their "common enemy," the Muslim Brotherhood. The video, apparently taken a few hours after meeting with coup leader General Abdel Fatah el-Sissi in Cairo, features Rep. Michele Bachmann reading a statement to the camera. She's flanked by Reps. Steve King and Louie Gohmert.
The video, posted below, is a doozy. Bachmann, presumably supported by King and Gohmert, offers fulsome praise for the coup and the military-led government's subsequent actions, describing its crackdowns against sit-ins and demonstrations as "the front lines" in "the war on terrorism." She described the Muslim Brotherhood as a common enemy and a "great evil," implying that it had been responsible for the attacks against the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001. King and Gohmert offered similar but more tempered remarks.
"Together, our country, the United States and Egypt have dealt with the same enemy. It's a common enemy," Bachmann said, apparently conflating Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, a political organization that renounced violence decades ago and has millions of supporters in the country, with extremist terrorists. "It's an enemy called terrorism. Now the people of Egypt have spoken."
Bachmann's remarks appeared deeply consistent with Egyptian state propaganda that has portrayed the Muslim Brotherhood as a secret terrorist organization and an internal enemy. These claims have not been backed up elsewhere; civilians killed in crackdowns such as the Aug. 14 attack on a Rabaa al-Awadiya sit-in, which left over 500 dead, appear to have been almost uniformly unarmed.
"I want to assure the people of Egypt that I, as a member of Congress, will stand strong in support of continuing military support, United States support financially, to stand for the military in Egypt," she said. "We know that you have been a partner. You've been a partner in the war on terrorism. You've acted bravely here on the front lines."
She added, "Many of you have asked, Do we understand who the enemy is? We can speak for ourselves: We do. We have seen the threat that the Muslim Brotherhood has posed, here, for the people of Egypt. We've seen the threat that the Muslim Brotherhood posed around the world. We stand against this great evil. We remember who caused nine-one-one in America." Later, in response to a question, Bachmann reiterated: "We don't have a choice. They must be defeated."
King and Gohmert offered unconditional praise as well, albeit in more measured tones. King congratulated anti-Morsi Egyptians on "standing up for liberty, standing up for freedom" in supporting the July 3 coup. He added, "We stand against the Muslim Brotherhood. The American people do not support the Muslim Brotherhood, we oppose all forms of terror and terrorism." Gohmert compared el-Sissi to George Washington and said the "bloodthirsty Muslim Brothers" want to "destabilize things" and seek "that large caliphate." (He also said that Egyptian Jews participated in the anti-Morsi movements, which I would find surprising.)
Just as jarring as the trio's apparent endorsement of the coup and crackdowns that killed hundreds is their apparent optimism about what this means for the country's future. While many were skeptical of Morsi, an Islamist who governed poorly and failed the economy, military rule has seen widespread state violence that has killed hundreds of civilians and a rapid rollback of the country's meager democratic advances. Some small fraction of Egypt-watchers did hold cautious optimism in the days immediately after the coup. But virtually none see the past two months as anything short of a complete disaster, with not just the Egyptian state but society badly broken in ways that could take years to fix.
I just don't know who Bachmann, King and Gohmert are talking to who would characterize what's happened in Egypt with the glowing terms and unmitigated praise they've used. Bachmann promised "more freedom, more prosperity and more jobs" were coming. Gohmert exclaimed, "This is a good time."