Wednesday, July 22, 2009

THE FREE OFFICERS' GENERATION


World War II had just confirmed the control of western imperial nations -- Britain and the US in particular -- over the Arab world. Their major ally at the time, the Soviet Union, was preoccupied with mending its borders in the heart of Europe and recuperating from the wounds that had caused the death of 27 million of its people and the destruction of its cities and the bases of its economy. The regiments of the People's Liberation Army, led by the Chinese Communist Party, had yet to commence its march upon Beijing. Across the vast civilization of the east, from the Atlantic to the Pacific and down to the Indian Ocean, American, and then NATO's, strategic hegemony tightened its grip, brandishing the nuclear weapons it had just used against Japan to forestall any change in the global order.
Caught in such a formidable vice what could relatively weak nationalist forces hope to achieve? Who could possibly imagine that anything could be done? Such were the questions that preoccupied and spurred into action the generation that came to political awareness between the 1940s and the Suez crisis. This was the "generation of the Nationalist Movement", or the "Free Officers' generation".


The “free officers” (overthrew Egypt's King Farouk in 1952)
Google Images at clas.ufl.edu


It was the generation of the Egyptian revolution, of the drive, combining national liberation with a movement to uproot the bases of colonialism and the systems of dependency, which culminated in the revolution of 23 July, 1952 and the dawn of a new era.
(Anouar Abdel-Malek © Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly)

Time Line:
1952 July 22: The Free Officers stage a coup that deposes King Faruk. The coup would make Muhammad Naguib president the following year, but Nasser would be in constant opposition.
1954 February: Nasser has the Muslim Brotherood banned, doing this without consulting Naguib.
November 14: Nasser removes Naguib, allegedly for having known of the Muslim Brotherhood's attempt on Nasser's life in the month before. Nasser becomes Prime Minister.
1956: USA and Great Britain withdraw a promised support for the construction of a new Aswan Dam, and Nasser responds with the nationalization of the Suez Canal Company, as he wanted to finance the construction of the dam with the income from tolls on the traffic on the canal.
1956: The nationalization of Suez Canal causes an Israeli invasion of the Sinai peninsula and an Anglo-French invasion of the Canal Zone (see Suez-Sinai War). But the invading forces were put under pressure from the UN, and had to withdraw. Egypt kept the full ownership of the Suez Canal.
1958: Egypt and Syria form the United Arab Republic, with Nasser as the head. This was at this time considered as the first step towards Arab unity.
1959: Nasser published the book, The Philosophy of the Revolution, which contains his principle ideas.
1961: The United Arab Republic breaks up, after a coup in Syria. Nasser kept the name although only Egypt was member of the united republic.


Nasser marking the tenth anniversary of the 1952 Revolution
promising socio-economic development and political victories
© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly


1966 November: Egypt signed a defense pact with Syria.
1967 May 30: Egypt signed a defense pact with Jordan, too, which had been anti-Nasser for long.
— Nasser precipitated the third war with Israel, expelling United Nations peace keeping forces from the Gaza Strip and blockaded the Gulf of Aqaba for traffic on Israel's port Eilat.
— June 5: Israel attacks Egypt, beginning the Six-Day War. The Israeli strength was so superior that Egypt was effectively beaten within the first day. Fighting continued for 3 days more. The only effective action of the Egyptians was to close the Suez Canal for all ships.
— December: Withdraws Egyptian forces from the North Yemen Civil War, thereby creating a better relationship with Saudi Arabia.
1968 June: Egypt launches the so-called War of Attrition.
1970 August 7: Egypt agrees to end fighting with Israel.
(By Tore Kjeilen at lexicorient.com © Copyright 1996-2009 LookLex Ltd)

It was in 1942 that an incident occurred which is said to have been the key turning point in Nasser's activities. In February 1942, the British persuaded/forced the king of Egypt, King Farouq, to accept a government that was to be headed by Nahas Pasha. At this time, Britain's power in North Africa was reaching a peak with the defeat of the Afrika Korps and this power was especially felt in Egypt. Nasser was appalled by what he considered to be the interference in the internal affairs of one country by a colonial European power.


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For the next seven years, he used his influence to persuade officers in the Egyptian Army that a) such interference was unacceptable and b) that all vestiges of British rule/influence had to be removed from Egypt. During this time, Nasser was stationed as an instructor in the Egyptian Army Staff College. This gave him direct access to young officers who might be more prone to his views when compared to the older officers in the Egyptian Army.
(© 2000-2009 historylearningsite.co.uk)
On January 25, 1952, British troops attacked the Egyptian police barracks in Ismailia after the police refused to surrender. Fifty Egyptian police officers were killed and one hundred were wounded. Egypt erupted in fury.
The riots that followed, the Cairo Fires, are seen as the beginning of the end of the monarchy.


The Egyptian flag : 1922-1952
From Google Image


His majesty King Farouk I
February 11, 1920 – March 18, 1965)
Was the last ruling King of Egypt
succeeding his father, Fuad I, in 1936
Travel in Style at Google Image


The next day, January 26, 1952 ("Black Saturday"), what many Egyptians call the second revolution broke out (the first being the Egyptian Revolution of 1919). Riots broke out in Cairo, the rioters attacking foreign interests and businesses. The Egyptian "mob" burned Cairo targeting British interests, airline offices, hotels, cinemas, bars and department stores (such as Shepheard's Hotel, BOAC offices, and the British Turf Club) in particular. Foreign observers who witnessed the burning of Cairo said it looked less like an unruly mob and more like a well-planned and disciplined action.
King Farouk dismissed Mustafa el-Nahhas's government, and in the months that followed, three different politicians were instructed to form governments, each proving short-lived: Ali Maher (27 January – 1 March), Ahmed Naguib El-Hilali (2 March – 29 June, and 22–23 July) and Hussein Sirri (2–20 July). These "salvation ministries," as they were called, failed to halt the country's downward spiral. Corruption remained ubiquitous despite attempts by successive prime ministers to put their political houses in order.
Stirrings of discontent were felt in the army, and in January 1952 opposition officers supported by the Free Officers gained control of the governing board of the Officers Club. On 16 July, the King annulled these elections, appointing his own supporters instead in an attempt to regain control of the army.
A coup d'état was planned for 5 August, but when General Muhammad Naguib, one of the Free Officers, informed the group on 19 July that the army high command had a list of their names, the coup leaders acted on the night of 22 July.
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
The July Revolution was a peaceful movement that was executed by a group of army officers to dethrone the king and proclaim Egypt a republic. On the night of 22 July, significant government buildings were seized. The next morning, armored cars encircled the military area at Abbasiya, tanks took up position at strategic points, Anwar Sadat and assistants took over the radio station, and some 12 generals were arrested. The army and the city passed into the hands of the revolutionists with hardly a shot fired.
(Al-Siyassa Al-Dawliya)
At 7:30 a.m., they heard a broadcast station issue the first communiqué of the revolution in the name of Gen. Naguib to the Egyptian people that stated the justification for the revolution or the Blessed Movement. The voice everyone heard reading the message belonged to Free Officer and future president of Egypt, Anwar El Sadat:
"Egypt has passed through a critical period in her recent history characterized by bribery, mischief, and the absence of governmental stability. All of these were factors that had a large influence on the army. Those who accepted bribes and were thus influenced caused our defeat in the Palestine War [1948]. As for the period following the war, the mischief-making elements have been assisting one another, and traitors have been commanding the army. They appointed a commander who is either ignorant or corrupt. Egypt has reached the point, therefore, of having no army to defend it. Accordingly, we have undertaken to clean ourselves up and have appointed to command us men from within the army whom we trust in their ability, their character, and their patriotism. It is certain that all Egypt will meet this news with enthusiasm and will welcome it. As for those whose arrest we saw fit from among men formerly associated with the army, we will not deal harshly with them, but will release them at the appropriate time. I assure the Egyptian people that the entire army today has become capable of operating in the national interest and under the rule of the constitution apart from any interests of its own. I take this opportunity to request that the people never permit any traitors to take refuge in deeds of destruction or violence because these are not in the interest of Egypt. Should anyone behave in such ways, he will be dealt with forcefully in a manner such as has not been seen before and his deeds will meet immediately the reward for treason. The army will take charge with the assistance of the police. I assure our foreign brothers that their interests, their personal safety [lit. "their souls"], and their property are safe, and that the army considers itself responsible for them. May God grant us success [lit. "God is the guardian of success]."
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)


The Free Officers-led revolutionaries surround Abidine Palace
23 July 1952
© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly


The coup was announced in the name of the army on behalf of the whole nation and not of a specific party. The first announcement after the revolution contained no precise announcements of goals and plans other than "cleansing the nation of tyrants and to reform the constitutional life of the country."
(Al-Siyassa Al-Dawliya)


The first press conference for the Free Officers
featuring Nasser, after removing King Farouk in 1952
The newsroom of Akhbar Al-Yom
© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly


The Revolutionary Command Council was soon established. The regime's first declared objective was the expulsion of the British and to start negotiations for the evacuation of the Suez Canal zone. The direction of domestic policy was established by the agrarian reform law of September, by which no one was permitted to hold more than 200 feddans (one feddan is approximately equal to one acre) of land.
The regime also set out to eliminate possible opposition, from the Wafd and the Ikhwan.
(Al-Siyassa Al-Dawliya)
RCC Initial Membership:
Muhammad Naguib: Chairman.
Gamal Abdel Nasser : Vice-chairman.
Abdel Latif Boghdady
Abdel Hakim Amer
Gamal Salem
Salah Salem
Zakaria Mohieddin
Khaled Mohieddin
Anwar sadat
Hussein Al Shafei
Hassan Ibrahim
Kemal ed-Din Hussein
Abdel Moneim Amin
Hassan Abdelnaby
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)


Mohamed Naguib, first president of the Egyptian republic
flanked by Nasser (right) and Salah Salem
© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly


Anwar Sadat
Image from Moern Pharaoh Blogspot hosted by Google


Collage of Anwar Sadat
Art by David C. Scott, an InterCity Oz, Inc. Employee
© 2000-2004 by InterCity Oz, Inc.


Abdel Hakim Amer
© Time Inc. hosted by Google


Zakaria Mohieddin and Yuri Gagarin
(the first Human in Space)
Cairo Almaza Air Base, Egypt
05.02.1962
Author Fyodor Nosov
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Hussein el-Shafei in his military suit
Author: Hussein Al Shafei the grand-son
Date 2006-11-01 (original upload date)
Source Transferred from en.wikipedia
Author Original uploader was The Egyptian at en.wikipedia
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Nasser and his fellow revolutionaries bowed to American pressure by allowing the deposed King Farouk and his family to “leave Egypt unharmed and ‘with honor’”.
After assuming power, Nasser and the Free Officers were not interested in undertaking the day to day administration of the Egyptian government. The Free Officers then formed the Revolutionary Command Council, which constituted the real power in Egypt, with Neguib as chairman and Nasser as vice-chairman.
In June 1953, with land reform fully underway, Naguib announced the official abolition of the Egyptian monarchy and proclaimed himself President of the Republic of Egypt. After the establishment of the republic, Naguib and Nasser began to come into conflict with each other. The Revolutionary Command Council then “joyfully...proclaimed Nasser as Prime Minister”; As a result of these demonstrations, a sizable group within the Revolutionary Command Council, demanded that Nasser allow Neguib to return to the Presidency and then hold free elections to select a new President and Prime Minister. Nasser was forced to agree and Naguib reassumed the Presidency. Several days later, Nasser was forced to resign as Prime Minister in favor of Naguib, effectively destroying all progress that Nasser had made towards leadership.
Although it gave him no permanent position, Nasser did use his brief time as Prime Minister to “purge... Finally, in October 1954, Nasser formally removed Naguib from power and established himself as the effective leader of Egypt.Nasser remained in power over Egypt for the next fifteen years with no major domestic challenges to his power.
Nasser's place in the Egyptian national consciousness was secured following the failed assassination attempt of 26th October 1954 and his own defiant response in the immediate aftermath.
Shortly before his full assumption of power, Nasser signed an agreement with Britain that provided for the withdrawal of all British uniformed military personnel from the Suez Canal Zone, although a small civilian force was allowed to temporarily remain. Shortly after the treaty with the British, Nasser won forty million dollars in combined financial aid for economic development from the British and Americans.
The next year, 1955, the United States promised fifty-six million dollars, along with two-hundred million dollars through the World Bank, to aid in financing the construction of the Aswan High Dam , which Nasser and his allies had begun planning shortly after the revolution. In September 1955 Nasser shocked the West by signing an arms deal with the Eastern bloc country Czechoslovakia. Consequently, in July 1956, the Western Powers retracted their financial offers, forcing Nasser to search for alternate methods to finance the dam. On July 26, as part of a plan to raise money for the dam, and as a powerful reminder to the west that Egypt would do as it pleased, Nasser announced the nationalization of the Suez Canal.
Nasser realized that the nationalization of the canal would provoke a strong reaction from the West, especially Britain. However, Nasser believed that Britain would not be able to intervene militarily for at least two months after the announcement, and dismissed Israeli action as “impossible”.
The Suez Crisis also drove Egypt into a closer relationship with the Soviet Union. Its reservoir was named Lake Nasser, honoring Nasser.
The Aswan Dam was not the only result of the Egyptian relationship with the USSR. As a result of Soviet influence and domestic factors, Nasser gradually began to move Egypt toward a socialist economic system, at least somewhat shaped by Marxism-Leninism. During his official visit to Egypt on May 9-26, 1964, Nikita Khrushchev awarded Nasser the title of the Hero of the Soviet Union, the Order of Lenin and the Soviet Golden Star.
Most historians agree that Egypt under Nasser never truly reached socialism, and under Nasser’s successor, Anwar Sadat, the economy moved back to a more firmly capitalist system.
In 1958, Syrian military and civilian leaders requested a merger of Syria and Egypt. Somewhat surprised by the sudden request and unsure as to whether the time was ripe, Nasser nevertheless agreed and the United Arab Republic came into being.
During the 17-day official visit of Egypt by Nikita Khrushchev that began on May 9, 1964, Nasser was awarded (May 13) the title of the Hero of the Soviet Union, the Order of Lenin and the Soviet Golden Star (number 11224) .
Nasser, who had long urged the destruction of Israel, was a leading actor in provoking the Six Day War in 1967. Nasser convinced Jordan and Syria to join him in united Arab action against Israel and declared in a speech, "The battle will be a general one and our basic objective will be to destroy Israel."
The humiliating defeat in the Six-Day War was so devastating that it compelled for a domestic political action. On the evening of June 9, 1967 Nasser's resignation statement was broadcast live on Egyptian television and radio, leaving office to his then vice president Zakaria Mohiedin.
Nasser's surprising address and resignation had made the people realize just how devastating the defeat was and how their national dignity had been shattered.
No sooner was the statement broadcast, however, than millions were pouring into the streets in mass demonstrations not only in Egypt but in streets across the Arab World. As a consequence, Nasser led Egypt through the War of Attrition in 1969-1970.
Nasser died of heart attack on September 28, 1970 at the conclusion of Cairo meeting of leaders of Arab countries regarding Israel and the Black September in Jordan. Sadat, who had been interim President following Nasser's death, was officially selected to succeed him on October 5.
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Anwar Sadat
© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly


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