“What’s all this nonsense about isolating [Egyptian president Gamal Abdel] Nasser or ‘neutralising’ him, as you call it? I want him destroyed, can’t you understand? I want him murdered…And I don’t give a damn if there’s anarchy and chaos in Egypt.” –Anthony Eden, UK Prime Minister 1955-57
I’m only about a third of the way through Devil’s Game; How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam, but I didn’t want to wait too long and forget how I felt at reading this.
We have a tendency to think that Arabs have Islamic governments because they just want it that way, that they’re simple people who need their religious trappings, and we don’t have the slightest clue at the concerted efforts that our governments have made to subvert every nationalist and secular government that was successful in the Middle East.
Nasser was a towering figure in the Arab world and was known as the “leader of the Arabs.”
His funeral procession through Cairo, on 1 October, was attended by at least five million mourners.
All Arab heads of state attended. King Hussein of Jordan and the PLO leader Yasser Arafat cried openly while Muammar al-Gaddafi of Libya reportedly fainted twice. Although no major Western dignitaries were present, Soviet premier Alexey Kosygin showed up. Almost immediately after the procession began, mourners had engulfed Nasser’s coffin shouting “There is no God but Allah, and Nasser is God’s beloved… Each of us is Nasser.”
The general Arab reaction was one of mourning, with thousands of people pouring onto the streets of major cities throughout the Arab world. Over a dozen people were killed in Beirut as a result of the chaos and in Jerusalem, roughly 75,000 Arabs marched through the Old City chanting “Nasser will never die.”
Seems like the kind of guy the US and UK would want to ally with, a powerful figure who could accomplish a lot of good.
Along with Muhammad Naguib, the first President, he led the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 which overthrew the monarchy of Egypt and Sudan, and heralded a new period of modernization, and socialist reform in Egypt together with a profound advancement of pan-Arab nationalism, including a short-lived union with Syria.
Modernization and social reform? We’re all about that. So why were we working so hard to bring him down, even assassinate him?
Under his leadership, Egypt nationalised the Suez Canal, and came to play a central role in anti-imperialist efforts in the Arab World, and Africa.
I’ll have more on this book later. And you can buy it here.